Heywood Demesne, Laois, Ireland

Heywood Demesne comprises of beautifully landscaped gardens and buildings assembled in two separate periods over the 18th and 19th centuries; they are known locally as ‘The Italian Gardens’. The original mansion house at Heywood no longer stands , destroyed by fire in 1951. The house had been built by the wealthy architect and engineer Michael Frederick Trench in 1773, at this time he also began the first stage of landscaping the area between the house and the village of Ballinakill. It was at this juncture that the lakes, walkways, bathhouse and the three Gothic medieval follies were built, inspired by Trench’s Grand Tour of Europe. One of the follies is a beautiful small mock castle and the other two are the end sections of two imagined churches, one of the windows which was taken from the ruins of Aghaboe Abbey. A ruined orangery stands on the main approach to the gardens and the striking gatehouse are the only remaining buildings of the Heywood estate. 

The sunken gardens at Heywood were developed in the early 1900s by a Colonel Hutchinson Poe who had married into the Trench family. He hired the renowned architect Sir Edwin Lutyens to design the gardens, landscaped by Gertrude Jekyll. The gardens contain a sunken central fountain surrounded by tiers of plants, all encased in a massive circular wall, with circular windows that was built up to support the garden. From there ornate gates lead to a tree lined walk where once bronze busts of the homeowners were situated and onto a terrace which looks out over the lakes created by Trench in the 1700s. Lutyens created only four gardens in Ireland, the War Memorial Park, Lambay Island and the gardens at Howth Castle bare the others. The gardens and renovation of the house were completed in 1912 at a cost of £250,000. The Poe family only stayed in the house until the early 1930s and the house was eventually destroyed by fire in 1951 and a modern school built on its site.

The woodland walk and landscaped gardens at Heywood are an absolute joy to behold, and that was during my visit in the middle of winter, will be revisiting during the summer. 

GPS: 52.88448, -7.30117

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