Recently I visited the world-famous, amazing Japanese Gardens at The Irish National Stud & Gardens located in Tully, County Kildare.
The Gardens are now of international renown and are acclaimed as the finest Japanese Gardens in Europe.
The Irish National Stud’s Japanese Gardens were created between 1906 and 1910. Devised by Colonel William Hall-Walker (later Lord Wavertree), a wealthy Scotsman from a famous brewing family. And laid out by Japanese master horticulturist Tassa Eida and his son Minoru. Their aim was, through trees, plants, flowers, lawns, rocks, and water, to symbolize the ‘Life of Man’.
As you enter The Irish National Stud’s Japanese Gardens, there is the Garden of Meditation, designed by John Colleran and reinterpreted by Yvonne O’Conor in 2018. Garden of Meditation emphasizes the simplicity of Zen thinking and invites the viewer towards meditation through contemplation.
‘You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day … unless you are too busy; then you should sit for an hour’.Zen proverb
The second part of this Gardens is called Minoru Island, which opened in 2020 and is named after the son of Tessa Eida, Japanese master horticulturist and creator of the Japanese Gardens. There is a beautiful and colorful real-size horse figure on Minoru Island, also named Minoru.
In 2019, Minoru was created by Irish contemporary artist Lisa Kavanagh.
And gifted to the Irish National Stud by the Kerry Group. Minoru was inspired by the rich heritage of Japanese kimono fabrics. And includes symbolic floral, asanoha, and other sacred geometric Japanese patterns. The horse is named after the son of Tessa Eida, a Japanese master horticulturist and creator of the gardens. Twenty-one individual horses were created by various artists for a fundraising initiative known as “Under stARTers order”. An auction took place in aid of two most deserving charities, Irish Injured Jockeys, and Sensational Kids. It almost raised 200,000 euro.
The third part of the Japanese Gardens is called ‘Life of Man’. And each section of this garden is numbered and represents a stage in life. The visitors enter the garden through the Gate of Oblivion, the next Cave of Birth, the Tunnel of Ignorance, the Hill of Learning, the Path of Adventure, the Island of Joy and Wonder, the Engagement Bridge, the Marriage Bridge, the Honeymoon Path, the hill of Ambiotion, the Tea House, the Well of Wisdom, the most beautiful structure like the red Bridge of Life, the Chair of Old Age, The Hill of Mourning and The Gateway of Eternity.
It took forty laborers four years to lay out the garden at a cost of £38,000.
It has been chartered from Japanese stone lanterns, plants, bonsai, a Tea House, and a miniature village carved out of lava from Fujiyama.
The gardens are full of stunning rare and non-native scrubs, plants, flowers, and trees. In the springtime, there are blooming the beautiful Star magnolia, Crown Imperial, Camellia japonica, Japanese maple, Japanese flowering cherry, Darwin’s barberry, and many more.
These early 20th Century Japanese Gardens at Tully are a living monument to the meeting of Eastern and Western cultures in a Western setting. It was truly a unique experience to visit these gardens. You can see and feel a slice of Japan right here in Kildare.
The Japanese Gardens are open Monday to Sunday (including Bank Holidays). From 10.00 am to 18.00 pm. from February until November.
The entry ticket price is for Adults, €11.00; Children (Under 16), €6.00; Children (Under 3), Free; People older than 70, €9.00; Students, €9.00. (includes entry to the Japanese Gardens, the Horse Museum, St. Fiachra’s Garden, and a tour of the Stud). Free Car Parking.
For more information visit: irishnationalstud.ie
Below are photos I took in April 2022.