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The Laois Garden Trail

Have you heard of the Laois Garden Trail? It is a wonderful trail that includes 12 gardens, from Emo to Heywood, Durrow Castle to Gash Gardens, there are so many beautiful spaces to explore and perhaps re-discover. In this article, I will explore a variety of what Laois has to offer. The 12 gardens attract many novice and experienced gardeners from all over the world and while visiting the Laois Angling Centre, I came across the remarkable Clonohill Gardens within it. So beautiful, I recorded a short video of it here

Clonohill Gardens

Coolrain, Laois R32 NF80

On Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th June, you will get an opportunity to visit this remarkable gardens of Clonohill, Co. Laois. Enda Thompson-Phelan who grew up in Clonohill house, is a floral artist who created the gardens. When her husband, John opened up the Laois Angling Centre fifteen years ago, the little woodland area was revealed. It is a magical space in springtime where there is plenty of evidence of red squirrels living there, with nut shells strewn around the sheltered areas of the trail. The looped trail begins at the woodland area where a collections of snowdrops, hellebores and Galanthus thrive, with the rhodedendrons beginning to flower.

Enda Thompson Phelan is a floral artist

Underfoot it feels spongy, between showers the moss has become like a soggy carpet in the sheltered space near the lake. Enda’s interest in garden design came from her love of art, as you can see from the strong contrasting colours, and textures. It’s the creative element that interests her and she describes herself as a ‘plantaholic’. With the natural stone used as seats, she tries not to import outside elements, only using what’s already in the garden. She says “It is the idea that the garden is married into the natural landscape, which you are surrounded by”. The sheltered walled garden is almost like “a little micro-climate”, according to Enda, overlooking the angling lake. With an enchanting variety of ferns, Clonohill is also well known for its dazzling blue poppies. There are wonders at every footstep. For more information email

Ballintubbert Gardens, Laois

Ballintubbert House, Ballintubbert, Stradbally, Co. Laois, R14 E954

In Ballintubbert, is now becoming associated with hosting weddings, retreats and foraging workshops. You can explore the Robinson woodland walk which encircles the 120m formal canal and find the 15-foot totem pole curved out of an old oak tree, known as the green man. Arthur Shackleton’s designed garden room is a summer delight. Through the Yew cloisters there is the Sir Edwin Lutyens inspired sunken garden, complete with fountain and his trademark stone walls. And then there is the rose garden, surrounded by over 300 roses. For more check out Ballintubbert

Castle Durrow, Laois

Castleview, Durrow, Co. Laois, R32 EA02

300 years ago the garden was started by the Flower family. The garden at Castle Durrow has been designed to stroll in, have picnics and enjoy the beautiful flowers. The pleasure garden area was planted with specimen trees that are now in their full glory.  Discover the courtyard room, filled with hundreds of fragrant David Austin Roses. From there you’ll find the walled Garden, where Some of the areas are filled with fruit trees. There is a Herb Garden and a Vegetable Garden, which is full of produce chosen by the Head Chef. 

The river walk, which forms part of the Laois Leafy Loop Walk, runs along the Erkina river.  Along here bluebells and wild garlic grow under the trees, which were planted in Victorian times.  The walk ends behind the Church of Ireland graveyard where the original castle owners, the Ashbrooks, are buried. See more on Castle Durrow Gardens

Gash Gardens

Gash, Castletown, Co. Laois, R32 K068

Established for over 25 years, Gash Gardens has evolved from a farm paddock where cows once grazed into a plantsperson’s oasis that now covers an area of approximately 4 acres.  These well kept gardens progress through 3 distinct areas: a semi-formal gravel garden where rambling pathways lead through billowing displays of flower and foliage, a lawn area punctuated with colourful herbaceous borders and fine specimen trees, and a looped riverside walk where nature abounds.

The distinguishing feature of the garden is a stone cavern known as the Moon House with a cascade tumbling past its circular window into a lily pond.  Water is a linking element throughout the garden with meandering streams and soothing pond areas inhabited by frogs and newts.

A laburnum archway leads through a fernery and along a path lined with beech hedging to the river walk, along the River Nore. See more on Gash Gardens

Emo Court, Laois

Emo, Portarlington, Co. Laois R32 C44V

Designed by James Gandon in 1790, Emo Court was lovingly restored in the 1980’s by Major Cholmeley Harrison. The 250 acres are now managed by the Office of Public Works (100 acres of parkland including the lake). A beech walk behind the house leads to the nursery lake, which covers an area of 25 acres.  Closer to the house there are formal lawns with a number of statues.  The Four Seasons statues represent Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn. Visitors to Emo Court can enjoy the lake and woodland walks or a meander through the gardens before relaxing in the charming tearooms.

Heywood Gardens

Cappanashannagh, Ballinakill, Co. Laois

The entrancing eighteenth-century landscape at Heywood Gardens, near Ballinakill, County Laois, consists of two garden types: the great park created by Frederick Trench in the late 1700s and the small interlocked formal gardens created by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll in the early 1900s. The centrepiece of Heywood is the Lutyens Garden. A pond with turtle fountains is surrounded by a range of plants; from peony,to Geraniums, and Saxifraga. From the sunken garden which features the fountain, a hidden staircase leads to a series of “rooms” which are divided by Taxus baccata hedging. On the top level of the sunken garden there is a loggia, roofed with red tiles, that includes an inscription taken from the writings of Alexander Pope. In the wall that surrounds the garden, each circular window frames a spectacular view of the landscape so carefully constructed by Frederick Trench. More information here. During Heritage Week 2023, on Aug 17th to 19th, the Twin Trees Festival takes place. A ‘En Plein Air’ event, which is open to beginners, and accomplished painters. To explore more on the Laois Garden Trail you can visit Laois Garden Trail and learn more about other gardens such as Fruitlawn Garden, created by Arthur Shackleton, within a walled in setting or Gortnalee Gardens near the Donaghmore Workhouse Museum in County Laois.


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