Places to visit: Gardens


Irish Historic Houses Association

Ireland’s historic houses are a valuable cultural resource. These houses and their contents are part of the physical evidence that helps to define the cultural and historical relationship between Ireland and the rest of Europe. The umbrella organisation representing this resource is the Irish Historic Houses Association.

The preservation of this part of Ireland’s cultural heritage is of national importance and this has been recognised by successive governments, who have enacted legislation intended to safeguard historic houses, their parks and contents, for current and future generations and in the public interest.

Heritage properties that remain in private hands have a unique value, especially those that have been owned by the same family for several generations. Typically, they contain artefacts and archives that greatly enhance the cultural and historical significance of each country house in its locality, and indeed many historic houses encapsulate the history of their surrounding regions. Below you will find listed historic houses which are members of the IHHA within the counties of Dublin, Kildare, Louth, Meath and Wicklow. Within each of these links, the opening times for each property may be ascertained by clicking on the property’s website link (below), or by clicking on the “Opening Times & Further Details” button.


Lissen Hall

Lambay Castle


Burtown House



Leixlip Castle

Lodge Park

Moone Abbey


Barmeath Castle


Collon House

Killineer House

Rokeby Hall




Altidore Castle

Killruddery House

Iveagh Gardens

Iveagh Gardens

Iveagh Gardens is one of the finest and least known of Dublin’s parks and gardens. Access is from Hatch Street.

The gardens were designed by Ninian Niven in 1865 as a cross between the ‘French Formal’ and the ‘English Landscape’ styles. The gardens demonstrate the artistic skills of the landscape architect of the mid 19th century; they display a unique collection of landscape features including rustic grottos, a cascade, sunken formal panels of lawn with fountain centre pieces, a rosarium, an American garden, and archery grounds.

The conservation and restoration of the gardens commenced in 1995 and to date most of the features have been restored (e.g. the maze in box hedging with a sun dial as a centre piece). The recently restored cascade and exotic tree ferns all help to create a sense of wonder in the ‘Secret Garden’. The pre-1860s rose varieties add an extra dimension to the Victorian Rosarium.

Opening Hours:
Gates open –
Mon to Sat: 8am
Sun & Bank Holidays: 10am
Gates close (around dusk) –
Mid Jan-Feb: 4.00 pm approx.
March-Oct: 7.30 pm approx.
Nov-Mid Jan: 3.30 pm approx.

Contact & Pricing:
Tel: 01 475 7816
Clonmel Street, Dublin 2
Free admission

Malahide Castle

Malahide Castle is one of Ireland’s oldest castles dating back to the 12th Century. Set on 260 acres, the castle has been home to the Talbot family for over 800 years. The guided tour allows one to get a feel for the history of the house, and to admire the period furniture and an extensive collection of Irish portrait paintings.

Malahide Castle was built by the Talbots, an English family holding the title Earls of Shrewsbury. Richard Talbot arrived in Ireland in 1174, and in 1185 he was granted the lands and harbour of Malahide by Henry II for his “war-like” services in the Anglo-Norman conquest of Ireland. With the exception of a short time during the Cromwellian period, the Talbot family resided in Malahide for the next eight centuries.

The Talbots are reputed to have been a diplomatic family, carefully manoeuvring between the authority of church and state. During the eight centuries between 1185 and the 1970s, their tenure at Malahide Castle was only broken for a brief interlude between 1649 and 1660 when their lands were seized by Cromwellian soldiers.

Although the Talbots had taken the Jacobite side, their land holdings were not confiscated after the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Fourteen members of the Talbot family, who had breakfasted together on the morning of the battle in the Great Hall of Malahide Castle, died on the battlefield.

The Talbots left an extraordinary legacy in Malahide and beyond. Among the family members were noted statesmen, churchmen and scholars and one great member of the family, Sir John Talbot, was immortalized in Shakespeare’s play ‘Henry VI’. Thirty individual Talbots had their seat at Malahide, from the first Lord Richard Talbot to Lord Milo Talbot, the 7th Baron, who died in 1973.

In 1975, Rose Talbot sold the castle to the Irish State, partly to fund inheritance taxes. Many of the contents had been sold in advance, leading to considerable public controversy, but private and governmental parties were able to retrieve some. Rose died in Tasmania in 2009.

The ornamental gardens adjoining the castle cover an area of about 22 acres and were largely created by Lord Milo Talbot, an enthusiastic plant collector who brought specimens from around the world to create the gardens here. In all, there are in excess of 5000 different species and varieties of plants present.  

The extensive system of pedestrian paths throughout the estate are perfect for walking and exploring the picturesque tree-lined park.

Opening Hours:
Open 7 days: 9.30am – 5.30pm
Last guided tours at 4.30pm from Apr to Oct, or 3.30pm Nov to Mar.
Closed 24 – 26 Dec.

Contact & Pricing:
Malahide, Co. Dublin
Adults €14; concessions

Marlay Park Walled Gardens

Marlay Park Walled Gardens

Marlay Park Walled Gardens were restored in 2000 under the Great Gardens of Ireland Restoration Programme. The gardens were traditionally divided into three walled parts, two of which are now on view. Marlay Park in general is a fine but bland amenity; however, the walled gardens (which are somewhat hidden from view) are well worth a visit.

On entering through the head gardener’s house and tea rooms, the central position is taken by a Regency-style ornamental garden, featuring an extensive display of colourful period plants, ranging from herbaceous borders to shrub beds. The orangery, arbour and water fountain combine with the other features to create a distinctive atmosphere. The adjacent kitchen garden with its restored bothies is set out in a traditional early-nineteenth century manner and has a fine collection of regency fruit trees and vegetables.

Apart from the walled gardens, Marlay Park is an extensive 247-acre historic demesne containing many historic features. The Park hosts a range of events throughout the year. It contains lawns, fine old trees and a number of large ponds fed by the Little Dargle River. The amenity caters for various sporting activities, including football, soccer, tennis, cricket, orienteering and running. It also includes children’s play facilities. Once the property of the La Touche banking family, the late eighteenth century house has been restored for public use.

Opening Hours:
Opens at 9am every day.
Closing times vary month to month, check the website below for details.

Contact & Pricing:
Tel: 086 605 6634
Marlay Park, Grange Road, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16
Admission free. Enter through the coffee shop, or via the gate at the right of the courtyard.

National Botanic Gardens

The National Botanic Gardens is noted for its fine plant collections holding over 15,000 plant species and cultivars from a variety of habitats from all around the world. Famous for its exquisitely restored and planted glasshouses, notably the Turner Curvilinear Range and the Great Palm House, both recipients of the Europa Nostra award for excellence in conservation architecture.

Visitors can enjoy such features as the Herbaceous borders, rose garden, the alpine yard, the pond area, rock garden and arboretum. Conservation plays an important role and Glasnevin is home to over 300 endangered plant species from around the world including 6 species, which are already extinct in the wild.

Opening Hours:
Open weekdays 9am – 5pm, and 10am – 6pm on weekends & holidays.
Closes at 4.30pm every day during winter.
Daily Guided Tours at 11.30 am and 3pm, online booking essential, €5 per person.
Additional special events may be available to book online.
Closed on Dec 25th.

Contact & Pricing:
Tel: 01 804 0300 / 01 804 0319
Botanic Road, Glasnevin, Dublin 9
Free admission. Car parking charge €2 for two hours, €2 per hour thereafter.

Newbridge House

Newbridge House and Farm

Newbridge House is a fine unchanged Georgian house (1752) set in a 360 acre demesne. The house contains most of the original furniture. There is a fine Red Drawing Room, a Museum of Curiosities, and ornate plasterwork. Newbridge House remained in the hands of the Cobbe Family until 1985 when it was purchased by Dublin County Council.

Newbridge is noted for its unique collection of Irish furniture, the Cobbe Collection of Old Master portraits and landscapes as well as family pictures, all of which can be seen on the tour.

Situated in 365 acres of complete Georgian Parkland, Newbridge House was home to the Cobbe family for over 270 years. ​In 1717 Charles Cobbe (1686-1765) came to Ireland, the first member of the family to do so. Cobbe was born and educated at Winchester before joining the clergy. In Ireland, his ecclesiastical career was successful. He became Bishop of Kildare, then Dean of Christchurch and finally Archbishop of Dublin.

He commissioned James Gibbs, to design a plan for the rebuilding of Newbridge House. The old Stuart house on site was replaced by the handsome Summer Villa which stands today. Begun in 1742, the building lasted five years and was overseen by the Irish architect George Semple. The Archbishop’s second son, Thomas, extended and refurbished the house, leaving a significant mark on Newbridge.

In 1985 the family sold the premises and entered into a rare agreement with Dublin County Council whereby the family would leave its original furniture in situ, in order to retain the top floor as a holiday home, while the demesne would be cared for by the Council. This agreement is not known to exist anywhere else in the Republic of Ireland.

The Cabinet of Curiosities or Ark is the Cobbe family museum which dates back to the 1760’s. It was started by Thomas and Lady Betty who had a taste for the exotica, collecting shells and coral. The original display cases, which were relocated to the UK many years ago, are probably the earliest complete museum furniture to survive in Britain and Ireland. The display cases in Newbridge House are replicas of these originals. Ostrich eggs from 1756, fossils, Chinese exhibits, taxidermy and Captain Cook memorabilia are among the chattels on display in the museum and are all original to the period.

The Red Drawing Room houses a selection of paintings from the Cobbe Collection. Master paintings including Italian Portraits and Dutch landscapes. From this collection sprang two previously unidentified portraits, one of which has since been established as the most authentic portrait of Shakespeare taken from life. ​

Also on this site is an 18th Century working farm with a courtyard, extensive buildings, and pastures.

Opening Hours:
April to September:
Open daily at 9.30am, last entry at 5pm.
October  to March:
Closed on Mondays. Open Tues to Sun at 9.30am, last entry at 3.30pm.

Guided house tours nearly every hour; subject to change during special events.

Closures over the Christmas period subject to change.

Contact & Pricing
Tel: 01 843 6534
Newbridge House & Farm, Hearse Road, Donabate, Co. Dublin
Farm only – Adults €10.50, Farm & House – Adults €14; concessions

Phoenix Park

Phoenix Park

The Phoenix Park contains over 700 ha. (1752 acres) and is the largest enclosed public park in any capital city in Europe. Open to the public since 1747, the Park is home to a large herd of fallow deer, a Visitor Centre, a Victorian kitchen walled garden (2.5 acres) , the Zoological Gardens and Aras an Uachtarain (the President’s residence). There are many walks & cycle routes.

The Visitor Centre houses an exhibition on the history/wildlife of the Park.
Nearby is the fully restored Ashtown Castle, a medieval tower house. Tours of Ashtown Castle are organised from the Visitor Centre all year round.

There are tours of Grangegorman Military Cemetery on Thursdays. Walkers assemble inside the Cemetery Gates. Admission is free and all are welcome. Please wear suitable shoes and clothing. For further information, phone 01 677 0095.

The Magazine Fort is strategically sited on St Thomas Hill, off the Military Road, and close to the Islandbridge Gate. It was built in 1734 -1736 to store gun powder and ammunition for British Government Forces. One third of the British Army was stationed in Ireland and was regularly rotated around the Empire. The Fort was raided on two occasions: Easter Monday 1916 and the 23rd of December 1939.

Conservation works are ongoing within the Fort, so tours are not currently available.

Opening Hours:
The park is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Visitor Centre –
May to Oct: 7 days a week, 9.30am – 6pm
Nov to Apr: Wed to Sun, 9.30am – 5.30pm; closed Mon & Tues

The Walled Kitchen Gardens are open daily 10am – 4pm all year round.
On the second Saturday of every month, visitors can meet the Park Gardeners between 10.30 am and 12.30 pm in the Kitchen Garden.

Tours of Ashtown Castle are organised from the Visitor Centre all year round.
Tours are at 10.30am, 12pm, 1.30pm, 3pm and 4.30pm, subject to availability.

Grangegorman Military Cemetery
Open all year round, 10am – 4pm.
Free guided tours may be available, on Thursdays at 11am.
Contact to confirm availability.

The Magazine Fort
Guided tours will not resume until further notice.

Contact & Pricing:
Tel: 01 820 5800 / 01 677 0095
Admission to the park and all attractions is free.

Royal Hospital Kilmainham

Royal Hospital Kilmainham

The Royal Hospital Kilmainham is a 17th Century building modelled on Les Invalides in Paris as a retirement home for old, sick and disabled soldiers. The building contains the Master’s Quarters, the Great Hall, the Chapel, a magnificent Courtyard and a Vaulted Cellar. There are notable formal gardens. The Royal Hospital Kilmainham predates its sister, the Royal Hospital Chelsea, by just two years and is the oldest classical building in Ireland.

The Royal Hospital stands on the site of the 7th century Early Christian settlement of Cill Maighneann, from which the area of Kilmainham derives its name.

In 1174, Strongbow developed the site replacing the Christian settlement with a medieval hospital and monastery of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem (Knights Hospitallers).

With the dissolution of the monasteries under the rule of Henry VIII between 1536 and 1541, the settlement was closed and the lands remained vacant until 1680.

The Royal Hospital Kilmainham was established and built between 1680 and 1684 on a 60 acre site granted by King Charles II at the instigation of James Butler, First Duke of Ormond.

Inspired by ‘Les Invalides’ in Paris, France, then recently opened as Louis XIV’s home for his army pensioners, Ormond obtained a charter from King Charles to construct a similar type of building at Kilmainham.

A retirement home for old soldiers rather than a hospital, the building opened its doors in 1684 and for the next 243 years, thousands of army pensioners would live out their final days within its walls.

Classical in design and Continental in layout, leading architects such as William Robinson, Thomas Burgh and Francis Johnson worked on the building making the Royal Hospital not only a building of distinction, but the starting point of Dublin’s development into a city of European standing.

In the 19th century, the military significance of this building was greatly enhanced when it became the residence and headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief of the British army in Ireland.

The Royal Hospital remained an old soldier’s home until 1927 when it was finally handed over to the newly established Irish Free State Government, where it served a number of purposes in the decades that followed (including serving as Garda Headquarters from 1930 to 1950).

In 1980 Taoiseach Charles Haughey approved plans to renovate the building at a cost of IR£3 million. It took four years to complete the project – which is as long as it took to originally build it three centuries before!

Today, the Office of Public Works retells the story of this magnificent building through its ‘Old Man’s House’ Exhibition. Visitors can discover the history behind the North Range, the Formal Gardens, the Meadow and Dublin’s Oldest graveyard, Bully’s Acre. Located on the ground floor of the West Wing, the exhibition enables one to enter a window into the past,  learning about the lives of those who once worked and resided within its walls.

The building became home to the Irish Museum of Modern Art in 1991 (please click here for more information about IMMA).

You can read a full account of the Hospital’s fascinating history at

Opening Hours:
Monday- Saturday: 10am – 5pm
Sunday and Bank Holidays: 12pm – 5pm.
The modern art gallery is closed on Mondays.

The Royal Hospital Kilmainham is open all year for historical guided tours of its spacious grounds. Unfortunately, as part of the building is closed for refurbishment, there is limited access to the interior. Tours of the grounds and gardens are available daily for free but booking is required.

Contact & Pricing:
Tel: 01 612 9903 (General enquiries) / 046 9422450 (Tours)
Military Road, Kilmainham, Dublin 8
Admission free

St Stephens Green

St. Stephen’s Green

St. Stephen’s Green is Ireland’s best known Victorian public park. The extensive grounds amount to some 9 hectares (22 acres) and are maintained in the original Victorian layout. There are lunchtime concerts during the summer months.

Re-opened by Lord Ardilaun in 1880 for the citizens of Dublin, the park has been maintained in the original Victorian layout with extensive perimeter tree and shrub planting, and spectacular spring and summer Victorian bedding. The herbaceous border provides colour from early spring to late autumn. Sanctuary from inclement weather can be obtained in the Victorian lakeside shelter or in the Victorian Swiss shelters in the centre of the park.

The Green Mile walking tour of St Stephen’s Green is a venture by the Little Museum of Dublin. The Green Mile tour tells the story of a square which has been at the centre of Irish history for hundreds of years. Every year 8.1 million people walk through St Stephen’s Green; the park has long served as a backdrop for public and private drama, as well as being the setting for many great love stories. The tour begins with a short presentation at the Little Museum. Participants then embark on a 60-minute walk in the company of an expert local guide. The tours take place every day at 11.30 am. Advance booking is essential.

Opening Hours:
Mon to Sat: 7.30am till dusk
Sun & Bank Holidays: 9.30am till dusk
Open Christmas Day: 9.30am – 12.30pm
The closing time of the gardens varies in line with daylight hours.

Free audio guide available to download from the website linked below.
Guided tours available from the nearby Little Museum of Dublin.

Contact & Pricing:
Tel: 01 475 7816
Admission free; Tour €13

War Memorial Garden

War Memorial Gardens

These gardens are one of the most famous memorial gardens in Europe. They are dedicated to the memory of 49,400 Irish soldiers who died in the 1914 – 1918 war. The names of all the soldiers are contained in the beautifully illustrated Harry Clarke manuscripts in the granite book rooms in the gardens.

These gardens are not only a place of remembrance but are also of great architectural interest and beauty. They are one of four gardens in this country designed by the famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944). The others are Heywood Gardens, Lambay Island and Howth Castle.

Sunken rose gardens, herbaceous borders and extensive tree planting make for an enjoyable visit to the gardens in any season.

Opening Hours:
Opens at – Mon to Fri: 8am, Sat & Sun 10am
Closes varies according to daylight hours

 Free guided tours may be available, contact the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre for details.

Contact & Pricing:
Tel: 01 475 7816
South Circular Rd, Islandbridge, Dublin 8
Admission free