For part one which describes the history of the estate and the house please visit here.
Although I have been visiting Emo Court for years I have only actually been inside the house once. The gardens of the estate are the main thing that keeps bringing me back. First laid out in the 18th century the 55 acres of formal lawns, lake and woodland has been lovingly restored and maintained. The gardens are a favourite locally for walking and relaxing and unsurprisingly as a great backdrop for wedding photographs.
The gardens should really be seen to be enjoyed but for this post I though I would list the elements that for me make the gardens a wonderful place to visit.
The Avenue: After you emerge from the beech tree wood the avenue leading to the front of the house emerges. It is a1 mile long and is lined with large majestic trees to give it a grand feel. It offers a brilliant view of the house and surrounding countryside. This was the way that famous guests would enter the estate so it was designed to show off the wealth and power of the owners. Our guide even told of one occasion where a very important guest (I think it was a King but I can’t remember) visited and they laid a red carpet down the whole mile length of the avenue. That must have been a sight to behold!
The Avenue is blocked off at the moment but when open it is a great way to stroll up to the house. Sadly however, it is also a favourite illegal dumping spot. So if you are reading this and are a dumper, just know that I hate you and your dirty rubbish. Just take it to the county dump and stop destroying the countryside and our heritage!
The Lake: One of my favourite walks to do in Emo Court is around the 20 acre lake which is just at the back of the house. This type of lake is a very important feature in many neo-classical designs. The lake is a fantastic centre point in the gardens and is always teeming with plant and animal life. It is fantastic is visit in any season, but my particular favourite time is in winter when the lake has frozen over. Taking a stroll around the lake is a great way to pass some time and there are some clear, well defined paths to help you navigate it. At the moment you can’t walk the whole way around by I have heard there are plans afoot to do some work that will allow this. You can guarantee that if this is completed I will be one of the first out there with my walking shoes on.
The Lawns: The rolling lawns stretch out from the house, surrounding it and are a wonderful place to spend a summer day snoozing or a winters day making a snowman. They are a good spot for picnics as they are well maintained and managed. Additionally the ban on dogs at the Court lessens the risk of stepping on the poop left behind by irresponsible owners. The laws also afford a wonderful view of the estate, the lake, Slieve Bloom Mountains and surrounding countryside.
The Trees and Plants: If you are interested in trees and plants you will be spoilt for choice at Emo court. The estate boasts a wonderful selection of both, in the forest, manicured gardens and in the lake many of which are rare and valuable. The Avenue is lined with giant Wellingtonia trees which give the entrance a grand, majestic feel. The walks are well shaded by a large selection of mature trees some of which have been on the estate since it was established. The walk around the lake is almost completely canopied by lush green trees which is a blessing on a hot, sunny day (yes we do get some of those!). There are also well manicured evergreen trees along the stone walks behind the house which adds a terrific counterpoint to the wilder forest walks. Keep an eye out for the cedars, yews, Japanese maples, Himalayan Spruce, Oak, and Douglas Firs.
If plants and flowers are more your thing fear not the estate provides for you to. Spring is the best time to visit the estate in my opinion as the estate is transformed by carpets of daffodils, snow-drops and bluebells. Summer is also glorious as the scent of the flowers fills the estate and adds wonderful colours and textures. Look out for camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas and many other shrubs and flowers.
The Wildlife:For nature lovers the gardens are a great place to go wildlife spotting. The gardens are full of birds of varying species and as you are in the countryside you can hear their songs clearly. The lake is full of ducks and water birds, there is also a heron who has made his home there. Last time I was by the lake I also spotted dragon flies, fish of various sizes and colours and even a leech! The real highlight for me however is what you find in the wooded areas. I was once standing on a log when I spied a squirrel, I followed it and out of nowhere a group of deer ran out of the trees into the clearing and straight towards me. I got such a fright I forgot to take a picture but it gives a good idea of what you may see if you take a walk through the trees. The estate also boasts that is home to the poor red squirrels and adorable bats.
The Statues: Dotted throughout the gardens there are statues in the classical sytle. The four seasons are represented as well as Bacchus, Ceres, Polyhymnia and The Huntsman and his Dog. Some are on the lawns while others are hidden among the trees. See if you can find them all!
The Tearooms: After all the walking and the plant and animal life spotting you will be in need of refreshment. Lucky for you Emo Court has a really nice tea rooms just to the left of the main house. It is full of yummy lunch items, drinks, ice creams and some of the biggest slices of cake that I have ever seen. There is also a nice craft shop with items such as gardening kits, soaps, home ware and jewellery that you can buy. Irish produced craft items are also stocked for those with an interest in Irish goods.
Access to the gardens is free. Yes that is right totally free! So if you are down in this part of the country you have no excuse. The gardens are wonderful in any season and are well worth a visit. Depending on levels of mobility and fitness you can do as little or as much as you like and then relax in the tearoom afterwards. Enjoy!
There is a great resource book that has been put together about Emo Court, click here it open it.