Seaforde Demesne, owned by the Forde family, was built in the 18th century and is well-known by locals for its tropical butterfly house and maze garden. Lady Anthea Forde lives there today and the garden is open to visitors.
The Gardens belong to the Fordes, a Norman-Irish family who bought the Demesne lands (over 20,000 acres) between 1617 and 1628. However, they didn’t move to Northern Ireland until around 1750, preferring to spend their time between Dublin and their other estate in Coolgreeny, Wexford. When MP Matthew Forde married Elizabeth Knox in 1750, he decided to make big changes to the estate and added landscaping and a large walled garden. At one point, the grounds also featured glasshouses for growing pineapples, and gardeners at Seaforde won 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize for their pineapples at the Belfast Horticultural Show in 1833. Though these glasshouses no longer exist, the gardens have kept an exotic feel, with peacocks wandering around the grounds and a tropical butterfly house containing plants and free-flying butterflies from all across the world.
The current house was built in 1819, after a fire destroyed the original building. Lady Anthea Forde now lives there but you can visit the garden, which features the oldest living maze in Ireland, made of hornbeam trees. If you manage to navigate your way out of it successfully, you can visit the arboretum to see trees that have been there for hundreds of years, such as a Crimean pine measuring over 100 feet tall. The gardens also have many beautiful flowers; you can find the UK National Collection of Eucryphias here, a flowering southern-hemisphere tree with white or pink flowers. These plants, as well as many others, were brought back by Patrick Forde, Lady Anthea’s husband, over the past 50 years, and flourish in Seaforde’s microclimate.