Interpretation I like very much – Brigit’s Garden, Co. Galway, Ireland

The best interpretation is often, when we come down to it, about love, inspiration and sustained hard work.  At Brigit’s Garden all of these are evident; they come together to create a beautiful and satisfying place to visit.

Brigit’s Garden was designed by leading Irish garden designer, Mary Reynolds. It is a multi-sensory delight, filled with places for visitors to explore, and things for them to talk about. The whole site is the vision of Jennie Beale who has been the driving force behind the formation of the garden from what was fields a decade or so ago.

Jennie Beale (foreground) is definitely one of the people in heritage interpretation who have most inspired me (background).

There is a message and a mission in this beauty – this is an interpretive garden. A walk through the gardens takes you through the Celtic cycle of the year and the great festivals of Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine and Lughnasa.

The Samhain (Winter) Garden in, appropriately, late winter.

Beautifully designed interpretive panels explain how this seasonal cycle mirrors the cycle of our lives from conception to old age and death. Well-informed and welcoming staff can answer deeper (or maybe not!) questions or will lead tours.  There is an engaging children’s trail to keep actively curious people interested.

Panel in the Imolc (Spring) Garden.

Behind and through it all, is Brigit. St. Brigit, otherwise known as Brigid or Brid, one of the greatest Irish saints with a longer, deeper pagan past, is the inspiration for this garden.

Around the more ‘formal’ gardens is a nature trail through natural woodland and other habitats. The beauty of nature and of art combine to create a powerful and reflective sense of place.

There is a sense of reverence here – but reverence with gusto and joy, where everyone can connect with nature in ways that suit them. There is a lively and popular programme of family activities, there is music and feasting, elves, fairies and Santa Claus. All of life is here.

Warm, welcoming banners invite everyone to ‘experience the magic’ that is Brigit’s Garden.

The whole enterprise aims to reveal and encourage a more harmonious and celebratory way of living with the natural world. This objective is clearly behind everything that happens here. The interpretation is, therefore, tight, well-themed and powerful.

Brigit’s Garden celebrates the past and thrives in the 21st century. It has carved out a niche for itself as an attraction in an area that had few visitors. It has given local people a place to be proud of, to enjoy and be part of. People come here from around the world – and many want to stay in touch. Modern technology allows that to happen. Look at their blog for a good example of maintaining contact with visitors and supporters.

The wishing tree in the Beltane Garden is strong , reflective point of connection. I am with the child (presumably) who carefully wrote “I wish I could have a dragon’. I do too.

Nature, heritage, art, culture, religion, faith, community, past, present, relationships, meanings, stories – Brigit’s Garden encompasses them all, in an interpretive experience that is so well planned that it appears effortless.

At the centre of the gardens is the round house which houses a variety of activities and events.

And on top of this, they serve excellent tea, cakes, and some of the best soup I have ever eaten. Go, visit. I hugely recommend a visit to the garden as well as the website.

A longer version of this post will appear in the Interpret Europe newsletter.

All photographs thanks to Peter Phillipson, TellTale. For more pictures go to Peter’s Flickr stream. Follow Peter @ TellTalePeter on Twitter.

About susancrosstelltale

Great visits to heritage and natural sites do not happen by accident. This blog is about the work that make special sites great places to visit. I hope it will be useful to visitors and host alike. Find out more at me and my blog.
This entry was posted in Attractions, Culture, Environment, Good places to visit, Heritage attractions, Ireland, Tourism, Visit experience, Wildlife and countryside attractions and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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