Belvedere House, Gardens and Park
Just a few miles outside Mullingar you’ll find Belvedere House, Gardens and Park, a magnificent 160 acre lakeside estate, complete with grandiose Georgian House, Victorian Walled Garden and 18th century parkland. A hunting lodge might seem the last place you’d expect to find exquisite ceilings depicting fire-breathing dragons, but even more curious is the Jealous Wall.
This impressive feature is a huge Gothic folly (a mock-up of a ruined abbey) built by the lodge’s owner, Lord Belvedere. It was intended to block the view of his brother’s nearby residence, the grander Tudenham House.
The same “Wicked Earl” notoriously locked up his wife, Mary Molesworth, for 31 years on a spurious charge of infidelity, a story which still haunts the impressive historic house and estate. Although freed on the death of her evil husband, Mary was weakened by years of mental turmoil and the once lovely girl had become a deranged hag incapable of recognising her own sons.
Charles Brinsley Marlay opened the next and contrasting chapter of the Belvedere Story, described in "The Annals of Westmeath" as one of the best landlords in Westmeath. He added much beauty to the extensive grounds, developing the front terrace and Victorian Walled Garden, designed by the curator of the Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin.
The next owner Charles Howard-Bury, was a British soldier, explorer, botanist and Conservative politician who led the Mount Everest Reconnaissance Expedition in 1921 and is famous for having first reported sightings of giant footprints of Metohkangmi, the Abominable Snowman. He introduced exotic plants and flowers to the gardens and kept a 7ft bear at Belvedere House, which he brought back from an expedition to the Tian Shan Mountains on the China-Russia border.
The house itself is of great interest; Richard Castle (or Cassels) one of Ireland's foremost Palladian architects designed the house along with other iconic attractions including Powerscourt House in Wicklow and the Bishops Palace in the Viking Triangle in Waterford.
At the visitor centre, guided tours of the house and estate can be booked for groups, or you can choose to explore it yourself. For family fun, Belvedere is sure to impress, two children's play areas are located near the house itself and a third, featuring a 30 metre zipline can be found at the lakeshore.
The impressive exotic walled garden is well worth a visit, followed by a stroll through the extensive mature woodlands and magical Fairy Garden. Facilities include a fully licensed cafe, gift shop and ample car parking.