The National Botanic Gardens at Kilmacurragh, located in the serene County Wicklow, has a rich history dating back to the seventh century when a monastery was established there. The religious foundation remained in place until the dissolution of the monasteries, after which the land was acquired by the Acton family following Cromwell's invasion.
In 1854, the estate was inherited by Thomas Acton during a period of botanical and geographical exploration. Acton collaborated with the curators of the National Botanic Gardens to build a pioneering garden on the estate. In 1996, a 21-hectare portion of the demesne was officially designated as part of the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland. The ensuing decade saw extensive restoration efforts to give the estate's rare and beautiful plants a new lease on life. Today, Kilmacurragh is a complementary collection of plants to its parent garden at Glasnevin.
The gardens are particularly stunning in spring when visitors can witness the transformation of the walks as fallen rhododendron blossoms form a breathtaking magenta carpet. An annual event in the calendar is Rhododendron Week, which takes place every April. With over 180 species of rhododendrons and 420 varieties, the plant collection at Kilmacurragh is one of the most extensive in the world. The National Botanic Gardens of Ireland have both restored and greatly expanded the collection since taking over management of the site in 1996.