Plot your way round beautiful gardens

GARDEN lovers are in for a treat this spring as the gardens of Co Antrim have teamed up to launch Northern Ireland’s first ever self-guided garden trail.

The Antrim Garden Trail includes 10 of the most distinguished public and private open gardens, unlocking access to magical green spaces and tranquil surroundings and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) is encouraging green-fingered folk to discover and enjoy the gardens of Antrim this spring and summer.

Elaine Groves, NITB’s Culture and Heritage Officer said, “For anyone who isn’t already familiar with Northern Ireland’s wonderful gardens, there really is a whole new world just waiting to be discovered, full of unique and interesting stories and historical facts.”

“Co Antrim presents a strong cluster of gardens open to visitors, both publicly owned gardens such as the newly restored Antrim Castle Gardens, and the smaller, lesser known private gardens such as the gorgeous Ballyrobert Cottage Garden and Brocklamont House Garden in Ballymena,” Elaine continued.

“NITB are delighted to support this proactive cluster of garden owners and the new Antrim Garden Trail will provide even more reasons to visit County Antrim, particularly in 2012, when so much is happening with the opening of the world’s largest Titanic visitor experience, Titanic Belfast, the Irish Open and the new Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre,” she added.

Ballyrobert Cottage Garden, Ballyclare has spearheaded the development of this new trail, securing the participation of other gardens in County Antrim, as Maurice Parkinson from Ballyrobert Cottage Garden explains.

“It’s not all rugged coastal beauty, myths of giants, glens and golf in Antrim – this part of Northern Ireland is bursting with horticultural and historical interest,” said Maurice.

“The terraces of the first ornamental garden in Ireland are still visible at Dunluce Castle. Other early gardens include Lisburn Castle Gardens, Glenarm Castle Walled Garden and Benvarden Garden. We had a vision of creating a garden trail to connect the gardens in the county, giving visitors the opportunity to tailor a garden themed day out,” he continued.

“We knew working in partnership would help small businesses make the most of the local tourism opportunity. We are delighted to see this vision come to fruition and want to encourage all of Northern Ireland’s garden lovers to think of County Antrim when they are planning their next day out or group visit,” Maurice added.

For further information about the Antrim Garden trail, go to www.antrimgardens.com.

To learn more about Northern Ireland’s gardens, unmissable events, seasonal highlights and plan a glorious garden day out, check out the NITB website on www.discovernorthernireland.com/gardens.