Why you should visit the magical Japanese Gardens of Kildare, Ireland

Japanese gardens in Co. Kildare

Did you know that there is a wonderful Japanese garden in Ireland? The Kildare Japanese gardens are a short trip from Dublin and one of the most pleasant places to visit in the fall or spring

One of the most pleasant days out we had as a family, in the autumn, was a trip to the Japanese Gardens in Co. Kildare, Ireland.

Kildare is the county neighbouring the big Dublin city area and it’s the perfect place to explore at the week- end if you want a short break from the busy shopping streets of the centre of town.

Unlike the west or Ireland, which offers rugged coastlines, wide beaches and birds screaming in the Ocean winds, Kildare has a serene, pristine kind of landscape.

It’s an area we often visit with kids and one I would definitely recommend to visitors looking for a pleasant day out in nature within easy reach from Dublin.

The Japanese gardens of Kildare: a brief history

The Kildare Japanese gardens are one of my favourite destinations for a day trip from Dublin

They are part of a bigger complex that also hosts the National Stud farm, St. Fiachra’s Garden and a horse museum but are famous in their own right. They were devised by a Scotsman, Colonel William Hall Walker, but they were brought to life by Japanese master horticulturist Tassa Eida and his son Minoru between 1906 and 1910.

Following the traditional Japanese art of landscape design, the gardens are laid out so that every plant, stream and path come together to bring the visitor through a symbolic path of philosophical discovery.

In this case, in the intentions of the creators, the gardens follow the ‘life of man’ and, walking along its trails, you will touch on all the milestones that bring a soul ‘from oblivion to eternity’.

You will start from the cave of birth, pass through the tunnel of ignorance and finally get to Garden of peace and contentment.

When I read this description, before we actually got to the gardens, I got equally intrigued and worried.

I know that the architecture of Japanese gardens always follows philosophical meanings, and this is one of the elements that makes me love them so much.

However, since we were about to visit them with the children, I worried this more meaningful aspect could be overpowering and might make the visit frustrating for us and plain boring for the kids.

Thankfully, my worries were misplaced: the meaning behind the garden can still be grasped by the adults while walking around holding hands with little people and the kids liked being outdoors, surrounded by such beautiful colours, oblivious of the life questions running circles in their parents minds.

 Kildare Japanese gardens: our visit

We got to the gardens on a crisp October morning, one of the best times of the year to visit.

Ireland is generous with autumnal colours everywhere, but the mix of yellow, red and green leaves at the Japanese Gardens is truly something special: the vibrancy of the colours is incredible and the soft carpet of fallen leaves made for great child entertainment.

Just a word of warning: if you do go in the autumn, wear good shoes because it does get VERY slippery!

When you first arrive at the gardens you are welcomed in the modern visitors centre: here is where you get your tickets and where all facilities are located, including a nice cafe’ selling drinks, sandwiches and cakes.

The visitors centre is also where families with young children must leave their buggies and strollers: while the rest of the estate is easily accessible even with wheels, the Japanese gardens are, by nature, not stroller friendly.

We did not know this when we arrived, but I had my loyal ergo baby in the buggy and so was able to embark on the path of life with my little daughter in tow.

Here are some highlights of our tour:

Japanese gardens Kildare
Japanese gardens in Co. Kildare: the start of the path of life
autumn colours in the Kildare Japanese gardens
The Japanese gardens of county Kildare wear beautiful colours in the fall
japanese gardens building
leanign branch
Japanese gardens in Co. Kildare
Japanese gardens in Co. Kildare
Kildare Japanese gardens
Japanese gardens in Co. Kildare: elaborate musky tree

Do you like Japanese gardens and would you consider a visit, even is so far away from their land of origin?

Practical info about the Kildare Japanese gardens

  • The gardens are best reached by car and are equipped with a large car park just in front of the main entrance
  • Strollers and buggies can access the main estate but not the Japanese gardens so bringing a sling or a baby carrier is highly recommended
  • Wear comfortable shoes with good grip as the paths can be slippery
  • The visitors centre has facilities (including baby changing) and a good cafe
  • The estate has a playground
  • Length of visit: the gardens can be visited in about half an hour but it’s worth spending longer exploring the rest of the estate
  • More info can be found here: Irish National Stud

Looking for more family friendly day trips from Dublin? Then you may also like:

Please note: this review is unsolicited and unbiased and we received no compensation for it. 

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The Japanese Gardens of Co Kildare with their iconic red bridge

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27 thoughts on “Why you should visit the magical Japanese Gardens of Kildare, Ireland

  1. Stefan says:

    Japanese gardens never fail to amaze me. We saw lots of them in Kyoto around the temples and they are mind blowing. You go crazy with your camera. Love your pics as well btw.

  2. Erica says:

    There’s something about Japanese gardens that’s so captivating! My husband and I are big fans, and we’re actually thinking about making one of our own!

    This one looks completely amazing!

    • Marta - Learningescapes says:

      If you do it, please send me a photo! I am not very good with plants (understatement of the century) but I did buy a Japanese acer tree and planted it in the garden: I gave it my best shot but it didn’t survivethe winter… So if you do it and succeed, I’ll be looking for advice 🙂

  3. Sarah Ebner says:

    It’s funny because a friend of mine recently went here and was telling me about it, and I said that I’d love to go! She didn’t have any pics with her though, so it’s lovely to see yours. It sounds like a really special place to visit.

  4. Carol Colborn says:

    The Japanese Garden in Seattle is also a great place for peace and quiet. But this is the first time I have seen wonderful fall colors around one. Very subtle interplay and that;s the Japanese philosophy of living!

  5. Svet Dimitrov says:

    I have seen many Japanese gardens on photos in different cities and countries, but I have never had the pleasure to visit one. They all look lovely, though!

    “…you will start from the cave of birth, pass through the tunnel of ignorance and finally get to Garden of peace and contentment.”

    This so much reminded me of the names in China. For instance, “Temple of Divine Prowess”, “Path of Longevity”, etc.

    I guess it is a common thing in Asia 🙂 And very nice too!

  6. Yasha Langford says:

    Just beautiful! I would visit a Japanese garden wherever I found one. The colours of this one in Co Kildare are stunning. There are always so many trees that are chosen for these gardens that are amazing in Autumn. Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos – I almost feel like I’m there.

  7. Kaylene Chadwell says:

    Wow, I wish I hadn’t miss this on my trip to Dublin this past summer, but just another reason to go back! It looks really lovely, thank you for sharing your experience there!

  8. Hugo says:

    I’ve been to a few Japanese gardens – they’re always beautiful and well kept, but not these ones, although I’ve been very close.

    Will this for my next visit there!

  9. Travelwith2ofus says:

    Looks like the real deal. I have never visited a Japanese garden before, but I have seen a lot of pictures on Pinterest. The Gardens in Co. Kildare looks really beautiful and serene, but I never knew that each garden has its own philosophical meanings. Love the vibrant colors and the layout of the gardens.

  10. Sarah says:

    I love a good Japanese garden! This one looks very beautiful! I will make sure to put it on my list for Ireland.

  11. mark says:

    The japanese style gardens always look so peaceful. Its like a serenity thing i guess. There would be no serenity if i took my kids there that’s for sure. They have a small style japanese garden in Melbourne at the zoo

  12. Nic from Roaming Renegades says:

    Wow, what an awesome find, there is no way you would think this was in Ireland!! Its so cool to be able to experience that wonderful Japanese autumn without having to fly all that way! A real gem of a find and wonderfully colourful photos.

  13. Elaine J. Masters says:

    What a wonderful find in the middle of your hometown in Ireland! That the garden was designed and planted at the beginning of the last century is a wonder. The pictures rival some of the gardens I’ve seen in Japan and most of those are much older. Beautiful experience.

    • Marta says:

      You can, but the best pint of Guinness in the world is at the Guinness storehouse in downtown Dublin – it comes with a great view over the city too 🙂

  14. Kate says:

    These gardens look fantastic. I love the style and colours of Japanese gardens and they are so peaceful. I didn’t realise a place like this would be part of a stud farm and horse museum. What a great find!

  15. Divina CA says:

    Japanese garden have a unique and distinct feature… I personally love spending time walking and being absorb by its serenity 🙂

  16. Harvey (H-Bomb's Worldwide Karaoke) says:

    While I have been to Japanese gardens in Japan itself, I love Japanese gardens in general; there’s a good one in Brooklyn, New York at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. They are so distinctive-looking and are a great place to find a feeling of zen (well, unless there are a lot of other people bustling around you) 🙂 The next time I’m in Dublin I’ll have to check out Kildare. This post also makes me wonder what other interesting attractions can be found in Kildare. I also see that your blog mentions that there is a smaller Japanese garden site in Rome; having just been to Rome, that might have been something I would have checked out if I had known about it. 🙂

  17. Francesco says:

    Ciao Marta very nice blog…. I’ve been living in Dublin for 3 years (2011-2004) and really enjoy my irish life….now i’m planning to visit Ireland next June… but this time the music is different i will be there with all my family and of course my son. Sure will make a couple of nights in Dublin then i will show them west coast and there Japanese garden and Kilemore Abbey are a must!!!! Go ahead writing nice articles in this Blog!!! Ciao Francesco

    • Marta says:

      Ciao Francesco, thanks for stopping by! I know, Ireland is very different with children but there is so much to do for them, it’s amazing: I keep discovering places and attractions: sometimes I feel like there is more for them than for me! I moved here soon after you left, 2005: I hope you have the best holiday here!!

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