Welcome to The Lost Garden

The Rawdon family of Moira acquired Montalto Estate in the 1660s. In the second half of the 18th century, extensive development was carried out by Sir John Rawdon (1st Earl of Moira). Within the demesne, Lord Moira was said to be ‘always planting, improving and embellishing’ so the results were a ‘good garden, a great variety of fruit trees, a neat pinery and grapery,’ and a demesne ‘adorned with shrubberies, temples, statues, ponds, and walks’ with the ‘planting laid out on each side of a deep glen through which the river runs’…

Lord Moira was ‘a great botanist, planter, and improver’ who ‘had exotic plants from across the world in his hot and green houses at Moira, which he brought to Montalto when he removed from Moira to there’…

Lord Moira died in 1793, and the 2nd Earl sold Montalto in 1800 with ownership subsequently passing to David Ker of Portavo. Consequently, there were significant works carried out within the demesne, including relocation of the kitchen gardens, the creation of pleasure grounds, and the erection of glasshouses.

From 1844 Montalto became the Ker’s principal seat, by which time the house had already been subjected to more substantial improvements, and some changes did occur to the arrangement of the glasshouses after 1861 and before 1902. This is indicated by the Ordnance Survey, and from the evidence of the buildings themselves. Eventually the Kers made the decision to sell Montalto in 1910.

The sale to Arthur, 5th Earl of Clanwilliam, was agreed in 1912 for a price of £20,000. The Earl and his wife, maintained and augmented the gardens, adding smaller frames, and opening to the public for charitable fetes in the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s, including one when the below picture was taken on 10th June 1933. Lady Clanwilliam gardened in Montalto from 1912 until 1939. Post second world war, the kitchen garden and glasshouses were abandoned, with the buildings, paths, and grounds falling into a ruinous and overgrown state.

(Excerpts from Kevin V. Mulligan’s Historical Report)



In 2018, whilst preparing to open Montalto’s grounds to the public, stone slabs were uncovered unexpectedly. After initial investigation, we identified these were part of a path that led to a forgotten garden. As you can imagine, there was much excitement with this discovery. Time however, was tight, and the focus of work had to be on the existing plans to open the rest of the estate.

2020 arrived and with it, a chance to revisit the area again, and continue exploration of what else was still to be uncovered. The owners wanted to breathe life back into this beautiful area, to tell the stories of days gone by, and to give visitors a further sense of estate history. Our aim has been to recreate this historic garden, including contemporary elements, with the project partially funded by the Tourism NI ‘Grow Your Business’ fund.

These pathways and gardens have many extraordinary tales to tell. The plants in The Lost Garden greenhouse were of such importance at the time, that the 1912 sale of Montalto almost fell through. Lord Clanwilliam said he would only sign the agreement should these plants be included in the deal. As part of our efforts to share this area, we have worked with a highly respected historic gardens’ consultant, and tried to remain as sympathetic as possible to what the area would have looked like. We hope you feel that you are stepping back in time, and experiencing a little of the tranquillity from that period…



We want visitors to enjoy their time in this area, however please be mindful this is a historic garden. As a result of this, we ask you to be aware that some areas may be uneven underfoot.


For your benefit and in respect of the area, we ask that you kindly adhere to the following:

  • Please keep to the designated paths
  • Mind your step
  • Children must be supervised at all times
  • Some areas are not wheelchair accessible due to their historic nature
  • Do not cross fences or gates
  • Always keep dogs on a short lead
  • Do not disturb original features or ruins
  • BBQs are not permitted
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