Events: Ellen Hutchins Festival

Now an annual event

This year’s Ellen Hutchins Festival will take place in Bantry, Glengarriff, and Ballylickey in Heritage Week, 19 to 27 August 2017. The plans are being made, the funding applications are in or being written, and details will be posted here as soon as they are ready. There will be walks with botanists, a botanical art exhibition (with a difference) , a seaweed event, two children’s workshops, a Pop Up Ellen Hutchins Exhibition and much more. Some events will again be hosted by Bantry House on the day when the gardens are open for free.

August 2016’s Ellen Hutchins Festival in and around Bantry was as successful as 2015’s award winning Festival, and the decision was made to make the Festival an annual event. This decision was made with the support of the Bantry Development and Tourism Association.

A summary of the 2016 Festival: Walking in the footsteps of Ellen Hutchins:  20 – 28 August 2016

Hidden winner

Ellen programme 2016

The  2016 Festival started with a seaweed event on Whiddy Island and ended with a woodland walk in Glengarriff with a botanist, and inbetween there was an exhibition and botanical art trail, a talk and panel discussion, two children’s events, a botanical art demonstration, and pop-ups with some of Ellen’s letters, books and an original watercolour drawing of seaweed. There was also a one day botanical art workshop run by Shevaun Doherty, and a two day lichens foray run by Howard Fox & Maria Cullen.

Susan Steele led a delightful seaweed event on Whiddy Island. She took the participants through the practical process of collecting the samples and making their own seaweed specimens (dried plants on paper) and identifying them. This made us all admire Ellen’s skill in producing carefully laid out specimens even more.


At the talk and discussion in the Westlodge Hotel, RTE scriptwriter Sean Moffatt spoke of how ‘he first encountered Ellen on a train in 1997’, when he read a newspaper review of a book, Stars, Shells and Bluebells, containing her story as a female scientist, and how he had followed this by researching Ellen, finding the book of the letters between Ellen and eminent botanist, Dawson Turner, and how Ellen had been a presence for him ever since.

Those who dropped into the botanical art demonstration by Shevaun Doherty in Organico Cafe saw Shevaun making a beautiful watercolour drawing of a French lavender, and sharing her knowledge of techniques and materials.


Padraig Whelan of UCC delighted the group on the walk in Glengarriff Woods with his knowledge of the botany of the place, and wonderful explanations of how species spread, including the key role of birds eating seeds and pooping them! One participant wrote afterwards that, “The experts really do ‘open’ our eyes and make us realise all the wonders that we are walking past. Padraig Whelan’s observations were very interesting and his enthusiasm for his subject was obvious.”

All the Festival’s workshops were fully booked. Most were hosted by Bantry House, in the gardens and stables, where two groups of children enjoyed nature art workshops and the practical botanical art workshop led by Shevaun Doherty was greatly appreciated.

The Lichen Foray at Ballylickey and Ardnagashel, led by botanists Howard Fox and Maria Cullen had many memorable moments, including participants and leaders with their noses up against trees or branches, looking intently through their hand lens at tiny lichens. And one when Maria became totally absorbed and delighted in what was growing on the doorstep. This gave a very real example of how easy it is to overlook the wonders that we walk past or that are on our doorstep!




Date/time Event title  Description
Sunday 21st August 2016


Whiddy Island Seaweed Event

Meet: Bank House, Whiddy Island.


An exploration of the seaweeds on the shores of Whiddy Island with Dr Susan Steele (Sea Fisheries Protection Authority). Susan will lead us in the footsteps of Ellen Hutchins, reimagining the difficulties of collecting, identifying & drawing specimens in the early 1800s.

As the shore is rough, participants must wear walking boots and be reasonably fit.

Note: The ferry leaves Bantry pier at 11am. For all ferry times and prices see:


Weds 24th & Thursday 25th August



both days

A Two-day Introductory Foray into Lichens, Algae, Fungi & Bryophytes

EH_Howard (3)

This two day foray in the Bantry Bay area with Dr Howard Fox & Maria Cullen will revisit the places that Ellen Hutchins held dearest during her short life.

Event Details: Introduction to cryptogamic botany of the grounds of Ballylickey House where Ellen Hutchins made many records in the early 19th century. The focus will move to Ardnagashel East where Ellen spent her last months, and where some of her family still live and will host our group in the woods there.

Booking required: BOOKED OUT

Thursday 25th August 2016


Ellen Hutchins: the story of her life, her botany and her art – An Illustrated Talk and Panel Discussion

West Lodge Hotel, Bantry

Ellen Hutchins letters (medium) (2)

The remarkable achievements of a young woman botanising round Bantry Bay over 200 years ago. The story of what she did, and the value of her contribution to botany then and now. The panel will include Madeline Hutchins (Ellen’s great great grand niece), Sean Moffatt (scriptwriter, RTE and BBC), Shevaun Doherty (botanical artist) and Howard Fox (Botanist, OPW).

The talk at 8pm will be preceded by a pop-up exhibition which will be available for viewing from 19:30

Sat 20th to Sun 28th August 2016 An Exhibition and Botanical Art Trail

Bantry, Ballylickey, Glengarriff


The life and work of Ellen Hutchins will be illustrated by five exhibition panels and 22 prints of her botanical art displayed in various sites in Bantry, Ballylickey & Glengarriff (trail leaflets available in the Tourist Offices in Bantry & Glengarriff, Bantry Library & Mannings Emporium, Ballylickey and from here).
Friday 26th August 2016 10:30-12:30
Children’s Nature Art Event BOOKED OUT

Bantry House Gardens


Outdoor children’s nature art event in the gardens of Bantry House with Jessica Mason. Activities will include creating flower impressions on cloth, making wood cookie flower identification discs and playing nature games. (An indoor space is available in the Stables if the weather is poor.)

Booking required: BOOKED OUT

Friday 26th August 2016


Pop-up Exhibition

Location: The Stables, Bantry House


Items relating to Ellen, which have been passed down through the Hutchins family, will be on display with their special permission. The items include a fascinating selection of letters, books, documents, photographs and other memorabilia. Members of the Hutchins family and botanists involved in the Festival will be on hand to talk about the items and answer questions.

Note: access to the gardens at Bantry House is free on Friday 26th August.

Friday 26th August 2016


Botanical Art Workshop

Bantry House Stables and Gardens


Blechnum gibbum

Shevaun Doherty is an award-winning botanical artist based in Dublin. She will hold a one-day botanical art workshop for aspiring botanical artists and for those who just want to enjoy a day’s sketching, learning about nature and different paint techniques.

Following in the tradition of the intrepid explorers in the field, you will be taken on a short sketching expedition and learn how to sketch plants in their habitat. Back in the studio you will learn how to create a Nature Journal, and how to use studies to develop a full botanical painting. There will be lots of practical advice and encouragement. All levels are welcome. The cost of the workshop is €50 & includes a small field sketching kit.


Sat 27th August 2016


Botanical Art Demonstration

Organico Café, Bantry


Shevaun Doherty will be demonstrating her exquisite art skills live. Also at the venue will be members of the Hutchins family with examples of Ellen’s botanical art dating from the early 1800s.

(This will be upstairs in the cafe.)

Sat 27th August 2016


A Walk in Glengarriff Woods


Glengarriff Woods was a favourite place of Ellen’s and she described the woody side of a little waterfall there as “particularly dear to me”. The enthusiastic Dr Padraig Whelan (UCC), who has spent many years supervising students doing projects in the Nature Reserve, will share some of his knowledge with us.

A Summary of the Ellen Hutchins Festival in August 2015

The Ellen Hutchins Festival in the Bantry area, as part of Heritage Week last year, in August 2015 was a great success, attracting large numbers of people to all the events, and winning the Heritage Council’s Hidden Heritage Award.

The 2015 Ellen Hutchins Festival achieved its target of bringing Ellen’s story back to life on the 200th anniversary of her death, and ensuring that it will not be forgotten. It was very fitting that this first ever celebration of Ellen’s life took place in her home territory of Ballylickey, Bantry, Glengarriff and Whiddy Island.

Ballylickey House as seen on the Ballylickey walk

Ballylickey House as seen on the Ballylickey walk

Two plaques were unveiled that will be lasting memorials to Ellen. The plaque at the site of Ellen’s burial in Garryvurcha Churchyard in Bantry, will ensure that her story is included in the Heritage Trails round Bantry for years to come. The other plaque at her birthplace and home, Ballylickey, on the shores of Bantry Bay, honours the place where she undertook her work on the non flowering plants such as seaweeds and lichens that made a significant contribution to scientific knowledge. The plaque is by the house in which Ellen was born and lived, and the river and seashore that she knew so well and loved so dearly.

Plaque at Ballylickey House

Plaque at Ballylickey House

Unveiling the plaque at the Church

Unveiling the plaque at Garryvurcha Church, Bantry

The exhibition of prints of Ellen’s watercolour drawings of seaweeds in Bantry House was a very special ‘homecoming’ as they had all been drawn by Ellen at Ballylickey from specimens collected from the shores of Bantry Bay and Whiddy Island. This was the first time that her drawings had ever been exhibited in the Republic of Ireland. The evening of the opening with a delightful demonstration of botanical art was much appreciated by those who came to see it.

Ellen's Prints on Display at Bantry House

The opening of the art exhibition of Ellen’s seaweed drawings on display at Bantry House

The Bantry Library exhibition about Ellen Hutchins: the Young Woman, her Work and her World, was able to stay in place for three months, until early November, rather than just a fortnight, and there are plans for one or two of the five panels to be displayed in the Bantry Tourist Office next season.

The exhibition at Bantry Library

The exhibition at Bantry Library

The two illustrated talks were extremely well attended and provided fascinating insights into Ellen the young women, and her study of botany. The pop up exhibition, which featured letters and books of Ellen’s and what might have been her magnifying glass, appeared at Bantry House, Bantry Library, Ballylickey House chalets and Mannings Emporium in Ballylickey.


Seaweed and seaweed drawing by Shevaun Doherty at Bantry House

The walks ‘In the footsteps of Ellen Hutchins’, in areas that she frequented for plant collecting, and with botanists as guides, were an opportunity to experience the places through a specialist’s eyes and learn more about the seaweed, or lichens, mosses and liverworts. The botanists were incredibly knowledgeable, and very skilled at imparting that knowledge to others.


Exploring the Myrtle woods at Ardnagashel

Exploring the seaweeds on the Strand, Ardnagashel

Exploring the seaweeds on the Strand, Ardnagashel

Many of those attending events came to more than one, and there was a developing sense of community during the week, as the same faces reappeared and conversations were continued. It started up a mountain on the first Sunday, where one highlight was seeing the tiny dwarf willow on the summit just where Ellen had discovered it, (found this time when one member of the group stood up from sitting on it during lunch). It ended in Glengarriff Woods on the second Sunday, near a spot by the waterfall that Ellen loved, and with a reading from one of her letters describing it. Inbetween there were memorable visits to Whiddy Island, Ballylickey and Ardnagashel, a wonderful boat trip and a terrific children’s event.

Admiring her handiwork at Glengarriff woods

Admiring her handiwork at Glengarriff woods

In Glengarriff Woods, Jessica Mason, Children's Workshop Leader; Lizzy Maskey, Ellen's great great great grandniece and Mountain Leader; Rosemary Mulvey of the Heritage Council; Madeline Hutchins

In Glengarriff Woods, Jessica Mason, Children’s Workshop Leader; Lizzy Maskey, Ellen’s great great great grandniece and Mountain Leader; Rosemary Mulvey of the Heritage Council; Madeline Hutchins

Sitting on the Dwarf Willow at lunch on Knochboy

Sitting on the Dwarf Willow at lunch on the summit of Knockboy

Enjoying the boat trip around the harbour

Enjoying the boat trip around Banrty Bay

There was talk of ‘having started something’ and a number of people left events calling out ‘See you next year, same time, same place!’

These three blogs provide personal accounts of the Festival or parts of it:

Shevaun Doherty: Botanical Sketches

Roaringwater Journal:  Roaringwater Journal

John Crellin:  Floral Images

The Ellen Hutchins Festival in Heritage Week 2015 was presented by Bantry Historical Society, National Parks and Wildlife Service and members of the Hutchins family.

Funding was provided by The Heritage Council, Cork County Council, Bantry Historical Society and National Parks and Wildlife Service, Bantry Bay Port Company, the Bantry and Ballylickey Development and Tourism Associations, and Bantry Charity Shops; and with support from local organisations.

Many thanks to all those who made the Festival possible, and made it as successful as it was. Both those who presented the events, and those behind the scenes and beforehand putting it all together. Those who hosted the exhibitions, talks and events; those in archives, museums and herbaria who gave permission for images to be used; those who commented on and edited text for the exhibition; those who cleaned picture glass, those who framed, mounted and labelled the pictures; those who gave advice on exhibiting, or designed and laid out the exhibitions; those who sourced images for the talks; those who organised the plaques, fixed the plaques to walls or hung pictures; those who sourced chairs and helped park cars; those who provided and sorted power cables and projectors; those who collected plaques or pictures; those who put up posters or made displays possible; those who slid photos into plastic pockets and trimmed card; those who wrote press releases and did interviews; those who applied for funding, filled in forms, wrote emails, and obtained permissions and licences; those who took the photographs and wrote the blogs. A heartfelt thank you to you all.

So many people came to the talk in the library every chair was used!

So many people came to the talk in the library that every chair was used!

Enjoying the walk and the views on Whiddy

Enjoying the walk and the views on Whiddy

Illustrating sea weed

Shevaun Doherty Illustrating seaweed

Why not climb such a magnificent Myrtle?

Why not pause and admire such a magnificent Myrtle tree?


Madeline Hutchins’ talk on Ellen’s Life and Work at Bantry Library

Donal Synot giving his talk on Ellen Hutchins achievements at the Glengarriff Park Hotel

Donal Synnott giving his talk on Ellen Hutchins’ achievements at the Glengarriff Park Hotel

Rory Talks Roots

“Rory Talks Roots” – Botanist, Dr Rory Hodd on the  Knockboy mountain walk

Glengarriff Woods Waterfall

Waterfall in Glengarriff Woods; a favourite spot of Ellen’s

Ouvane River from Ballylickey House where Ellen lived

Ouvane River from Ballylickey House garden where Ellen lived

The Ellen Hutchins Festival Organisers 2015; Madeline Hutchins, great great grandniece and researcher on Ellen; Clare Heardman, National Parks and Wildlife Service; Angela O'Donovan, Bantry Historical Society

The Ellen Hutchins Festival Organisers 2015; Madeline Hutchins, great great grandniece and researcher on Ellen; Clare Heardman, National Parks and Wildlife Service; Angela O’Donovan, Bantry Historical Society.


Programme of events last August – National Heritage Week 2015

Celebrating Ellen Hutchins: a festival to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the death of Ireland’s first female botanist, which took place in West Cork, August 2015. The festival ‘followed in the footsteps’ of Ellen, visiting her favourite plant hunting grounds such as Whiddy Island and Glengarriff Woods. There were also talks, an exhibition about Ellen’s life & work, visits to her birthplace, home and burial site, and an exhibition of her artwork.  

The 2015 festival was a great success, and won the Heritage Council’s Hidden Heritage Award. A second Ellen Hutchins Festival is being run in August 2016.


Date/time 2015 Event title (archive of 2015 events) Location/meeting point
Sun 23rd August  10:30-15:00 Knockboy (Cnoc Bui) botanical mountain walk (Dr Rory Hodd with Lizzy Maskey and Charlie McCarthy – booking was required.

archive listing of 2015 event

Manning’s Emporium, Ballylickey.  Take away lunch available from here. Knockboy
Monday 24th August 14:00-16:00 Nature walk and willow weaving for children (Jessica Mason) booking was required

archive listing of 2015 event


Main car-park, Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve.Children Glengarriff
Thursday 27th August 18:45-19:15 Unveiling of plaque to commemorate Ellen Hutchins as a Natural History pioneer

archive listing of 2015 event

Garryvurcha Graveyard, Bantry Garryvurcha
Thursday 27th August 20:00-22:00 An illustrated talk about Ellen Hutchins’ life and story (Madeline Hutchins) 

archive listing of 2015 event

Bantry Library Bantry 052
Thurs 20th Aug – Sat 12th Sept  9:30 – 17:30 An exhibition about Ellens life and work

archive listing of 2015 event

Bantry Library (closed Sun & Mon) Ellen Hutchins letters (medium) (2)
Friday 28th August 11:00-12:30 Ellen’s birthplace and home – a walk around Ballylickey (Madeline Hutchins & Eliane Zimmerman) followed by a pop up exhibition

archive listing of 2015 event

Ballylickey – meet at Ouvane Falls. Pop-up exhibition: Mannings Emporium Ballylickey House
Friday 28th August 14:00-17:00 Ardnagashel and the Hutchins Arboretum (Bill Hutchins and Eliane Zimmerman) 

archive listing of 2015 event

Rent an Irish Cottage, Ardnagashel , parking by the stable block.Ardnagashel
Friday 28th August 20:00-22:00 An illustrated talk about Ellen’s botanical achievements (Dr Donal Synnott)

archive lisitng of 2015 event

Park Hotel, Glengarriff Nat-Hist-mus-009
Sat 29th August  11:30-13:00 Boat trip to Whiddy Island via Ardnagshel – booking was required 

archive listing of 2015 event

Bantry Pier Whiddy ferry
Sat 29th August  14:30-16:30 A botanical walk on Whiddy Island (Dr Micheline Sheehy- Skeffington 

archive listing of 2015 event

Bank House, Whiddy. Whiddy Island
Thurs 20th August – Sat 5th Sept         10:00-17:00 daily Exhibition of Ellen’s botanical art

archive listing of 2015 event

Bantry House (Upper Landing) Ellen_seaweed_Twitter
Sat 29th August  18:00-20:00 Official opening of art exhibition and botanical art demonstration by Shevaun Doherty

archive listing of 2015 event

Bantry House (Upper Landing) Shevaun-Doherty-Gold-Medal-2014-crop (2)
Sunday 30th August  11:00-13:00 Seashore walk at Ardnagashel: seaweeds and lichen (Dr Howard Fox and Maria Cullen) 

archive listing of 2015 event

Rent an Irish Cottage, Ardnagashel , parking by the stable blockArdnagasehl shore
Sunday 30th August 15:00-17:00 Woodland walk in Glengarriff Nature Reserve: flora ‘then and now’ (Dr Fionnula O’Neill)

archive listing of 2015 event

Main car-park, Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve Glengarriff waterfall