Trip to Garnish Island

On September 12th, 2019 a group of 32 RTAI members travelled to Glengarriff to visit the renowned and beautiful island commonly  known as Garnish or Illnacullen (Island of Holly).

Garnish Island is located in the sheltered harbour of Glengarriff  It is a small island of 15 hectares (37 acres) known to horticulturists and lovers of trees and shrubs all around the world as an island garden of rare beauty. The gardens of Ilnacullin owe their existence to the creative partnership, some seventy years ago, of Annan Bryce, then owner of the island and Harold Peto, architect and garden designer. The island was bequeathed to the Irish people in 1953, and was subsequently entrusted to the care of the Commissioners of Public Works. To-day management of the island is in the hands of the Office of Public Works.

Ilnacullin is renowned for its richness of plant form and colour, changing continuously with the seasons. The vivid colours of Rhododendrons and Azaleas reach their peak during May and June, whilst the hundreds of cultivars of climbing plants, herbaceous perennials and choice shrubs dominate the midsummer period from June to August. Autumn colour, particularly on the magnificent heather bank, is rich during the usually mild early autumn months of September and October. Because of its sheltered situation and the warming oceanic influence of the Gulf Stream the climate is in some respect almost subtropical.

Gardeners, nature lovers and historians among our group really enjoyed the visit. Leo Lowney acted as guide and MC for the trip and shared his local knowledge throughout the day. He pointed out landmarks of interest while sailing across on the ferry and we were very lucky to be treated to a spectacular close up view of the seals which were preening themselves on the rocks.

The group split into a number of groups on the island. Walkers enjoyed the magnificent walled gardens and  a trip up to the Martello Tower while smaller groups visited the house which has been beautifully restored to its former beauty. We learnt of Maggie O Sullivan from Glengarriff who worked as a housekeeper there from her early teenage years  until her death about 20 years ago. She was known locally as “Maggie the Island”. Of particular interest was her recipe book where she meticulously recorded her recipes in beautiful handwriting.

Particular thanks to Brendan O Sullivan and his crew for their help in organising a wonderful trip. The group enjoyed a delicious lunch in the famous Casey’s Hotel afterwards.