In May when I visited the rare and special plant fair, held on the Killruddery estate, I made the impulsive decision to pay €70 for annual membership of Killruddery which gives me free access to the gardens .
I predicated that decision on the notion that I could pop in when ever I was passing. However in the intervening months I rarely passed the entrance to the estate and if I did I was usually under time pressure and had to drive by. So, to get some value out of my membership I visited Killruddery this Saturday.
According to the Killruddery information map the gardens are: ‘… of outstanding importance as they are among the very few remaining 17th century gardens in these islands.’
Before I started exploring them I was drawn like a mouse to cheese towards the tea room for a reviving coffee accompanied by a buttermilk scone. The tea room is in the estate’s charming octagonal Victorian ornamental diary. And once upon a time, in sub Marie Antoinette fashion, the women of the house adjourned there to make butter.
I enjoyed wandering around the Killruddery garden admiring the: verdant vistas; venerable trees some bent to the will of the wild Wicklow wind; colourful herbaceous borders; numerous water features; and oh, so many statues. All of which are set against the scenic backdrop of the nearby moody Wicklow mountains.
I don’t know the exact acreage of the gardens but they are generously sized. They are not manicured to the nth degree but they are lovely. Apparently in days of yore twenty-five gardeners worked on the estate – these days it’s just three.
My annual membership doesn’t include admission to the house but I was happy to pay extra to take a short guided tour of the rooms open to the public (sadly photography not allowed). During the course of the tour I learnt a little of the history of the family and the Killruddery property.
The Brabazons arrived in this country in 1543 when Henry the eight sent Sir William Brabazon of Leicester to act as Vice-Treasurer of Ireland. Sir William’s grandson Edward was created the first Baron of Ardee and in turn his son William was created the first Earl of Meath in 1627. The current Earl of Meath is the fifteenth and in all sixteen generations of the family have lived at Killruddery.
When Sir William first arrived and before the family moved to Killruddery, he farmed an area between Thomas Street and Dublin’s river Liffey. For those of you who don’t know that’s now a built up part of Dublin a stone’s throw from the city centre. I was interested to hear that Meath and Ardee Street in that area derived their names from the Brabazon family connection.
Note: Kilruddery House is about 20 kilometers south of Dublin – full details of opening hours and events are on their website www.killruddery.com