Ilnacullin, or sometimes Illaunacullin (derives from Oileán an Chulinn in Irish meaning 'island of holly') known locally as Garnish Island (properly Garinish Island or Garinis in Irish), is a very tranquil yet popular tourist attraction in Ireland, located in the small harbour of Glengarriff, Beara Peninsula County Cork which forms part of Bantry Bay. Ilnacullin is the name used by the National Parks and Monuments Service to differentiate it from Garinish Island in Co Kerry.
Ilnacullin is renowned for its gardens, which are visited by thousands of people each year from all over the world and have been the subject of gardening programmes on television.
The garden was designed by Harold Peto, (1854–1933), for its owner Annan Bryce, (1874–1924), a native of Belfast, who, with his wife Violet, purchased the island from the War Office in 1910. Violet died in 1939 and their son Roland bequeathed the island to the Irish nation in 1953. It was taken over and is still maintained by the Office of Public Works. Renowned for its beautiful gardens and architecture (a mansion was designed by Peto but was never built), the island has played host to well-known writers such as GB Shaw and Æ.
There is a Martello tower on the island dating from the time of the Napoleonic Wars. The Ilnacullin tower, like others in Cork, but unlike other Irish Martello towers, has a straight cylindrical shape that does not splay out at its base. The tower has been restored and is well worth a trip up to the battlements to see the views.
The island of Ilnacullin extends to 15 hectares and is renowned for its gardens which flourish in the mild humid micro-climate of Glengarriff harbour assisted by a mainly pine shelter belt. Structures include a clock tower, Grecian Temple, Martello Tower, and an Italian Temple. Although noted for the "Italian" gardens, there is a strong Japanese influence running throughout the design. This is particularly evident at the Grecian Temple which frames the Sugarloaf mountain (in the Caha Mountains) in a manner which is highly suggestive of Mount Fuji in Japan. The Italian Tea House or "Casita" seems close in style to a Japanese tea house while potted dwarf trees resemble bonsai. The planting of South American and Oriental trees and shrubs is a delight - such as the fine example of Chilean myrtle which can be seen in the glade known as "Happy Valley".
Access is by one of several ferry services to the Island from the town of Glengarriff. These ferries take you to the island and generally include a tour of the nearby seal colony. The cost of the ferry trip does not include the admission charge to the island. The scenery is spectacular as you get a panoramic view of Glengarriff, the Beara Peninsula and Sheep's Head while enjoying the amazingingly calm seas in the sheltered harbour.
- R. Whalley, The Great Edwardian Gardens of Harold Peto (2007)
- Ilnacullin (1989. - National Parks and Monument Service) ISBN 0-7076-0034-0
- M. George & P. Bowe, The Gardens of Ireland (1986. Hutchinson) ISBN 0-09-167100-0
- Ferry to Garinish Island from Main Pier
- Ferry to Garinish Island
- Garinish Island 'The Madeira of Ireland'
- Heritage Ireland official website