The Sensory Trail is the work of one student’s summer internship project at Trinity Botanic Garden to create a guide to some of the Garden’s sensory elements for the benefit and well-being of students and staff. The trail currently has 18 ‘stops’: locations, plants and aspects at which to pause, observe and tune in to the different sensory elements of each. The locations of the 18 Sensory Trail stops are set out below on an interactive map and each has a descriptive text and audio guide. Visitors are invited to explore as many or few of the stops as they wish and in any order.

The stops along the Sensory Trail cover all seasons, but some are only possible at particular times of the year. It may take a few visits to get to all of them, and because each season brings different sensory experiences we encourage regular visits to benefit from the fullest range of experiences. We will continue to add more stops to the Sensory Trail month by month, so please do check in from time to time to see what is new.

As most of the Garden’s spaces are outside, it is advisable to dress for the weather; however, the heated Stove House and Cycad House offer cosy respite when it is cold or wet outside.

Inclusive Trinity

In 2023 Trinity College Botanic Garden (TCBG) collaborated with Trinity disAbility Service (DS) on a student project to have the Garden included in its new map of campus: the TCD Sense Map. The map is a core element of a major initiative by DS, TCD Sense – The Trinity Sensory Processing Project, to make Trinity more inclusive by developing “different sensory environments, supports and resources to meet the needs of all students and staff within Trinity”. It is an interactive and empowering tool providing information about the sensory environments of different areas of the college campus, as well as tips on physical access, availability of power points, seating, and more.

Partnership and possibility

‘The Sensory Trail’ is the result of the collaboration between TCBG and DS. The partnership enabled an additional student internship position at Trinity Botanic Garden to create a separate sensory map of the Garden, to enhance students’ experience and enjoyment. Funded by DS and supervised by TCBG, Heather McLean who graduated from Botany at Trinity in 2023 was awarded the internship. While providing horticultural support for TCBG staff, Heather immersed herself in all aspects of the Garden. Identifying as neurodivergent herself, Heather wanted to share her experiences and to map areas, plants and aspects of the Garden which offer a variety of – sometimes novel – sensory experiences to stimulate or calm the senses. With additional assistance from the talented team at disAbility Services the Sensory Trail has been developed into a simple app with an audio-visual user-guide to the unique sensory elements of each stop.

Trinity College Botanic Garden is located behind Trinity Hall student residences in Dartry and is now included in the TCD Sense Map. As well as a teaching and research facility, the Garden provides a unique off-campus resource of quiet, reflective space for students and staff to escape the busyness of campus life.

We hope everyone will enjoy the many sensory experiences offered in Trinity’s private garden space.

The Sensory Trail

General information for the Sensory Trail.

The Gardens are available to visit all year round, except during the Christmas holiday period – opening hours are listed below. Occasionally members of the public are invited in for events, and details of these can be found on the Calendar of Events page on the Trinity College Botanic Garden website.

Getting to the Gardens is easy with a leap card. The 140 bus runs every ten minutes from outside Trinity via Rathmines to Dartry. Stay on the bus until the very last stop and the Gardens are a three-minute walk away. Alternatively, take the LUAS Green Line to Cowper and the Gardens are a 10-minute walk from there.

Catering facilities are not available at the Gardens so bring your refreshments, but please take all of your rubbish with you when you leave.

The Walled Garden and glasshouses are open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 4 pm and accessible via the main front gate on Palmerston Park, or via the rear of Trinity Hall. The West and South Arboretums are accessible 24/7 (access is via Trinity Hall entrance only); however, please note that any planned activities in the arboretums must be notified in advance to Dr Steve Waldren, Curator, at

PLEASE NOTE that most of the surfaces at Trinity College Botanic Garden are a mixture of gravel, and grass, and may be more difficult to traverse for visitors with limited mobility. We are currently working to make the gardens and glasshouses easily accessible to everyone.

Sensory Classification: Quiet Space. The Botanic Garden is a quiet and peaceful space for the college community to enjoy nature and an incredible collection of plants. During term time some areas may be slightly busy when the Gardens are being used for teaching, but the majority of the time they are quiet and peaceful. Visitors are welcome to walk the grounds, explore the glasshouses, or rest, read and relax with nature. Detailed sensory information is included in the Sensory Trail of the Gardens.

There are no charging points available at Trinity College Botanic Garden.

Five outdoor benches seating 20 people in total. Two tree stump seats in walled garden. One tree stump seat inside each of the main glasshouses.

  • Monday: 9am - 4pm
  • Tuesday: 9am - 4pm
  • Wednesday: 9am - 4pm
  • Thursday: 9am - 4pm
  • Friday: 9am - 3pm
  • Saturday: Closed
  • Sunday: Closed

This map shows the Sensory Trail Stops for Trinity College Botanic Garden.

Hover over the Map Markers to get a description of each the Sensory Stops (numbered 1 to 18), and the other Map Markers on the map


The Sensory Stops

The stops along the Sensory Trail cover all seasons, but some are only possible at particular times of the year. However, each season brings different sensory experiences and enjoyment and we encourage regular visits to benefit from the fullest range of experiences. We will be adding more stops to the Sensory Trail month by month, so please do check in from time to time to see what is new.

Sensory Stop 1 – Lavender

Listen to the audio description

As you walk through the front gate, on your left you will find a raised rockery and a large lavender shrub. Lavender smells strongest when flowering in spring and summer, but its evergreen leaves can be enjoyed in autumn and winter too. Are there any fresh or old flowers on the lavender plant when you visit? Research has found that the scent of lavender can have a calming effect on humans, and other animals, reducing anxiety and stress. How are you feeling today? Crush a few leaves or a flower between your fingers and gently inhale the aromatic scent that is released. Do you feel any different after smelling the lavender for a moment or two? If you like it, break off a few leaves, or a flower, and carry them around with you while you explore the rest of the Gardens.

Sensory Stop 2 – Bees

Listen to the audio description

In a small hut in the corner of the Walled Garden are two beehives. You can peep in the window and watch the honeybees crawling in and out of their hives and listen to the faint buzzing. Honeybees are busy pollinators for the Gardens, and the reason some of its trees are full of fruit every autumn. Note how you feel when you watch bees. Some find watching their activity to be hypnotic and calming, while others may feel uncomfortable and nervous. How does watching and listening to the bees affect you? If you enjoy them and you are visiting in summer months, look around for clumps of a tall plant with fluffy, pale yellow flowers by the entrance to the Arboretum: this is the common meadow rue and it should be teeming with white-tailed bumble bees. Take a moment to watch the bees flit from flower to flower, listen to their gentle buzzing, and appreciate the many benefits we derive from them.


Sensory Stop 3 – Ancient Plants

Listen to the audio description

The Cycad House is filled with plants known as ‘living fossils’, because they evolved more than 250 million years ago! How does it feel to stand among plants that were a popular food with vegetarian dinosaurs?! These ancient cycads look like palms or ferns but reproduce via cones on male and female plants. Some male cycads use one scent to attract pollinators to their cones, then redirect them with a repellent scent to a female plant! What does the atmosphere here smell like to you? Mature cycad leaves have many small leaflets and are tough and often sharp to deter herbivores. Carefully, feel some of the leaves. New leaves are soft and velvety with hairs and unfurl from the middle of the cycad. See if you can spot a cycad unfurling new leaves – what do they feel like to you? This glasshouse can be visited all year round and is heated in winter to protect these heat-loving plants from the cold. It is a perfect place to visit if rain is falling and the winter blues has you feeling a bit down.  Listen to the rain on the roof while you are transported to warmer climes, smell, and touch the plants and enjoy some outside time in the warm!

Sensory Stop 4 – Exotic Plants

Listen to the audio description

The Gardens contain thousands of plant species from every corner of the world, so you don’t need to travel further than the Gardens to meet some unusual ones. The Stove House and the Cycad House contain tropical and drought-tolerant plants that thrive in humid and dry heat. Sensory information from these exotic plants can evoke many feelings. If you are feeling homesick for a warmer climate and familiar surroundings, try looking for plants from your home country. Enjoy looking at them, touching them or smelling them, and feeling more at home. If you are feeling overwhelmed by assignments or work you can visit these glasshouses, wander around their exotic plants, and reminisce about past holidays, or plan your next.

If you are missing home in the Irish countryside, you can visit the Irish House. Here you will find native Irish plants from habitats like bogs, woodlands, grasslands, and beaches. Which plants from which habitats are your favourite? How does it make you feel to recognise familiar native plants?

If you could travel anywhere in the world to see your favourite plants, where would you go?

Sensory Stop 5 – Aloe Vera

Listen to the audio description

In the Long House is a collection of Aloe plants. One of these, the Aloe vera, is designated a ‘sensory experience plant’ to allow visitors explore its tactile qualities. Some Aloe plants can be poisonous, be sure to pick the right Aloe – if you are unsure, ask a member of staff first! Snap off a small piece of smooth fleshy leaf. Notice how thick and spongy it is, and the jelly-like sap that oozes from it. What does it smell like to you? Some describe it as savoury, or onion-y. What does it feel like? Many people know that Aloe vera gel can soothe superficial skin irritations like sunburn, but it is also an effective moisturiser and a historical treatment for acne. Some people rub it on their hands to stimulate touch and smell. If you decide to use it as a moisturiser or spot treatment, first test a small amount on a small area of skin, as allergic reactions are possible; be careful not to touch your eyes while handling it as it can be painful if even a small amount gets into the eye. Explore this sensory plant with care then – as with all plants – but enjoy the experience and take care of yourself.

Sensory Stop 6 – Teas & Trees

Listen to the audio description 

Many of the tree species growing in the Gardens have historically been used to brew herbal teas. Herbal teas have many different flavours and aromas to stimulate or calm, but they also have many other properties which can boost the immune system, aid digestion, and keep us properly hydrated. For example, mulberry leaf tea from the Black Mulberry tree on the lawn, has properties which can reduce inflammation, regulate blood sugar, and improve heart health. Tea brewed from pine needles is said to stimulate the immune system, improve eyesight, and regenerate skin and hair as it is high in vitamins A and C. Gingko leaf tea is high in antioxidants and some research shows that it can help to alleviate symptoms of psychiatric disorders and dementia; it may also improve brain function and reduce anxiety and depression. If you are feeling curious, there are plenty of simple recipes online for you to try out at home. You are welcome to take a few leaves from our Black Mulberry and Ginkgo trees in the Walled Garden.

Sensory Stop 7 – Fiddleheads on Ferns

Listen to the audio description

If you visit the Stove House or the Long House, you will find many different types of ferns. You can often see what are commonly called ‘fiddleheads’ unfurling from the centre of the plants, so called as they resemble the coiled tips of violins, or fiddles. These are the very young fern leaves, or fronds, and they look very different to the rest of the plant. What else do they remind you of? The fiddleheads can be smooth or densely hairy, depending on the species, and some can look particularly animated. If you can safely reach one, gently touch it. How does it feel? What does it remind you of? Some people liken their shape and graceful appearance to seahorses. Again, be careful not to over-touch these young fern fronds as they are fragile, and, if hairy, may cause irritation. Nonetheless, enjoy these curious-looking and elegant young fern leaves.

Sensory Stop 8 – Catnip

Listen to the audio description

Under the lab window is a herbaceous plant called Nepeta, or commonly, catnip. It is a member of the mint family and, as the name suggests, is extremely popular with our feline friends. Catnip contains a compound which the plant uses to repel insects; but it also attracts cats, who can derive a few moments of bliss from nibbling on a leaf or two! But catnip is not just enjoyed by cats. It is also called catmint, and, while it won’t have the same psychological effects on humans, it has a unique minty smell and masses of pretty purple flowers in summer. Catnip and lavender belong to the same family, but they smell slightly different. Do you like the smell from the catnip? Rub some leaves between your fingers – can you tell the difference between lavender and catnip by smell alone? Both catnip and lavender leaves can be infused in hot water to make a soothing and aromatic tea.

Sensory Stop 9 – Wintersweet

Listen to the audio description

Against the wall of the potting shed, beside the Irish House, is the Wintersweet, Chimonanthus praecox (Ki-mon-anth-us), and it flowers from late December to February. Look out for the pretty pale-yellow flowers with dark red centres blooming on the bare branches of this large shrub. As the name suggests, the flowers are very sweetly fragrant, so much so that you are likely to smell it before you see it – surely a welcome surprise in the middle of winter! However, scent is very personal and can be highly emotive, being the sense most closely linked to memory. Some sensitive noses may find the scent slightly too strong. How does wintersweet smell to you? Does it uplift you? Perhaps you find it a little overpowering. If so, take a few more steps through the small gate in the wall and inhale the mild leafy smell of the arboretum, or take another cleansing smell of the lavender leaves.

Sensory Stop 10 – Witch Hazel

Listen the the audio description

The witch-hazel is a small spreading tree located in the order beds in the Walled Garden. It is deciduous, but remnants of its flowers can be found on its bare branches. It has fairly large coarse leaves which turn yellow in autumn, but in September, before the leaves colour and fall, it produces unusual, spidery-looking, fragrant yellow flowers. Throughout history witch hazel has been used as a treatment for many skin conditions, due to its exceptional anti-inflammatory properties. Break off a leaf and smell it. Some describe the fragrance as fresh lemony; others detect a spicy scent. Witch-hazel concoctions have been used medicinally for centuries and it is well known for the treatment of acne. There are many witch-hazel preparations available commercially, but if you are unable to afford it, why not discover on how to prepare your own.

Sensory Stop 11 – Frost on Grass

Listen to the audio description

It is best not to walk on frosted grass before it has thawed, because that crunch you would hear is the grass blades snapping, and this can damage patches of lawn. But you can wander around the gravel path or sit on a bench to admire the carpet of glistening crystals and fresh white colour. Later you can stroll into the arboretum where you can walk on thick layers of crisp frosted leaves and enjoy the satisfying crunch underfoot.

Sensory Stop 12 – Summer Storms

Listen to the audio description

In summer, the Irish House, the Long House, and the Australia House are the coolest glasshouses, making them ideal spaces to spend time in on rainy summer days. In the Irish House, look out for Equisetum hyemale, or rough horsetail, a living fossil which evolved tens of millions of years ago. Equisetums have tiny leaves that are joined at the colourful ‘stripes’ on the stem – in fact, this coloured band is formed by the black tips of the tiny leaves pressed against the stem. Take a moment and look at how differently shaped this plant is to many others at the gardens. Most plants have spreading branched stems, and many different leaf shapes, whereas this plant is linear and vertical. What do the contrasting colours remind you of? Stroke the stem. Does it feel rough or smooth? Does this plant remind you of any other plants at the Gardens? You will find tree stump seats in the Long House and Australia House where you can sit and wait for the storm to pass, while you smell the rain and listen to the sound of it falling on the roof.

Sensory Stop 13 – Tree Canopies

Listen to the Audio description

The South Arboretum is full of trees and is a cool, shady spot, ideal for hiding from the sun on a hot summer day. If it is warm and dry, try lying on the grass under the Black Walnut tree and looking up into the canopy, watching the leaves move in the breeze against the sky. This activity can be a very grounding exercise, connecting you physically and mentally to the earth and nature surrounding you. If you feel like your head is spinning and your thoughts are racing, or you are struggling to concentrate, try this for yourself. While you are lying on the grass, pay careful attention to the sensory information around you. What does the ground feel like against your back? Can you hear the birds, or the leaves rustling? What colour is the sky today? If you don’t feel like lying on the ground, or it is wet, find a bench or a log seat and gaze up into the canopy from there.

Sensory Stop 14 – Wild Garlic

Listen to the audio description

In late spring and early summer, you will find wild garlic flowering in the South Arboretum. Can you smell it? What does the smell remind you of? Garlic contains allicin, a strong-smelling sulphurous compound that is released when the plant is bruised. Some people find the smell relaxing: In fact, keeping a garlic clove under your pillow is an old remedy for insomnia, and the smell is said to promote relaxation and sleep.

When picked at the right time, the entire plant – flowers, leaves, stalks, and bulbs – is edible. Wild garlic can be used as a herb in a wide variety of recipes, including pesto, lasagne, and wherever garlic is desired. As well as being a sensory stimulant, eating garlic can benefit our physical health by boosting the immune system and helping to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol. It is also thought to hasten the recovery time from the common cold.

Why not sit on the nearby bench and take in the sight of frothy white flowers, and decide if you like the wild garlic smell, or not? If you would like to try some in a recipe, you are welcome to pick a few leaves, or flowers if they are present. Make sure to wash it well before use and be sure that you are not allergic. After that, enjoy it!

Sensory Stop 15 – Fruit Trees

Listen to the audio description

Dotted around the Walled Garden are some old pear trees, and three apple trees, one of which produces sweet-tart eating apples, and the others exceptionally sweet cooking apples. In spring these trees are covered with fragrant pink and white blossoms which you can watch transform into baby apples in summer, and in the autumn the trees are full of mature fruit. We encourage you to engage with the different sensory stimuli they offer and the wonder of developing fruit through these seasons. You are welcome to pick one or two fruit from the trees or collect some windfalls. Poached apples or pears are a delicious way to savour the different flavours and incorporate some vitamin C and healthy fibre into your diet. Foraging for wild foods or collecting windfalls provides benefits for individuals and the environment. Having witnessed a beautiful fruit forming from its spring blossom and being able to pick and eat it is a satisfying experience and brings us closer to nature and the amazing bounty it provides. But remember, be sure everything you forage is safe to eat and wash everything well before eating.

Sensory Stop 16 – Baby’s Tears

Listen to the audio description

In the eastern part of the Walled Garden near ‘Liz’s’ bench, instead of grass underfoot you will find another green plant carpeting the ground. Commonly known as Baby’s tears, this tiny spreading plant is actually a member of the nettle family… but don’t worry, it won’t sting you and is actually very soft to the touch and cushiony to sit on. Can you see any flowers? Baby’s tears flowers between May and August but the flowers are so tiny you might not be able to see them. If it is a nice dry day, you can remove your shoes and socks and slowly walk across the soft green carpet on your bare feet. Many people find walking barefoot outside is a grounding experience that can soothe anxiety. Part of the reason for this is that when you are walking barefoot you need to watch carefully where you step, bringing you fully into the moment. It also means your eyes are absorbing a lot of reflected green light waves. Green environments are known to be soothing. Research shows they can reduce human heartrate, which has a calming effect on the body. There are pressure points under your feet that connect with nerves in the eye, and pressure on these points can ease eyestrain. So, sensory information received by walking barefoot outside might improve another of your senses – your eyesight.

Sensory Stop 17 – Snowdrops

Listen to the audio description

You will find snowdrops blooming around trees, and peeping out from beneath shrubs and leaves from as early as December through to February. Snowdrops are the epitome of reawakening and hope. Their small white nodding flowers can spark surprise and joy in the darkest months of the year. Take a wide stroll around the Walled Garden and the arboretums and see where you can find them. Stop and admire their soft whiteness against the dark soil and leaves. If it is frosty or there has been a fall of snow, they may be harder to spot!

But apart from their delicate beauty, snowdrops are economically and medicinally important. They contain a compound called galanthamine used in pharmaceuticals to manage symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Galanthamine is also used to relieve trauma to the nervous system. A protein in the common or wild snowdrop has also been studied for potential use against HIV. While admiring their charm, take a few moments to reflect on how much this dainty little plant yields up for our physical and mental well-being.

Sensory Stop 18 – Log Seat

Listen to the audio description

Take a seat on the log near the apple tree in the Walled Garden. From here you can enjoy the shade of the tree canopy in summer and look out over the plant order beds. Take a few slow deep breaths and begin to relax. Notice the different green colours of the various trees and shrubs. If it is summer most leaves will be fully green, and your eyes will be able to take in those beneficial green light wavelengths being reflected. If it is Autumn, you might notice the changing colours of the leaves. But do you know why leaves change their colour before they fall? As temperatures cool come autumn, some plants stop making chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the green pigment found in most plants and it acts like a solar panel, capturing energy from the sun and converting it to sugars to feed the plant. This is photosynthesis. However, as daylength shortens from autumn to winter there is less and less sunlight available, and it would take too much energy for trees to maintain green leaves when sunlight is so scarce. So, to conserve energy in autumn deciduous trees stop producing chlorophyll. This unmasks other colour pigments which were in the background until then. The energy is gradually withdrawn from the leaves, they drop, and the plant goes into a state of dormancy.

The Sensory Trail

A short video-taster of the Sensory Trail