ENNISKERRY, IRELAND - A little West Highland Terrier greeted us at the entrance of Powerscourt with a chorus of barks. “Don’t mind Muffy,” said a lady chasing after the little white terror. “She won’t hurt you – she’ll just bark you to death.”
The lady then pointed the way to the entrance of the 18th century home which has become known worldwide for its enchanting gardens, waterfall and Versailles-like elegance.
Magnificent fountains and statues adorn the manicured grounds at Powerscourt, a traditional manor featuring sweeping terraces that spread over 45 glorious acres of Irish countryside. The idyllic setting at Powerscourt is enhanced by the magical Wicklow Mountains that surround it. A peak called Sugar Loaf is what you see when you look out over the countryside from Powerscourt’s main terrace.
The gardens are considered the most beautiful in Ireland. Started by Richard Wingfield in the 1740s, they have only gotten better with age. However, to describe these as simply gardens is like saying the Titanic was a boat.
The botanical splendor one is treated to at Powerscourt is something that will stay with you for years afterwards. Powerscourt offer visitors a blend of formal gardens, statuary and ornamental lakes, secret hollows, rambling walks, walled gardens and over 200 varieties of trees and shrubs.
Above: The lovely buildings are surrounded by lush gardens.
A walk from the main house, which itself is museum-like in appearance, along tranquil flower-lined paths leads visitors to a massive lake with a fountain in the middle. The reflection of the house in the pool makes this a special place for photographers.
A short distance further along the path, one comes upon a cemetery, where former pet residents, including cats, dogs, a few ponies and even a cow, are buried.
The grounds also feature a Japanese Garden along with Italian and English gardens.
And to think, all this was almost lost in 1974 when fire destroyed the main house. A painstaking restoration has been going on ever since and the property has almost been returned to its former glory.
The gardens and home are a favorite with wedding parties. In fact, over 70 weddings a year are held here. The main attraction at Powerscourt is not actually at Powerscourt. The estate’s 398 foot waterfall, the highest in Ireland, is a short drive away from the main property and well worth the frustrating time it took us to find it. Its Eden setting leaves visitors awestruck.
The manor is constructed of granite mined from the Wicklow Mountains. It took three years to complete it at a cost of $160,000 – a fortune back in 1730 when it was started.
The gardens are sectioned off with wrought iron gates and each has its own unique personality and plants.
Above: Powerscourt sits on ancient land.
For instance, the walled garden is where the estate’s herbs are grown while in the Rose Garden, award winning species flourish. The most ornate gate on property is the Bamberg Gate, dating back to the 1770s in Vienna.
The house features dozens of rooms but only two are currently opened to the public – the grand ballroom, used for weddings, ceremonial events and meetings, and a small room where a film on the history of Powerscourt is shown. There are also several shops located on the main floor where you can buy local crafts.
Recent additions to the Powerscourt property include two championship golf courses and an upscale hotel complex that comes complete with a world class spa.
Because Powerscourt is just a half hour’s drive from Dublin, it’s become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland.
As we made our way back to the entrance, Muffy barked us on our way. A dog’s life is pretty good a Powerscourt, it seems.