We are so lucky to have this on our doorstep in Co Wicklow, and we were delighted when it reopened a few months ago under new ownership after being closed for a few months. We have been going here for a long time and it’s another one of those little hidden gem’s in Co Wicklow that not a lot of people know about. This is part of a mini series call ‘Free Places to Visit with Kids’ that we will be continuing as the weeks go on.
The National Garden Exhibition Centre is located in a gorgeous little spot called Kilquade (we got married in the cute little church across the road) just off the N11 on the outskirts of Dublin/Wicklow. The well know ‘Arboretum’ name has now taken over and revamped the entire place and opened up a beautiful new café called ‘Rachel’s Secret Garden’.
There is lots of parking outside and it’s free to enter. From the outside you may think this is just another garden centre but there is loads to do and explore once inside and it’s a great large area for the kids to run around.
We always go straight to the playground which is up the back of the garden centre. It’s only a small play area but the kids love these bright tree houses with slides and many an afternoon has been spent chilling out here with a takeaway coffee from the café.
It is a massive garden centre with a huge selection of plants, trees, pots etc.. the staff are particularly helpful and knowledgeable about gardening and plants and they often run workshops and garden tours for larger groups.
Rachel’s Secret Garden Café is the new café/restaurant. So far we have only had coffees and cakes and were very impressed but we will be back soon to try out the rest of the menu. There used to be a fantastic restaurant here that served the most delicious giant sandwiches so I do miss these but I look forward to trying out the new menu soon.
Now here’s the best part. At the back of the café you enter into the gardens.
They used to charge to enter the garden’s but now they are completely free.
There are about 20 gardens inside designed by some of Irelands best gardeners and landscapers.
Lots of great ideas for anyone planning on doing a spot of gardening but also a fantastic place for the kids to run around and explore. There are a lot of water features, ponds etc.. so do look after the little ones.
Overall one of my favourite local spots to spend an afternoon and the best part is it’s free!!