In 1910, the MP Annan Bryce bought Garinish (aka Ilnacullin) from the British War Office and, after shipping in all the topsoil, gradually turned the rocky inshore island into an exotic garden oasis. Having passed into public ownership in 1953, the island is now a delightful and accessible escape from the mainland, especially in summer, when colourful plants from around the world set the island alight against a backdrop of the sparse, jagged mountains just across the water. The island’s centrepiece is a formal Italianate garden, surrounded by a walled garden and wilder areas, a Grecian temple with magnificent views of the Caha Mountains and a Martello tower. There’s a coffee shop and a self-guided trail around the gardens, and serious horticulturalists should pick up the Heritage Service’s guidebook, which includes detailed plant lists. The ten-minute boat trip to the island takes you past the lush islets of Glengarriff Harbour, where you may see basking seals.
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