On the way from Kilmokea Country Manor & Gardens to our night’s lodging at Killiane Castle, we had a semi-planned stop along the way. I’ve had a lifelong love affair with hedge mazes after visiting the Formal Gardens at Georgian Court College in New Jersey as a child, so when I learned about the massive one at Dunbrody Abbey, I knew we had to see it during out visit to Ireland’s Ancient East.
The maze at Dunbrody is composed of 1,500 yew trees. In Irish lore, the yew tree is a symbol of death and resurrection, and throughout our trip around the Emerald Isle, we saw many breathtaking iterations of the yew tree in landscaping. The maze at Dunbrody was one of the best, second only to the majestic, ancient yew tree in the ruins of Muckross Abbey in Killarney National Park.
To access the maze, you park in a nondescript lot and head through the cottage gift shop, where you purchase the 3 euro admission to the maze and head through a one-way door out of the cottage and onto the grounds. On the way, you’ll see a bit of Dunbrody Castle, which is less a “castle” and more the remnants of a fortified house. The character of the yew trees and the twists and turns of the maze make you feel like you’re truly inside of something fantastic — it took us about half an hour to navigate from the entrance to the center, where can climb to a lookout point that gives you this gorgeous view of Dunbrody Abbey across the road.
After solving the maze, we doubled back and explored a few other pathways through the yew trees. Then, we headed across to Dunbrody Abbey.
Because it was nearly sunset, we had the entire ruins to ourselves. We highly recommend visiting just before the site closes, when the dusky sky lends a particular air of magnificence to the space.
Dunbrody Abbey was completed in 1220, and you can really feel a sense of the ancient as you wind your way around and through the ruins. This isn’t the kind of place where you want your nose buried in a guidebook — the best way to explore Dunbrody is to wander, take your time, lie in the grass of its immense lawns, and try to imagine what life in the abbey might have been like in the 13th century.
Combining Kilmokea Gardens and Dunbrody Abbey makes for an excellent day in Wexford. Plan to spend around 3 hours at Kilmokea and anywhere from 1-2 hours at Dunbrody, depending on your speed.
Castles & Lattes Rating: 🏰🏰🏰🏰