Burtown House and Gardens near Athy is a treasure trove for anyone interested in art, gardening, photography and history.
The House, built in 1710 for the Quaker Robert Power, is now home to four generations of the Fennell family.
The House and Gardens is home to two artists’ studios. Wendy Walsh is Ireland’s foremost botanical artist and has produced 15 books on Ireland’s flora and fauna. Her daughter Lesley Fennell is a still life and portrait painter who takes much of her inspiration from the gardens she has developed and created over the last 40 years.
Her son, James Fennell, is a well-known photographer who has produced over 16 books on Ireland’s architectural heritage, art and people, and he also has a photography studio within the gardens.
James’ wife Joanna is a jewellery designer and her designs are available to buy at Burtown House’s shop.
The Gardens at Burtown House are open to visitors for much of the year, and the house is open to visit by appointment.
The gardens at Burtown are made up of several areas, including large herbaceous borders, shrubberies, a rock garden, a yew walk divided by a pergola, a sundial garden, an old orchard, a more formal stable yard garden and a large woodland garden surrounded on all sides by water. This woodland, known as the Nutgrove, hosts a fine collection of candelabra primulas, hostas, ferns and iris, amongst other plants. There are many old roses, peonies and clematis, and a walled organic vegetable garden that has been in continuous production for over 150 years.
Isabel Shackleton (married to the present owner’s great grandfather and first cousin to the explorer Ernest Shackleton) was responsible for the original layout, but over the last 20 years it has been greatly enlarged and reclaimed by the present owners. Many of Wendy Walsh’s rare plants were also moved to the gardens over the last decade.
Burtown is still a working farm, with 180 acres of wheat, barley and forestry.
Burtown House itself as been enlarged several times since it was first built. The house is full of the history of the present owners’ ancestors. There are also close links with the nearby Ballytore Quaker community and explorer Ernest Shackleton.
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