Altamont House & Gardens
If there was ever a hidden gem of a garden, this surely is it. In a fairly off the beaten track location in a part of Ireland often overlooked by tourists, you won’t find tour buses or crowds here, but you will find a magical place apart that will linger in your memory.
This is a large garden, covering the best part of 100 acres, and including formal gardens, woodlands and a beautiful riverside walk. The waterlily covered lake is the centerpiece, surrounded now by hundreds of rare trees and great sweeps of rhodedendrons it was created during the famine years as part of a project to local employment. As you walk though the bog garden, the arboretum and the ice glen to the riverbank you will find numerous little shady nooks or gaps in the trees opening to vistas of the Blackstairs Mountains and everywhere wonderful specimen tress and shrubs careful arranged to compliment each other and the surrounding landscape.
Each month and season brings new delights, carpets of snowdrops and bluebells in early spring give way later to the dazzling yellows of daffodil time, from mid-May the vibrant colours of many varieties of rhododendron are to the fore while summer is a riot of colour with roses, azaleas, peonies, tiger lilies, cyclamens and colchicums among the many flowers vying for attention.
Although Altamount has many rare plants and trees in its collection, there is a strange sense that it all just grew naturally, testament to the skill and dedication of those who created the garden. Foremost among those were Feilding Lecky Watson, who was responsible for most of the planting around the lake, and his daughter Corona North, who lovingly maintained and expanded the garden until her death in 1999. She bequethed the estate to the nation and it is now in the care of the Parks and Wildlife service.
The beautiful old house is now, sadly, in a state of advancing decay. It provides a suitably romantic backdrop to this most romantic of gardens, but it would be lovely to see it restored and alive again.