At Belvedere, you can enjoy the parklands, the Victorian Walled Garden, the woodland and lakeside walks, and stunning views incorporating some of Ireland’s most famous Romantic follies – including the largest in Ireland – the now infamous ‘Jealous Wall’.
The story of Belvedere House is in many respects a reflection of the social history of Georgian Ireland; built in 1740 for Robert Rochfort, Lord Belvedere, as a Georgian Villa, designed by German architect Richard Castles. Robert Rochfort in 1736 married his 2nd wife Mary Molesworth.
Robert accused Mary of having an affair with his younger brother Arthur. With little evidence against them, they were both found guilty. Mary was kept under house arrest for 31 years until Roberts’s death. While Mary was incarcerated in Gaulstown House, Robert had Belvedere House built as his retreat. These events were a scandal at the time and led to Robert being known as “The Wicked Earl” for his cruel treatment of his wife and subsequently his brother and his family.
Belvedere House, Gardens & Park offers something for young and old. Visitors can enjoy 8km of walks, a Georgian Villa, a Victorian Walled Garden, Fairy Garden, three playgrounds, a gift shop, picnic areas and licensed café. A visit to Belvedere is a superb day with a difference.
The Gardens can be divided into two parts, consisting of the Walled garden and the arboretum surrounding the House. The most striking aspect of the walled garden is its unusual narrow rectangular shape which on entering, permits a panoramic view of its colourful interior. It still retains all the hallmarks associated with a 19th Century pleasure garden.
When Col. Bury further developed the garden, he brought to it some of the choice of flowering plants he had encountered in his travels. Many still grow here like the gentian blue Echinops and Fothergilla, with blooms like a demure “Bottlebrush”. Old roses are well represented bringing the allurement of delicate aroma and intimate scent. There are also some superb Hydrangeas, both species and cultivars. It is a garden fashioned in a different century and as such, possesses distinctive charms, not always to be found in more modern gardens.
Outside the Walled Garden there are about 12 acres of ground containing more of Col. Bury’s fancies. The presence of Metasequoia (Dawn Red Wood) denotes that planting continued up to the late 1940’s, the date of introduction of these trees. A fine Thuja Pilcata (Western Red Cedar) introduced in the mid 19th Century remains one of the most distinguished trees with its coppery red bark. The Pyndelus Picea Smithiana (Mordina Spruce) also adds distinction to this collection. Beech trees in this location rank with the best. Other noteworthy trees include the Caucasian wing nuts and a Sequoiadendron tree (the Mammoth tree). There is also a scattering of more ornamental trees including sugar maple, Japanese cherries and magnolias.
Development of the lake shore area and also the inclusion of walkways through the woodlands was undertaken by Westmeath County Council following the acquisition of the property in 1982. The woodlands form the entire boundary of the estate along Lough Ennell and Mullingar Golf Club. Many views of the lake and pastureland have been re-opened and subsidiary paths are available to the lakeshore, The Gothic Arch and The Octagonal Gazebo Summerhouse.
The Woodland area was extensively planted with Beech during the 18th Century and a very good “arboretum” of exotic conifers exists in the woodland which was planted in the last century. Pines and Birch dominate close to the lake shore. The paths through the woodland follow the original walkways except for new paths created to cut through the woodlands to the summerhouse, Gothic Arch and viewing points along the lake shore. The important tree groupings each side of the path have been preserved, namely Yews, Lime and Beech. The woodlands of the eastern sector have a richer, broader composition including a conspicuous “pocket” of exotic conifers and there is an Ice House located in the woods. Many of the “Big Houses” of Ireland boasted the amenity of an “ice house” in which to store foodstuffs. The essentials were an underground chamber to ensure an equable low temperature, adequate drainage and a cover which would give both insulation from the sun’s rays and easy access for charging and extracting. Availability of ice was obviously paramount and here it was readily obtained from the lake in winter.
Many of the trees in the woodlands are well over 100 years old, with one particular Yew tree located close to the Ice House reputed to be over 800 years old.
The word “Folly” is often used to describe an ornamental building serving no useful purpose. Some were designed as “sham ruins” while others were built simply to adorn the landscape. In Georgian times the inclusion of such follies as part of the overall improvements to the landscape were to provide subjects for melancholic contemplation of the triumph of civilisation over barbarity! Here are the Follies to watch out for.
The Jealous Wall (unmissable as you enter Belvedere Visitor Centre!)
The Jealous Wall was built c. 1760 as a result of a quarrel between Robert Rochfort and another brother George, the owner of nearby Rochfort House (subsequently re-named Tudenham House), now, alas a melancholy ruin. The Wall was built between the two houses as an artificial ruin of an abbey so as to exclude from Robert’s view the sight of his brother’s residence of which he was jealous. It is believed that the Earl went to enormous expense in constructing the ruin, to the extent of hiring the services of a celebrated Italian Architect Barrodotte to superintend its erection.
The Wall is in the form of a large gothic ruin built in stone with a central wall, Three pointed windows high up, and five smaller round headed windows above them. Two square wings project at either end of the wall which stands some 20 metres high.
The Jealous Wall still stands today, and is said to be the largest purposely built ruin of its kind in Ireland
This gazebo is located to the northwest of the House and is easily accessible from the Woodland Walk. It was once roofed and was built on a fortified terrace of brick and stone and probably served as a viewing point for visitors to the estate. When originally constructed, it had commanding views over the lake and surrounding lands. With the clearance of some over-mature trees in recent years, some of the views have been recreated.
The Gothic Arch was also built in the mid-18th Century as a mock entrance and a focal point at the northern end of the parkland. It consists of a rectangular castellated stone edifice. A turret like window appears on each side of a large Tuffa Crown. It is accessible via the Woodland Walk.
Open Daily Year Round
March & October: Daily 9:30 to 18:00. House, Café & Gift Shop close at 17:00
April & September: Daily 9:30 to 19:00. House, Café & Gift Shop close at 17:00
May to August: Daily 9:30 to 20:00. House, Café & Gift Shop close at 17:00
November, December, January & February: Daily 9:30 to 16.30. House, Café & Gift Shop close at 16:00
Closed: December 24 to 26 and during Special Events (check website to see when special events run). Belvedere may also close when staging large events.
Last admission: 1 hour before closing
Approx. visit duration: 2 hours
Belvedere regularly hosts great events from Bat Walks and Summer Family Theatre to special events at Easter, Halloween and Christmas. Their website has all the details.
Admission Prices 2020
Tip – 20% Discount if you book online (tickets valid for 365 days from date of purchase)
Senior (aged 65+): €6.00
Student (with valid ID): €6.00
Child (aged 3-12): €4.00
Child (under 3): Free
Family (2 adult & 1 child): €20.00
Family (2 adult & 2 children): €23.00
*additional children: €3.00 each
Family (1 adult & 1 child): €12.00
Family (1 adult & 2 children): €16.00
Guided Tours are available at an extra cost, pre-booking is required
LANGUAGES: free printed guides are available in English, German and Italian.
DINING / REFRESHMENTS: The licensed restaurant and café at Belvedere is operated by CaToCa Fine Foods & Giftware, and offers and extensive menu from snacks to full means. The restaurant can seat up to 100 peoples menus and can also cater for groups and special occasions such as birthdays, high teas, anniversaries and other special events. Contact Kevin Byrne on 086 6173534 or email email@example.com
PICNICS: There are many areas on the 160 acre estate where picnics can be enjoyed.
Wi-Fi: Free Wi-Fi is available in the Courtyard area of the Visitor Centre.
SHOPPING: Belvedere Gift Shop is operated by CaToCa Fine Foods and Giftware and offers an exclusive range of clothing, gifts and memorabilia.
CHILDREN: There are 4 children’s play areas featuring towers, slides, climbing frames, lakeside swings and a 30 metre Zipline at the lakeshore. The love the fairy trail too. Belvedere regularly stages special events for children and restaurants caters for children and can be booked for childrens parties. There are baby change facilities in the visitor centre.
PARKING: Free car and coach parking on-site. Coach drop-off points and parking are available for all pre-booked groups.
ACCESSIBILITY: Visitor Centre and café are fully wheelchair accessible. The House is not wheelchair accessible and some of the woodland paths in their natural state are uneven and would present some difficulty for wheelchair users. Assistance dogs are permitted.
GUIDED TOURS: Guided tours available (through English) with pre-booking, at a cost of €1 per person. Minimum numbers apply.
GROUPS: Group rates available (minimum 20 people). Pre-booking required.
Belvedere House is located 7km south of Mullingar town on N52, just one hour from Dublin.