Belvedere House & Gardens

Top choice in The Midlands

Magnificent Belvedere House, 7.5km south of Mullingar, is an unmissable sight. This immense 1740-built hunting and fishing lodge is set in 65 hectares of gardens overlooking Lough Ennell. Designed by Richard Cassels, it contains delicate rococo plasterwork in the upper rooms. The gardens, with their Victorian glasshouse, walled garden and lakeshore setting, make for wonderful rambling. An airy annex houses a cafe; there's a large children's playground.

More than a few skeletons have come rattling from Belvedere's closets: the first earl, Lord Belfield, accused his wife and younger brother Arthur of adultery. She was placed under house arrest here for 31 years, and Arthur was jailed in London for the rest of his life. Meanwhile, the earl lived a life of decadence and debauchery. On his death, his wife emerged dressed in the fashion of three decades earlier, still protesting her innocence.

Lord Belfield also found time to fall out with his other brother, George, who built a home nearby. Ireland's largest folly, a ready-made 'ruin' called the Jealous Wall, was commissioned by the earl so he wouldn't have to look at George's mansion.

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