An eye-opening tour of the grand gardens of Donegal
Published 03/06/2015 | 02:30
As I gazed out of my hotel window, a gale blew in from McSwyne's Bay bringing with it bursts of hail and stinging rain.
The cages of a fish farm floating in the bay appeared to suffer as the waves battered both them and the lines of floats from which were suspended thousands of strings of mussels.
Tossing and heaving in the Atlantic swell they seemed to be coping better than the ewes and lambs near the shore as they ran to seek shelter behind hedges and stone walls.
I was staying in Castle Murray House Hotel near St John's Point in Donegal and I could only pity the few suckler cows and their calves as they too sought shelter.
But bad weather never lasts long in May and the following day I joined a group from the Irish Garden Plant society on a visit to some of the great gardens of Donegal.
Our first stop was Glenveagh National Park where in 1870, John Adair from Co Laois purchased several small estates and built an imposing granite castle overlooking Lough Veagh.
Adair was loathed for evicting hundreds of tenants, many of whom were forced to flee or who died in the workhouse. He died in 1885 and was succeeded by his wife who undid much of the hardship he had caused.
In the late 1920s the estate was purchased by an American Arthur Kingsley who set about restoring the property and this work was carried on by the last private owner, Henry McIlhenny, also from the US, who presented the estate to the Irish nation in 1981.