About an hour and 45 minutes drive from my home to County Carlow is Altamont Gardens. A large and beautiful estate covering 16 hectares in total, Altamont Gardens is laid out in the style of William Robinson, which strives for ‘honest simplicity’. The design situates an excellent plant collection perfectly within the natural landscape.
I wasn’t certain what I would find here, I thought another old house with walled gardens, but I was very nicely surprised with what I found. Not far in from the car park are the plant sales, a little garden centre selling flowering shrubs, trees, fruit and rose plants. Next to the plant sales sits almost hidden by the spectacular climbing foliage gripping onto a wooden arbour is a coffee shop. I rather eat savoury instead of sweet and I was delighted to sample a delicious sandwich of pesto, goat cheese & sun-dried tomato. This whole area is a maze of tiny walking paths leading into small seating areas and is quite lovely.
On to the walk proper where there are lawns and sculpted yews that slope down to a lake ringed by rare trees and rhododendrons. A fascinating walk through the Arboretum, Bog Garden and Ice Age Glen, this is a must see area, sheltered by ancient oaks and flanked by huge stone outcrops, leads to the banks of the River Slaney. Visit in summer to experience the glorious perfume of roses and herbaceous plants in the air. You can spend a very long time in the gardens of Altamont and make return visits as there will always be something different to see each time.
With their sensitive balance of formal and informal, nature and artistry, Altamont Gardens have a unique – and wholly enchanting – character.