“The wisdom of the old speaks to the needs of the 21st century.” That simple statement lies behind the dream Galway resident Jenny Beale had almost seven years ago. Today her dream has been realized in the creation of Brigit’s Garden,.a magical oasis of 11 acres of themed gardens in Ireland ’s beautiful County Galway.

Brigit’s Garden opened in the summer of 2004 and in just a few short months has received close to 6,500 visitors. It’s not hard to see why, even during the brisk and damp autumn morning I visited.

One of the many pieces of
sculpture that creates an
outdoor art gallery
in Brigit's Garden.

The name Brigit means “Exalted One,” and the garden’s name refers both to St Brigit, the 6th century abbess of Kildare, and the pre-Christian Brigit, the goddess for many Celtic peoples across Europe .

As Beale, a former teacher, explains to visitors, the figure of Brigit embodies the Celtic wisdom of the natural world, wisdom that is still relevant today as we try to find ways to live gently on this earth. Brigit was closely connected with the elements of fire, water, earth, and air, and is often represented in a triple form as three sisters or three related deities. The Irish believe that Brigit was not only the patron of poetry and craftwork, but also a midwife and nurturer, and as such, Brigit’s Garden reflects both the seasonal cycle and the human lifecycle.

The garden, in fact, represents the four Celtic festivals of the season — Samhain (winter), Imbolc (spring), Bealtaine (summer), and Lughnasa (autumn), and was designed by Mary Reynolds, a renowned garden designer and gold medal winner at the 2002 Chelsea Flower Show.

Irish wildflowers bloom throughout
much of the year in Western Ireland.

To walk through the gardens is to journey through the cycle of the year as well as the cycle of life from conception to old age and death. The wildlife gardens are also designed to reflect Western Ireland ’s landscape and to encourage biodiversity as well.

The festival of Samhain (pronounced Sow-en), or Halloween, falls on October 31st and has long marked the beginning of the yearly cycle for Celtic peoples. This was a time of death and the promise of re-birth, of waiting and of reflection. It was understood that in the dark silence comes the hints of new beginnings. In the Samhain, or winter, garden, then, you will find the earth, in the shape of a sleeping woman, planted with meadow grasses and wildflowers, wrapped around a womb-like pool. A figure of leaves cast in bronze rests on an island. The pool is enclosed in a ring of silver birch trees, reflecting the simplicity of the season. The winter garden offers visitors a place to be still, to reflect, and to think about the coming of spring. 

These basketwork swings are a
favorite with children - and their parents.

Imbolc (pronounced Im-ulk) is the old Celtic name for the spring festival on February 1st, now known as St. Brigit's Day. In the Imbolc, or spring, garden, follow the path that will lead you through a hay meadow and orchard trees to a children's glade, complete with swings for the youngsters’ enjoyment. Further on, you will come to a carved triple spiral symbolizing Brigit as the patron saint of poetry, craft, and midwifery.

The great fire festival of Bealtaine (pronounced Belt-an-a), or May Day, celebrates the brightest half of the year and the coming of the warmth of the summer season. This is the time for sexual awakenings, marriages, and the adventures of young adulthood. The mythical lovers of Diarmuid and Grainne are represented in the Bealtaine garden with “Diarmuid and Grainne's bed,” a grassy hollow that faces the sun and is surrounded by simple wildflowers. The theme of lovers is further carried out with the “Flame Figures” sculpture. Walk down the processional path between tall stones topped with copper flames until you reach the fire circle, backed by a throne in bog oak and yew. Here is the spot where young adults can claim their personal power and sit as the king or queen in  their own life.

Brigit's Garden provides a number of spots
such as this bench for quiet reflection.

In early August the festival of Lughnasa (pronounced Loo-na-sa) heralds the beginning of the harvest and the transition from summer to autumn. Named after Lugh Lamh Fada, the hero of the mythical Tuatha de Dannan, this is a season of plenty and celebration. The mounds you will see in the autumn garden represent the constellation of Orion, which some Celts associated with Lugh. Spiral-shaped stone vegetable beds provide an abundance of edible plants, including vegetables, flowers, and herbs (many used in the garden’s tea shop). Two interlinked grassy circles are enclosed with standing stones, creating spaces for feasting and dancing.

Celtic Cross Tapestry Wall Hanging(Click Tapestry) The end of the seasonal cycle is a time to reflect, give thanks, and celebrate all that has come to fruition, says Beale. Outside the exit from Lughnasa, three yew trees also symbolize the moment of death, meaning that the life cycle is now complete, and with it, the possibility of rebirth as a new cycle begins.

At the center of the garden is a typically Irish-looking roundhouse (opening photo), built of local limestone with a circular thatched roof and windows that look out onto each of the four gardens. The roundhouse is used for art and music programs, meditation, meetings, or simply relaxing.

To further enhance the garden’s feeling of peace and tranquility, Beale has even instituted “quiet time” at the garden. From 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday evenings, and 10 a.m. to noon on Sunday mornings; from April to September, the gardens and facilities are reserved for visitors who wish to meditate, reflect, or just take some quiet time out in a peaceful and relaxing setting.

As a former teacher, though, Beale has also made sure that Brigit’s Garden is a haven for children as well (just not during “quiet time!), with its basket swings, children’s discovery trail, nature trails that meander through woodlands and meadows and down to a lake, and a wind chamber and ring fort that add to the enchantment for young and old alike.
Celtic Calendar - Pewter eternal calendar

Celtic Calendar - Pewter eternal calendar

Hand crafted from pewter as a perpetual calendar in a silk-lined gift box.

If you’re visiting the Western part of Ireland, this is a stop you don’t want to miss!

Brigit’s Garden is located at Pollagh, Roscahill, County Galway, 1 mile (2 km) from the N59 between Moycullen and Oughterard, a 20-minute drive north of Galway city. It is well marked from the main road. It is open daily from April to September from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and on Sundays from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; from October to April, the garden is open for special events and by appointment. “Quiet time,” reserved for reflection and retreat, takes place on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings. Admission is 5.50 euros for individuals, 2.50 euros for children 5 and older (under 5,  free), 4 euros for students, and 14 euros for a family. There is also a tea shop open daily. For more information, visit www.galwaygarden.com, e-mail info@galwaygarden.com, or telephone 091 550905. For more information about Ireland log on to www.tourismireland.com or call 800/

By Carol Sorgen. Baltimore Correspondent.

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