8. Altamont Gardens
In County Carlow, you'll find blooming rhododendrons, emerald-green meadows and a rose garden of rare beauty – the wonderfully atmospheric country gardens of Altamont richly deserve their description as one of “the most romantic gardens in Ireland”. Nature unfolds from every corner here, particularly in early spring, when a blanket of rare snowdrops can stop you in your stride. Sometimes orderly, sometimes wild, the gardens perfectly reflect the Robinsonian style beloved of the Victorians, and behind the blooms, history lurks, too. Just after the Great Famine, it took 100 men with horses and carts over two years to dig out the space for what is now a serene, waterlily-strewn lake.
9. Fota House, Arboretum & Gardens
In the 19th century, walled gardens were the engines driving the kitchens of big houses, with dedicated gardeners cultivating fruit, vegetables and herbs that would grace lavish dining tables. Travel back in time in County Cork, where Fota House’s award-winning Victorian Working Garden has been brought back to life for 21st century enjoyment, and now buzzes with hard-working volunteers tending to the orchard, pit houses and glasshouses. Step beyond this intriguing space, and you’ll find an estate that boasts a palm walk, orangery and arboretum with a stunning collection of rare, tender and exotic trees. Don’t miss a guided house tour of the 19th century mansion too – the preserved service wing is the perfect place to appreciate the workings of a big-house kitchen.
10. Emo Court
Designed by acclaimed architect James Gandon in 1790, the vast neoclassical Emo Court in County Laois is filled with fascinating history, from its lengthy build to its purchase by the Jesuits in the 1920s. But much of the house and garden’s current appearance is down to Major Cholmeley Harrison, who saw the property advertised in a newspaper in 1969 and impulsively bought it. Surrounded by gardens that were first laid out in the 18th century, the estate is a joy to explore – with formal lawns, a lake, majestic sequoias and rare flora framed by woodland walks. And in the distance, the handsome peaks of the Slieve Blooms rise to the occasion.