Heywood Gardens, Ballinakill, Co. Laois
Heywood Gardens in Ballinakill, Co. Laois is wonderful throughout every season. From the awakening of the buds of spring to the blooming colours of summer. From the orange and browns of autumn through to the snow capped months of winter.
My family and I have been to Heywood Gardens through all the seasons, and to show you just what you can expect I’ve featured my favourite photographs to date from a day in July aka summer where both the sun and clouds filled the sky. And a snow scattered day in January, aka winter, where the sky was beautifully blue. A reminder that you never know what you’ll get weatherwise in Ireland!
Heywood Gardens features in this popular article Visit Laois – 10 Fabulous Free Things to Do Outdoors – so click through for more travel inspiration.
Heywood Gardens Entrance Gate
Location: Ballinakill, Co. Laois
Google Maps Coordinates: 52°53’07.0″N 7°17’45.6″W
Open: All year
On your first visit to Heywood Gardens, follow the coordinates above and park up at the Main Entrance Gate. According to Heywood Gardens, this entrance was the main entrance to the estate from the ‘original turnpike road’ – a road which ran from Durrow through Ballinakill and onto Dublin, in which you had to pay a toll to travel along. Read along to see how significant the distance to Dublin was.
Starting your walk from this point will enable you to visit some of the gardens historical and architectural features as you make your way to the main attraction of The Oval Garden at Heywood.
If you’d like to cut this part of the walk out and head straight to The Oval Garden and man-made lakes, and if you’re visiting when ‘schools out’, i.e. during the holidays or weekends, then you can park up at Heywood Community School instead.
Heywood House and Gardens – 10 Things to Know
- Heywood House and Gardens were built by Michael Frederick Trench, son of the Rev. Frederick Trench in 1773, whose family moved to Galway from France via the UK in the 17th century.
- Michael Frederick Trench called the house and estate ‘Heywood’ after his mother-in-laws maiden name.
- A trained lawyer but with a keen interest in architecture, it’s said that Trench was heavily involved in the design of the house along with his friend Architect James Gandon (the Four Courts, Custom House, Emo Court). ‘Mulvany’s Life of James Gandon describes Trench as ‘a gentleman of large fortune, and great taste in the Fine Arts’ and names him as one of the ‘admirers of the arts” dia.ie
- With the house looking over the hills towards the village of Ballinakill, Trench’s main objective was to create a ‘Romantic Landscape’ to compliment it. He achieved this by the extensive planting of trees, creating a chain of artificial lakes, building several follies, such as the ‘Sham Castle’, and even building a gothic ruin!
- And on that note, according to the OPW (Office of Public Works), the windows used in the Gothic Ruin seem to be authentic mediaeval structures which could have been taken from nearby Aghaboe Abbey!
- The estate was also home to an Orangery which still stands, somewhat, and a Temple of the Winds, which unfortunately does not still stand. However ‘Claude’s Seat’ is still sitting in all its glory by the water’s edge, and can be enjoyed by visitors who might even take inspiration from this spot which is said to have been inspired by the 17th century Artist Claude Lorraine.
- The house that Fred built (1773)has been described as ‘an elegant, restrained three-bay building decorated in the Neoclassical style’. It wasn’t until the late 19th and early 20th century under the ownership of distant relative, Colonel Hutcheson Pöe, that the large extensions to three sides of the building were added.
- Pöe seemed to love extravagance, and we should be thankful for his taste because it was under his direction that the beautiful gardens at Heywood be designed by Landscape Architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. They were commissioned in 1906.
- Ned (Sir Edwin Lutyens) was a famous architect at the time, and still is to this day for his huge body of work, that includes the wonderful Irish National War Memorial Gardens in Dublin, the castle at Lambay Island, Dublin and would you believe Tranarossan House, Co. Donegal!
- Designed and planned by Lutyens, the gardens at Heywood were landscaped by the renowned Garden Designer Gertrude Jekyll, who often collaborated with Lutyen.
Further Reading: Visit Kildare – 12 Fabulous Free Things to Do Outdoors
The Grotto at Heywood Gardens
The Grotto at Heywood Gardens is a more recent addition to the estate. Built by the Salesian Order who had a seminary in Heywood House between 1941 and 1950, the artificial cave is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
The Obelisk at Heywood Gardens
So earlier on in this article I mentioned the road that Heywood Estate can be found on. This toll road brought travellers from Durrow, via Heywood in Ballinakill to Dublin. The Obelisk at Heywood Gardens was a milestone with distances to Ballinakill, Dublin and Heywood. Pictured here you can see the distance to Dublin ‘by Kildare’. The Obelisk was also a memorial structure to Andrew Caldwell, a good friend of Frederick Trench.
The Sham Castle & Gothic Ruins
According to OPW, ‘Follies’ were ‘whimsical and often Gothic buildings which became fashionable on estates throughout the country’.
At Heywood Estate, the follies are a ‘Sham Castle’ and a ‘Gothic Ruin’.
The Sham Castle
Built as a fashion statement, the Sham Castle with its four circular towers, one at each corner, and the Gothic Ruin which lies opposite, were never built to be completed. Instead they were used by the Trench family to entertain friends and enjoy views across the lakes and estate.
The Gothic Ruins at Heywood Gardens
The windows of the Gothic Ruin were designed to create a type of viewing platform for the lakes below.
And even to this day, although much vegetation has grown beyond the window sills, they still offer a picturesque scene, worthy of photoshoots.
Gothic in style, the Orangery was ‘an estate pleasure building’ that had multiple uses. Firstly and most practically to act as a grow house for fruit such as oranges. Secondly to possibly have housed a boiler house – due to the fact ducts were built into the inner walls of the building. And thirdly, to entertain and enjoy afternoon tea in.
Heywood Gardens, Ballinakill, Co. Laois – Wonderful Every Season
Summer Time – Blossoming Blooms and Greenery
The Beautiful Lutyens Gardens at Heywood Gardens
Heywood House and Estate was passed to Colonel Hutcheson Pöe, a distant relative of the Trench family in the early 1900s. And besides adding extensive extensions to the family home, Pöe also set his sights on the gardens at Heywood.
In 1906 he commissioned Sir Edwin Lutyens to plan and design the estates gardens. And aren’t we glad he did. Because even though it’s tragic we don’t have the opportunity to visit and enjoy Heywood House due to the fact it burned down in 1950, we still have Heywoods beautiful gardens and estate to wander and wonder in.
Lutyens installed a new lawn, held up by a massive retaining wall and strengthened with buttresses and with a paved pergola along its western side’
Pleached Lime and Elm Tree Walk
To the east of where the house once stood, you’ll find an alley of pleached lime and elm trees.
The Oval Garden
Through the gate and down a flight of stone steps and you are in the sunken garden, the Oval Garden – one of the finest small gardens he has ever created.
There are three levels to explore, with the oval enclosing a pond or pool. Around this pond you’ll find eight bronze tortoises that still after working for over a hundred years still manage to do their work as water jets. In the middle of the pond is a pedestal made of Antwerp stone which once held a beautiful bronze statue that can be seen in the images on the information board in the garden.
Summer time is a beautiful time to visit the gardens as the flowers and plants are in full bloom. From roses to fox gloves, lupins to globe thistles.
When visiting remember look out for the circular window frames in the wall of the oval garden, each designed to offer a different view to the visitor.
The Loggie at the Oval Garden
The Loggie with its red roof tiles and lions guarding the steps to its seat also has an inscription by English poet Alexander Pope.
To smooth the Lawn, to decorate the dale,
To swell the Summit, or to scoop the Vale,
To mark each Diftance through each opening Glade,
Mafs kindred Tints or vary Shade from Shade
To bend the Arch, to ornament the Grot,
In all_ let Nature never be forgot,
Her varied gifts with Sparing Hand combine
Paint as you plant and as you work defign.’
– Alexander Pope
Steps to the Top Garden
This part of the garden is usually bursting with roses and has garden seating during the summer, that are ideal for a relaxing break, to sit and unwind, and listen to the hum of bees. Or in our case for snack time with our littles. And if you do picnic in Heywood Gardens, it goes without saying that you ‘leave no trace’.
The Man Made Lake
There are three chained man-made lakes on the Heywood Estate. During the summer months they are filled with lily pads. And if you’d like to do a quick loop you can turn right when you come down the steps from the gardens and loop over the bridge and back under the canopy of trees.
Summer Time Woodland
Of course if you feel like a longer walk you can make your way to Claude’s Seat, and past Gill’s Pond and into Ballinakill Village.
Heywood Gardens, Ballinakill, Co. Laois – Wonderful Every Season
Winter Time – Fallen Snowflakes and Wonderment
A Sprinkling of Snow
Heywood Gardens is a gorgeous spot to visit all year round. And even when nature is mostly asleep, and hibernating, its colours are just as inviting.
Snow capped hills in the distance but the greenest of grassy lawns at Heywood.
Take a walk around the Oval Garden …
Or if you’re lucky a run across a snow speckled lawn…
The bluest winter sky at Heywood Gardens … and a race to the lake.
Most of nature might still be hibernating but these swans certainly weren’t …
Reflections on the water …
A stillness we all need from time to time …
Over the bridge and on to Claude’s Seat, along sun dappled paths …
I often prefer trees while they sleep …
Possibly called after the 17th century Artist Claude Lorraine, it is noted that the chamber to the right of the building may have been an artificial cave or hermitage. As mentioned on the information board at this point – ‘it was the fashion to employ a local man to dress as a hermit and hide in the cave to frighten and thrill the family’s guests’… if this is the case there are a number of ‘hermits’ in Ireland that deserve a paycheck!
Walking past Claude’s Seat, with the steeples of the local churches of Ballinakill in the distance, you will come to a beautiful lake known as Gill’s Pond.
Popular for fishing, you can see that it’s not just the abundance of fish that would keep you coming back.
Have you been to Heywood Gardens in Laois? Have I inspired you to visit Heywood Gardens if you haven’t? Let us know in the comment box below.
PIN: Heywood Gardens, Ballinakill, Co. Laois – Wonderful Every Season
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