Thousands of people are expected to flock to Claregalway this Saturday and Sunday for the second annual Galway Garden festival, to be held in historic Claregalway Castle.
The thousands who thronged to the castle for the event last year knew it was something special — for the first time in centuries, people moved in droves on its grounds and now it is to happen all over again with this year's festival to run over two days on this Saturday July 9 and Sunday July 10 from 11am to 6pm each day.
It was a tremendous event which breathed new life into the village, but which also created a wealth of funding for an Irish-charity which treats blindness and debilitating eye conditions in many areas of the developing world.
For the event, well known eye surgeon Eamon O’Donoghue threw open the gates of his restored castle and people came in their thousands, to look, to experience, and to hear what was a high level of horticultural debate that won the event many friends right across these islands.
Nearby fields were thrown open to accommodate all the cars, and this year a free courtesy bus will run each hour from Ceannt Station to Claregalway so that as many people as possible can get to the building and view the marvellous array of stalls and goods on offer within the confines of the splendid Claregalway Castle.
Almost 50 specialist nurseries will attend this year's event, and a host of fine speakers will give talks in the castle buildings. These noted speakers include naturalist Gordon D'Arcy, Dr John Feehan, Dr Matthew Jebb, director of the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland, author Niall Mac Coitir, Prof Oliver Rackham OBE, a fellow of Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge, Irish historian and arborist Thomas Pakenham, William J Smyth, Professor Emeritus of Geography at University College Cork.
There will be live music, food stalls, goods stalls, arts, crafts, storytelling, children’s entertainment, specialist book stalls, and a general air of conviviality that will charm the hardest of souls.
This year the emphasis is on trees to mark the fact that 2011 has been named by the United Nations as the International Year of Forests.
Entry to the event is just €5 and all of this will go towards CBM — an international Christian development organisation committed to improving the quality of life of people with disabilities in the poorest countries of the world.
The charity was chosen by the castle owner Eamon O’Donoghue who 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.
For more information on the Galway Garden Festival, check out www.galwaygardenfestival.com