When the sun shines in winter, the spirits are lifted if you can get outside to enjoy it. One of my favourite walks is through Dublin’s Phoenix Park, a city centre park with 707 hectares of mature trees, herds of deer and gaslit lamps. In the north-west corner lies Farmleigh,the Irish State guest house and formerly a residence of the Guinness family.
The mark of a good garden is that it retains good bones in the winter months when the structure is exposed and Farmleigh is blessed with many mature trees, yew hedging, formal and informal ponds, the most lovely Dutch-style sunken garden as well as a formal walled kitchen garden.
In summer the herbaceous borders are awash with colour, but in winter the walled garden is a lovely sheltered spot to savour the low winter sunlight.
There are intriguing sculptures scattered in this large estate, this enormous copper ball particularly lovely in the setting sun.
The eye is led onwards through giant yew spirals, through an ornate gate, to the Edwardian sunken garden with its beautiful fountain of Carrera marble and fun peacock topiary.
There are always lots of activities happening in the old stables area – exhibitions, farmers’ markets, carol singing, as well as a restaurant overlooking the informal pond. It was clear that an event was on the calendar as giant lanterns were being laid out throughout the grounds.
The standard of maintenance is very high and it is overseen by Head Gardener Noel Forde, who formerly worked here for the Guinness family. It is the small touches which elevate this garden too – the hedge of hollies, the bank of ferns in a shady corner.
Entrance to the gardens, and most events, is free. This is a beautiful garden in the spring and summer months but there is still much to enjoy on a sunny winter’s day and lots of activities in the coming weeks.
To read more about the Christmas markets, storytelling and carol singing : Farmleigh.