Pitmedden Garden was created in the 17th century by Sir Alexander Seton. A weather vane commemorates an incident near Aberdeen, where his father was killed by a cannonball when fighting for Charles 1. Now, all is peaceful. Be soothed by formal parterres and rows of clipped yews. Stand by the sundial and listen to oyster catchers. Stroll past pleached limes and the herb garden to find the Museum of Farming Life. Go home feeling rested after homebakes in the tearoom. Then come back in Autumn for apples, grown against granite walls.
Tucked away in the hills of Carmarthenshire the gardens of Aberglasney took seed some five hundred years ago. Much history and lost fortunes later the gardens (it was derelict in 1995), have been painstakingly restored to their original design by the Aberglasney Restoration Trust. With a visitor information display, ninfarium, ancient yew tunnel, several areas of garden including a cloister garden and a walled garden plus lovely walks, time passes all too quickly. The licensed tea room serves excellent light lunches and teas and it is a delight to take this on the terrace overlooking the pool garden - weather permitting! The gift shop at the entrance also sells plants so you can take home a living memento of your visit.
Holiday home of Queen Victoria and her family, an idyllic retreat on the beautiful Isle of Wight. The house, gardens and beach are all open to the public via English Heritage. It is a fascinating place to explore. Don't visit the Island just for the day - make at least a long weekend of it.
York Avenue East Cowes, Isle of Wight, PO32 6JX
Google map: bit.ly/PfK7k1
Best to begin by watching the eight minute film screened in the bright cafe at the entrance.
You learn that these Grade 1 listed Edwardian gardens, filled in in the 1940s, remained lost, even in local memory, until 2000 when a new owner began excavating.
Then wander through the gardens, finding lakes, fountains, a bog garden, horticultural surprises at every turn, even a croquet lawn. Most amazing are the subterranean grottoes, ferny and mossy, with tiny streams and little niches.
Though smaller in scale, these gardens have everything offered by historical garden sites. The plant sale is good, parking is free, the welcome is great. What more could you ask?
With the help of John Willis, Tim Smit discovered this idiosyncratic English landscaped garden long before he started the Eden Project. Although restorations and discoveries are still being made, it took me two days to see it all. More like an adventure playground for garden lovers, the 200 year-old site includes a boardwalk through a jungle, an enormous wilderness (look out for figures made from plants and rocks like the Giant’s Head and Grey Lady), a pineapple pit, lakes and formal gardens. I stumbled across some charcoal making, and other events include regular bee walks and bug sweeping.
Pentewan, St.Austell, Cornwall PL26 6EN
Google map: bit.ly/Nv93SJ
Open all year (except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day)
Main Season (1st April to 30th September) 10.00am – 6.00pm
Winter (1st October to 31st March) 10:00am – 5:00pm
Adults -- £10
Seniors -- £9
Children from 5 to 16 -- £6
Childen under five go free
Family ticket (2 adults + 3 children) -- £27
Newly-opened (June 2012) bed and breakfast in a hamlet in the south Lakes. Watch the weather change over Blackcombe, stroll down to the standing stones pictured on their website before dinner cooked with ingredients from the garden or other local sources, or head off to the beach. This is walking, cycling, riding territory. Oh, and there's a good pub in Kirksanton too. Run by Kev and Rachelle, who know how to put you at ease. Lovely, comfortable bedroom, instant relaxation. Close to Muncaster Castle, Ravenglass and other Lakes attractions.
Croft 36 supplies fresh croft produce from a purpose built hut outside the house - fresh bread, cakes, scones, quiches, dressed crab - all fantastic quality and value. And even better for when you are on holiday - meals to be picked up or even delivered if you are in South Harris. We had the Seafood Thermidor one night and the Goan Fish Curry another - they were both great! And the crab soup was to die for!
Croft 36, 36 Northton, Isle of Harris - on the right as you drive though from the main road - you can't miss it.
Google map: bit.ly/Nk9zXi
The gardens of Chatsworth House must be ranked among the most magnificent in Britain. It's worth a visit just to see the water features (though there is much more): the Cascade has been voted the best water feature in any garden in Britain; the Emperor Fountain was the highest in the world when it was constructed; on a smaller scale, the Willow Tree Fountain can't fail to amuse (it reputedly amused the young Princess Victoria). There is a choice of free, downloadable guides or you can join a guided tour.
You can't beat a garden and tea room combo to blow away the cobwebs at any time of year and Mount Stewart House in Co. Down delivers. From semi-formal Spanish and Italianate gardens, and the funky shamrock garden and dodo terrace to 80 gloriously rambling acres of secluded woodland with romantic neo-classical monuments and the chance to see red squirrels, plus seals and nesting sea birds on nearby Strangford Lough. And the tearoom? They make their own brand icecream, a well earned treat after all that healthy fresh air and walking.
The Dolphin House Brazzerie is a lovely little stylish restaurant just around the corner from the main Barbican, overlooking Sutton Harbour.
Wonderful food and excellent service. Good selection of vegetarian dishes and they said they can cater for gluten-free diets.
Well worth a visit.
A unique and exquisite 17th century Dutch water garden whose canals and ponds full of water lilies and lawns bordered by attractive topiary are best seen from the first floor of the summer house at the far end. A walk around takes you to a variety of herb and vegetable plots and a stunning display of very old espaliers. There are no cafe facilities on site but picnics on the lawns are encouraged.
In the 90s I used to walk Yogi, a joyful Bouvier des Flandres, in these gardens every day. Yogi has long gone, but the gardens are in better shape than ever after a £12.1m facelift courtesy of National Lottery funding. An artificial lake, classic bridge, cascade of waterfalls and even an Inigo Jones gateway are just some of the treasures hidden among the specimen trees and latticework of pathways in this early example of English landscape gardening. Dogs still roam free in the wild woods and fields, but must be leashed in the more formal areas.
This south London park, its landscaped gardens formerly part of the Kelsey Estate, has been kept secret by the locals for the past 99 years. It has been our family favourite since Grandma pushed Mum around in her pram before the Second World War. When I was a little girl, Mum and I fed the ducks together every Sunday. As Kelsey Park heads towards its centenary, and since I have no daughter of my own to pass it on to, the time has come to share Beckenham's hidden treasure with the rest of the world. I hope Grandma isn't turning in her grave.
"... Confidence is a preference for the habitual voyeur of what is known as ... Parklife!" Blur, 1994
Situated overlooking Coniston Water, Brantwood House was the home of John Ruskin for the last 20 years of his life. The gardens are set into the hillside, and give an insight into the mind of this great Victorian polymath. There are eight themed gardens, some radical (Dante's Purgitorial Mount), some medicinal, others dedicated to ferns (over 250). Having spent a few hours wandering around the gardens, (and house) you'll get an appreciation into the troubled mind of Ruskin.
As the name says, eat all you can for one fixed price. Good on veggie food and Indian cuisine. Cheap drinks make it ideal for a group.
A lot of cafes say they serve the best coffee in town but this one really does.
Owned by Antonio a fantastic host the food is also special.
A limited choice but all prepared fresh daily.
A first port of call for Italians visiting the city and a growing band of regular customers it's a class and much loved place to meet in the city.
The Met Quarter 43 Whitechapel, Liverpool, Merseyside L1 6DA
+44(0)151 236 2611
Google map: bit.ly/RrADEs
Enjoy this classic early 20th century garden, laid out in a series of yew edged rooms. Take a stroll around the kitchen gardens, wildlife areas and arboretums all planted with stunning flowers and shrubs. I have been to most National Trust gardens and this is my favourite. After a perfect meal in the lovely tearoom take a short signposted walk across nearby scenic fields to Great Chalfield Manor, another gem.
The Lazy Toad Inn, in Brampford Speke, a village some 15 minutes drive from Exeter city centre, serves excellent food and drink at reasonable prices. Much of the food is locally sourced, including some produce raised in the Inn's own garden.
The Toad also offers accommodation, with the usual facilities, including Wifi access, flatscreen tv, radio alarm, and iPod dock.
It has an attractive interior, with a decorative emphasis upon the eponymous Toad, plenty of space between tables, and a small garden close by with tables for eating and drinking outside in good weather.
The chef/proprietors, Mo and Clive Walker, offer a warm welcome, and the staff generally are knowledgeable and cheerful. The atmosphere combines informality with elegance. It is no surprise that a number of worthwhile awards for quality food have been garnered in recent years. They are highly deserved.
The Fashion Museum is a great place to visit and not just for people who like frocks! The displays are well-designed and you can get very close to the garments and their accessories, so it is quite evident how things have been made and whether or not the tailoring is skilful.
At present there is an excellent special exhibition, on until 2 September 2012, called 'Jubilee: dressing the monarchy on stage and screen', which shows over fifty costumes made for productions over more than 50 years. These are free-standing, and again you can see the garments at close hand and admire the workmanship. But there is much to see in the permanent collections, whether or not you go for this particular show.
The Fashion Museum is a treat and not to be missed.
The "Lungs of London": take a break from the city buzz and head up to Hampstead Heath. To breathe in wide, open and green views, start from the wonderful lido at Gospel Oak; trot up Parliament Hill to marvel at the city stretching out from east to west below; continue round the fields and woods to Kenwood House and enjoy a well-earned break on their outside cafe terrace; play spot the bird or spot the dog as you jog gently back down (approx three miles round route). To add to your fitness experience and commune further with nature, stop off at one of the swimming ponds (one each for men and women on the east Highgate side, and one mixed pond near Hampstead entrance) or finish off with a few lengths of the lido! To enjoy all four pools, enter the Hampstead Heath duathlon in early September, running between swims in all the pools, starting at the lido and finishing at the athletics track.
www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/green-spaces/hampstead-heath for a trails map and details of events like the duathlon. Can be easily reached from Gospel Oak or Hampstead Heath overground stations or C2 bus from Oxford Circus or 214 from the City/St Pancras, stopping at Parliament Fields.
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