Coolcarrigan House and Gardens, hidden on the edge of the Bog of Allen, reopens its doors to visitors this Saturday and Sunday. All proceeds from the opening weekend will go to St Brigid’s Hospice on the Curragh.
Coolcarrigan is one of Kildare’s truly hidden tourist gems - many locals have never been there and would be hard pressed to find it.
The house has a stunning 15-acre garden and a small church, surrounded by a moat, which can be booked for weddings.
The Georgian house, built in the 1830s as a shooting lodge, is now occupied by the 6th generation of the same family. A large area of the surrounding peatland owned by the estate was taken away when the government set up Bord na Mona. The house was built by Robert Mackay Wilson. It has been added to and modernised over the years, and is now a very comfortable family home.
The church was built in the 1880s also by Robert Mackay Wilson. It is surrounded by a circular, dry moat and can only be entered by passing through a lynch gate. It has some very interesting stained glass windows and Gaelic scripts on the walls chosen by Douglas Hyde, the first President of Ireland. There are regular Sunday services held. It has featured on TV and in film, notably ‘The Irish RM’.
The gardens are a must-visit for any horticulturalist. A major renovation program was undertaken in the 1970s, under Sir Harold Hillier, the eminent English plantsman, after the garden was hit by a windstorm.
What has been created is a very unusual collection of trees and shrubs, many of which will not be found elsewhere in Ireland. It is open to visitors and has been visited by many worldwide gardening groups and international dendrologists.
Paths meander through the eight acre garden and create surprises and vistas around every corner.
The arboretum was extended by an additional seven acres in 2003 with many new rarities, and a special wild flower meadow.
From Naas, take the Caragh road and keep going. You’ll go through Caragh, past Mondello, over the Cock bridge, through Downing’s Cross until you get to the crossroads with Dag Welds pub in front of you. From there, cross the road and take the road that brings you past Coill Dubh and Cooleragh. About a mile past Cooleragh, Coolcarrigan is on your left hand side. If you’ve reached Kelly’s pub in Timahoe, you’ve gone too far.
FOR MORE INFORMATION AND A MAP, SEE WWW.COOLCARRIGAN.IE
2012 Opening Weekend: Entry on Saturday and Sunday, April 14/15. Entry E8, Family E10. Open 11am - 5pm.
Coolcarrigan will donate the proceeds of its opening weekend to St Brigid’s Hospice on the Curragh.
This year, Coolcarrigan is also open April 16 - 20 and 23 - 24; Augist 11 - 31; September 3 - 7 and 15 - 26; and October 1 - 7.
Check out the Leinster Leader’s ‘Kildare’s Hidden Gems’ column every week to find out about the secret tourist delights of the Lilywhite county - plus, a great discount voucher every week!