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Johnstown Castle in County Wexford, Ireland is a hidden gem that most Irish people don’t even know about. It’s the home of the Irish Agricultural Museum, gorgeous castle gardens, and a group of peacocks (which is called a muster, if you were wondering).
Getting to Johnstown Castle from Wexford Town is incredibly easy. It’s only a 15-minute drive so if you don’t want your schedule to be dictated by a bus a taxi is a cheap option. Be sure to ask your driver for a business card so you can call them when you’re ready to leave. Chances are they will be delighted to do this for you.
There are also two local bus routes from Wexford Town that can get you to the castle, but they aren’t very frequent and if you miss one you’ll be waiting a while for the next.
Paying to Enter
As soon as you pass through the gates off the road you’ll see a small hut where you pay your entrance fee. As of writing this the fee for the gardens is €3 per person or for €8 you can visit the gardens and the museum. The museum is wheelchair accessible. The gardens open at 9 and I would highly recommend you get there as early as possible, especially if you want to do any photography as locals enjoy visiting with their kids.
If you’re coming in through the main entrance, which most people would be the first thing you’ll see after parking is the front of Johnstown Castle. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to go inside the castle but you can walk all around the outside. The castle is an amazing example of 19th-century architecture. Don’t get too hung up on seeing it up close though, it is best seen from a distance.
Where Johnstown Castle really shines is the surrounding ornamental and walled gardens. They were designed by Daniel Robertson, who is most famous for his work on the Powerscourt Estate’s gardens. There are a number of different ways to see the gardens with a variety of paths that wind around the lakes and past the ruins of old towers. If you’re there in Spring there’s a beautiful walled garden that will be in full bloom. I went in May and it was gorgeous. The tower that sits right next to the lake is the perfect spot to get some photos of the castle.
The muster of peacocks are free to roam the grounds and you never know when you might run into them. We saw one on the opposite side of the lake to the museum, but most of them were at the museum and tea room building. The reason for this is that you can buy a package of seeds to feed the peacocks at the tea room. Most of the muster is made up of peahens, the females and it is the males who have the impressive displays. But they’re still beautiful and a lot of fun to feed. They don’t seem to be too afraid of people and once you’ve been there for a while they might actually try to eat out of your hand!
If you’re interested in the agricultural history of Ireland then this is the place for you. Because I was only in Wexford on a day trip I skipped the museum. We did get drinks and a small treat in the tea room when we were finished walking around the gardens. Which brings me to what may be the most important tip I can give anyone visiting Johnstown Castle…bring water. The only place to get a drink there is in the tea room and you’re going to be doing a lot of walking around. So, be sure you bring something to drink with you. There aren’t any trashcans though, so please carry your trash with you and don’t just leave it somewhere.
Wheelchairs at Johnstown Castle
Not all of the gardens at Johnstown Castle are wheelchair friendly or accessible at all. There is a section of loose gravel path and not all of the paved paths are very well maintained. Stairs are also an issue in some places. But, with patience, you can still have a wonderful time exploring the gardens. As I said previously, the tea room and museum are wheelchair friendly. There are no wheelchair accessible toilets though.
There’s so much to do at Johnstown Castle that you could easily end up spending the whole day there. Sadly the hours aren’t fantastic for photography. You won’t be able to get sunrise or sunset. Though it is open 7 days a week from 9-4:30 or 5 in the summer.
There aren’t any hotels in the area immediately but, just a 25-minute walk from the castle is Rathaspeck Manor Country Home B&B. It’s a 5-star B&B in a 300-year-old Georgian style home with its own golf course.
If this interests you then you might also enjoy Glendalough, the ruins of an ancient monastic site set in a gorgeous valley.