Larchill Arcadian Gardens, 5km north of Kilcock, are well worth a short detour off the M4 to the northwest of Celbridge. Painstakingly restored, Larchill is the only complete surviving example in Europe of a ferme ornée (“ornamental farm”), the first type of garden to feature, under the influence of eighteenth-century Romanticism, elements of the natural landscape. Such gardens attained a degree of modishness among wealthy landowners during the latter half of the century, inspired by the influence of Versailles. Beautiful parkland walks, along beech avenues and past ornate bridges, statuary and gazebos, link ten follies, in both Classical and Gothic style. These include Gibraltar, a lake island with a copy of the fortress on the Rock of Gibraltar, where mock naval battles were fought in the eighteenth century, and Foxes’ Earth. This grassy mound, pierced with tunnels, was constructed for a reformed fox-hunter, who, believing that he was to be punished in the next life by being reborn as a fox, needed somewhere to get away from the hounds.
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