Glossy Gardens: Russborough, Co Wicklow

The Palladian landscape at Russborough provides the perfect backdrop for a new Garden Exhibition featuring works by SALVADOR DALÍ

It is almost 300 years since the Palladian mansion was built; Russborough comprises a 250 acre parkland landscape located near the town of Blessington in West Wicklow. Built in the 1740s for Joseph Leeson, later 1st Earl of Milltown, Russborough is one of the finest Palladian houses in Ireland, and an excellent example of the work of Richard Castle (c. 1690–1751).

Since it was built it has experienced four robberies, three extended families, two forced occupations, and a ghost! Following renovations totalling €1 million, the house reopened to the public last year.

The landscape is a rare example of a relatively intact Palladian design featuring manicured lawns, lush pastures, woodland, a walled garden, two artificial lakes and an island.

Russborough’s 18th-century walled garden is currently being restored by volunteers from the Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland, who are reinstating the garden paths to their original layout, repairing brick and stone walls and replanting the hornbeam hedge and glasshouse. (Groups can pre-book a garden tour along with a house tour).

Next weekend, the largest collection of Salvador Dalí sculptural works is coming to Russborough House and Parklands, from May 19 – June 2. Known for his surrealist paintings, 14 of Dali’s works will join more than 100 other sculptures by 40 leading Irish and international artists.

The exhibition, which is free admission, will include his cast bronze “Dalinian Dancer” and “Lady Godiva with Butterflies” as well as, “Dance of Time III, around two metres tall and shown al fresco.

Irish artists including Patrick O’Reilly, Eamonn Ceannt, Ian Pollock, Bob Quinn, Paddy Campbell and Orla de Brí have all created pieces for the event, which is hosted by Gormleys Fine Art in partnership with The Dali Universe. For collectors there is also a chance to purchased the sculptures which range from €300 to €80,000.

Regardless of whether you are an art collector or not, a visit to Russborough is the perfect marriage of art, history and horticulture.

Penny McCormick

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