Ballinakill village is home to Heywood Demesne, 50 acres of woodland, lakes and formal gardens. Home to the Trench family in the 18th century, Heywood is set in a Romantic Landscape. Fast forward a few centuries and romantics may still be impressed with how nature has taken care of this beauty.
Approaching from Abbeyleix on the R432, you will round a gentle bend to arrive at the gothic entrance. Today Heywood has a large community school on its grounds and so keep to the left once you have entered if you are here to explore rather than to be educated.
Here you can park up and wander through the mature woodland on the original avenue to the property. As you make your way to the gardens, you will pass reminders of the property’s history – a grotto erected by the Salesian Brothers who lived and educated here from the 1940’s to the early 1990’s, an obelisk serving as both a memorial and a distance marker, decorative follies, orangery and looking down as swans glide by on the lake below.
The Office of Public Works (OPW) currently maintains the grounds and has erected a wooden handrail along the high ground along with plenty of information plaques that deepen your experience of this estate.
The Italian gardens are beautifully laid out in so much detail – everything has such balance! Looking across the landscape, you will see content looking cows munching on grass, Ballinakill’s two church spires sitting side by side or across the distance, the Castlecomer Hills in North Kilkenny rising slightly over the land.
On a dull day in March the hedging in the garden kindly sheltered me from the drizzle. I would caution to be careful on the flagstones if you are visiting as they may be wet. Robust little snow drops were still out, battling the wind and looks as serene as ever. What tough little beauties! Despite the grey day, the graceful swans and stillness of the grounds carried the romantic landscape through to the 21st century.
A ramble around Heywood at any time of the year should be greatly enjoyed due to the variety of nature, history, landscaping and architecture you will experience here.
Just a few kilometres away is Abbeyleix where you could stock up on the nicest bread & coffee in the country at https://www.facebook.com/muellerandoconnellbakery/ or if it is a Saturday morning, stop off at the market in the town square where their adventure all began!
The Abbeyleix market story is here: