Cork's garden trail a blaze of sunny colour

In her weekly column, Olive Ryan gives us the low-down on the beautiful gardens on West Cork
Cork's garden trail a blaze of sunny colour
Heron Gallery and Cafe, Ahakista

IT is the middle of June and gardens are looking great right now. Growth is in full swing and colour and foliage is beginning to appear in every corner of the garden.

It has been a mixed start to the year, with late frosts that did some damage to newly-emerging foliage, but things are beginning to come good and it is a great time to visit gardens while all is fresh and lush in early summer.

Where better to explore than the gardens of West Cork? This year the West Cork Garden Trail (WCGT) celebrates 25 years in existence. It was embarked upon in 1994 by Phemie and Malcom Rose, whose garden was then in Durrus, Kilravock Garden.

This garden is currently owned and opened to the public by Ronnie Halligan, as Phemie and Malcom decided to retire to Spain in 2012. Back then, the garden trail opened for only one week of the year.

At this stage, Shirley Musgrave and Chris Fehliy, who had their own beautiful gardens in Cork, agreed to help with the organising of the WCGT.

In 2017, a very capable committee was elected and they have come up trumps for last two summers with the trail going from strength to strength.

The garden trail features an additional six gardens this year, with a total of 25. They begin in Crosshaven and stretch westwards as far as Kenmare.

The gardens are divided into five different geographical areas, Cork and Kinsale, Clonakilty, Roaringwater Bay, Sheep’s Head and Bantry, and furthest west, the Beara Peninsula.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary, a number of events have been organised:

Medicinal Herb Garden, Ballydehob, are hosting a workshop today, June 22, between 11am and 2pm, which involves picking herbs and making infused oils, salves, creams and syrups. See for more details.

Fernhill House Hotel and Gardens, Clonakilty, are hosting a historical walk and talk about the house and gardens on July 9 at 2pm, which will be followed by afternoon tea. Booking is essential, see for more details.

Inis Beg, Baltimore are hosting a Jazz and Razzmatazz garden visit with light lunch or afternoon tea available afterwards,

Herbaceous display at Kinalea Garden
Herbaceous display at Kinalea Garden

The Heron Gallery and Cafe at Ahakista on Sheep’s Head peninsula will be running an exhibition for the duration of August entitled ‘Garden’, see for more details.

The Garden of Re-Imagination, Glengariff will host a golden ticket tea party on the first Sundays of July and August with time slots of 10am, 1pm and 4pm, See to book.

The Ewe Experience, Glengariff is hosting a number of events throughout the summer. ‘Word Wander’, a poetic 1km journey through the gardens, runs from July 12-19. ‘The Ewe Natural History Experience’ runs from August 17-25. ‘Hidden Edibles’, a garden walk and talk, will be hosted from September 6-19. See for more.

Dawros Gallery and Garden will host ‘Art in the Garden’, creating a mixed media painting using the garden as inspiration on July 6 from 9.30am-12.30pm. ‘Making a Kokedama’ (a kokedama is basically a ball of soil/growing medium covered in moss which is used to grow plants like ferns) using materials from the garden will be run on August 3 from 10am-12pm. Booking for both these events is essential by contacting 064 6642145.

Comillane Gardens, Cape Clear island, is hosting an open day on August 25 from 12-5pm, see their Facebook page for more details.

The gardens of West Cork provide a unique opportunity to experience design ideas, plant combinations, personal and public spaces, each garden has its own unique microclimate creating growing conditions individual to each setting.

West Cork provides an ideal backdrop for gardening, with its strong influence from the Gulf Stream, creating a milder than usual climate all year round. There are also some challenges to be faced when living near the coast and plant choices need to be refined in more exposed locations to allow for salt and wind tolerance.

Huge appreciation is due to the stalwart benefactors of the Garden Trail, the Harold Barry Trust and Cork County Council, both of whom make generous donations every year and without whom it would be difficult to fund the project.

West Cork-based actor Jeremy Irons is a great advocate for the garden trail and the wonderful team of board members is led by chairperson Jean Perry, of The Glebe House, Baltimore.

It is great to see so much co-operation amongst garden owners to enable others to be inspired by their gardens throughout the summer months. The brochure details opening times, entrance fees and directions to each of the 25 gardens, and this information is also available on

Do check opening times to avoid disappointment as each garden has different arrangements. Happy summer garden visiting!

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