Kells Bays House and Gardens is a place of pure paradise with an Antipodean-like climate on the Kerry Coast overlooking spectacular views of Dingle Bay roughly between Cahersiveen and Kilorglin. The building itself was built in 1838 by a wealthy Kerry family and after several owners, it was then purchased by a Pteridologist (a person who studies ferns but you knew that already!) and horticulturalist by the name of Billy Alexander.
Location: (Eircode V23 EP48) GPS Co-ordinates: Lat: 52.02306° Long: -10.10017°.
Suitable for Kids: Yes
In a nutshell, this garden is filled with rare subtropical trees and plants with ferns being the most popular, then palm trees and extensive collections of rhododendron. (Interesting Note: Rhododendron ponticum is an invasive species and had spread across the Kells Bay House and Gardens estate and have been cleared since in parts.)
Kells Bay Gardens really is a botanical Garden, it has 600 Disksonia antartica tree ferns (a native from eastern Australia) which are reputedly from one mother fern planted in the walled garden in 1890. This “Ladies walled garden” is not symmetrical but paths meander in different directions giving you a sense of release and freedom. The walled garden is also home to a Juania australis (This is a palm tree – not a fern!!), the huge Eucalyptus globulus also found mostly in Australia, and lastly, an orange barked Chilean Myrtle.
Keeping with the forests pure uniqueness, you then move onto the Primeval Forest, these ferns were planted in the mid-19th century. Other ferns here worth noting are Dicksonia fibrosa, Blechnum discolor, Blechnum fluviatile and Blechnum nudum. Impressive plants but the names wouldn’t excite the average person too much.
Kells Bay is the ultimate place to clear your head, moving onto the Bamboo glade – Some examples of the Bamboos planted are “Chusquea gigantea” and “Fargesia denudate” cousins of the common or garden bamboos planted across Ireland. This bamboo glade was planted in 2007 and involves over 60 different varieties of rare Bamboo, the majority of them Asian but some South American.
This Victorian garden far reaches more than eight acres in size with the original plants linked to Victorian and Edwardian plant hunters bringing in rare specimens. These plant hunters transformed gardens by setting out on dangerous missions across the world to track down exotic spieces that would survive in British and Irish climates. Many plant hunters never made it back from these journeys, more on this here (https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/the-plant-hunters-adventurers-who-transformed-our-gardens-would-put-indiana-jones-to-shame-7936364.html)
The main tree in view as you come up the drive is a Chile wine-palm which is a large feather type palm tree brought from Chile in 2009. With final costs of 20K and three years to plan and bring to Ireland, this Palm tree is approx 100 years old. Eventually, it could reach a height of 30 metres. It weighed almost 12 tonnes and was brought here in a 40ft container which arrived at the local Post Office before being careful transported down to its current resting place. The climate here is different to other parts of Ireland, The Gulf Stream brings warm currents roughly 15KMs inland, this coupled with high rainfall and a temperate climate, It has allowed gardeners in this area over the centuries to grow plants not usually seen at this latitude. Because of this, it is usually kept frost-free allowing Australian and New Zealand natives to flourish especially in the southwest such as in County Kerry. (although they did have snow here in 2011 which is extremely rare!)
Back on our walk, exiting the Bamboo Glade and turning left towards the newly installed pond (2008), you will see huge growths of the massive Giant Rhubarb (Gunnera Manicata) which never fails to impress with there spiky stems and enormous leaves. Continue on from here to the start of the River Walk, the Bog Walk (2010) and there is also a cliff walk which opens up views of the mountains and the bay. On your journey, you will pass small rivers and spectacular waterfalls. This part of the walk is part of the original gardens and has been restored. It will take you over the top of the waterfall and continue over an existing stone footbridge.
The rest of the walk will take you up the main driveway through the Palm and Succulent Garden and back to the Garden Tea Rooms, where you can relax and enjoy a beverage. The gardens also offer accommodation and a restaurant. Apart from already boasting the largest tree fern collection in the northern hemisphere, It is now home to the longest rope bridge in Ireland at 35 metres and 12 metres high, this garden is without a doubt a must-visit.
Wooden Sculptures: Its also really worth noting a number of impressive wooden sculptures around the garden carved out of fallen trees by Pieter Koning a local sculptor. (http://www.pietkoning.com/dinosaur-park.htm)
Fern to note:
Single Crepe Fern, Leptopteris hymenophylloides
Pseudosasa japonica ‘Tsutsumiana’,
Sasa kurilensis ‘Shiroshima’,