You need to check out this tropical island off the coast of West Cork

By Fiona Frawley

June 11, 2021 at 3:15pm


Have you been dreaming of visiting an Italian garden filled with exotic roses and classic architectural features? Or exploring a jungle containing rare pine trees from New Zealand, and fuchsias from Central America?

How about passing an island populated only by seals on the way? No need to frantically look for last minute flights or wonder where you’ll get that extra €120 for a PCR test, you can find all of these things on Garnish Island, just a short boat ride from Glengarriff Harbour in West Cork.

At the start of the 20th century, Garnish Island was transformed by architect and garden designer Harold Peto and then-owner Annan Bryce. Incorporating some existing structures on the island such as the Martello Tower (pictured below) and making use of the island’s unique climate, Peto got to work constructing the sunken Italian Garden (v. instagrammable, which I’m sure was his intention), the Grecian Temple with stunning mountain views (you’ll feel like an extra from Sound of Music standing in front of them) and the “Happy Valley” filled with plants and trees from Argentina, Chile, New Zealand and beyond.

If you’ve been craving an exotic adventure but aren’t ready to book flights just yet, look no further. The island is accessed via small ferry boats which leave from Glengarriff Harbour (have your phone ready to capture some shots of Seal Island on the way), and guided tours are available. This place is truly a dream.

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