History of Ardgillan
Ardgillan Castle is nestled between the coastline of Balbriggan and Skerries. The grounds span over fields of the countryside. Although titled the castle, it is actually a large country house. Dating back to 1738, the central section was built by Robert Taylor. Later in the 1800s, the wings were added to the house.
The view from Ardgillan is unique, capturing the coastline as far as the Mourne Mountains, Cooleys, and out to Shenick and Lambay Island. Rockabill lighthouse’ beacon can be seen glowing in the distance as you take in the breath taking view.
What to do in the Castle
This is one of the only spots in Fingal with almost every amenity possible. From Bike trails, to kids playgrounds all the way to rose gardens and dog cafes!
Ardgillan Castle Gardens
Not everybody has a garden, but you can always visit Ardgillan Castle gardens to destress and soak in some fresh air. The Castle has four gardens and all are free to visit. Each garden has a different style in Ardgillan, they are; Rose, Walled, Ornamental, and Seasonal Gardens.
The Rose Garden has a huge amount of variety in the family of roses. With a Hybrid Ts and Floribundas to name but a few. Also in the Rose Garden is the Victorian Conservatory which is undergoing a huge amount of conservation work by Ardgillan Castle and Fingal County Council.
The Walled Garden surprisingly is surrounded by a victorian styled wall. Traditionally, the garden supplied fresh produce to the house. Inside the walls you can find herbs, vegetables and fruit each separated into their own area. There are apple trees that date back to 1500, 1802 and 1864. These seeds were planted in 2000.
Discovering the Ornamental Gardens is a brilliant way to spend the day no matter what season we are in. You can find semi-tender plans that survive outdoors at Ardgillan Castle. The Four Seasons Garden displays a colour for each season, with shrubs & bulbs for Spring, flowering plants in Summer, auburn Autumn colour and striking Winter stems to bring the year to a close.
Finally, the Seasonal Garden has been redevelop to help with hosting more outdoor events with the help of the Castle’s head gardener Dominica McKevitt. Tours are available from Dominica upon request and she will showcase the changing seasons at Ardgillan.
All of the Gardens are free to discover, a brilliant thing to do whilst in Balbriggan or when looking for something to do on a weekend!
If walking through the gardens isn’t for you, why not bring you bike on the train to Balbriggan and cycle through Ardgillan instead? Since 2009, there has been a signposted bike route through the paths of the castle gardens. With steep inclines and sharp corners, this track will make you work to get back to the start while also offering you breath taking views.
Walking trails may even be a little bit better! With lots of benches dotted around the park and fields, you can sit down, relax, have a picnic, read a book and so much more! The sea breeze greets you as you stroll through the grounds of Ardgillan Castle.
You can walk, you can jog or you can run! Every Saturday morning the Parkrun takes place in Ardgillan Castle, it is a free 5km run. You don’t have to pay anything to participate but you must pre register before arriving to the park. If you enjoyed the run and still have energy, you can join the group for a coffee in the tearooms! The average time for the 5k is 29:48 but don’t worry people of all abilities are welcome.
There is a footbridge which crosses the Balbriggan to Skerries Road and the Dublin to Belfast Line. It was constructed by the Dublin and Drogheda Railway Company The name derives from reports that the ghostly figure of a “Lady” is seen here from time to time.
As you leave the grounds of the park back over the bridge, continue towards the coast line to find one of the secret beaches along the Balbriggan Coastline. In between the hedgerows you will find a mucky pathway with concrete steps. Follow these down to the rocks where you can swim in the Irish Sea.
Ardgillan Castle and Fingal County Council have again collaborated to offer studio and gallery spaces to artists from the area. Additionally, the park offers a Gallery and exhibition space. The exhibitions change regularly and you will always be suprised with the fresh displays at the castle.
Things to do with Kids
Ardgillan is first and foremost a public park, although unlike many others there are no sports grounds here. They do however have a lot of activities for young kids in the Castle, and free activities outside.
Fitted with over 30 different play areas, the centre piece in Ardgillan is the spider web climbing space. This attraction was always the go to place when I grew up nearby and now it is no different. Located close to the carpark, the playground also overlooks the sea and grounds to the East. There is a pop up cafe just outside the playground, so you can enjoy the area while the kids play.
One of the countries favourite fairy trails meanders through the Ardgillan parkland. The trail is an educational experience for children as it helps to identify the trees each fairy house is based in. The added bonus on this trail is that you might spot a fairy hiding or living in one of the beautiful trees!
The trail comes with an interactive map and quiz. This guide can be printed here or you can check in at the coffee dock in the castle.
How to get to Ardgillan Castle
The castle has public transport options, a public car park and bicylce lock ups.
By Public Transport: Take the 33 towards Balbriggan from Lower Abbey St, or the 33a from Swords to Balbriggan. Alternatively, you can take a train to Balbriggan and get the 33/33a from Balbriggan. The stop is located just under the ‘Ladies Stairs’. Cross over this stairs to get into the Ardgillan Castle park.
By Car: Coming from Dublin, Balbriggan is the last stop north before crossing into Meath on the M1 motorway. Take either exit 5 or 6, depending on the direction you are coming from. At each exit, Ardgillan Castle car entrance is about a 9 minute drive and is well signposted.
Where to eat nearby?
There is a tearoom located in the Castle, serving simple sandwiches, coffees and ice creams. It is operated by Brambles, so it’s not the world’s best but it does the job. You can also take a short trip to the Skerries seafront and find a huge number of restaurants ranging from Seafood, Grills and Light Bites.
Down by the ladies stairs entrance to Ardgillan Castle, there is a food truck serving coffees, acai bowls, pastries and more. There is seating by this truck and a beautiful view over the sea and into Balbriggan Harbour.
Where to stay near Ardgillan Castle
Northern Fingal has a number of hotels and B&Bs. The closest hotel is the 4* Bracken Court hotel, it is centrally located and accessible by train and bus.
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