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100 acres of arboretum with at its heart a 12-acre walled garden called The Annesley Gardens. One of the finest collections of trees in Ireland, including 42 Champion trees and 20 of the oldest specimen trees in British Isles. In the Forest Park is the Peace Maze, the worlds longest and largest permanent Hedge Maze.
Mountains of Mourne 4 miles away
The National Arboretum extends to 100 acres in the Castlewellan Forest Park where a mile long lake and the Mountains of Mourne provide a spectacular backdrop. The core of the collection is still in the original 12 acre walled garden with its formal layout of intersecting paths and two fountains providing focal points. The planting is in the gardenesque style and beautiful tree specimens of a wide diversity of species and age draw enthusiasts from all over the world.
Apart from the trees there are bulbs, herbaceous borders, including topiary 'bottles' of Irish Yew, and one of the largest displays of Tropaeolum in horticulture.
In the 1850s the area next to the 18th century kitchen garden was transformed in to a pleasure ground for the Annesley family. It included terracing, flights of steps and pools with dolphins supporting water basins. A good deal of exotic planting was involved with the planting of 10 wellingtonias, monkey puzzle trees and some rhododendrons. In the next decade the 4th Earl Annesley enlarged the area and built vineries and conservatories. When his brother Hugh succeeded in 1874 however, the pleasure ground was made into an arboretum of international importance. With the help of his gardener, Thomas Ryan, the 5th Earl planted over 3,000 different species of choice tree and shrub specimens from across the globe were planted in the arboretum in the years 1874 to his death in 1908.
After the death of the sixth earl in an accident, his sister Mabel took on the property and managed to maintain it, in spite of the loss of the supporting estate through the land acts. Her son Gerald Sowerby, who assumed the name Annesley, inherited it in 1940 and taking a great interest in the arboretum, began to build up the collections again.
In 1967 the Forestry Service of the Department of Agriculture purchased the estate from Gerald Annesley and opened it to the public in 1969. Since then it has been enormously extended to cover more than 100 acres. The castle has been let out to a Christian sect.