Menu
Photography / Places in Ireland / West Cork

A trip to Bantry house and gardens

Hi everyone! I’m delighted to be back on track with the blog – during April and May I was a total mess with it! But after a good break, I’m ready to make this blog what I originally wanted it to be, I’m ready to write again and to share some of West Cork with you.

Ireland is slowly reopening. Travel restrictions (within the country) were lifted a while ago, and this week, pubs and restaurants opened for outdoor service. As usual I feel worried and uncertain about it. Is this going to work? Will people behave and socialise safely? Will we have yet another setback? I try to be positive, but it’s hard. Of course I’m happy for the people who can finally return to work! I’m just… worried. But the Covid situation here is quite good, the majority of cases each day is among younger people who aren’t yet vaccinated, the hospital situation is stable and improving, and the vaccination rollout is now proceeding with good speed, so there IS reason to be optiimistic, at least for now. And after a dreadful winter and spring, I’m more ready than ever to enjoy life as much as I can.

Something we’re both totally ready for is to travel! We love our garden, we love our town and the local area, but oh, how nice it is to see something else now and then! We’re having major troubles with our car at the moment, but on Sunday my husband took the bus to Cork to collect a rental car that we’ll have for a month while we try to figure out if someone understands the issues with our Renault.

After lunch, we left home for a lovely road trip. We had no plan really, only to go west towards Glengariff and then decide whether to go into county Kerry or to the Beara peninsula. On the way there, you’ll pass Bantry, which is a nice little seaside town where they have a very nice market on Fridays and floods every time there is a storm. There is also an old mansion – Bantry house – with a famous garden. It was my first time there, but D has mentioned it and that we should go there some time. I’ve always thought that it’s a botanical garden of sorts and that you go there to see fancy plants and pretty roses. Whoa, did I get a surprise!

Bantry house & gardens

Like something from the book “The secret garden”

Have you read the book The secret garden? It was one of my favourite books as a child, and I would certainly enjoy it just as much today! It takes place in the Victorian England and tells the story about a 10-year-old girl who is brought up in British India, but after the death of her parents she’s sent to live with her uncle on the Yorkshire moor in England. After some time of being miserable in her new home she befriends her maid Martha, and learns that the estate has a secret garden that has been locked and hidden for ten years. She becomes curious about it, starts exploring the surroundings, and one day she finds the key to the hidden garden. There’s more to the story that I won’t go into here, but it’s a fantastic book (read more here) and I really hope children of today also get the opportunity to read it.

When I was a child, this story enchanted me. I dreamed about finding a garden like that to explore! And when I came to the Bantry gardens, in some areas I felt like I had arrived to THAT garden.

Some info about Bantry house

Bantry house was built around 1710, and was purchased by councillor Richard White, Earl of Bantry, in 1765. Over time, the family made further purchases of land, and in the 1780s they owned about 320 square km of land. The gardens were initiated by the 2nd Earl of Bantry (Richard Jr, I suspect), and are built in seven levels, surrounded by forest areas. The different levels can be accessed by steps and walks through the forest.
From the 1930s the gardens were abandoned. Some areas have undergone restoration work, and you can read more on this page about the house, area and the future plans. When we were there, my impression was that most of the garden is quite overgrown and wild, although it’s noticeable that some work has been done in certain areas.

The bottom levels are definitely the most curated areas – some probably prefer it like that, and it definitely fits for having weddings or other events. During normal times a music festival is held here. The house normally also offers accommodation, if you fancy something extra posh during your holiday in West Cork.

Bantry house & gardens
Bantry house & gardens
Bantry house & gardens
Bantry house & gardens

But to me, pretty shape-cut trees and neatly placed plants in a fancy garden are a bit same old same old, and I think the rough and wild areas are much more interesting. I’m enormously intrigued by abandoned places, hidden rooms and doors, old, rough and overgrown buildings, old rusty objects… you name it. When we entered the Bantry house gardens and came up the hill, I nearly jumped up and down with excitement. The old, wild feel made me immediately fall in love with the place. When you come walking from the parking area, the first thing you’ll see is a pretty area and a footpath with azaleas and rhododendron along the side. The footpath will take you up to the second level and the back gardens.

Bantry house & gardens

This first back garden is so charming! It has such a medieval feel to me – which is almost correct because one of my fellow students in my Italian conversation class said that both the house and the gardens are built with a renaissance style, which I didn’t think of when I was there.

Bantry house & gardens

There the really interesting stuff begins. I really admired these gorgeous steps – like taken straight from a fairytale! There are 100 steps that will take you to the upper levels. Now that I’ve learnt that there are seven levels, I realise that we must have missed a few. But I’m not sorry – then we have a good reason to go back soon.

Bantry house & gardens

Every level has its own area to explore, and there are footpaths that give access to the other levels. If you’re a coward like me, the footpaths help you get back down safely. These steps are uneven and a bit scary in places, at least for me. But getting to the top was absolutely fantastic. The view over Bantry bay is quite decent too!

Bantry house & gardens
View from what I think is the third level
Bantry house & gardens
View from the top

And walking through the mid levels and back down…

Bantry house & gardens
Bantry house & gardens
Bantry house & gardens
Bantry house & gardens
Bantry house & gardens
Bantry house & gardens
Bantry house & gardens

During this visit, I totally forgot about the photography crisis I’ve had recently. Isn’t that great!?
And if this isn’t enough, while visiting the Bantry area, there are two other gardens to visit, including one with tropical plants. You can also take the ferry to Garnish island, famous for its gardens with rare plants. These are now on my to-do list.

Click here to join or explore the other bloggers at Natalie’s Weekend Coffee Share.

29 Comments

  • Susan
    11th June 2021 at 5:20 pm

    I love the history — and the blue skies and greenery surrounding this house.

    Reply
    • Susanne
      12th June 2021 at 10:05 am

      Yes, it’s lovely isn’t it! I’m very interested in the history too and when you visit, you can sort of imagine the people who used to live there, how they moved around in the garden and looked over the bay.

      Reply
  • Deborah D Drucker
    11th June 2021 at 9:40 pm

    You took some beautiful photos. It seems like that estate is pretty huge and the building look very solid. I love ‘The Secret Garden.’ It’s one of my all time favorite stories. I wonder what those cannons in one of the photos were used for?

    Reply
    • Susanne
      12th June 2021 at 10:08 am

      Thanks Deborah! As for the cannons, the house used to be a defense post to protect against invaders. I read an article that made me laugh, it said that when the French prepared to invade, the weather was so bad that they had to turn back! So Ireland’s weather is a protection in itself, we need no army, LOL!

      Reply
  • Susan Joy Clark
    12th June 2021 at 1:51 am

    What a beautiful place. I think I would be excited to explore as well. I’m glad I got to explore via your writing and photos. 🙂

    Reply
    • Susanne
      12th June 2021 at 10:08 am

      Thanks Susan, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Reply
  • Kirstin
    12th June 2021 at 2:22 am

    oh my goodness that looks gorgeous…wow!!!! I have read Secret Garden and seen a few movie versions

    Reply
    • Susanne
      12th June 2021 at 10:09 am

      It’s a fantastic place!
      I’ve seen the movie version with Kate Maberly, I really liked it. Actually should see it again some time soon.

      Reply
  • Debbie Harris
    12th June 2021 at 5:57 am

    This is such a beautiful post to read and the photos are fabulous – thanks Susanne for the trip away!

    Reply
    • Susanne
      12th June 2021 at 10:09 am

      Thanks Debbie for visiting with me! Glad you liked it.

      Reply
  • Natalie
    12th June 2021 at 10:17 pm

    Susanne, What a beautiful place with so many interesting things to see and photograph. I’m glad you’ve got your mojo back. Thank you for linking with #weekendcoffeeshare.

    Reply
    • Susanne
      13th June 2021 at 7:30 am

      It’s a fantastic place, Natalie! Thanks for coming over.

      Reply
  • Patrick Weseman
    13th June 2021 at 2:14 am

    Such a beautiful place. I would love to visit there. #weekendcoffeeshare

    Reply
    • Susanne
      13th June 2021 at 7:34 am

      It’s very well worth a visit!

      Reply
  • Barbara Lofgren
    13th June 2021 at 8:33 pm

    Gorgeous photos – you really capture the place.

    Reply
    • Susanne
      13th June 2021 at 9:08 pm

      Thanks Barbara! I went wild with the camera over there. Such a lovely place.

      Reply
  • Anne Fraser
    13th June 2021 at 8:53 pm

    I love your photos. it certainly looks like the sort of garden you could escape to.

    Reply
    • Susanne
      13th June 2021 at 9:09 pm

      Thank you! And yes, I would use it as my hiding place to treat stress if I lived closer!

      Reply
  • Julie
    14th June 2021 at 5:03 am

    I agree the wilder part of the garden is more interesting. I’ve never been to Ireland and would love to go one day.

    Reply
    • Susanne
      19th June 2021 at 7:07 pm

      I hope you can come over eventually, it’s a lovely place to visit.

      Reply
  • Bernie and Jess Watt
    14th June 2021 at 1:55 pm

    What a place of exceptional beauty. We’d love to add this to our next Irish vacation plans.

    Reply
    • Susanne
      21st June 2021 at 10:03 pm

      Yes, it’s well worth visiting! And there’s lots to see in this area generally.

      Reply
  • Joanne
    19th June 2021 at 12:13 pm

    Those gardens are stunning! What a neat place to explore.

    Reply
    • Susanne
      19th June 2021 at 7:08 pm

      Yes, it’s a magical place! And there’s probably a lot more to explore than what I saw that day.

      Reply
  • Johanna Bradley
    25th June 2021 at 7:54 pm

    Isn’t it a fabulous place? We drove past signs for it but I wasn’t in charge of our itinerary and it was damp dreary weather. I would really enjoy it though. 🙂 🙂

    Reply
    • Susanne
      25th June 2021 at 11:20 pm

      Oh, that’s too bad! Well the garden wouldn’t be particularly pleasant to visit in wet & bad weather. Good to hear you’ve been in the area though!

      Reply
  • Anne
    2nd July 2021 at 6:45 pm

    Oh, Susanne. What a lovely way to document your return to your blog! Your pictures are stunning. The Secret Garden is one of my favorite childhood books. I loved books like that – where the child discovers the unexpected and magical just beyond the door (or the curtain, or the barrier at the train platform). I always wished I could find the hidden door somewhere… A bit fanciful, perhaps! I love that you were able to explore this wonderfully wild secret garden. How close it is to you? And is there a fee for visiting? It would be such a lovely place to de-stress, or refill one’s creativity. I shall add it to my ever-growing list of places to visit when I travel to Ireland.

    Reply
    • Susanne
      3rd July 2021 at 10:07 am

      This is such an amazing place, Anne! It’s a decent drive from here but not at all bad, it’s less than an hour to get there. I’ll definitely see to it that we get there again soon! I was also very fascinated by hidden doors and such when I was a child, and I dreamed of finding hidden rooms! Imagine my fascination with the wardrobe of Narnia!
      The garden seems free to visit – at least it was when we were there – but there’s a fee to go inside the mansion. I don’t think it’s open now but the coffee shop was open for takeaway coffees.

      Reply
      • Anne
        4th July 2021 at 12:37 pm

        Oh, what a wonderful retreat to have so close by! I think we all need to find those spaces, where we can escape, even if only for a few hours.
        I loved Narnia, too! I actually have reread the books several times as an adult, and it’s fascinating what I see now that I did not then. Have you ever read The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper? It’s another series where the protagonist is taken into a different world and given a new role… set in Wales. I keep trying to find new books / series as an adult that give me the same feeling – not easy to do!
        Bantry house shall go on my growing list of “places I must visit when I (eventually) get to Ireland”!

        Reply

Leave a comment