It's 20 acres of beautiful walks amongst a huge variety of Himalayan shrubs and trees (magnolias, azaleas,rhodedendrons etc) in a riot of colour, all nesting in a peaceful wooded valley in North Yorkshire. Dotted around the landscape are sculptures to admire and fascinate. A hidden gem, only open from mid-April to mid-June each year, the garden is a haven of peace and tranquility, with friendly knowledgeable staff and an impressive nursery for those who want to take a little bit of it home with them at the end of their visit.
We’ve got some lovely gardens in Snowdonia, such as Bodnant and Portmeirion, but for me the walled garden at Maes y Neuadd is the best – it’s good enough to eat!
The 149 items of fruit and veg only just fit onto a sheet of A4.
Each morning, the head gardener reports to the kitchen, with the complete list of produce indicating what’s at its best. Armed with this knowledge, the chef finalises the day’s menu and the harvest begins - eight tonnes a year.
The vegetable garden is not just a culinary feast, but an aesthetic inspiration. What better than an afternoon stroll spotting the gaps from where tonight’s supper was plucked? Maybe some helpful hints and tips from one of the gardeners?
You never know who you might bump into – Sean Connery, Richard Gere, Senator Edward Kennedy and Jackie Onassis have all stayed here.
A truly fabulous garden; crafted into the hillside overlooking Loch Tuath on Mull.
No admission is charged, although the owner gratefully accepts donations, and she will happily answer questions if you are able to corner her as she traverses the slopes, seemingly completing a multitude of tasks all at the same time!
The plant-life showcases the immense variety that can be grown in this temperate, Gulf-stream fed climate, and a plethora of odds and sods are to be found dotted among the plants: anchors, ploughs, cog wheels and other gently rusting adornments. The paths are lovingly crafted in mosaic patterns; bricks and pebbles set in beautiful patterns, and a few chickens peer back at you through the (hopefully) mink-proof wires.
Visit this lovely garden during early evening, and the setting sun dapples through the leaves; the blossom and flowers glowing gently. However, I am also certain that visiting on one of Mull’s more common ‘grey’ days, the garden will remain resplendent in glorious shades and textures.
(There is also holiday accommodation in the form of a B&B conveniently located in the garden)
As well as steam trains the Vale of Ffestiniog offers spectacular wildlife and nature. Sea trout and salmon on the Afon Dwyryd and if you’re lucky you might see an otter. On either side of the valley Atlantic oakwoods or Celtic rainforest, more scarce than tropical rainforests and every bit as special with magnificent lichens, liverworts and slime molds. Redstarts and pied flycatchers arrived a few weeks ago. Right now the woods are blooming with bluebells and wild goats stepping carefully so as not to squash them.
Abandoned slate mines make perfect roosts for many species of bat such as the ‘lesser horseshoes’. ICI's explosives factory, Gwaith Powdwr, in which 17 million grenades were made is now a nature reserve where later this month you can hear the nightjars. Llechwedd Slate Caverns has nesting choughs.
We might have pine martens but are struggling to prove it. Ospreys returned to the area in 2004 and this year’s chicks recently hatched. Up in the mountains ravens and buzzards patrol the skies with the occasional red kite. Moths galore, last summer a holiday maker recorded 180 different species during his weeklong stay. Along the coast you might see bottlenose dolphins, porpoise, grey seals or maybe even a leatherback turtle – some years ago a turtle the size of a mini was washed up on Harlech beach and now sits in the National Museum of Wales.
Forget Galapagos, come to Ffestiniog! This is home to Ivor the Engine and Idris the dragon. What's more we've got a live wolf!
Little Sparta is a garden created by the artist Ian Hamilton Finlay over four decades. It is unique and delightful. As you wander round you are continually surprised as you encounter his many art works.
A truely magical place!
Imaginative planting, sculptures, futuristic water features, poison garden, giant tree house with cafe serving delicious food.
If that isn't enough, you can combine your visit with a trip to "Hogwarts" castle next door.
Set in the Royal Burgh of Culross, an historic restored walled garden, sheltered behind a 16th century merchant's house, it incorporates many of the features that would have been there at that time. It's easy to while away an afternoon wandering the terraces of fruit, vegetables and herbs, pleasingly interspersed with aromatic plants and flowers. While the little orchard of apple, mulberry, quince and fig trees provide a home for the Scottish Dumpies (hens!) that root around there.
Find a sheltered seat under one of the arches or bowers, up by the espaliered vines and admire the tremendous views over the Firth of Forth to the Forth Bridge and beyond.
Don't forget to visit the little stall in a corner of the garden which sells its produce when in season, everything from marrows to apples.
While there take the time to explore the house itself and wander around the cobbled streets of Culross, one of the prettiest villages in Scotland. There's a tearoom and gallery -the Biscuit Cafe and an ancient and very good, pub with beamed ceiling and beer garden - the Red Lion should you be feeling like a "wee refreshment" during your visit.
Mirehouse Estate Gardens is filled with fantastic rhododendrons which at this time of year, pack an enormous floral tower above you as you enter the garden. The sheer size of the pine trees and other mature plants, shows how long the house and estate have been here. There is also a more formally laid out bee garden, within a walled area. Big and small kids will love the steeplechase course, assualt course and defending the wooden towers! (We like to use pine cones to attack and defend with). Very small children will enjoy the play area, surrounded by very shallow bubbling streams. Continue walking through the garden into the larger estate land, and you are able to walk along Bassenthwaite's shoreline - we have used plentiful driftwood to build our own raft before! We love it, because it is a well kept secret! Even though Keswick is only 15 minutes away, we have often spent days here and seen only a handful of people. Buy your ticket at The Old Sawmill tearoom - you will get a discount with your car park ticket.
Kew Gardens is a fabulous place to spend time. No matter what time of year you visit, there is always something new blooming or growing, waiting to wow you. But there is so much more to Kew than Gardens. There is beautiful architecture, a treetop walkway, art exhibitions, talks and even a mini music festival in summer. There's also a fabulous indoor and outdoor place space for kids too. Something for everyone!
I had the most fab Sunday lunch here. When I walked into the pub, I went 40 years back in time to the smell of my mom's dinner cooking. The food was delightful, a real Sunday lunch. A lady in her late 40's, glasses dangling from her neck, came out to see if we were all happy (and to make sure the children had eaten enough before their treat). We told her to give our compliments to the chef, "no chefs here me love, just a cook" she said. She then went back and appeared in chef whites, and said "told you no chefs here." It was priceless, she was priceless and so was the 'dinner' as she called it.
It's quite an experience to have a view of the lovely city from the ferry immortalized in Gerry and the Pacemaker's hit from the 60s. It was a cold and extremely windy day in April. Probably not the best day for a boat ride but it was my last day in town and I decided I had to give it a try and I'm thankful I did that.
It was an amazing ride with a fantastic view of the city's landmarks: The Three Graces as well as other beautiful sights with possibility of stops at Seacombe and Woodside. You can really feel the timeless spirit of the city and its people who by the way make you feel welcome and at home there. One of the places with the nicest people in the world! Makes you feel like coming back soon!
You can buy tickets at the Liverpool Ferry Terminal, near Albert Dock, for about £ 7.00 (round trip). More details at www.merseyferries.co.uk/Content/Cruises/RiverExplorerCruises.aspx
Google map: bit.ly/lo6lp6
At the Alnwick Garden you can sway across the wooden bridge to Britain's largest treehouse; find out how medieval monks purged themselves on bulbs in the poison garden; admire the thousands of matching purple tulips growing beneath the cherry blossom; get enjoyably soaked by the water sculptures, and still have time to pop back to the castle where you might meet Hagrid and Dumbledore. Tickets last for, and happily fill, two consecutive days and allow you back into Alnwick town for lunch if you don't want to eat in the garden's own restaurant.
Rough Trade East is an independent record store situated just off Brick Lane in east London. They frequently host in-store gigs for artists predominantly from the indie scene and those still emerging.
I like these gigs because they are small and I can always manage to get to right to the front, just a few centimetres from my favourite band, while being able to see them properly - something I rarely experience at other gigs. After their performance we can meet the artist and get a signed album/single.
Each an every gig is like a once in a life time opportunity and you never forget them!
There's nowhere quite like the Jazz Cafe when it comes to music gigs. I love the intimacy of the venue and how close you feel to the performers.
It's a great music venue and also hosts a wide variety of shows and events from philosophy and comedy to mountain bike films. My favourite ever show was by Joshua Radin. The club is small but has a great atmosphere and even serves hot chocolate!
Castle Howard is set in thousands of acres of beautiful North Yorkshire countryside, and the gardens have just won the Historic House Association/Christie’s Garden of the Year Award.
As you explore, surprise vistas keep unfolding - a wonderful example of architecture and nature in perfect harmony.
Close to the house you’ll find the enchanting 18th century walled rose garden, and a stroll along the grass terraces will bring you to Ray Wood, which is particularly impressive at this time of year with a plethora of rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias in bloom. There are lakes and fountains, statues, temples and architectural follies galore, as well as the impressive mausoleum which is still used as the Howard family resting place.
There is even an ornamental vegetable garden, and an adventure trail for families. If you - or your offspring - get inspired, then you can call at the garden centre on your way out.
The Barrowland Ballroom is a hot, sweaty venue with a low ceiling which is virtually unchanged since the ballroom was rebuilt in 1960. It has excellent acoustics and a sprung dance floor (because of its original role as a ballroom) and is just the best place to see live bands. Although its capacity is limited to just under 2,000 it attracts big name bands because of the fantastic atmosphere - a reason it has remained popular with the punters for 50+ years. Have a look at the 1983 video of Simple Minds' single Waterfront, which was filmed there.
If you're in Glasgow check out who's playing in the local paper and go along if you can. Have a drink in the Saracen's Head pub, opposite, to sample the full flavour of a Glasgow night out!
This is a great little arts and crafts gallery which we came across after walking up the steep hill. The gallery is a treasure trove of locally made crafts, paintings, bronze and glass and had some trendy vintage pieces for sale too. This was our first visit to Bishop's Castle and we would recommend it as worth a visit. Lots of other unusual shops and buildings to look at which are all painted different colours. If you need a rest after walking up the hill, try the beer garden at the castle which has a breathtaking view of the surrounding Shropshire hills.
This is an amazing quiet grand 18th Century square hidden away in the centre of London. By day it's a great place for a drink and a play in the fountains. By night in the summer you can hear great bands such as Beady Eye, Blondie, Hurts, Eels and Ellie Goulding.
The building was discovered languishing as a council car park by Jim Smith, director of the Glasgow Jazz Festival in 1992. Since then the Old Fruitmarket has been reinvented as one of the most atmospheric venues in the UK. With its wooden boat-like roof, huge old clock and still retaining the old stallholders billboards from the time when it really was a market hall, the Old Fruitmarket is now a thriving venue for music, comedy and for festivals such as Celtic Connections and the Glasgow Jazz Festival. A refurbishment got rid of the cobbles that threatened many a high heel, strengthened the balcony, improved the heating and sealed the roof against the pigeon squatters, but did nothing to dilute its essential character. It's a large enough auditorium to hold 1500 standing, but still works cabaret style for under 100.
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