Ireland is known to many as a place for fun, with its pubs, songs and dancing, and, of course, they're right.
But Ireland can also be a place of tranquility and quiet beauty, and a visit to Brigit's Garden, just outside of Galway City, will show the serenity that is also a part of the Irish experience.
Brigit's Garden is a perfect stop for those who are venturing out to explore the fabled hills of Connemara on Ireland's West Coast.
Located in the village of Roscahill, County Galway, about a 20-minute drive north of Galway City, the 11 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens are not only visually stunning, they also provide insight into the history and development of Ireland's Celtic heritage.
Designed by Mary Reynolds, winner of the gold medal at the 2002 Chelsea Flower Show in London, the gardens provide a journey through the four cycles of the ancient Celtic year.
The first is the Winter Garden, reflecting the Celtic feast of Samhain, which corresponds to our present-day Halloween. This was the beginning of the yearly cycle for the ancient Irish, a time of death but also the promise of rebirth.
A mound of earth in the shape of a sleeping woman wraps around a womb-like pool. It is a place of stillness, for reflection about new beginnings.
In the next cycle, the Imbolc, or Spring Garden, celebrates the stirrings of spring on St. Brigit's Day, which also corresponds to an ancient Celtic festival that celebrated the season of new life.
The garden's pathway leads through a meadow and orchard to a children's garden with huge suspended baskets that you can swing in. A stone carving in the ground symbolizes both the Irish St. Brigit and a mythical Celtic goddess who similarly was the patroness of poetry, metal working and midwifery.
The Summer Garden celebrates the ancient fire festival of Bealtaine, which corresponds to May Day and the coming of warm weather.
This was the time of love, marriage and the adventures of youth. The garden of wildflowers tells the story of mythical lovers Diarmuid and Grainne, represented by a sculpture of flame figures. It leads through a stone columned walkway to an ancient Celtic throne on which visitors are invited to sit, master of all before them.
The Autumn Garden reflects the festival of Lughnasa in August, start of the cycle marking the harvest and the transition from summer to fall.
Two interlinked circles are surrounded by huge standing stones, similar to England's Stonehenge, providing spaces for dancing and leading to a table for the harvest feast. This garden has an abundance of vegetable plants, celebrating all that has come to fruition in the year.
Though the four gardens carry the main theme of the site, there are additional attractions that will interest visitors as well. These include a huge calendar sundial, carved on the ground, which tells with great accuracy the date as well as the time.
Visitors who have the time will also want to take the half-mile Nature Trail walk through the site's meadows and woodlands. You can see a ring fort that housed an ancient forge, a roundhouse meditation hut with a circular thatched roof and a children's discovery trail and play area.
You can also learn the symbolism of the ancient Gaelic alphabet, carved on the Ogham trees.
For more information, visit www.galwaygarden.com, or the West of Ireland Web site, www.irelandwest.ie. You can also reach Tourism Ireland at 1-800-223-6470.