West of Waterford City
Kilmeaden (Co. Waterford)
Kilmeaden, until recently a rural parish, had a very successful local agricultural coóperative and was known for its distinctive cheese. The district has become suburbanised, and is now the address of a Waterford Institute of Technology campus with various facilities including a large “student village”.
The Waterford & Suir Valley Railway Company (WSVRC) runs heritage trains along a rebuilt 6km stretch of a narrow-gauge railway line originally constructed in 1878 by The Waterford, Dungarvan & Lismore Railway Company. The main shareholder was the Duke of Devonshire, so the scenic railroad was known as “The Duke’s Line”. In its heyday, this railway delivered goods and livestock in addition to several passenger trains per day, and ran regular “bathing trains” during the summer. The station is opposite the Cosy Thatch Pub in Kilmeaden.
Woodstown, on the southern bank of the River Suir, approximately 5 miles west of Waterford City, is the site of an archaeological find of immense importance, uncovered unexpectedly in 2003 during the course of preliminary excavations for the NRA’s beloved N25 Waterford ByPass Project. Confirming historical accounts, the site provides the first solid evidence for C8th and C9th Viking settlement in the area, and appears to have had a population of about 4000.
Kilmeaden Castle, originally owned by John Power, Baron Dunhill, was taken and destroyed by Oliver Cromwell’s troops in 1650, and the unfortunate proprietor instantly hanged on an adjoining tree. The lands passed to John Ottrington, whose daughter Elizabeth in 1674 married Arden St Leger, subsequently Baron of Kilmeadan and Viscount Doneraile. The side of the Manor, which originally contained the stairs, survives.
Mount Congreve is one of the finest stately homes in Ireland still in the ownership of the family who built it nearly 300 years ago. The 700-acre estate includes a demesne that has been converted into the largest private garden in the British Isles and what is widely regarded as one of the greatest gardens in the world.
Working with a Dutch head gardener, Herman Dool (pronounced “Dole”) and others, Ambrose Congreve spent more than 80 years of his long life creating over 110 acres of landscaped acres, linked by 16 miles of paths, containing 3,000 varieties of rhododendron, 600 camellias, 300 magnolias, and 250 types of Japanese Maple as well as half a mile of hostas, a bog garden, a four-acre walled garden, a Japanese pagoda below a 100ft cliff, clouds of coral Azalea lining the path to a classical temple overlooking the river, a flower-filled natural amphitheatre overlooking a rock pool, exotic greenhouses and a fascinating pinetum. The folds and slopes of the hills and valleys offer different prospects over the inspired planting and there are enchanting sights and scents at every turn.
Lawn with beech trees.
Ambrose Congreve died at the age of 104 in 2011, having foiled the NRA’s plans to expropriate part of the property, and bequeathed his garden to the nation.
Kilmeaden is not far from Portlaw and Kilmacthomas on ByRoute 2.