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The Carlow Garden Trail features many different types of gardens and parks including great old gardens that have been lovingly restored and maintained throughout the years, and smaller gardens which are maturing beautifully with time. Award winning garden centres and forest parks complement the joy of a visit here.
Widely respected as the jewel in Ireland’s gardening crown, Altamont Gardens are an enchanting blend of formal and informal gardens with riverside walks covering over 40 acres. The estate gains much of its character from the many mature trees, both natives in the avenues and woodland areas, and exotic specimens throughout the gardens. Lawns bisected by sculpted yews slope down to a lake surrounded by rare trees and rhododendrons and lead in turn to a very different garden featuring exotic shrubs and trees. A fascinating walk through the Arboretum, Bog Garden and Ice Age Glen with its canopy of ancient oaks and huge stone outcrops leads the visitor to the River Slaney. When Corona North, who lovingly cared for the gardens for over 50 years died in 1999, the gardens were left to the State at her request. Ongoing restoration and maintenance continues under the OPW.
Altamont is a great experience at any time of year starting in spring with the wonderful snowdrop collection and moving on to daffodils and other spring bulbs. Rhododendrons, azaleas and later on the rose collection is in full bloom in mid-summer, followed by contrasting autumnal colours and the beautiful silhouettes of the mighty trees in mid-winter.
January 1st – 31st, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. 7 days per week.
February 1st – 28th, 9 a.m. – 4.30 p.m. 7 days per week.
March 1st – 31st, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. 7 days per week.
April 1st – September 30th, 9 a.m. – 6.30 p.m. 7 days per week.
October 1st – 31st, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. 7 days per week.
November 1st – 30th, 9 a.m. – 4.30 p.m. 7 days per week.
December 1st – 31st, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. 7 days per week.
An unmissable highlight of a visit to Altamont Gardens is the Walled Garden situated within the grounds of the estate and run privately by gardener and nursery man Robert Miller. The area consists primarily of the Corona North Commemorative Border planted to honour the late Corona, owner of Altamont.
Each border has its own individual theme and colour from striking reds to cool white and blues, romantic pinks and warm yellow glows. The scent of lavender fills the air over the summer months. The borders are planted mainly with herbaceous perennials with roses and trees, some with a fascinating history. Other items of interest include the living willow tunnel, 200 year old Medler tree and the composting area. If you would like to pick up a little piece of Irish gardening history then Altamont Plant Sales, located within the borders, is the place to head where many of the plants grown in the border and throughout the gardens at Altamont can be purchased. A visit is a must during snowdrop time in spring, summer and early autumn.
Jan. 1st – Nov. 30th 10 a.m. – 5.30 p.m. weekdays, 11a.m. – 6 p.m. weekends. Rest of year 10 a.m. – 5.30 p.m. daily.
Commitment to excellent customer service, quality products, unbeatable choice and value for money has earned the Arboretum the coveted title of Garden Centre of the Year 2019 and National Company of the Year 2016 by Retail Excellence. On a ten-acre site, this family run business is a complete shopping experience with a five star award-winning garden centre plus interior furnishings, a kitchen store, fashion outlet and home to the award-winning Rachel’s Garden Café. Arboretum has also attracted other well-known brands to the centre joining forces with the famous Edinburgh Woollen Mills and Adman Sheds which complement its offering. An entire day can be devoted to just visiting Arboretum so take some time out and relax with friends and family in the famous Rachel’s Garden Café. Treat yourself to some of its signature dishes made with the very best local Irish produce. There is a full children’s menu with a playground and maze adjacent to the restaurant’s outdoor seating area to keep the little ones entertained.
Arboretum Home and Garden Heaven has created exclusive display gardens to inspire visitors to imagine and create their own garden dream. These gardens are designed to display different planting schemes and solutions, offering endless ideas that can be easily recreated in people’s own gardening space. This beautiful showpiece allows people to see gardening ideas to suit any lifestyle and the concept behind this design was to create a low maintenance garden, full of colour that can deliver endless enjoyment. Tours of Arboretum Inspirational Gardens can be booked on 059-9721558. The Arboretum has a children’s playground and maze beside a new terraced area of Rachel’s Garden Café so children can play while parents enjoy some tempting home baking. Families can also explore the African mud hut or visit the friendly koi who reside in the Arboretum pond. A visit to these inspirational gardens is a treat for the amateur or the enthusiast.
Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., Thursday 9 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Bank Holidays 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Barrow Lane, Regent Street, Bagenalstown, Co. Carlow R21 AH73
The Barrow Experience is a unique series of ten interconnecting gardens which bring to life the history, folklore and heritage of the beautiful Barrow Valley. It is situated in the grounds of BEAM Services, a training centre for people with intellectual disabilities, on a picturesque site that bounds the canal off the River Barrow. There are ten individual gardens within the Barrow Experience – Dinn Righ, Druids’ Wood, Potager Garden, Monastic Courtyard, Convent Garden, Railway Garden, Water Garden, Co-operation Garden, Mindfulness Garden and the French Garden. The gardens represent both an active, healthy environment for members to work in, and a therapeutic environment to relax in – along with the general public, who are always welcome.
Opening Times: June, July and August, weekends only 10 a.m.
Nestled in the stunning Barrow Valley, Borris House is surrounded by 650 acres of lush woodland and gardens, giving it a secluded, otherworldly feel that transports visitors back in time. Behind these grand walls lies a fascinating heritage; it’s the ancestral home of the McMorrough-Kavanaghs, descendants of the original Celtic Kings of Leinster and one of Ireland’s most ancient surviving royal families.
Explore the grounds of the estate taking in Mount Leinster, the Blackstairs Mountains and the Barrow Valley; views that have been preserved by the family for centuries. Stroll along the woodland paths, enjoy some of the beautiful specimen trees, view the original Stew Pond and on your way take in the original Victorian laundry, the restored granary and the 18th century Ice House. The lace garden which is set within the walls of the original laundry green illustrates the fascinating story of the Borris Lace through its predominantly white colour palette, lace inspired flowers, sculptures and stylised planting. Visitors on the house tour can expect lavish ceilings with ornate plasterwork, original furniture, porcelain and paintings. Discover hidden gems such as the Chapel of St. Moling and learn all about the not-for-profit lace industry run by the house during the famine and the family themselves.
Opening Times: Open most Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, May – September 12 – 4 p.m.
Burtown House is one of two 17th century houses in Kildare to never have been sold, and the only house that you can visit, and have guided tours by family members. It is the only original Quaker house in Ireland that can be visited that is still lived in by the family that built it from this period. The gardens at Burtown are made up of several areas, including large herbaceous borders, shrubberies, a rock garden, a yew walk divided by a pergola, a sundial garden, an old orchard, a more formal stable yard garden, a walled organic vegetable garden and a large woodland garden surrounded on all sides by water. There is a sculpture park set in wildflower meadows with mown pathways.
Opening Times: February – October, 10 a.m. – 5.30 p.m. Wednesday – Sunday and Bank Holidays. Also Saturday night dinner from 6.30 p.m. Snowdrop Month – February. ADMISSION: Gardens – adults €8, children €4, under 8 free. House tours – adults €10.
The Delta Centre runs a very busy garden centre with a wide range of shrubs and plants for sale. They also stock hanging baskets and window boxes and a range of garden accessories which include garden ornaments and fountains. Whatever the season you will find suitable plants – bulbs for spring and autumn flowering, bedding plants in summer, herbaceous perennials and of course shrubs for all year round interest. Expert horticultural advice is on hand from highly qualified and friendly staff.
Delta Sensory Gardens are an ambitious new project, consisting of a series of interconnecting gardens of a multi-sensory nature covering 2.5 acres. The first of their kind in Ireland they combine the attraction of a tourist facility with a therapeutic focus and benefit, for people of all abilities. A combination of both formal and informal landscapes allow visitors to meander round at will, watch splashing fountains and waterfalls, enjoy herbs and perfumed plants, many in raised beds (suitable for access by wheelchair), watch fish, reflect on sculptures or simply sit around and enjoy flowers and foliage. The gardens include a water and woodland garden, a sculpture garden, a heather and conifer garden, a musical garden and a formal rose garden amongst others.
Opening Times: Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 5.30 p.m., weekends and Public Holidays 11 a.m. – 5.30 p.m.
Once a grand mansion, Duckett’s Grove is now one of the most photographed ruins in the country. And it’s not hard to see why; it’s magnificent towers and turrets make for an impressive silhouette. Once the centre of a vast estate, Duckett’s Grove was home to the Duckett family in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1933, the interior of the mansion was sadly destroyed by a fire. What remains is a stunning Gothic exterior and two beautiful interconnecting walled gardens.
In recent years the gardens have undergone an exciting restoration. The Upper Walled Garden, hedged with boxwood, is planted with historical varieties of shrub roses, a great range of hardy and tender perennials and choice flowering shrubs. The Lower Walled Garden, once the site of the old orchard, contains a wide variety of fruits, including figs, a mulberry, red currants, blackcurrants, pears, plums and Irish historical varieties of apples. The borders also contain a variety of shrubs and perennials all echoing the past history of the garden and people associated with Duckett’s Grove. Restored paths and the repaired sunken bridge plus plantings of oak, lime, hazel, spindle and laurel rekindle the spirit of the Georgian Pleasure Grounds.
Opening Times: Gardens and ruined mansion daily, daylight hours.
Tullow, Co. Carlow, R93 XN24
One of the largest Spanish chestnuts in the country greets you on arrival to one hectare of lawns and shrubs surrounded by magnificent beech and oak trees. A wonderful walled garden behind the house contains many unusual plants and flowers in the herbaceous border. The grass paths take you past the pond with lilies and fish to espaliered apple trees, a pergola clothed with wisteria and underplanted with hollyhocks and foxgloves and on to a vegetable garden. A summer house at the end of the garden in a sheltered corner provides a quiet area for rest and relaxation.
Opening Times: Daily 2 – 6 p.m. May – August inclusive.
These gardens were mainly laid out in the 17th century by the Esmondes who built Huntington Castle in 1625 and include the French limes on the Avenue, the lawns to the side of the house, the fishponds on either side of the centre walk through the wilderness and the Yew Tree Walk. Larger plantings have resulted in Huntington possessing a number of Irish Champion trees. The River Derry flows along the bottom of the wilderness, providing a pleasant setting for woodland walks. The guided tour also features a visit to Huntington Castle.
Opening Times: May – September 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily. House tours 2, 3, 4 and 5 p.m. daily. For special events outside these times see website – Easter, Halloween and Christmas at the Castle. Open at other times by prior arrangement.
Leighlinbridge, winner of Ireland’s Best Kept Town in 2015, enjoys a range of gardens, built and designed by the local community to commemorate various aspects of village life over the years. These include the Millennium Garden, seven small individual gardens, each with its own theme represented by trees, shrubs and stones. The Vivaldi Garden is based on Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons while the Garden of Remembrance commemorates important occasions in the history of the village. This garden is accessible year round and is suitable for wheelchair users. The Sculpture Garden is dedicated to three of Leighlinbridge’s most famous sons – Cardinal Patrick Francis Moran, John Tyndall and Captain Myles Keogh. A newly designed heritage trail takes visitors on an interesting tour around the village, highlighting key aspects of its history and heritage.
Opening Times: Daylight hours.
The Meadows is positioned in a small estate in Myshall village with views extending to the Wicklow Mountains, the Carlow Ridge and Mount Leinster. The plot at No. 7 is about a third of an acre and slopes steeply into the hillside with the back shaded by sycamores. In front of the house there are plantings of pampas grass, miscanthus, dwarf and prostate conifers, orange fennel, watsonia, kniphofia, fox gloves, heathers and catmint. The back is planted with an informal hedge of shrub roses and trees interspersed with mostly herbaceous plants, set into gravel. Designed with low maintenance in mind with only intermittent hard work to keep it in order.
Opening Times: March – September, 12 – 5 p.m. daily with the exception of Thursday. ADMISSION: €3.
Kiltegan, Co. Wicklow
Patthana is an award-winning small village garden set on over a third of an acre and is home to T.J. Maher and Simon Kirby. The garden comprises of a lower cobbled courtyard with its potting shed and a sunken meditation room leading to the main courtyard with a small wildlife pond. Both these areas house an extensive collection of plants from the hardy to the tender and exotic. Circular granite steps lead to the upper terrace garden with its borders of herbaceous perennials, annuals and unusual shrubs and trees carefully chosen for a small garden Patthana is gardened organically with many plants chosen for their attraction to wildlife.
Opening Times: First Sunday in May – first Sunday in October from 12 – 5 p.m. Open to groups (5+) at other times by appointment only.
Rathwood is the perfect place to spend a day out. This family owned spacious and well laid out centre houses an award-winning garden centre, exclusive ranges of ladies clothing and shoes, beautiful interior styled rooms, stylish gifts, family friendly Merry Tree Restaurant, a maze of Ireland and a woodland walk, newly named Fox’s Park. Lunch at Rathwood’s Merry Tree Restaurant is pivotal to the Rathwood shopping experience, where customers can relax and enjoy impressive wholesome lunches and a delicious selection of home baking (function room/group menus available). A ride on the Rathwood Train, woodland walk or the Christmas Wonderland all make Rathwood a delight to visit all year round. Rathwood is also perfect for a lunch stop on a trip to Altamont Gardens which are located nearby. Rathwood specialises in family events, Easter, Halloween and one of their most popular events, the Rathwood Santa Train Experience.
Woodland Walk and train route through 170 acres of woodland. Serene, tranquil forest walks were carefully designed at Rathwood, to include a short leisurely wheelchair accessible ‘Molloy Walk’ to a pond and a 5km ‘Fox’s Park Trail’ which is popular for both runs and walkers. This forest is a valuable and rewarding educational tool, given the vast ecological resources of flora, wildlife and tree species contained within its 170-acre boundaries. Fox’s Park offers a sanctuary for many mammals, birds and insect species. Expect to see deer, rabbits, mink, foxes, pheasants and dragonflies among others. The forest contains a great variety of tree species including beech, oak, Sitka spruce, Norway spruce, birch, Douglas fir and alder. Train rides around the forest are available from Rathwood. Take a pleasant stroll across the natural beauty of Fox’s Park at Rathwood and discover a landscape rich in geology, archaeology and wild life. Visitors can also enjoy a stroll through the Maze of Ireland. The historical feature of Rathgall Hillfort which dates back to 800 B.C. is located nearby.
Please find below a selection of Parks & Garden images from County Carlaw with descriptions.