Comfy shoes, a picnic, a little bit of sunshine and some pocket money for ice-creams are all that was needed today for a perfect day out at Mount Congreve in Waterford. If you are relying on signposts, it’s not easy to find which is typical of many Irish landmarks, but patience combined with a last minute Googlemaps consult eventually brought us 20 minutes late to our rendezvous with two other families.
It doesn’t take long for me to find my inner smile whilst walking through a beautiful garden and here it only took a few seconds. Just long enough to walk through the first arch way. From here we walked along a beautifully floral bordered path into the huge walled garden. It is gently tiered and houses an enormous Georgian glass house which runs along the length. From the walled garden going anti-clockwise (because we didn’t read our map) we entered the Riverwalk.
Meandering through this landscape one is offered a variety of vistas, open spaces, covered woodland places and quiet lawns. At every turn we discovered another shade of pink in the vast array of blossomed shrubbery – my youngest collected an enormous load of fallen blooms. An added surprise was seeing the little Suir Valley Train come tooting past us along the banks of the river below.
Features along the route included the diverse and sometimes unusual charms of an Oriental pagoda, a waterfall, a dell and a Grecian temple. Whoever Monty, Molly and Paddy are, all had places named after them along the upper parts of the walk.
On the whole the Irish people have little pride in the history of the landowners and their stately properties, for good reason. But on the other hand, I think they also have good reason to be proud of the places that they are today. It’s a joy that some of these wonderful gardens have been so well maintained and a privilege they are open for the pleasure of the general public.
Our visit today lasted four hours which included time for a picnic, the outer circular walk, with nine young children, and a visit to the ice-cream counter afterwards. I would have liked to have spent a bit more time exploring the places we missed (including the Terrace walk past the front of the house). I would also have liked to have bought an enormous number of the plants on offer in the nursery. I was suffering from post-garden-visit enchantment which beguiles me into believing I could create all that magic in my own back yard. We didn’t try the cafe, it seemed busier than the walkways had been. I think that’s testimony both to the popular cuisine as well as the fact that the property is so well laid out that one feels the quiet paths are exclusively yours to explore.
My only regret is that it took us too many years to come and visit and I intend to return sooner rather than later to see the parts I missed, cafe and nursery definitely included.