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Japanese Gardens Kildare Ireland

Updated on January 29, 2013

Peace and Tranquility

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Introduction to The Gardens

Part of The Irish National Stud, The Japanese Gardens at Tully Co Kildare are a must see when visiting Ireland. Renowned throughout the world as being the best example in Europe, it is a place once seen you will not forget. An exquisite example in Japanese garden design of the early 20th Century, it is a tranquil garden for reflection and meditation in a beautiful setting that has been loved for 100 years and attracts 150,000 visitors a year. Situated 25 miles south west of Dublin, it is very accessible when visiting the capital.

My first visit to the Japanese Gardens and National Stud was as a young schoolgirl on a school trip. Even as an 8 year old the sheer artistry and wonder of seeing miniature trees, unusual bonsai, beautiful flowers and a tea house all landscaped with love and attention to detail, has stayed with me through the years.

I have since returned many times with my family and my interest in Japanese Gardens has only heightened.

Elements of a Japanese Garden

stepping stones
stepping stones | Source
water, rocks and plants
water, rocks and plants | Source

What is a Japanese Garden?

Japanese Gardens first appeared on Japan’s large centrally located island of Honshu back in 552 A.D. The gardens initially echoed the rugged landscape of Honshu with waterfalls, volcanic peaks, meandering streams, pebbled beaches and lakes.

Gardens also featured the unusual trees, mostly evergreen varieties and the abundance of exotic flowers. Seasonal changes were also an element in design consideration from hot wet summers to the snowy winters.

Influenced initially from the Chinese, Japanese gardens had developed their own path by the 17th Century, concentrating on their own rich heritage of beliefs, religion, traditions and materials available. Through the centuries there have been different types of gardens take shape for example the pleasure gardens (beautiful and recreational) enjoyed originally by Japanese Emperor’s and noblemen or the Buddhist temple gardens focusing on meditation and contemplation.

All gardens will have certain features including water, rocks, sand, trees, flowers, stones, bridges, stone lanterns, water basins, gates, wooden fences and fish.

Authentic Tea House

TeaHouse
TeaHouse | Source

A Place for Reflection

The Bridge of Life
The Bridge of Life | Source
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History of The Gardens

A wealthy Scottish businessman by the name of Colonel Hal Walker devised the idea of bringing a piece of the Orient to Ireland. A keen horse breeder, he had already purchased The National Stud in Tully, Co Kildare and set about making his idea for a Japanese Garden a reality.

He hired Japanese master horticulturist Tassa Eida and his son Minoru to lay the garden and supervise the forty Irish gardeners also employed. The project took 4 years to complete (1906-1910) with plants, bonsai, stone ornaments and a geisha house (tea house) being imported from Japan.

Executing to perfection, the concept of the garden was to create the journey or “Life of Man” from the cradle to the grave incorporating traditional Japanese garden elements.

Tassa Eida left Ireland with his wife and 2 sons in 1911 for London, England to work on another garden. Sadly he died the following year on his return journey home to Japan.

Nothing was heard of his family until the late 1980’s when Brian Eida, son of Minoru, arrived at the Japanese Gardens in Kildare to see the great work done by his late grandfather Tassa Eida.

The Beauty of Nature

Waterfall
Waterfall | Source

The Journey of Life

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The Story of The “Life of Man”

The garden tells of man's journey from birth and the choices he must make in life.

It starts at the Gates of Oblivion which symbolizes the soul choosing the body.

The birth is depicted by a Rock Cave and is immediately followed by a narrow dark tunnel, the tunnel of uncertainty and ignorance experienced by the infant.

The next path is one of discovery as the young child grows through the Hill of Learning before following a meandering stream at the end of which he is faced with 3 different paths to choose.

The first is the straight road depicting bachelorhood, the second path lined with Cherry trees symbolizes a life of materialism and self indulgence and the third path leads to the Island of Wonder, and marriage.

The uphill climb to the Hill of Ambition is eventually reached and after following a number of blind paths, both married partners arrive and enter the Garden of Peace and Contentment.

This is depicted by a tranquil setting of a calm gentle stream, green tended lawns and cool shady trees.

The end of the journey or life is reached upon entering the Gateway of Eternity.

Along the journey keep an eye out for the

Engagement Bridge, the Marriage Bridge, the Honeymoon Path, a Tea House, the Well of Wisdom, the Bridge of Life and the Chair of Old Age.

Opening hours

Open daily from February – November, 9.30am – 6pm.

(closing times will vary close to November so checking before setting out is advisable)

What Else to See When Visiting

The Japanese Gardens are one of four attractions at The National Stud.

The other attractions are:

The Stud Farm,The Horse Museum and St Fiachra’s Garden.

The National Stud

making friends
making friends | Source
"Invincible Spirit"
"Invincible Spirit" | Source

St Fiachra's Garden

St Fiachra, patron saint of gardeners
St Fiachra, patron saint of gardeners | Source
 Stepping back in time
Stepping back in time | Source
Waterfall at St Fiachra's Garden
Waterfall at St Fiachra's Garden | Source

The Stud Farm

Originally purchased by Colonel William Hal Walker at the turn of the 20th Century, it now belongs to the Irish people. Respected and known throughout the world, The Stud Farm has a long history of being a premier breeding farm and continues to breed successful racehorses.

World class mares have been continually sent to Tully’s famous Stud to be covered by their stallions and the foals born are a constant and natural delight for visitors. It has a long history of winners dating back to King Henry VIII of England, when his horse Minoru (named after the son of Japanese garden designer Tassa Eida) won the Epsom Derby.

In 2011 the farm played host to Queen Elizabeth II, on her historic trip to Ireland.

Horse Museum

The museum is a wonderful trip down memory lane for all followers of horse racing where the star of the show is the legendary horse Arkle who was the most famous and successful Irish horse ever.

Three times winner of the famous Cheltenham Gold Cup, he has gone down as the most successful steeplechaser the world has ever seen. His name is so well known; fan mail with the address “Arkle, Ireland” was instantly recognised and would be sent to his stable.

He was also known for being partial to a drop of Guinness, a true sign of his Irish heritage! Now more than 40 years since his passing, his skeleton takes pride of place in the museum.

St Fiachra’s Garden

In this garden named after the patron saint of gardener’s, you step back in time to monastic life in Ireland during the 6th or 7th Century. St Fiachra overseas the garden by way of a beautifully carved stone statue in the lake.

It was created in 1999 by acclaimed landscape designer Professor Martin Hallinan.

What is interesting is the fact it shows the raw Irish landscape in a bygone era that has so much familiarity yet is a time none of us knew.

Natural woodlands, waterfalls, streams, lakes and wetlands all combine to bring an Irish setting that on paper may not work next to a Japanese designed garden but it translates perfectly.

Location of Japanese Gardens, Kildare

A markerJapanese Gardens Tully, Kildare, Ireland -
Tully, Co. Kildare, Ireland
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Author Info

For further information on the Author, to read her bio or see a full body of works check out @ Suzie HQ

A visit to the Gardens is well worth taking. Set in the glorious county of Kildare, the Gardens awaken the senses through the combined elements you would expect to find in a traditional Japanese Garden. Being part of the National Stud, it offers visitors the unique opportunity to visit the other attractions, enjoy a bite to eat in the restaurant or bring a picnic and enjoy this little piece of Japan in Ireland.

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    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Kathryn,

      Many thanks for your comments here, I love the Japanese Gardens. Looking forward to your hub on Wickham Park, it sounds so interesting with all the different garden themes. Rose Gardens are gorgeous too and lovely to visit when in their full bloom. Delighted you enjoyed and I much appreciate your visit and input!

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 4 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      I love gardens, especially Japanese gardens! They are so beautiful and tranquil! This caught my eye while I was looking at another of your hubs.

      Within 1 1/2 months, I plan on posting one on my favorite garden in Connecticut, Wickham Park. It has many gardens, including Oriental gardens, an English Garden, a Scottish Garden, and several that have certain flowers or bushes growing within. My favorite garden there is called The Oriental Garden. It has so many trees and plants that are oriental, a pond, a moonbridge, and a teahouse, among other statues. My second favorite is the Lotus Garden, which is a Japanese-inspired garden, as well. Although the Scottish and English gardens are pretty close, especially when the flowers are blossoming. The Rose Garden is spectacular at is peak!

      I really enjoyed this article, and if I am ever lucky enough to be in Ireland, that will be one of my top desired destimations! Thanks, Suzie!

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi sg,

      Thanks very much for taking a look at our lovely Japanese gardens. It has always been a place I enjoy and thankfully not too far from where I live. Peaceful, picturesque and so tranquil it makes for a great escape from the hustle and bustle of life! Appreciate all your lovely comments votes and shares!! New Year Greetings to you my friend!!

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Such beautiful places! I love Japanese gardens, they are always so peaceful. The landscape is always so natural with all the rocks and waterfalls. The information on the gardens and the stud farm is very interesting and your choice of pictures is so beautiful! Voting this up, beautiful, interesting and sharing! Have a wonderful day! :)

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Gypsy Rose Lee!

      Great to see you. How interesting a tea house in the middle of a park there! I wonder why no Japanese influenced landscaping - be great as you say, if they added to it for the locals and tourists to admire and enjoy. Appreciate your comments, votes and shares so much, Cheers!! :-)

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 5 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Voted up and awesome. A wonderful and fascinating hub. Love the pics. We have a tea house right in the middle of a park in Riga, Latvia but the rest of the park is just regular and it sort of stands out oddly. Would have been lovely if someone designed a Japanese garden here also. Passing this on.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Eddy,

      Really do appreciate all your support, glad you enjoyed this trip in the Emmerald Isle into a Japanese garden! Thanks for all the votes and shares Eddy! :-)

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      Wow Suzie what a wonderful hub I loved it and your obvious hard work has certainly paid off.

      Up/interesting and share here.

      Eddy.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi wildernesss,

      Many thanks on your comments! The Japanese Garden always seem to invoke serenity and calm when all around is bustling away. Appreciate your thoughts! :-)

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 5 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      A beautiful set of photos, Suzie - thank you.

      We have Japanese gardens near our home and very much enjoy visiting. They are always a bit of peace in a world gone mad.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi teaches!

      Japanese Gardens always seem to make you want to to revisit them, I am the same here as I have not been for awhile! Glad you hear you have one there that you can enjoy! Appreciate the lovely comments and votes! I have included a link to your whoopie pies in my new hub How to make a creative gift as I love them and think they would make an excellent gift for someone!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      This was a beautiful tour, Suzie. We have a Japanese garden near our home and have enjoyed visiting it during the cooler months. You have made me want to go there again soon. Wonderfully written. Voted up.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Alun,

      Nice to have you stop by and read this! I agree, all Japanese gardens have a similar theme or contain same elements that work as one together. I've not been a racing fan either but the stud is interesting and I love seeing the horses and foals there. St Fiachra's is a photographers playground, so to speak as its so beautiful in a wild way. Appreciate your comments and support as always my friend :-)

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 5 years ago from Essex, UK

      Suzie; this sounds like a good day out for anyone visiting the area. Japanese gardens almost always look attractive and this one is no exception. All the elements - both natural and ornamental - seem to work together to create a picturesque and romantic setting. I've never had much interest in horse racing, but the Stud and museum I'm sure would make an interesting site for all afficionados of the sport. I like the last garden you show, which seems to have a very distinctive and photogenic appearance. If ever I'm in the County, I will visit.

      A useful page Suzie for all those looking for a pleasant day out in Kildare, and your page is a good advert for these attractions. Voted up. Alun.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Peggy,

      Great to find another Japanese Garden fan, I must link into your hubs! Glad you enjoyed the Kildare one, it is such a tranquil and interesting venue with the other attractions too. St Fiachra's is another gorgeous garden that really does transport you to another century! Appreciate your comments votes and shares, I'l be popping over to your gardens! :-)

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Suzie,

      Japanese Gardens have similar elements no matter where in the world they are developed. We are fortunate to have one right here in Houston and I have also enjoyed visiting the one in Portland, Oregon. Have written about both of them. This one in Ireland sounds beautiful! The other sites you mentioned would also be worth spending some time to see and enjoy. Thanks for an enjoyable hub. Up votes and will share.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Effer!

      How you doing! Happy you enjoyed wandering through this journey of life! It is a very picturesque place in beautiful surroundings, if you get over this side of the pond, its one for the radar! Thanks heaps for the votes and lovely comments! :-)

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Absolutely exquisite photos! and an interesting hub...by a favorite & talented, Irish Lass! Peace, Suzie.....UP++++

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Barbara,

      Thanks so much reading and delighted you enjoyed! Hopefully you will get to see them in person i the near future!:-)

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Bill,

      The 2 Bill's again! Awesome to see you again my friend. Definitely worthy of a visit on your Irish trip, the sites mentioned have all the details for travel, cost and booking online which are great reference tools to use. Appreciate your loyal support and votes, shares always! Have a great weekend!:-)

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Bill,

      Your humour is the first thing I saw opening up hubpages this morning! Your an incredible supporter here, one I always look forward to seeing. Glad you enjoyed a bit of Irish travel for a change. The Gardens are so close to us and a place that has always stayed with me. Thanks so much Bill, for brightening my day! :-)

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 5 years ago from USA

      The gardens are beautiful. I wish I could visit them someday.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Suzie. Wonderful job of bringing this beautiful area into our homes. When we make it to Ireland someday we will be sure to put this on our must see list.

      Another winner, great job. VU, share, etc.....

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It is always a pleasure having you lead a tour of Europe for me....I started laughing when you wrote it was part of the Irish National Stud....my mind went to the slang meaning of stud.....then about halfway down I finally figured it out. LOL Sometimes I'm not the brightest bulb in the pack. :)

      Have a wonderful weekend Suzie, and great job!