Glenveagh Castle and Gardens, County Donegal

Glenveagh Castle and Gardens, County Donegal

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Deep in the Derryveagh mountains, there's a piece of Donegal that owes its existence largely to America. Glenveagh castle and its exotic gardens, which rise like an apparition over Lough Veagh, were built in the 19th Century by John George Adair, a man who was born in County Laois, but who made his fortune in the United States. He had a castle designed to resemble Balmoral, Queen Victoria's Scottish highland residence, with a four-story keep and turrets made of thick granite (plentiful in Donegal but difficult to work and allowing for little detail) and placed it in estate of over 40,000 acres.

The forbidding architecture of the castle is quickly forgotten amidst the varied comforts within. Henry McIlhenny, the last owner of the castle, served the Philadelphia Museum of Art as Curator of Decorative Arts and his expertise in this field is evident throughout the castle. Through time, each room acquired a different character, some roughly in keeping with the period of the house, others freely inventive.

Few of the great houses of Ireland are preserved in this condition, with their original furnishings, and in Glenveagh Castle one catches a glimpse of a lifestyle belonging to an earlier age.

Access to the castle is by guided tour which last approx. 30 mins

Glenveagh Gardens

Many famous Irish Gardens are set in natural landscapes of great beauty and nowhere else is the contrast between the luxuriance of the gardens and a rugged and exposed environment as marked as at Glenveagh. Situated at the foot of a steep, wooded hillside sloping down to Glenveagh Castle on the windswept shore of Lough Veagh, the uncompromising conditions of high rainfall and acid soil have been successfully exploited and the gardens feature a range of exotic plants from places as far afield as South America, Tasmania and China. The acid soil is particularly suited to the growth of rhododendrons, of which there is a fine collection.

When visiting the best time of year to see the gardens is in May/ June for rhododendrons or in August when the walled garden is at its most colorful.

Guided tours of the gardens are available by appointment with the Head Gardener.

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