What a fantastic event the Galway Garden Festival at Claregalway Castle has become

What a thoroughly enjoyable eclectic event this has become — The 2017 Galway Garden Festival will take place on Saturday July 1 and Sunday July 2, at Claregalway Castle. This will be the eighth year of an unique and charming garden event which has developed a national profile. It will showcase a wonderful gathering of the very best of rare and special plant traders from all over Ireland, present a programme of expert talks, a fine artisan food and crafts arena including the best of ‘Made in Galway’, as well as a host of musical entertainment and open-air performance.

This year’s speakers programme will, on Saturday, feature Jimi Blake who will talk on his famous garden- ‘Hunting Brook through the Seasons’; Dr Marina Levitina - author, film-maker and educator – on ‘Seven Wonders of your Hedgerow’ -about Ireland’s native wild plants and their medicinal and other beneficial qualities; Garden Designer and Columnist, Anne Byrne on ‘Garden Design on the Edge’; Alan Whetham on ‘Getting the best from your Roses’ and Dr Phil Havercroft, Secretary of ISNA, will talk on ‘Garden Perennials – a celebration the less well known’

On Sunday presentations include - Bloom Gold Winner, Oliver Schurmann of Mount Venus ‘From Show Gardens to Real Gardens’; Botanic Artist and Author, Jane Stark –‘Heritage Irish Plants – Plandai Oidhreachta’; Pat Dunn, well known gardening correspondent for Tribune newspapers - ‘Garden Planning – helpful hints and chemical free’; Mies Stam of Caherhurley – ‘Getting to know our w ildflowers’. More to be announced.

Musical guests include Scullion, the multi-national folk duo of Four Shillings Short, St. Patrick’s Brass Band, Strictly Dixie Trad Jazz Band , Nuada and award-winning singer-songwriter Roesy, plus many more. The festival will feature real fights between Knights in Armour from Medieval Armed Combat Ireland; Fanzini Brother Circus will delight with their new show; and Youth Ballet West will awe crowds with classical dance, while Yer Mans Puppets will entertain children of all ages.

A range of freshly cooked foods, handmade crafts and assorted wares are available as part of an artisanal market. The Claregalway Botanical Art Expo is a well-established attraction at the festival, and many of the paintings on exhibition are for sale, along with limited edition prints, and cards. Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop will be there with a wide range of books - horticultural and beyond.

The 2017 8th Galway Garden Festival takes place between 11am and 6pm on Saturday and Sunday, July 1 and July 2 at Claregalway Castle. Entry is €10 and children go free, with all gate profits going to support CBM Ireland. There is free parking close-by and a free bus – courtesy of Bus Eireann - running regularly from Ceannt Station in Galway City and providing a link to and from Seafest. So come to Galway for a very special weekend!

A chance to see this life-filled castle

Eamonn O’Donoghue has funded and overseen the restoration of the castle for the past decade, bringing in some of Europe’s top stonemasons and conservationists to ensure that the castle is returned to its original state. In the process, he had to overcome many obstacles in his mission to ensure that the castle was restored to the style in which it was constructed. When he acquired the castle in 2000, the building was in danger of collapse. The roof of the castle had been removed in 1653, following the famous Siege of Galway by Cromwellian forces. Mature trees sprang from the upper floors and the stone work was under threat. A major reconstruction programme was drawn up under conservation architect David Johnson, a former inspector of national monuments with The Office of Public Works.

Eamonn never forgot the childhood picnic shared with his brothers and sisters and parents beside the bridge at Claregalway Castle. His father, Tom, a Toomevara man, a great hurler, and a civil engineer with Cork County Council, had a passion for Ireland’s romantic ruins. A photograph was taken of all seven O’Donoghues lined up grinning at the bridge. The family still have it at their Cork home. But Tom’s passion passed on to several of his children. Eamonn studied medicine in Cork, and archaeology under Michael J O’Kelly, the man who brilliantly interpreted the ancient tombs at Newgrange.

Shortly after his appointment as ophthalmic surgeon to the Western Health Board (HSE ), Eamonn set out to find the castle. He had no idea where it was, except that it was near the city. He drove out every approach road to Galway until one evening there it was ...a vast crumbling tower, ivy-clad, with ruined buildings within its courtyard, exactly as he remembered it as a child.

And now, more than a decade and a half later, the restoration programme is almost complete on this important 15th century tower house; one of the largest and most significant tower houses in the west of Ireland. At the Festival, visitors can get a close view of the sympathetic restoration programme carried out by master builder Micheal Herwood from Cloonacauneen and French stonemason Jean Baptise Maduit.

For all information, including further programme announcements, see www.galwaygardenfestival.com

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