An Island Garden
Located in the sheltered harbour of Glengarriff in Bantry Bay, in Southwest Ireland,
Ilnacullin 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.
The island is named Garnish (the near island) on official Ordnance Survey Maps and is
widely known by that name. The alternative name Ilnacullin or Illaunacullin (island of
holly) also has a long history in the locality, and appears on at least one early
it may in fact be the older name for the island. As there is another island garden called
Garnish not far away in County Kerry, there is much to be said for using the distinctive
name Ilnacullin for the island garden at Glengarriff, County Cork, and this has been the
practice of the Office of Public Works for some years now.
The island is open to visitors each day from 1st March to 31st
October. During the winter months, from November to February, it is closed to
visitors except by special arrangement. Ilnacullin is reached from Glengarriff by
privately operated boats. A charge for admission to Ilnacullin is made by the Office of
Public Works on arrival at the island. This charge is quite separate from the fares
collected by boat owners.
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
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, and is favourable to the growth of ornamental plants from many
parts of the world. Winters are mild, and frosts are light and of short duration.
rainfall and humidity levels are high, the mean annual rainfall being 1850 mm (73 inches)
with annual totals as high as 2540 mm (100 inches) on record.
Even for those who are not particularly interested in gardens, Ilnacullin is an
attractive place to visit. There are many attractive views of the scenery of the
surrounding district from the island. Ilnacullin and its surrounding waters are quite rich
in wildlife, the seals which frequent the rocks on the southern shore being of particular
interest to many visitors.