A walk through the four gardens takes you on a journey through the cycle of the year, each garden representing one of the Celtic festivals of Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine and Lughnasa. This seasonal cycle mirrors the cycle of life from conception to old age and death. These are wildlife gardens, designed to reflect the West of Ireland landscape and managed to encourage biodiversity.
Samhain Winter Garden
The festival of Samhain (pronounced Sow-en) or Halloween falls on October 31st and marked the beginning of the yearly cycle for Celtic peoples.
This was a time of death and the promise of re-birth, a time of waiting and reflection. It was understood that in the dark silence comes whisperings of new beginnings, the stirring of the seed beneath the ground. In the Samhain garden, the earth, in the shape of a sleeping woman, wraps around a womb-like pool. A figure of leaves cast in bronze rests on an island. The pool is enclosed in a ring of birch trees, reflecting the stark simplicity of the season. This is a place to be still, dream and prepare for the movement of spring. The earth woman is planted with meadow grasses and wild flowers.
Imbolc Spring Garden
Imbolc (pronounced Im-ulk) is the old Celtic name for the spring festival on February 1st, now St. Brigit's Day. The birth of lambs and the first snowdrops herald this season of new life.
In the Imbolc garden the path leads through wildflower meadow and orchard trees to a children's glade with its delightful basketwork swings. Further on, a carved triple spiral symbolises Brigit, who is often represented as three sisters or as the three patrons of poetry, smithcraft and midwifery.
Bealtaine Summer Garden
The great fire festival of Bealtaine (pronounced Belt-an-a) or May Day celebrates the bright half of the year and the coming of summer's warmth. This is the time for sexual awakenings, marriages and the adventures of young adulthood. Diarmuid and Grainne were mythical lovers on the run, and the Bealtaine garden features Diarmuid and Grainne's bed, a grassy hollow facing the sun and surrounded by simple wildflowers. The lovers theme is carried through to the Flame Figures sculpture.
A processional way between tall stones has copper flames set into the path and leads to a fire circle, backed by a throne in bog oak and yew. Here, the young adult can claim their personal power and sit as King or Queen in their own life.
Lughnasa Autumn Garden
The festival of Lughnasa (pronounced Loo-na-sa) in early August marks the beginning of the harvest and the transition from summer to autumn. Named after Lugh Lamh Fada, the hero of the mythical Tuatha de Dannan, it is a time of plenty and celebration.
Mounds represent the constellation of Orion, which some Celts associated with Lugh. Stone beds in spiral shapes stand to each side and host an abundance of culinary and healing herbs. Two interlinked grassy circles are enclosed with standing stones, making spaces for feasting and dancing. As we approach the end of the cycle it is time to reflect, give thanks and celebrate all that has come to fruition. Three yew trees stand outside the exit from Lughnasa, symbolising the moment of death. The cycle is now complete, and the possibility of re-birth beckons as a new cycle begins.