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Gardens Galore: Finding A Good Season Ticket

kilruddery

While optimistically looking forward to spring, I decided to investigate the options available for buying garden season tickets within easy reach of Dublin. I began with my old favourite venue Airfield garden and farm. I’ve always meant to purchase a garden membership at least once in the fond hope that it would encourage plenty of days out during the summer. I just never actually got around to doing anything about it. Having visited Airfield after its revamp has inspired me to look into the best value on offer.

I have compiled a basic consumer survey of the costs and benefits of membership at a few gardens. It’s harder to compare the value of offers than you might think. This is largely due to the fact than different places have differing notions of when children become adults and indeed at what age children become payable. Varying yearly openings also have a bearing; for instance, Kilruddery gardens are only fully open from May to September, weekends in April and October and closed during the winter. By contrast, Powerscourt, Malahide and Airfield are open all year, which arguably gives consumers better value on a membership deal, especially if you live locally.

My starting point was Airfield as this is my nearest garden and the place out of which (in theory) I would get the most use. The yearly rate for a family of two adults and two children or one adult, three children is €150 (under threes are free) and this entitles the named members to free entry at any time, excluding paid workshops. Larger families could pay up to €210. This all seemed rather expensive so I thought I would look around to see how Airfield compares with other places. I know that part of the reason for subscribing to a membership is to support the institution but you do need to feel that you are getting good value. I was surprised to find that the cost of Airfield’s membership doesn’t compare favourably with other notable places. The card does give you the option of nominating an extra adult, which could come in handy, though not so much if you have to choose which granny to add. Here’s a quick run-down of what’s on offer at three more gardens.

Venturing down to Bray, the gardens at Kilruddery House are well worth a visit. If you want to buy a membership, it will cost €70 and that covers any four adults (children under twelve are free) and allows 10% off many events. Even if you bear in mind that the place closes over the winter (and the cost does not cover house tours) this seems rather good value. The gardens are very child friendly, there’s a good tearoom in a picturesque old dairy and the flexibility of the terms means you can bring guests. In the opposite direction, Malahide Castle and Gardens also offer an incentive to bring visiting garden lovers along with you, offering 20% discount on guest admissions. This isn’t as good as Kilruddery and membership is for named users only but is still an added incentive. Malahide’s family membership (two adults and up to six children, with under fives free) is an excellent €75 which also includes access to the castle and the new discovery area. A discount of 10% in the gift shop and 20% discount on three more properties run by Fingal Heritage complete the package. And of course you get the rest of the Malahide Demesne for free.

My final inquiry was into the fabulous Powerscourt House and Gardens, which offers a family membership of €160 for two adults and four children. This gives entrance to the gardens, waterfall, and exclusive access to 3km of riverside walks, which despite the price is a good offer. You do get a lot of walking for your money and the gardens are splendid; great value if you could get plenty of use out of the card. Powerscourt is also open throughout the year. Children are free at aged two and under at the waterfall, but at under aged five for the gardens, which is confusing. Powerscourt management are not generous enough to offer discount to guests and cards are for the use of named members only. However, members are entitled to 10% off purchases in the garden centre..

After all of my shopping around I still have to decide which garden I will choose; if I was a rich woman I’d have all of them, but alas choices have to be made. Now all I need is a guaranteed good summer to make my purchase worthwhile…

Image courtesy of Kilruddery.com

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