Irish Independent - Weekend Magazine - - WEEKEND MAGAZINE COMPETITION -

Ihave of­ten won­dered about Ash­ford Cas­tle, and its gar­dens, which seemed rel­a­tively near on this small is­land… but also so re­mote and un­ob­tain­able for us or­di­nary folk. The for­mal lawn ter­races, park­land and lake seemed too idyl­lic to re­ally ex­ist.

Re­cently I got to visit and savour its very real de­lights — walk­ing through the grounds that would soon be filled by in­ter­na­tional glit­terati at the wed­ding of golf star Rory McIl­roy and Erica Stoll.

The first thing that strikes you is the utterly mag­i­cal set­ting. The cas­tle stands ma­jes­ti­cally on the edge of Lough Cor­rib, mir­rored in the water and framed by green­ery. I can un­der­stand how the lo­ca­tion has cap­ti­vated Guin­nesses, princes and celebri­ties. Ev­ery view is spe­cial — from the ap­proach across a pic­turesque bridge, past the moored Isle of In­is­free boat, which takes vis­i­tors on tours that glimpse the lake’s famed 365 is­lands, one for ev­ery day of the year.

There’s been a cas­tle here since the 13th cen­tury, orig­i­nally a Nor­man tower built by the De Bur­gos. In the 1800s, the Guin­ness fam­ily set about cre­at­ing a Gothic-in­spired cas­tle and gar­dens on a 22,000-acre plot.

The gar­dens as they ex­ist to­day were laid out around 1868 by Lady Ardi­laun, for­merly of Bantry House. To­geth­er­her with her hus­band, Arthur Guin­ness, in the 1880s she em­ployed An­drew Camp­bell as head gar­dener. They laid out the bones of the gar­den, which re­main the ba­sis of the struc­ture we still en­joy to­day: gar­den ter­races, walks and the gor­geous walled gar­den. A visit to the gar­dens is all Mow grass at least once

a week in the grow­ing about walk­ing, drink­ing in the sea-so­nand, if you

wish for a pris­tine look, views, stop­ping to marvel at t week. up to twice a How­ever, never re­move

more than one third of fea­tures, gaz­ing at the majesty the grass height in a sin­gle

mow­ing. Trim the edges of the trees and dis­cov­er­ing thee with ev­ery mow­ing to keep

lawn look­ing sharp. next sur­prise. Healthy soil leads to happy,

healthy plant life. Feed The pri­mary tree species on your soil as well as your plants/

lawns by us­ing or­ganic the es­tate and in the wood- or or­ganic-based fer­tiliser/

feed to encourage soil lands in­clude Sitka and Nor­way y mi­crobes and worms. spruces, Scots pine, sil­ver fir, , For shrubs or hedges, it

is good to thin out 20pc Amer­i­can red­woods, oak, beech, , older growth to of

a few inches in­side the lime and ash. The Long Ter­race e an­nu­ally, clipped line

to al­low in air and to gen­er­ate and Broad Walks show­casee from new growth fur­ther back on the branch

struc­ture. won­der­ful se­quoias. They’re a Don’t let weeds pro­duce

seed and prop­a­gate mag­nif­i­cent col­lec­tion — I was s an-oth­er­gen­er­a­tion

of weeds. As the say­ing told that one re­cent US visitor year’s goes, “One

seed­ing is nine years’ weed­ing.” com­mented that they were Ap­ply mulch in the dor­mant

sea­son to help con­trol “bet­ter than the se­quoias back k weeds, re­tain mois­ture

and im­prove soils, as well home in Cal­i­for­nia!”. vis­ually ben­e­fit as

your plant­ing. My favourite part is the Take pic­tures of your gar­den

through­out the year. walled gar­den. You en­ter rather r This al­lows you to look back

and see where you can mag­i­cally through a curv­ing bring colour or in­ter­est to

ar­eas that may be miss­ing stone ser­vice tun­nel (cre­ated, some­thing at cer­tain times. it seems, to ob­scure the garSow green ma­nure seeds

on any veg or bed­ding den­ers from the view of pro­mar­eas that are to be empty

for a pe­riod of time. This enad­ing vis­i­tors). It’s a beauty helps weed con­trol and

im­proves your soil. — more in­ti­mate and re­lat­able En­joy your gar­den and your

gar­den­ing. Do not be than many other walled garafraid to try new ideas and

in­dulge your pas­sion for dens, and now planted with which­ever area of gar­den­ing

you most en­joy. fruit, veg­eta­bles, herba­ceous IR­ISH IN­DE­PEN­DENT


- gone be­yond their ma­tu­rity, so a big treecare op­er­a­tion was un­der­taken. Fea­tures such as the Sunken Gar­den and ad­ja­cent sec­tion of the Ter­raced Walk were re­planted with a beau­ti­ful se­lec­tion of flow­er­ing trees, shrubs and some peren­ni­als.

And you don’t have to be Rory, Erica or one of their wed­ding guests to en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence. While the cas­tle it­self does re­main the pre­serve of ho­tel guests, the gar­dens and the es­tate’s 350 acres of coun­try­side are open to the public to en­joy. En­trance to Ash­ford Cas­tle es­tate costs €10 for adults, which in­cludes cof­fee at Mrs Tea’s Bou­tique and Bak­ery. See ash­ford­cas­

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