North Wales tour

This year the Gardening Club visited nine wonderfully varied gardens in North Wales, set against the scenic backdrop of the Snowdonia National Park. We were based at the Royal Goat Hotel, Beddgelert, itself located in magnificent scenery close to the foot of Snowdon. We again had an excellent guide in Tony Russell.  Tony is not only an acknowledged expert on all aspects of gardens and gardening, but also very knowledgeable about Snowdonia since he lives within the Park. As in previous years, the tour was arranged by Brightwater Holidays.

We visited Chirk Castle en route where there are 5½ acres of manicured lawns, clipped yews, herbaceous borders, rose, shrub and rock gardens, and a wooded pleasure ground, all with stunning views over the Cheshire and Shropshire plains. There was also time to see the historic interior of the Castle.

On our second day we travelled to Plas Tan y Bwlch, a Victorian garden in a spectacular setting part way up the side of a mountain valley.  We continued to Plas Brondanw, the Italianate garden created by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis.  A light, misty drizzle here added to an other-worldly atmosphere as we investigated the endless garden rooms separated by yew hedges. The day ended with a visit to Portmeirion, the famous Italianate village, also designed by Williams-Ellis, with recently improved gardens.  Some of us enjoyed a walk in the Gwyllt, a display woodland with a wide variety of choice trees.

The next day saw us cross the Menai Strait to Anglesey where we visited Plas Cadnant, a hidden historic garden which is slowly being uncovered (rather like Heligan in Cornwall). Different areas have been discovered and restored over the past 20 years, including an unusual walled garden with curving walls and a pool, a secret valley garden with three waterfalls and a river, and an upper woodland garden. We were privileged to see Plas Cadnant spectacularly transformed back to its former glory. In the afternoon we visited Plas yn Rhiw, an interesting old house with a cottage garden, woodland and wonderful views over the Llyn Peninsula and across Cardigan Bay.

On our fourth day, we drove past Snowdon to the Conwy Valley to visit Maenan Hall Gardens near Llanrwst. Lying on a hillside, these have dramatic views of Snowdonia.  We saw sweeping lawns, ornamental ponds, colourful borders and a woodland dell filled with specimen shrubs and trees.  We spent the rest of the day in Bodnant, which is one of National Trust’s finest gardens, also situated above the River Conwy, a huge and magnificent estate spanning some 80 acres.  We were fortunate to visit the main garden around Bodnant Hall when the roses were at their best – covering terrace after terrace in glorious colour and fragrance.  Many of us also visited the Dell, formed by the River Hiraethlyn and containing a wild garden and an arboretum of many fine specimen trees.

On our final day we had time for one last visit to Aber Arto, near Harlech, on the way home.  This is a lovingly restored Arts & Crafts period house and garden. We enjoyed sampling the many different garden areas, including highlights such as the William Morris rose garden, an Italian courtyard garden, a Japanese garden, and the Stations of the Cross.

Chirk Castle

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Plas Tan y Bwlch

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Plas Brondanw

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Plas Cadnant

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Plas yn Rhiw

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Maenan Hall

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Bodnant Gardens

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Aber Artro

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