Now a nature reserve, Coole Park was the country estate of Irish writer and folklorist Lady Augusta Gregory, who also co-founded the famous Abbey Theatre in Dublin. Lady Gregory, being an important figure of the early 20th century Irish Literary Revival, created at her home in Galway an idyllic getaway, where she and her friends could escape and find inspiration amid nature.
Coole Park became a hub for Irish literature and art, with many famous writers taking various trips to the park. During their stay, they would carve their names into the huge beech tree that stands to this day inside the walled garden. While the natural growth of the tree has warped some of the names over the years, fans of Irish literature will still be able to make out the marks of iconic figures such as George Bernard Shaw, W.B. Yeats, Douglas Hyde, Sean O’Casey, and J.M. Synge. For the signatures that have faded over the years, the park has provided a handy chart to show visitors what famous signature they’re viewing. The estate has also been mentioned in many literary works, such as The Wild Swans at Coole and Coole Park by W.B. Yeats.
The grand house that belonged to the Gregory family no longer stands, but there’s no denying the sense of magic and history that engulfs this park. After being acquired by the state, the grounds were turned into a public park and nature reserve. Various paths around the park are lined with both native and non-native trees. The park also contains several geographical features such as a remarkable example of a turlough; a type of lake with underground pathways and fluctuating water levels.
Coole Park is open year-round with free admission. There is a visitor center housed in a set of 18th century stables which is open from April to September. The center also contains a tea room, gift shop, as well as a fascinating exhibition on both the geography and history of the grounds.
Know Before You Go
While in the area, be sure to check out W.B. Yeats's former summer home "Thoor Ballylee" (less than 10 minutes by car) to continue exploring the Irish Literary Revival. There is also a decent sized car park next to the grounds.