North Wales is well-known as a land of mist and mountains but did you know that we’re also home to some of the UK’s most beautiful gardens?
Whether you’re seeking time to reflect in tranquil surroundings or to spend a day learning about our wonderful natural world, a visit to one of North Wales’s many gardens is a real treat, especially in springtime. Gardens can be stunning at any time of the year but we think there’s something really special about the first, vibrant blooms of the year.
These are our recommendations for the best early season displays.
Bodnant Garden – Tal-Y-Cafn, Conwy
No review of gorgeous Welsh gardens would be complete without mentioning world-renowned Bodnant Garden in the Conwy Valley. Perched on a slope above the majestic River Conwy and spanning more than eighty acres, this National Trust property is something of a national treasure too – regarded as one of the most splendid gardens in the whole of the UK.
The first blooms are already saluting the start of the spring; in the last week the magnolia buds have appeared, gracing the Croquet lawn of the estate’s old house, and the tulips are on their way!
New for 2015: following years of renovation, Bodnant will open the ‘Far End’ on the 28th of March. Lost for many years in the undergrowth but now painstakingly restored, the Far End is a brand new ‘old’ garden area to explore. Visitors will delight in the quaint boathouse, lovingly returned to its former glory, and get close to nature beside the estate’s very own skating pond.
Click here for more details about Bodnant Garden.
Plas Newydd – Anglesey
This National Trust gem may be better known as Lord Anglesey’s ancestral stately home, but the gardens that surround the building and gently drape down into the tranquil waters of the Menai Strait are every bit as special.
A delightful woodland walk reveals spring and early summer rhododendrons, though you may find it difficult to tear your eyes away from the gorgeous views of Snowdonia across the water. Go early or later in the day and, if you’re very lucky, you may catch a fleeting glimpse of a red squirrel – greys have been kept from the island for about a decade now.
Gardens open 10.30am to 5.30pm but occasionally close midweek. For further details click here.
Italian Gardens – Portmeirion, Gwynedd
Portmeirion is an iconic local landmark that has to be seen to be believed. You’ve probably seen images of it before without realising; it’s easy to mistake this quaint Welsh folly for a chic destination on the Italian Riviera. Built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975 in a distinctive Italian style, the village, gardens and 12th century castle ruins are a must-see on any trip to North Wales.
In 1973 Portmeirion was given Grade II listed status and, more recently, was the recipient of Heritage Lottery funding. The Lottery grant assisted with the restoration of the site’s Victorian gothic house, ‘Castell Deudraeth’, and gardens. Landscape consultants were commissioned to draw up a restoration plan to recreate the original layout and plantings.
Whether you fancy taking a walk on the wild side through Portmeirion’s fabulous collection of rhododendrons (due to bloom very soon!) or prefer the precision symmetry of the restored formal gardens, spring is the perfect time to visit.
Plas Brondanw – Y Garreg, Gwynedd
The gardens at Plas Brondanw are not as famous as those at Portmeirion but they, too, were commissioned by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis.
Just five miles from Portmeirion, the main features of Plas Brondanw’s gardens date from the early 20th century. Sir Clough inherited the house and gardens in 1908 and spent the next seventy years developing a unique landscape in his hallmark style. In 1951 a terrible fire ravaged the old house, completely destroying it, but he was undeterred and continued his restoration with renewed vigour.
Sir Clough was passionate about creating a series of dramatic and romantic outlooks and often used the Renaissance gardens of Italy as inspiration. The design of the Plas Brondanw garden is also strongly architectural, relying heavily on Welsh stone walls, topiaries and avenues of trees to form beautiful vistas which draw the eye to the peaks of Snowdonia. The result is a garden considered by many to be finer than the gardens at Portmeirion.
Plas Brondanw reopens to the public in time for Easter, on Saturday the 28th of March, presenting itself in the myriad colours of spring for all to enjoy.