History

  • Garinish, which means ‘the near island’ is also known as Illnacullin, ‘the island of holly’, which may well be its original name.
  • And who created this garden heaven? Well, the 15 hectare island was bought by Annan Bryce in 1910. He intended to build a mansion as well as lay out extensive gardens on the island which, at that time, was as bare and exposed as the mountains of the nearby mainland are now. Rocks had to be blasted and shelter-belts of conifers planted all round the island in preparation for work on the grand design to begin.
  • In fact, the planned mansion was never built and the Bryce family used an extended cottage as their home until the island was bequeathed to the Irish people in 1953. Many distinguished visitors were entertained at Garinish including George Bernard Shaw, who stayed on the island in 1923 while working on his play, ‘Saint Joan’.
  • The extensive gardens were built, however, and remain as a lasting tribute to the vision of Annan Bryce and to the skills of his architect, Harold Peto, who specialised in the design of Italian style gardens. Widely known for his work throughout Britain and southern France, the gardens of Garinish are acknowledged to be Peto’s masterpiece.
  • The centrepiece of the design is the Italian garden with the perfectly proportioned buildings of the Casita and the Temple showing the warm tones of mellow Bath stone, columns of gloriously red Rosso Antico and the veined beauty of slabs of marble from Carrara and Connemara.