John F Kennedy Memorial Park & Arboretum

A celebration of Trees. A source of knowledge.

The John F Kennedy Arboretum was opened in 1968 by President De Valera and is dedicated to the memory of John F Kennedy, 35th Presidency of the United States of America.

The Park covers a massive 252 hectares (384 Acres) on the summit and southern slopes of Slieve Coillte and contains over 5,000 varieties of trees and shrubs from all temperate regions of the world. There are 200 forest plots grouped by continent. Of special note is an ericaceous garden with 500 different rhododendrons and many varieties of azalea and heather, dwarf conifers and climbing plants.

From the viewing point, 271 Meters above sea level on the peak of Slieve Coilte, you will get panoramic views the area around the park deep into the county and as far as the coastline and Hook Peninsula.

My visit in May 2024

Had a wonderful day in JFK Arboretum this week. The weather was ok, not too sunny but I hadn’t been to the Park for about 15 years. Walked into the park directly from the car park, heading past the Café and children’s playground heading towards the Lake at the far end of the park. It’s still April and the large flowering trees like the Magnolia had gone over, but the red and yellow colours of the Maple leaves were standing out in the sunshine. I was walking down Maple Walk towards the Native woodland. Meadow on my left and the long open views to my right. The large variety of trees lining these areas were like a jigsaw of colours in the sunlight.

Once I got to the Native Woodland area, the trees got thicker and the sunlight was being somewhat blocked out. A very different space. Then I heard a Woodpecker. Couldn’t see this guy but the rapid, rhythmic drumming sound was distinctive echoing through the woodland. So soothing. There are squirrels in the wood as well but they are so elusive.

“Western Red Cedar” John F Kennedy Arboretum.

Leaving the Native woodland came into the “Western Cedar Collection”. The ground under these trees was bare while the Cedars towered high into the sky. Crossing a small stream, I came on some Rhododendron trees, some flowers still there, and arrived at the lake. A couple Mallard Duck flittering around but giving me a wide berth. The rustic benches around the lake give you a chance not only to sit and catch up, but to take in this beautiful space, surrounded by trees, the far bank with the large leafed Brazilian Giant Rhubarb, the calm water coloured by the cloud reflections setting the ambiance to just sit and stare and listen to the bird calls.

Met a lady with her dog pushing her young baby in the pram. We chatted for ages. She lived nearby and comes down to the Park regularly for a walk. There is a main 3.5km circular walk which is tarmacked and large enough for a vehicle. This goes right around the Park. Smaller gravelled paths then crisscross the Park inside this circular road. All wheelchair accessible.

From the lake, I headed towards the car park and Visitor Center. On route I passed the large Magnolia Tree area, the Irish Oaks, the Willows, Pine, Spruce, Silver Fur, Eucalyptus and Lime Collections. Just to mention a few, some exotic trees such as Dawn Red Wood, Korean Fir, Serbian /Spruce, Japanese Evergreen Oak, Monterey Pine, trees from distant lands. So very impressive.

Japanese Fir

The park runs guided tours daily.

A good guide is an invaluable source of information for both the novice and experienced as well as family groups. The guides are informative and you will come away with from your visit with a whole new understanding of trees and their contribution to life on earth, while enjoying a unique space of peace and tranquility and a real connection to nature. The park will become a “must do that again” project. This is suited to all the family and your pets.

Overall, the John F. Kennedy Arboretum is not only a beautiful natural landscape but also a meaningful tribute to one of the most iconic figures in modern history. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or simply looking for a peaceful retreat, a visit to this renowned arboretum is sure to be a memorable experience.

Please leave a comment with your own experience and thoughts that you may have had on a visit to the Arboretum.

Contact and relevant details info

Opening times:
May to August             10.00 to 20.00
April and September  10.00 to 18.30
October to March        10.00 to 17.00
Daily guided walks available 12noon and 3pm

Ballysop, New Ross, County Wexford, Ireland.
Telephone: 051 388171