Altamont House & Gardens
Rarely crowded and always rewarding no matter what the season, this is a real hidden gem. All around there are wonderful views of the Blackstairs and Wicklow Mountains and Mount Leinster.
An Arboretum, Bog Garden and Ice Age Glen, with ancient oak tress, leads down a steep path to the River Slaney and a glorious riverside walk.
The garden is bursting with rare azaleas, rhododendrons, magnolias and much more, testimony to its late owner, Corona North, a passionate plantswoman who tended it with true devotion until her death in 1999.
Main image: Woods at Altamount by musical photo man
The Irish government inherited the gardens after her death and continue to manage them according to her principles.
A recent project at the garden has been the planting of the Corona North memorial border, and it is testimony to her standing in Irish Gardening circles that plant donations for the border have flooded in from gardeners all over the country.
She was one in a long line of gardeners here and there are trees in the garden dating back to 1750, and even older ones in the glen, including 500 year old oaks.
The lake is the most peaceful and serene part of the garden, its perimeter lined with trees and its surface covered in waterlilies. It is beautiful at every time of year – in spring it is bright with rhododendrons, in summer a riot of color against intense greens, in autumn the colors of the leaves are magnificent while in winter, especially if it snows, it has a stark beauty.
The many varieties of mature trees give the garden its character, but there are also wonderful perennial borders, for the most part planted in a natural informal style.
At the back of the house is a rose garden, which includes many old and some quite rare species.
This is a wonderful garden to stroll around, with surprise and delight around every corner. Some of the plants in the garden are available for sale in a small garden centre in the old walled garden and there is a small tea room which is open at weekends. It is also a very good place to bring a picnic.
The Poor Old House
The house has glimmers still of its long faded glory, but there is something very warm and inviting about it and it sits in its gardens as though it grew there. It is devoutly to be hoped that it will be restored at some point in the not to distant future.
Years ago I had dinner there, hosted by Mrs North. We ate around a huge table in a formal dining room, some 20 or more people. It is an occasion that I will always remember, with fondness because of our gracious hostess and the excellent company present, but also because we were served a starter of vegetables in aspic jelly, which may be the most disgusting thing I ever ate!
The gardens are open daily from 9am. to 7.30pm most of the year round, though times are curtailed in Winter and it would be wise to check ahead. Entrance is free, guided tours are available for €2.