In 1924 the property was purchased by Feilding Lecky Watson, who had previously worked as a tea planter in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). In the course of that work he had developed a keen interest in plants, particularly rhododendrons. At Altamont, Watson added to the already established gardens with the planting of his beloved rhododendrons, that thrived in the Carlow soil.
When Feilding Lecky Watson died in 1943, it was his daughter Corona (named after her father’s favourite species of rhododendron) that inherited the house and gardens. She worked for more than fifty years. When she died, she left the Altamont estate to the people of Ireland, and it is now managed by the Office of Public Works. Altamont Gardens are a real delight, and extend over some 40 acres of land alongside the River Slaney. You can see tall conifers that were planted in the 19th century, magnolias and Japanese maples, along with the ubiquitous rhododendrons that so delighted the Watsons. The centrepiece of the gardens is the large lake, fringed with mature trees and hidden nooks offering a new vista around every corner. The creation of the man-made lake was part of a programme of works that was initiated by the Doyles to provide work during the years of the Famine. There are a number of trails to enjoy around the gardens, including the Bog Garden, the Ice Age Glen, and the arboretum. The variety of planting means that Altamont Gardens offers something special all year round. Early spring is particularly lovely with great swathes of forty different variety of snowdrops in bloom, the summer is a riot of colour with the rhododendrons, the autumn colours are magnificent and the quiet solitude of the winter offers much too. It has become a very popular spot for visitors, especially at weekends, so if you plan on a lovely Sunday walk it is well worth arriving early. The tea rooms and the plant sales in the old walled garden can be especially popular, and after all that inspiration it is hard not to leave with at least a few additions for your own gardens.