February is snowdrop season at Altamont Gardens in Co Carlow. So, a walk through the ornamental gardens at this time of the year is a must. Seemingly, there are over 100 varieties of snowdrop here, started by the last private owner of the house, a woman named Corona North. What a name that is in itself!
There’s an arboretum here, a bog glen, an ice age glen, yew trees, 500-year-old oak trees, a walled garden, a riverside walk. There are rare azaleas, rhododendrons, magnolias, and exotic shrubs. And, my personal favourite on any walk, a coffee shop!
The walk winds around a lake, alongside a babbling brook (cliché right there), down beside the River Slaney, up a hill towards The Temple, Altamont Garden’s folly. And then back around the lake towards the house and the plant sales shop.
With 40 acres of an estate, there’s a great feeling of space at Altamont. And the various landscapes, the rocky outcrops, the walks beneath tree canopies – all combine to make a special experience.
The house itself has seen better days, which is a pity. The last owner, Corona North, died in 1999, leaving the gardens to the State. Today’s house dates from the Georgian era and the gardens were expanded by Corona’s father, Fielding Lecky Watson. Another great name right there!
On any given day, the walks at Altamont Gardens are splendid. And, yes, especially so in February, snowdrop season.
And, really, Carlow and Altamont Gardens are no distance from neighbouring counties Wexford, Kilkenny, Waterford or Dublin. That makes them an ideal day trip, and well worth the visit.