The Company of Trees : Tullynally Castle Arboretum

Earlier this year I read and enjoyed Thomas Pakenham’s ‘The Company of Trees’. Thomas Pakenham wrote the book as a form of diary for the year 2013 mainly about his interest in conserving trees on his estate at Tullynally Castle in Ireland and collecting seeds for further propagation from distant areas in in the world. During that year he travelled to Tibet and China and the Andes. He peppered the diary with other information about the gardens/arboretum at Tullynally and much more personal information besides. In this was it differed from his previous tree books – Meetings with Remarkable Trees; Remarkable Trees of the World; In search of Remarkable Trees; The Remarkable Baobab.



When the programme for this year’s Buxton Festival was published I noticed that Thomas Pakenham would be speaking. I asked the friends who I usually attend the Festival with as to whether we could visit the Festival that day – which was on Tuesday 12 July. We booked two other Festival events and a Fringe event “Romeo and Juliet Underground” performed in Poole’s Cavern.

Acclaimed historian and bestselling author Thomas Pakenham recounts his personal quest to establish a large arboretum at his family estate Tullynally, his forays to other tree-filled parks and plantations, his often hazardous seed-hunting expeditions, and his efforts to preserve magnificent old trees and historic woodlands. He tells of his travels to the Tibetan border in search of a magnolia (magnolias are Pakenham’s particular passion) and to Eastern Patagonia to see the last remaining giants of the monkey puzzle tree; the terrible storms breaking the backs of majestic trees which have stood sentinel for hundreds of years, or a fire in the 50-acre peat bog on Tullynally; his fear of climate change and disease, or the sturdy young sapling which gave him hope for the future.” [From the Festival Programme]


Thomas Pakenham at his book signing

As expected Mr Pakenham (actually, the current Earl of Longford) gave a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting illustrated talk covering some aspects included in the book but leaving much to be discovered by everyone queueing to have their book signed by the author.

My memories went back to my recent trip to Ireland and our visit to Tullynally Castle Garden and Arboretum.

castle terrace

The terraces were made in the early 1900s to provide grass tennis courts and croquet lawn. But the park beyond the balustrade was created in the late 18th century and replaced the formal canals and basins of the French style. In the distance is conical hill Knock Eyon.

Tullynally Castle

The Victorian Gothic Tullynally Castle

The grotto

The Grotto

Carving in grotto

gothic panelling

The Grotto built of eroded limestone from nearby Lough Derravaragh. The Gothic panelling and carving were made by Antoine Pierson in 2003.

water feature

The Weeping Pillar of eroded limestone a favourite Regency device

yew hedges

The Avenue of 200 year old Irish Yews: the gate is framed by two sphinxes, known locally as “merrymaids” which once adorned a classical entrance gate

new summerhouse

The new summerhouse framed by two Nandi (or sacred Indian bulls)

fossil tree

The Fossil Tree. This is the Dawn Redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides, known only from 60 million year old fossils until 1941 when it was discovered growing in a remote valley in Western China by a young Chinese forester. The seeds were brought to Europe eight years later. This one was planted in 1975.

tibetan garden

The Tibetan Garden made in 1997 as a home for plants collected as seed by Thomas Pakenham on a botanical expedition to Tibet. The hut below was copied from a Tibetan shrine.

tibetan shrine

chinese garden

The Chinese Garden was established since 1994 from seeds brought back by Thomas Pakenham from Yunnan Province in China. The pagoda was built locally and the plants here and on the Forest Walk through and beyond the garden are Chinese acid-loving magnolias, lilies and rhododendrons.

lakeside walk

The Forest Walk by the Lower Lake

QV's summerhouse

Queen Victoria’s Summer House copied from an old photograph of the Summer House at Frogmore, Windsor and built by Antoine Pierson in 1996

viewing mound

We climbed the Viewing Mound at the far end of the Forest Walk and this was the view :

VM view

What a beautiful garden and woodland full of interest including natural and manmade features. I’m so glad that it lay on our route between Co. Cavan and Birr, Co. Offaly.



2 comments on “The Company of Trees : Tullynally Castle Arboretum

  1. Fran says:

    Great synchronicity on your part! Breathtaking gardens and an author of such beautiful books.

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