Or, the day I didn’t lose the kids at Altamont Gardens
Why is it that my kids always want to eat the picnic the minute we arrive at our destination? Even if it’s only 11:30 am and we left home 40 minutes ago, straight after they ate breakfast? Our recent day trip to the lovely Altamont Gardens in County Carlow was no exception.
We love picnics and I also love exploring beautiful gardens so on the last day of the summer holidays I packed the kids, two of their friends, a very large picnic and an even larger picnic blanket into my car and drove from Wexford to just past Bunclody to Altamont Gardens. I have been living in Wexford for 14 and a half years and even so, we keep on discovering fabulous family friendly places to explore.
Needless to say you can guess what the first thing we did was as soon as we arrived.
The car park has a picnic section off to one side with three or four picnic tables. You are not encouraged to picnic inside the gardens so it actually was helpful that my kids were hungry immediately.
There is no charge to enter the gardens, you just need two euro to park – payable at the parking machine at the car park. Toilet facilities are also available beside the car park, make sure you go before you go on a long walk.
The house itself is currently (2018) not open to the public, however, it is being renovated which is very exciting! I love exploring grand old homes and imagining which would have been my boudoir and how I would have managed my many, many maids exceptionally well. At the moment the roof has been restored so hopefully it won’t be long before the rest of the interior is brought back to life and I can indulge my fantasies.
A visitor’s guide is available at the entrance to the gardens which details the history of the property. Originally called Rose Hill, it was renamed Altamont in the late 18th century after Lord Altamont of Sligo. The house is unoccupied and the whole property was bequeathed to the Office of Public Works in 1999 upon the death of its last occupant, the keen gardener Corona North.
In the meantime, I had to content myself with imagining playing croquet on the lawn in a large hat and flowy dress instead as I chased 6 enthusiastic children around the extensive grounds.
Entering the Gardens:
The only problem with feeding kids, I’ve found, is that it makes them boisterous. When I returned from photographing the front of the house they were leaping along a large row of stones beside all the other picnickers so, yearning for the good old days when I would have sent them off with Nanny, I gathered them all up myself and we scurried off to find the gardens.
Hidden within the recess of a small arched doorway off a courtyard are shelves with information leaflets and here is where you can pick up a map and decide which route to take. We started with a quick meander around the old walled kitchen gardens off to the right before we tackled the rest of the grounds.
The Walled Garden contains a nursery and a café. I made a mental note to return to the café after our walk to reward myself with a cup of coffee as my prize for surviving the day.
I loved the way the café is integrated with the nursery around it so, although you are protected from the elements, you still feel as though you are sitting in a garden.
After leaving the walled garden we headed off in the direction of the rear of the house and the lawns.
Main Gardens and Lake:
They recommend you allow an hour for exploring the Main Gardens only, or 2 hours if you’d like to include the Glen and River Walks. There is limited wheelchair access to Main Gardens, guide dogs only ARE permitted, balls are NOT permitted and you are requested to picnic at the tables in the car park only.
We spent a total of 4 hours happily exploring Altamont Gardens, here is a photographic journal of the route we took:
Arboretum, Ice Age Glen and River Walk
After the wild flower meadow, the route leads you into the Arboretum and down through the Ice Age Glen towards the River Slaney. I haven’t any photos of the woodland as I was too busy watching the path and looking for dinosaurs. I was also saying ‘NO!’ to questions like ‘can we go up there off the path mum?’ and ‘can I climb this tree/rock/cliff mum?’
Here the river is calm and quiet, and a whole lot cleaner than way further downstream where it passes near our home. we kept our eyes peeled for otter but sadly saw none.
After a short walk along the river banks and a pause on a bench or two to work up a bit more energy we tackled the 100 hand cut granite steps back up into the woodland.
If we lived a bit closer I would come here a couple of times a week just because it’s a fabulous place to walk. The head Gardener (who is out every day no matter what the weather and has been working in gardens since he was 15) said to me, “you should do some vigorous exercise first thing in the day to keep you warm for the rest of the day.”
So who’s with me?
Altamont Gardens are open all year unless there are severe weather warnings.
Open all year*
*Subject to change.
Please telephone in advance of visit.
Open 7 days including Bank Holidays
- January: 9am – 4pm
- February: 9am – 4.30pm
- March: 9am – 5pm
- April – September: 9am – 6.30pm
- October: 9am – 5pm
- November: 9am – 4.30pm
- December: 9am – 4pm
Closed Christmas Day
How to find them:
Location: Near Ballon, signposted off the N80 & N81, between Tullow and Bunclody
Tel. No.: +353 (59) 915 9444
Fax No.: +353 (59) 915 9510
For more information visit the Heritage Ireland website
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