While we might not always appreciate it, one of the best things about living in Ireland is seasonal change
This little country is packed with literally thousands of species of plants that are constantly in flux; blooming in spring, resplendent in summer, wilting in autumn and sleeping in winter.
Ireland’s maritime climate allows for a rich, vast variety of flowers, many of which bloom side by side.
And we’re also lucky to have a variety of botanic walks, which range from the manicured and maintained to the gloriously wild.
Here are some of our favourite botanic spots…
Botanic Gardens, Dublin
An obvious choice, maybe, but an important one. Dublin’s Botanic Gardens is sometimes affectionately mis-named “Botanical Gardens”. It’s an oasis of silence and calm, just a few kilometres from the city centre.
Within its walls, 15,000 species of plants thrive, in the flower beds, wildflower areas, greenhouses and labs: as well as being a gorgeous public park, Botanic Gardens is also a scientific institution.
Follow the journey of connected plants at the Family Beds, touch and smell the leaves on the vines and branches in the Sensory Garden and take a deep breath inward when you get to the Rose Garden.
Architecture buffs, meanwhile, will appreciate the restored greenhouses and gazebos.
The Burren, Clare
We love the Burren because there’s nowhere else on the planet quite like it. (We’ve praised the Burren before in our Picnics and Atlantic blog posts). Its unique setting, with diverse surfaces, means that it hosts a range of wildflowers which normally would grow a continent apart.
So, Arctic mountains avens grow next to Mediterranean orchids; woodland plants grow among the limestone, free from neighbouring trees; and wild heather from other climates can be seen in the Burren too.
The Burren is especially magical if you’re a fan of orchids, with several strains of the flower here. Many of these flowers are different shades of purple, bringing vivid colour to this sometimes-grey part of the world.
And don’t forget to pay attention the smells too. The marjoram (also known as oregano) gives a lovely scent, one familiar to foodies the world over.
Botanic Gardens, Wicklow
An outpost of Dublin’s Botanic Gardens, this little Eden has plenty to distinguish it from its big brother. Its collection of rhododendrons can be breath-taking if you catch it on the right day. And its milder climate, deep soils and higher rainfalls than in Dublin mean that it can host fauna from diverse, far-flung climates like Chile, China and the Himalayas.
There are regular guided walks through these grounds’ gorgeous wildflower meadows, which are regularly and lovingly maintained.
As a nice bonus, Wicklow’s Botanic Gardens sit on lovely grounds, the remnants of a rambling 18th Century estate.
Garnish Island Gardens, Cork
Take a ferry from Bantry Bay to discover this gorgeous, singular spot. Thanks to the Gulf Stream, Garnish Island enjoys a microclimate like no other, where tropical plants flourish alongside familiar favourites.
The gardens are designed in an Italian style, with Italian and Greek temples on the island. Meanwhile, the plants range from colourful rhododendrons and azaleas to climbing plants and distinctive shrubs. Garnish Island is beautiful year-round: summer is colourful and tranquil; the heathers look their best in autumn and even the winters are relatively mild.
Visitors to the island are often treated to the sight of seals on the way, especially if these same visitors choose to stop off on nearby Seal Island!
Killinthomas Woods, Co Kildare
This is one of the most pleasant walks you could ask for, regardless of whether or not you’re passionate about plants.
The Killinthomas Woods offer generous stretches of woodland pathway, as you’re surrounded by a forest of hardwood conifer trees, garlic and abundance of wild bluebells. This is a magical, underrated gem. Pay a visit to this Dublin City gem and find many others in the Official Dublin Street Guide below.
If you know how and where to look, Irish plant life offers an explosion of colours and smells, a feast for at least two of your senses.
Find these beautiful emeralds of land with the help of OSI maps, helping you get wherever you want to go.