Here are seven glorious gardens to visit in the Dolmen County.
Immerse yourself in multisensory experiences at the Delta Sensory Gardens, an oasis of peace just on the outskirts of Carlow Town on the Strawhall Estate.
Explore the interconnecting landscape that changes with the seasons. In the spring there are thousands of daffodils in bloom, in summer an abundance of gorse, and in autumn and winter the rustic colours of the trees take over. Wander further to discover the splashing fountains and cascading waterfalls, and the ‘kugel’, a tonne of pink marble that appears to float on a cushion of water. Pick up everything from shrubs to hanging baskets at the busy garden-centre on site before you leave.
Not far from Tullow, are the Altamont Gardens, a 16-hectare estate with plenty of native and exotic plants. A heavenly destination for a family outing, it’s the perfect spot to visit any time of the year.
Different plants flourish with the changing seasons and in winter, the trees show off their striking silhouettes. You’ll be impressed by the Swamp Cypress’, Red Oaks and Giant Redwood trees, whether you’re out for a casual stroll or you’re an experienced horticulturist.
Visit in February for a particularly special experience – Snowdrop Month sees the gardens coated in a sea of white as 200 varieties of this delicate flower bloom here. Take a guided tour and learn all about their Snowdrop Collection in their famous walled garden; an essential visit for any seasoned or novice gardener.
A treasure trove of historical objects and stunning architecture, Huntington Castle is a beautiful place to visit, but its alluring gardens are the star of the show.
Get lost in nature as you walk down the French lime tree lined avenue planted in 1680 or discover the ornamental lawns and fishponds as you meander the grounds. The River Derry flows along the bottom of the gardens, providing a soothing setting for woodland walks - keep an eye out for the variety of Irish trees like hickory, Siberian crab and buckeye chestnut, along the way. Stop by the lake and see one of the earliest water turbine houses which provided the estate with its electricity.
Have a rest in the tearooms, while the kids run free in the playground, or extend your visit by staying the night in the castle. The gardens are open from May to September.
In Rainestown, just 20 minutes drive from Carlow Town, discover a ruined 19th-century house sitting on what was a 12,000-acre estate. Duckett’s Grove Walled Gardens surround this once great house, and they still brim with historical varieties of roses, peonies, perennials and flowering shrubs.
Take a free guided tour and learn about the origins of the Duckett family. Two walled gardens have been revived on the estate, with their ancient paths, plant beds and borders restored to their former glory.
Imagine the lives of the people who lived here as you wander the gardens. The upper walled garden is planted with ancient varieties of shrub roses and a collection of Chinese and Japanese peonies while hardy and tender perennials adorn the landscape. The lower walled garden, once the site of the old orchard, has a variety of fruits, such as figs and historical varieties of Irish apples.
You might smell Kilgraney House Herb Garden before you see it, such is the abundance of fragrant herbs grown there all year round. Meander through the secluded grounds of the Kilgraney guesthouse – by prior appointment – and discover a series of interconnecting herbal gardens. Its enclosed kitchen garden supplies the guesthouse with organic fruit, vegetables and herbs all year round.
Take the tea walk to uncover plants suitable for herbal teas and infusions, before taking a peek into the medicinal courtyard to find plants historically used for treating the body. The beautiful circular cosmic garden is a treat – visitors will glean a new understanding of the ancient beliefs around connections between people, plants and planets after visiting.
Surrounded by magnificent beech and oak trees, Hardymount Gardens woodlands and beautiful walled gardens near Tullow in County Carlow are home to a huge array of unusual, vibrant plants and flowers.
Open from May to August, expect a sea of colour from the lilac-coloured Erysimum, to the yellow helianthus, beds of old roses, downy variegated mint, mimosa, blue agapanthus, California tree poppies, Chinese foxgloves and much more.
Wander the grassy emerald-green paths, past a lily pond, espaliered apple trees, a pergola covered with wisteria and more and embrace the calm atmosphere. Take a quiet minute of contemplation at the peaceful vegetable patch and summer house at the very end of the garden.
Though not gardens per se, budding gardeners will be inspired at Carlow’s great garden centres. Escape and enjoy Rathwood Garden Centre where their plants are in full bloom in the summer months. For green-thumbed kids, they also host workshops where they can learn all about gardening and grow their own plants.
The top-class Arboretum in Leighlinbridge, set on a 10-acre site, is the place to go to soak up expert advice from the in-house horticulturists. Get inspired by their enthusiasm and expertise, and borrow ideas from their exciting display garden. It was designed to be easy to care for and low maintenance so it’s the perfect place to gather tips for a beautiful garden you can enjoy, even with a busy lifestyle – ideal.
Whether you’ve got green fingers or just simply want to be one with nature, the Dolmen County is sure to keep you entertained with its stunning display of gardens and trails. Head over to our Carlow destination page for ideas for things to do after your visit to the gardens.
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