8 April 2022
By Tom Collins
Boost to County Cork tourism as gardens of Annes Grove Estate, Castletownroche, Co Cork become accessible by paid guided tour from today until 22 September
The Office of Public Works (OPW) is delighted to announce the opening to the public of Annes Grove House and Gardens near Castletownroche, Co. Cork. After the donation of the historic estate to the State by the Annesley family in December 2015, the grounds underwent a first phase of extensive restoration works. Now, on the cusp of rare rhododendrons, magnolia and cherry trees bursting into full bloom, the gardens are ready to welcome and charm visitors from Ireland and abroad again for the 2022 season.
With the opening of Annes Grove, the OPW adds a second picturesque destination in the foothills of the Galtees only a short distance downstream on the River Awbeg from the popular Doneraile House and Demesne, creating a cluster of vibrant outdoor and cultural destinations and giving national and international visitors another incentive to visit the region. Inspired by his fellow countryman and gardener William Robinson, Richard Arthur Grove Annesley in the early twentieth century embarked on blending a new style of gardening at Annes Grove with the added panache of exotic blooms, grown from seeds collected by the famous plant-hunter Frank Kingdon-Ward on his expeditions to Burma, Yunnan Province, Tibet and Bhutan.
That this garden – as well as other famous Irish gardens at Garinish Island, Kilmacurragh and Fota – have survived, is testament to a labour of love by the families involved and now the OPW, supported back then and now by Glasnevin Directors. Over the past five years, the OPW has sensitively restored the fragile environments of the Walled and Woodland Gardens for visitors to enjoy, and the restoration of the third, the Riverside Garden, continues. While we are only at the start of beginning to understand the creation of these magical places, the OPW is developing skills to protect and care for them, leading to interpretation and opportunities for visitors to tap into their potential to inspire and delight.
Opening the gardens in the presence of the Annesley family and many invited guests, Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan, T.D., said:
“I wish to thank the Annesley family for their generosity of spirit, ensuring the legacy of previous generations is secured by donating this important historical estate to the State and thereby sharing it with us all. I have no doubt Annes Grove will become a vibrant destination for visitors and will provide significant support to the economic and cultural development in the North Cork region.
Ireland’s gardens enjoy huge popularity both with domestic and international visitors and we are very privileged in the OPW to care for an entire network of rare and fine plant collections spanning the country, from the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin and Kilmacurragh, to Altamont, the JFK Arboretum, Fota, Garinish Island, Derrynane and Annes Grove.
These are places of discovery and well-being not just for garden lovers, but also for our youngest generations, and I look forward especially to the free school tours we will be able to facilitate here as at all our OPW sites, contributing to children’s education in Ireland with special memories of these wonderful gardens and their history.”
Outlining the next phase of works already underway at Annes Grove, Minister O’Donovan added:
“Howley Hayes Cooney have been appointed by the OPW to oversee the conservation of the buildings on this estate. The OPW is on track to lodge a planning application in 2022 for the conservation of the main house, ancillary buildings in the farmyard, for car and bus parking and staff facilities. All of these works will contribute to creating a world-class visitor experience at Annes Grove to rival the very best existing sites throughout Ireland.”
Patrick Grove Annesley, who gifted the estate to the State, said:
“I am delighted that the OPW is embarking on the reopening of Annes Grove gardens. I’ve seen how much hard work the gardening team have been putting into preparing for this. Annes Grove has a long tradition of welcoming visitors and it was a great sadness for my family when we had no alternative but to close its gates in 2009. I know that the OPW is now developing an exciting vision for the future of Annes Grove, involving not just the gardens but also creative uses for the house and surrounding buildings, so that the value of the whole property both to the local community and to visitors from further afield will continue to increase as years go by.”
The gardens will be accessible by paid guided tour only from 8 April to 22 September. Visitors can look forward to learning more about the history of the estate and Grove Annesley family, of the garden itself and the philosophy behind its design, and also about the workings of the Irish country estate in the past. History and art events will take place throughout the summer months. A coffee van and seating area are located on the Bleach Green by the house, offering visitors the opportunity for picnics and refreshments immersed in the sights and sounds of nature.