The gardens date from at least the early 18th Century and are mentioned in Smith’s History of Waterford (published in 1746) as being renowned for the excellent vegetables grown there. The main gardens were probably laid out in the 1730s and 1740s when the property was occupied by Richard Musgrave who was the Agent for the Lismore Estate. Certainly by the early 1800s, the Gardens were well established and were described in Ryder's History of Waterford (published in 1824) as “a relief to the mind to wander through this charming spot.” At that time, Ballyin was the residence of Dean John Scott, the Dean of Lismore Cathedral, who was probably responsible for many of the North American trees still to be seen in the Gardens.
The Deanery was moved into Lismore when the main house was destroyed by fire in 1826, leaving the two wings which were eventually converted into separate houses. During the remainder of the century and up until 1914, the Gardens were maintained by the Lismore Estate and were open to the public free of charge. They were described as “a sight which no visitor to Lismore at that period ever missed.” Amongst the more notable visitors were King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra who walked the Gardens during their visit to Lismore in 1906.
The Gardens were closed and left derelict during the First World War and the Civil War but were rescued by Lady Gordon who lived at Ballyin from the late 1920s until her death in 1945. We have her to thank for much of what we see today, especially the walks and views of the river, although she might not recognise some areas which have had to be replanted following storm damage in recent years. Nevertheless, every effort has been made to maintain the calm and peaceful ambience for which the Gardens have always been renowned and which she so lovingly restored during her time at Ballyin.
Today the main features of the garden are the extensive array of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, many of which are large old specimens, the interesting collection of old, mature trees, many of North American origin, but most of all the beautiful, peaceful setting of the Gardens beside the river Blackwater.
Castle Wall and Bell Tower: Ballyin is mentioned in Ryder’s History of Waterford as being “one of the thirteen castles built and erected by the Great Earl of Cork.” Given its proximity to Lismore Castle, it could only have been a fortified outpost, but there is a good view from the vegetable garden of the original outside wall of the fortification and the Bell Tower which would have been used to sound the alarm.
The Monterey Cypress: situated in the main lawn, this tree has the largest girth of any tree in County Waterford – just less than nine metres. These trees were introduced into Ireland in the early 1800s so it must be just short of 200 years old.
The Garden House: as its shape suggests, the house was built using as its base the ruins of what was originally a bandstand. In the late 1800s, when the gardens were open to the public, the Duke would occasionally arrange for a local band to play in the gardens on a Sunday afternoon.
The Lady’s Walk: Lady Gordon liked to walk into town but did not like walking along the road. A walk was therefore created for her along the outside wall of the garden and a gateway made through the boundary wall at the end of the property. She would then walk through the woods along the property’s original avenue which joins the Ballyduff road just before the Lismore bridge.
The Killing Hatch: before the weir was destroyed, the only way for the salmon to make their way up river (other than at times of flood) was up the side stream and through the killing hatch. Gates in the hatch forced the salmon into a central holding area from which they could be hauled out with a large gaff. Not the most sporting way of killing a salmon, but very commercial!
The Rhododendron Walk: this is a blaze of colour in May with the evening breeze wafting the scent of the yellow azaleas to meet you. The peaceful setting with its views of the river and the surrounding meadows make this a favourite spot for all visitors.
Directions will appear here