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 deserted 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 in Co, Kildare: a brief history
The Japanese gardens are one of the many sites we know in Kildare and by far my favourite.
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, but 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.
Japanese gardens Kildare: 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:
Do you like Japanese gardens and would you consider a visit, even is so far away from their land of origin?
- 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
Did you like this post? if so, I’d love if you could share it on your social media pages: thank you!