Many visitors head to Glengarriff because of that Irish Eden, Ilnacullin. On Garnish Island, offshore from Glengarriff and beyond islets populated by comical-looking basking seals, you can find one of the country's horticultural wonders. In 1910 a Belfast businessman, John Annan Bryce, purchased this rocky isle, and, with the help of famed English architect Howard Peto and Scottish plantsman Murdo Mackenzie, transformed it into a botanical Disneyland. The main showpiece is a wisteria-covered "Casita"—a rather strange-looking half-shed, half-mansion that overlooks a sunken Italian garden. Ilnacullin has a little bit of everything, from a Grecian temple to a Martello tower to a Happy Valley, all bedded with extraordinary shrubs, trees, and many unusual subtropical flowers.
You get to Ilnacullin by taking a Blue Pool ferry (10 minutes), which departs for the island from Glengarriff. George Bernard Shaw found Ilnacullin peaceful enough to allow him to begin his St. Joan here; maybe you'll find Garnish inspiring, too.
- Address: Garnish Island, Co. Cork
- Phone: 027/63040
- Cost: Gardens €4, ferry €10 round-trip
- Hours: July and Aug., Mon.–Sat. 9:30–6:30, Sun. 11–6:30; Apr.–June and Sept., Mon.–Sat. 10–6:30, Sun. noon–6:30; Oct., Mon.–Sat. 10–4, Sun. 1–5
- Website: www.heritageireland.ie/en/south-west
- Location: Glengarriff