There are the places which have a special undefined magic, artistry, unique and wholly enchanting character and Altamont Gardens are one of them.
Altamont Gardens are gardens considered to be one of the most beautiful and romantic gardens in Ireland. They rank among the top 10 Irish gardens, although still little known, but they are often referred to as the “Jewel in Ireland’s Gardening Crown”.
Situated on the banks of the River Slaney, Altamont Gardens are the Robinson style gardens. They are a natural mix of formal and informal gardens that you can enjoy walking around the lake, through the Arboretum, Bog Garden and Ice Age Glen.
The Altamont Gardens offer spectacular views of the Blackstairs Mountains, the Wicklow Mountains, and Mount Leinster.
The gardens are located 22 km southeast of Carlow town, near Ballon, signposted for N80 and N81, between Tullow and Bunclody.
Altamont Gardens stretches over 40 hectares. Near the entrance to the gardens, there is a Manor house – the famous Altamont House, very picturesque. Usually, a pair of beautiful peacocks walked in front of the house. Altamont House is a historic building that was most likely built as a monastery in the 16th century. Carlow County Council started to renovate it.
Then there is a part of Altamont Gardens called Walled Garden & Plant Sales. The undoubted highlight of a visit to Altamont Gardens is the Walled Garden located on the property and privately run by the gardener Robert Miller. The area was opened in 2000 to honor longtime Altamont owner Corona North. Many of the plants were donated by Corona’s friends and other Irish gardeners. These plants and the thousands of others grown here constitute one of the largest collections of their kind in the country and tell the story of Irish horticulture. A visit is a must for any seasoned or novice gardener looking for inspiration. Altamont Plant Sales offers high-quality garden plants, an exclusive range of flowers, shrubs and trees all year round.
Then the main garden and a place where we can choose a walk by the lake or a walk by the river. The lawns divided by carved yew trees descend into a lake, surrounded by rare trees and rhododendrons and lead in to a very different garden with exotic shrubs and trees.
The present gardens are largely the work of plant collector Fielding Lecky Watson, who bought the property in 1924, and his daughter Corona North. Corona North was the long-time owner and caretaker of the gardens and the adjacent areas. Her passion was long journeys in search of plants for the garden, unique in Ireland. Carlow County Council took over the Altamont Gardens in 1999. When Corona North, who had cared for the gardens for over 50 years, died in 1999, the gardens were left to the Carlow County Council at her request. Renovation and conservation are still carried out under the supervision of the Public Works Office (OPW).
In Altamont Gardens you can admire various species of plants, sometimes very exotic. The beginnings of the garden date back to the 18th century, and its founders brought here plants from the most distant parts of the world over the years. Many species of trees grow here, such as cedars, cypress trees, red oak, rhododendrons and various exotic shrubs. Some of the trees in the Altamont Garden have been growing here since 1750. The oldest in the river valley, including 500-year-old oaks. The gardens also feature Wellingtonia or Giant Redwood, which were planted to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo.
In Spring you can admire a wonderful collection of snowdrops, daffodils, rhododendrons, azaleas, next hyacinths bloom, next you will be able to admire thousands of roses and enjoy their scent when they bloom in summer, and in autumn and winter ?, of course – contrasting autumn colors and beautiful silhouettes of mighty trees it is also a beautiful sight. Altamont Gardens are certainly beautiful all year round.
In the river flowing through the gardens, you can probably see trout and salmon, and you can also meet otters.
In Altamont Gardens there is also a natural wonder – waterfall.
There is a part of the gardens called the “Ice Age” which is filled with ancient natural granite boulders. The so-called “Wild part” Altamont Garden and a walk by the river Slaney has rather steep descent through the Ice Age Canyon leads to a picturesque path along the river, and then you climb 100 granite steps. Then a gentle climb and we see “The Temple” built in 1990.
Altamont Gardens are one of the greatest tourist attraction of County Carlow. One of the most beautiful place. Regardless of the season or weather conditions, Altamont Gardens delight. It is deservedly considered one of the most beautiful and romantic gardens in Ireland.
Entry to the Altamont Gardens is free, but there is a parking fee of € 2. Guided tours (must be booked in advance – for Snowdrop Week and Rose Week) are available for € 3 per person.
Opening hours: Open 7 days a week / January 1 – February 28: 9:00 – 16:00 / March: 9:00 – 17:00 / April 1 – September 30: 9:00 – 18:30 / October: 09 : 00-17: 00 / November: 9:00 – 16:30 / from 9:00 to 16:00
Amenities: Toilets, picnic tables, ample parking for cars and coaches, limited wheelchair access. Dogs are not allowed, except guide dogs.
You can also buy seedlings of flowers, shrubs and trees on site, and please remember to bring comfortable shoes.
Routes: Carlow Garden Trail / Festivals: Carlow Garden Festival (August) and Wicklow Garden Festival (May to October).
Location of Altamont Gardens:
I was visiting Altamont Gardens at the beginning of February in “Snowdrop week” during which you can admire a whole collection of various varieties of snowdrops. Apparently in Ireland there are varieties that cannot be seen anywhere else. And there are about 200 varieties of snowdrops in Altamont. This is a great opportunity to see this unique collection of over 200 named snowdrops varieties and celebrate the arrival of spring to Ireland. Gardens that have been cultivated since the 1950s are now entrusted to the care of OPW gardener Paul Culter, who organizes daily tours at 2:00 PM during Snowdrop Week. Some of the varieties of snowdrops growing in Altamont Gardens are indeed unusual and rare.