Dublin’s secret garden has been well-hidden since 1865, passed from owner to owner. It’s now owned by the State and is a slice of green in the middle of the city.
The Iveagh Gardens used to be privately owned by the 1st Earl of Milltown, who sold them in the late 18th century. The estate was sold again in 1810 and the gardens were opened for public use. But by 1860, they were only used for keeping sheep and dumping waste. In an attempt to refresh the gardens, they were used in the Dublin Exhibition Palace and Winter Garden in 1865, designed by Ninian Niven, who also designed the National Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin. After this event, the gardens reverted to private ownership. President Éamon de Valera asked the 2nd Earl of Iveagh in 1937 if he’d sell the house and grounds to the state, but the Earl refused, choosing instead to donate it to the nation under the condition that the gardens would be “unbuilt on” and a “lung” for Dublin city. They were used as part of the buildings for University College before the university moved and they were reopened to the public in 1992.
They’re known as “Dublin’s Secret Garden” by locals. But they’re not your average back garden; they’ve got different features like a Victorian Rosarium (with plants from before 1860) and a rustic grotto and cascade, which uses rocks from each of Ireland’s 32 counties. The maze is based on the one at Hampton Court, London, and the sunken lawn was actually a purpose-built archery field. The remains of an elephant from Dublin Zoo were buried here in 1920 underneath the grass.