Carlow Garden Festival
It’s hard to believe that it’s twelve months since I last wrote about Carlow Garden Festival. Ever since then I’ve been meaning to share details with you of all the beautiful gardens we’re lucky to have on our doorstep, yet here we are again with another festival about to begin. So whether you’re passing through the second smallest county in Ireland, or better still staying for a few days, the ten-day garden festival held in County Carlow every summer is an opportunity to see the best of Carlow’s gardens up close and personal. All of the following gardens attract celebrities for walks and talks during the garden festival, but most are open throughout the year. Read on for more information.
No. 1 – Huntington Castle, Clonegal
Three generations of the Durdin Robertson family are living in Huntington Castle and Alexander and Claire are doing a great job improving the gardens and enticing us to visit their home. Garden features include an Italian style ‘Parterre’ walk, a French Lime Avenue, an impressive Yew Walk, ornamental lake, rose garden and greenhouse as well as a discreet and natural adventure playground for the children.
The gardens are open May to September and there’s a fee of €5 for adults and €2.50 for children though ask for the group discount if there’s a few of you. We found that dogs are very welcome as long as they are kept on their leads. I took my Canadian family there in early May and the kids didn’t want to leave the natural adventure playground. Well worth a visit if you’re looking to tire them out! The (recommended) castle tour and tea rooms are open daily in August and at weekends in May, June, July and September. Telephone +353 (0)53 9377160 for more information.
In Clonegal village just up the road from Huntington Castle, you’ll find the enchanting Clonegal Community Garden, one of 14 that I’ve had the pleasure of tutoring in Carlow and Kilkenny where the gates are always open for visitors to look around.
No. 2 – Delta Centre Multi Sensory Gardens, Carlow Town
The Delta Centre can be found in the unlikely Strawhall Industrial Estate in Carlow Town, but don’t let its entrance put you off. Not only does the Delta Centre have a café and garden centre, there are twenty interconnecting themed gardens to wander through that will awaken all your senses.
The gardens are open from March to December 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, 11am to 5.30pm weekends and public holidays. Entrance is €5 for adults, children free and group discounts are available. Telephone: +353 (0)59 9143527 for more information.
GPS: 52.844988, -6.924546
No. 3 – Altamont Gardens, Tullow
I’ve been visiting Altamont with my family since the kids were in backpacks and toddling and have taken almost every visitor who’s ever stayed with us there. I now like to wander around on my own, usually with camera in hand, quietly absorbing the tranquility and romanticism of the gardens.
At Altamont the herbaceous borders and clipped lawns will lead you down through the rose walk and around the lake to the ice age glen. At the bottom there’s a short stroll along the River Slaney then it’s back up the 100 steps to continue your walk around the lake, finishing among the ancient trees and up to the garden centre where you can buy pots full of plants you may have spotted on your walk.
Altamont Gardens are open every day of the year except Christmas Day with various entrance times. Entrance is FREE but pre booked guided walks are available with a tour guide for a small fee. Telephone +353 (0)59 9159444 or +353(0)87 9822135 for more information or www.carlowgardentrail.com/altamont-gardens. No dogs.
GPS: 52.735129, -6.720966
No. 4 – Hardymount Gardens, Tullow
Hardymount is a new garden for me but its old walled garden containing herbaceous borders full of unusual plants, espaliered fruit and a vegetable garden will easily lure me in. Hardymount is also home to one of the largest Spanish chestnut trees in the country. The gardens are open daily from May to August from 2pm to 6pm, there is a small entrance fee, they are wheelchair accessible but no dogs or picnics allowed. Car Parking available. (Coach may park on road). For more information telephone +353 (59) 9151769.
No. 5 – Borris House, Borris
Borris House is the ancestral home of the McMorrough Kavanaghs, High Kings of Leinster and is not only surrounded by the Blackstairs Mountains but has the River Barrow flowing beside the woodland gardens. The demesne (pronounced doe-main) is a fine example of how a formal Baroque landscape evolved over centuries into the impressive parkland setting visible there today. The mature estate has many specimen trees, original Stew Pond and an 18th century Ice House. A recent addition is the inspirational Lace Gardens making it a garden not to be missed in the county.
Guided tours are available of the house and gardens from Monday to Friday during May to September, and by prior arrangement between October and May. Contact Borris House directly for more information on +353 (0) 059 9771884
GPS: 52.598644, -6.926618
No. 6 – Kilgraney House, Bagenalstown
Kilgraney is a country guest house that I find difficult to talk about without a wistful sigh. If you love your fruit, vegetables and herbs there’s so much there to love. From the large kitchen garden, the tea walk, medicinal herb courtyard and medieval monastic herb garden, to the cottage herb garden and cosmic herb wheel, the gardens are full of aromatic and fragrant herbs.
The gardens are open to non-residents up to August 16th, Thursday to Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays between 2.00pm and 6.00pm. Groups and coaches are by prior appointment only. Admission is €3.00, refreshments are available and a selection of herb plants are for sale. For more information Telephone +353 (0)59 9775283.
GPS: 52.653681, -6.957602
No. 7 – Duckett’s Grove, Nr Carlow
Duckett’s Grove is a ruin in what was once a 12,000 acre estate that dominated the Carlow landscape for over 300 years. Now it’s home to several craft shops and a tea room as well as two restored walled gardens, pathways and bridge that our kids used to love playing “Billy Goats Gruff” under. Facilities include a large car and coach park, toilets, wheelchair access and dogs allowed on a lead. Entrance is Free. Telephone +353 (0)59 9723620 for more information.
GPS: 52.858748, -6.812787
No. 8 – Leighlinbridge Village
Our local village of Leighlinbridge, was the winner of Best Kept Small Town and Ireland’s Best Kept Town 2015. The Millennium garden, the Remembrance garden as well as the Sculpture and Vivaldi gardens can be found on opposite sides of the River Barrow tow path walk, and will give you an opportunity to pick up some inspiration for your own shrubberies and container gardens with their beautiful displays. With several pubs in the village as well as the Lord Bagenal Hotel and a child’s playground, there’s lots to keep you occupied there.
No. 9 – Arboretum Garden Centre, Leighlinbridge
Garden centres don’t usually appear in suggestions of gardens to visit but Arboretum on it’s 10 acre site is more than just a garden centre with its shops, restaurant, maze, children’s play area, raised vegetable gardening beds and inspirational gardens. When our kids were small and it first opened in Leighlinbridge, we spent almost an entire day there. I was lucky enough to do my work experience in the garden centre under the watchful eyes of Eamon Wall and Ger Heary and it’s still my favoured place to buy top quality plants as well as for work meetings and tea with friends (free WiFi). Arboretum is open almost all year Monday to Saturday and Bank Holidays 9am to 6pm, Thursdays 9am to 8pm and Sundays 11am to 6pm. Telephone +353 (0)59 9721558 for more information.
No. 10 – Rathwood, Tullow
As well as a classy, shopping emporium in the rural Carlow countryside, Rathwood boasts an animal park, restaurant, forest walks, train rides and a children’s play ground and we have many fond memories of taking the family there for picnics. We took my parents there for their 45th wedding anniversary where mum fell in love with the hawks in the falconry and birds of prey area and in 2014 the Maze of Ireland was opened. It consists of 2,500 beech hedging woven together in the shape of Ireland and covers 1.2 acres. Telephone: +353 (0)599156285 for more information, open Monday to Sunday 9am to 6pm, Sundays 10am to 6pm.
GPS: 52.796597, -6.660739
No. 11 – No. 7 The Meadows, Myshall
No 7, The Meadows is owned by Dame Philippa Balyiss, author and painter based in Myshall and is the inspiration behind many of her paintings. It can also be used as an example to demonstrate what can be achieved with a small budget and limited time
The garden is open March to September from 12 noon until 5pm daily with the exception of Thursdays.
Telephone +353 (0)59 9157530 for more information. Admission €5.00.
Gardens Just Outside Carlow
Burtown House, Athy, Co Kildare
Burtown House sits on 10 acres with gardens that contain herbaceous borders, shrubberies, a rock garden, a Yew walk with dividing pergola, an old orchard, walled organic vegetable garden and a large woodland surrounded on all sides by water. My flimsy description is doing it an injustice though and I’d urge you to head over to their website and find out more about the history and connection to explorer Ernest Shackleton as well as learn more about the rare and unusual plants, before heading to the house and gardens themselves.
Opening times vary but are from early Spring until Autumn. Adults €6.00, children €4.00 under 12s Free. Contact Burtown House from more details on Telephone: +353 (0)59 8623148 or www.burtownhouse.ie
GPS: 52.996672, -6.870744
Newtownbarry, Bunclody, Co Wexford
We’ve yet to visit Newtownbarry, a striking country house built 1883-89. It’s surrounded by gardens that include a two acre sunken walled garden complete with its original 18th century grottos and pool, a fountain, herbaceous borders and shrubs, rose garden and mature trees. The gardens are open from late Spring to the end of August from 12 noon until 6pm, but closed on Mondays except Bank Holidays. Entrance is €4.00 for the house, €4.00 for the gardens, Cons, OAPs and Students €3.00, children under 12 Free. Refreshments available in the farm cafe and craft shop. Telephone +353 (53) 9376383 for more information.
GPS: 52.65673, -6.65035
For more on Carlow and its gardens, take a look at the Carlow Garden Trail Website