The heritage town of Gort can be found in south County Galway, about 37km south of Galway city on the N18. Just outside the town of Gort, is where you’ll find the beautiful Coole Park, formerly the estate of Lady Gregory but now a 1,000 acre nature reserve.
Coole Park estate was once the home of Lady Augusta Gregory who was pivotal to the Irish literary revival and was co-founder of the Abbey Theatre. Coole House was a focal point for many meetings about Irish literature which were attended by George Bernard Shaw, J.M. Synge, Sean O Casey and William Butler Yeats. Coole Park was often referred to in stories and poems eg. W.B Yeats was so inspired by the beauty and tranquillity here that he wrote a poem called “The Wild Swans at Coole”.
In 1927 the house and estate were sold to the state and the house was demolished, but today, visitors can still see the beauty of the estate, the woods, the lakes, the nature trails, the walled garden and lots more. Make sure you take a close look at the large Copper Beech tree in the walled garden, also known as the ‘Autograph Tree’ as it bears the initial of Yeats, Shaw, Synge, Douglas Hyde and of course, Lady Gregory’s initials. Although the initials have become faint over the years, you should still be able to see the etchings with the help of the forest guide book.
The most unique features of Coole Park are the turloughs (seasonal lakes or also called disappearing lakes) which are said to be the best examples of turloughs in the world. The park is situated on a low lying karst area of land and due to this the park has been designated a Special Area of Conservation.
As you stroll around Coole Park you’ll see different types of animals and mammals in their natural environments. Coole Park is also an important sanctuary for birds especially winter waterfowl.
At Coole Park you’ll also find a very informative and educational Visitor’s Centre, which is well worth a visit. Here you can see audio-visual presentations about Lady Gregory herself and you’ll also see some exhibitions telling the story and history of Coole Park.
The park is open all year round and there is free admission to the grounds, so it’s a great day out for the family. There’s also a restaurant on site if you want to enjoy a wide selection of traditional Irish dishes.
For opening times check out the official Coole Park website.