“Garinish Island is magical” exclaimed two of our B&B hosts. It provides a garden of unique species from around the world as well as a stately mansion to visit.
One host lived in Glengarriff as a young girl. She and a girlfriend would spend a whole day on the island. The boat captain would let them travel for free. We took the Harbour Queen boat €11 per person for the short 15 minute ride past some seals to the island.
The magic started as soon as we left the OPW Ticket House. We were on the 09:45 boat so we had the park mainly to ourselves for the first hour or two. We made our way to an Italianate Garden with a marbled floored Italian casita on the left.
On the right side was a statue of Mercury in a pond.
This path leads to a viewpoint of the surrounding mountains.
We headed north to stairs leading to a fake Grecian temple. This served as a nice frame of the lake and mountains. Leaving Olympus (sic), we headed west past rhododendrons, tree ferns and other rare trees from Australia and New Zealand. Steep stairs lead to a restored Martello Tower. There are very good views from the top once you climb the narrow stairs.
We took the tour of the mansion included in the entry fee. Once again the OPW guide was superb. In the gardener’s room the tools were made from Brussels sprouts! Yes the stalks are so hard they were used as the shafts for tools.
The dining room set is all original China. This is because the last owner, Roland Bryce, bequeathed the estate and all furnishings to the OPW (government) in 1953.
The parlour was also magnificent. Can you imagine George Bernard Shaw frequently sat here.
They even have the original Bryce collection of art and sculpture from around the world, including this teak dancer probably from Thailand. How did they ship these heavy sculptures back from Asia?
The sister’s bedroom even has the bed cover she embroidered! She was the artistic sibling but had no interest in inheriting the island.
All in all, this was a very magical experience. We spent five hours here and even brought a picnic lunch to eat on the benches near the pavilion lawn.