Five hundred metres above sea level and to the east of Funchal, the Quinta do Palheiro was created in 1801 by João José Xavier do Carvalhal Esmeraldo e Vasconcelos de Atouguia de Bettencourt de Sá Machado, one of Funchal's biggest agricultural landowners and owner of one of Madeira's longer names, as a hunting estate and summer residence. In 1835, he became the Count of Carvahal and was briefly the first civilian governor of the newly-create District of Funchal. He died in 1837 without issue and the estate (and title) passed to a free-spending nephew whose excesses finally resulted in financial ruin. The estate was acquired in 1885 by the Blandy family who had been early developers of Madeira's wine trade.
The first count was responsible for the creation of the gardens and initiated the collection of camellias for which it remains famous. It was a major undertaking, necessitating the construction of a levada (known today as the Levada do Blandy) from close to the Pico do Areeiro to provide irrigation and a source for the water features. Over the years, the range of plants has expanded and it now contains a wide range of plants and specimen trees from around the world. A family house remains on the estate, the "old house" being redeveloped as a hotel. As a result, parts of the grounds remain private.
There is a variety of other buildings, including a chapel and a tea house serving a variety of drinks and sandwiches. The elevated position offers panoramic views.
The gardens' own website gives comprehensive information about access by bus - there is a stop immediately outside the main entrance and the HF Urban buses 36 & 37 leave the "Pinga" stop in Funchal (east site of the EEM building). There's also car parking adjacent.