The gardens of Carlow are a spectacular show of nature.

Blessed with a lush, gently undulating landscape, the county is dotted with grand estate houses, formal gardens and extensive parklands and forests. Here’s a day tour designed to help you get the most from your visit to the Carlow Garden Trail.

Day 1: Start in Huntington Castle, Clonegal before travelling to nearby Altamont Gardens and Altamont Plant Sales and conclude your day with a visit to Hardymount Gardens, near Tullow.

Begin your escape to Carlow by embarking on a morning stroll of the gardens and woodlands at Huntington Castle with their many interesting aspects. These gardens were mainly laid out in the 17th century by the Esmondes, who first built the castle in 1625. They include the French limes on the Avenue, the ‘parterre’ or lawns to the side of the house, the fish ponds on either side of the centre walk through the wilderness and the majority of Yew trees which comprise the Yew Walk and are thought to be over 500 years old! Huntington also has a number of great Irish trees, including four varieties of hickory, a cut leaved oak, Siberian crab and buckeye chestnut.


The Kitchen Gardens

Explore the kitchen gardens, with the Greenhouse and the recently restored Rose Gardens. Then stroll through the enchanting Italian Gardens and the ruins of the old Abbey before walking through to the ‘Wilderness’ woodland where formal walks and pathways will guide you past shrubs, flora and bamboo to the old turbine house which supplied electricity to Huntington as early as 1888. The bottom of the wilderness is marked by the delightful River Derry which flows as the boundary between County Carlow and Wexford.


The House

A tour of the house provides a window into both its fascinating past, and the lives of the family who call the castle home today. Originally built by the Esmondes, many generations of the family added various extensions and details, resulting in the creation of a truly unique and interesting building. Today, it’s a lived in family home and current custodians, Alexander and Clare Durdin-Robertson and their family are keeping tradition alive in a decidedly hands-on fashion.


The Gift Shop

opening times

January: CLOSED
February – April: Saturdays and Sundays
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

May – September: Daily 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

October – December: Saturdays and Sundays
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Bank Holidays, Easter Break, Halloween Break: Daily 11.00 – 17.00


To get the full Huntington experience stay the night in one of their beautiful castle rooms or self-catering cottages

Castle bedroom in Huntington Castle, Clonegal, Co. Carlow
Castle bedroom in Huntington Castle, Clonegal, Co. Carlow

Altamont Gardens

The next stop on this adventure is Altamont Gardens and Altamont Plant Sales located in the Walled Garden, a short ten-minute drive from Huntington Castle. Altamont Gardens captures nature’s true artistry. Spanning over 40 acres, the gardens are not only home to rare flora, but also to a mature tree collection which decorates the entire landscape. Adjacent to the house, are well-kept lawns which are bisected by sculpted yews and adorned with rhododendrons when in season. It’s a lovely place to visit throughout the gardening year from the wonderful snowdrop collection in February to the rhododendrons in May, roses in June and majestic trees in autumn and winter.  A romantic lake which is home to flowering Nymphaeaceae (water lilies) and other natural wildlife forms the centrepiece of the garden.

The House

Altamont House, a testament to elegance and heritage reportedly started its life as a convent and dates back to the 16th. The estate was purchased by Fielding Leckey Watson in 1924 and later passed to his daughter Corona North who travelled extensively to secure some of the plant life on display. When she passed in 1999, the estate was left to the Irish State where the Office of Public Works maintain and restore it.


Other Gems

opening times

Jan 1st–31st, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., 7 days/week

Feb 1st–28th, 9 a.m. – 4.30 p.m., 7 days/week

March 1st-31st, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., 7 days/week

Apr 1st-Sept 30th, 9 a.m. – 6.30 p.m., 7 days/week

Oct 1st-31st, 9 a.m. -5 p.m., 7 days/week

Nov 1st-30th, 9 a.m. – 4.30 p.m., 7 days/week

Dec 1st-31st, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., 7 days/week

Closed Christmas Day and in adverse weather conditions.

Closed on Christmas Day and in adverse weather conditions.

No admission fee but a car parking fee of €2 irrespective of stay applies. Free guided tours are available daily from February to end of November at 10.30 a.m., 12.30 p.m. and 3.30 p.m. daily. Pre-booking of group tours is requested.

T: 046-046 940 7175 E:

Altamont Plant Sales - Painting in the Garden

Conclude your day of activities in Hardymount Gardens.

This is a very special private garden, originally owned by Sheila Reeves Smyth and now owned by her daughter Justina and gardener Mark McKeever. This wonderful walled garden covering over 2.5 acres, contains many unusual plants and flowers in the borders. The grass paths take you past a pond with lilies and fish to espaliered apple trees, Lobelia tupa, a pergola clothed with wisteria and underplanted with hollyhocks and foxgloves and on to a vegetable garden. A summer house in a sheltered corner provides a quiet area for rest and relaxation. Hardymount Gardens is a truly beautiful country garden


where historic trees and a wonderful walled garden blend seamlessly.