From the N11, onto R117 toward Eagle Valley
Gazing out from the 19th-century terraces, over the Italian Garden and past the life-sized, winged horses guarding Triton Lake, all the way over dark conifers to the Sugarloaf Mountain – if you’re not entirely taken aback by the sensational vista, you may reflect on the foresightedness of so many generations to create Powerscourt as is now before you. This vast estate has been some 800 years in the making: from the original castle constructed by the Anglo-Norman de la Poer (Power) family that was transformed into a magnificent 18th-century Palladian mansion by the 1st Viscount Powerscourt, to more than 250 varieties of trees planted to grow through time into today’s splendour.
Even the best-laid plans, of course, can be unmade and a fire in 1974 gutted the interior – an audio-visual presentation tells the story of the estate But you can still revel in the outward magnificence of this typical Big House – while the one-twelfth scale Tara’s Palace in the Museum of Childhood gives a peek into the elegance of 18th-century rooms. Leaving aside temptations of shopping and two championship golf courses, back you then wander, map in hand, to explore the irresistible gardens shaped through 250 years: imagining inimitable, gout-ridden architect Daniel Robertson directing operations in the Italian Garden as he was wheeled about in a barrow while sipping sherry; admiring the quirky Pepperpot Tower in its wooded valley, statuary, roses and the exotic Japanese Garden.
Take in the gardens with head gardener Alex Slazenger – whose family are the present custodians of Powerscourt – who hosts fascinating guided walks. While only down the road, nestled in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains there’s the stunning Powerscourt Waterfall, Ireland’s highest at 121m (398ft). As you drive from the gate lodge toward the waterfall you are surrounded by Beech, Oak and Pine trees, some of which were planted over 200 years ago. Look out for the Giant Redwood or Sequoia trees which are native to California and were planted sometime after 1860. In their native land they may grow up to 80m in height and live for 4000 years, by comparison, the trees at Powerscourt are but babies. Returning for tea in Powerscourt’s Terrace Café or in the Georgian parlour-style of Powerscourt Hotel, it’s humbling to think that the Big House gardening dreams of so many people have become your reality.