WHAT ARE the ten most beautiful places in Ireland? A recent survey among thousands of visitors has revealed that among the top are the glorious gardens of Birr Castle, in County Offaly, some 80 miles from Dublin city.
Open all the year round In visitors, they are personally tended and directed by Lady Rosse, famous horticulturalist, whose family reside in this sixteenth century castle.
A few miles away, in the same central county of Ireland, Is another jewel, Clonmacnois, one of the most celebrated of 5th century monastic settlements. Beside the River Shannon, it was founded by SI Ciaran in 548.
In contrast, in the West of Ireland, that part of County Galway between Lough Corrib and the Atlantic Ocean, known simply as "Connemara", is one of the most
beautiful in the country, with its heavenly blueness, and its twelve Bens, its fabulous rocky mountain range.
Equal in beauty are the blue hills of Donegal, in the far north-west of Ireland, with its Atlantic coastline drives, its deep glens and azure lakes, and its gleaming Mount Errigal.
For beauty, Italian style, the world's classical garden lovers vote for Garinish Island, Just off the schore from the village of Glengarriff, in the county of Cork.
This island is a paradise of mediterranean flowers, of fuchsia and arbutus, amid which George Bernard Shaw was inspired to write his play Saint Joan.
On the east coast of Irelhnd, in the civilised parkland tranquil beauty of County Wicklow — the garden of Ireland — stands the cele brated monastery of Glendalough, just 32 miles from Dublin city. Here is a 6th century monastic university founded by Saint Kevin, complete with its 9th century round tower in a state of perfect preservation.
Competing with this eastern jewel are the Japanese Gardens in the County of Kildare, Ireland's famous horse breeding and racing and hunting county. These gardens symbolise the various stages of man's life, and are beside the internationally famous National Stud, where racehorses worth millions of pounds are bred.
Included in the top ten most beautiful places are the gardens of Mount Usher, and the breathtakingly beautiful gardens of Powerscourt in County Wicklow. These are part of a well laidout, 14,000 acre demesne, across the river Dargle, with ornate lakes and fountains,