Altamont Gardens

Top choice Gardens

in County Carlow

One of Ireland's most magnificent landscaped gardens, Altamont covers 16 hectares on the banks of the River Slaney. Carefully selected plantings are arranged in naturalistic settings where peacocks, swans, squirrels and wild hare abound, surrounding an ornamental water-lily lake. The gardens are off the N80, 5km east of Ballon (there's no public transport to the estate).

Walkways meander among flower beds, shrubberies, mature trees (some more than 250 years old), rhododendrons and azaleas, before finally leading down a flight of 100 granite steps to a gorgeous bluebell-filled wood beside the river – a great spot for a picnic.

It was first laid out in the 18th century; the present gardens are largely the work of plant collector Fielding Lecky Watson, who bought the estate in 1924, and his daughter Corona North, who bequeathed them to the nation after her death in 1999.