King John originally built Lismore Castle in 1185. Lismore Castle was owned in turn by Sir Walter Raleigh and Richard Boyle, before passing to the Fourth Duke of Devonshire in 753.
The gardens are said to be the oldest continually cultivated gardens in Ireland and they offer spectacular views of both Lismore Castle and the surrounding countryside of the Blackwater valley.
Visitors are invited to wander in the historic gardens which contain a fine collection of magnolias, camellias, rhododendrons, and herbaceous borders, arranged over seven acres within the 17th century outer defensive castle walls.
Although the planting has changed to fit the tastes of subsequent owners the walls and terraces of the Upper Garden remain as they were when commissioned by Richard Boyle, First Earl of Cork in around 1605.
It was the 6th Duke Devonshire, known as the Bachelor Duke in the 19th century, with help from his friend and architect Joseph Paxton (the visionary who designed Crystal Place) who created the castle and Lower or ‘Pleasure’ gardens that you see today. The more relaxed surroundings of the Lower gardens also holds the Yew Tree Walk, where Edmund Spenser is said to have written ‘The Faerie Queen’ in a round 1590.
At the end of the last century the Devonshire family introduced sculpture into the gardens that subsequent generations have added to, culminating in 2005 with the renovation of the west wing of the castle into a contemporary gallery, Lismore Castle Arts.
In 2013 Darren Topps joined the team at Lismore as Head Gardener from the Eden Project in Cornwall. And is currently guiding the team through an ambitious 5 year plan to extend the planting season, ensuring the garden has interest throughout the year.
In April 2014 the Castle and Gardens were awarded an Eco-Merit, an award that recognizes the castle teams environmental policy and improvement plan, a system of performance monitoring and pollution prevention.