Belvedere, County Westmeath

Among the surviving parks that still border the banks of Lough Ennel is Belvedere - perhaps the finest small scale landscape park in Ireland. Created as the setting for an exquisite villa, it featured a house that was built in 1740 for Robert Rochfort, first Earl of Belvedere, to a design by the celebrated architect Richard Castle. The park is best known for its follies but it also shelters an attractive walled garden and some fine trees.

Belvedere House stands on a knoll facing south west with three formal mid nineteenth-century terraces complete with urns and yews dropping to the waters of the lake and giving panoramic views of Lough Ennel, its woods and islands. Within the rolling parkland, dotted with clumps of trees and distant wooded belts, stand some fine mature trees, notably at the south end below the house where there is a magnificent group of weeping beech, redwood, thuja cedar, sweet chestnut and Douglas fir.

The view south is blocked by the remarkable Jealous Wall, the largest Gothick folly in Ireland. Comprising an enormous sham ruin with pointed windows, it was built to blot out all sight of the neighbouring house, then occupied by the Earl of Belvedere's brother with whom he had violently quarrelled. The folly may be the work of Thomas Wright of Durham (1711-86), the English astronomer and adviser on many gardens who was working in Ireland during the 1740s. Another folly at the northern end of the park, the Gothick Arch, is certainly based on one of Wright's published drawings. An octagonal gazebo built on a fortified terrace of brick and stone is a later construction.

The fine rectangular seven-acre Walled Garden to the east of the house was built by Lieutenant Colonel Charles Howard-Bury who inherited the demesne in 1912. Howard-Bury was a noted traveller and amateur plant collector whose name is commemorated in the white primula P. buryana which he brought back to Kew from the Himalayas. Prior to his death in the 1960s the Walled Garden featured impressive herbaceous borders and greenhouses. Many of his plants still grow here - for example, a blue thistle-like echinops, a thirty-three-foot high trachycarpus, shrubs of Decaisnea fargesii, clumps of bamboo, and a water lily pool surrounded by bergenias. Today the garden also grows old roses, hydrangeas and beds containing a range of herbaceous material, all maintained by West meath County Council who own the property.

Located 4 miles from Mullingar on the Tullamore Road.
NGR: N 420477.
Open May to September. Refreshments available on Sundays.
Toilet facilities. Mostly suitable for wheelchairs.
Dogs on lead. Admission charged.