The Gardens of Britain and Ireland
By: Noreen Bowden, CIE Tours
The splendid gardens of Britain and Ireland are treasure troves of history and heritage. Many are located on the grounds of the most magnificent castles, palaces, and stately homes, offering a wonderful natural counterpoint to the grand architecture nearby. Let’s explore some of the most intriguing.
Kensington Gardens: Kensington Palace in the heart of London has been a royal residence for centuries – and the garden is one of Britain’s most beloved. This beautiful oasis includes The Sunken Garden, with elaborate plants and an ornamental pond. The Serpentine Pavilion features the latest architectural innovation in gardening. Don’t miss the Elfin Oak sculpture, made from the hollow trunk of an ancient tree and carved with figures of fairies, elves, and animals.
Leeds Castle Gardens: Leeds Castle is one of England’s most romantic castles. The fragrant and colorful gardens reward visitors with something wonderful to see in every season. The Culpeper Garden, a wild oasis inspired by a cottage garden, is full of rustic, fragrant blooms. The Lady Baillie Garden is full of succulents, with plenty of park benches to relax on.
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage: Anne Hathaway’s Cottage in Stratford-upon-Avon is a thatched-roofed cottage, surrounded by 12 acres of grounds, that was once the home of William Shakespeare’s wife. The picture-perfect garden was largely designed in the 1920s, and features many plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. It also includes many heritage plants that have been grown in England since the 17th century. An ornamental orchard blooms with spring bulbs.
Blenheim Palace Gardens: Formal gardens surround the magnificent Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill. The majestic Water Terraces, the Italian Garden, the delicate Rose Garden, and the tranquil Secret Garden with its hidden treasures, all offer their own unique beauty and charm.
Inveraray Castle Gardens: The fairytale Inveraray Castle features two acres of formal gardens with a stunning collection of flowers, including rhododendrons, azaleas, and bluebells. Visitors can take a stroll through the gardens, see the many fine trees, and enjoy the breathtaking views of Loch Fyne, Scotland’s longest sea loch.
Glamis Castle: Like the 650-year-old Glamis Castle, the gardens are full of stories. The Italian Garden is reminiscent of the Edwardian era, with a thrilling kaleidoscope of color, a stone fountain and gravel walks. The Walled Garden, with its bridge set among rows of shrubs and perennials and a large central fountain, was inspired by Monet; it has supplied the castle with fresh fruit and vegetables for centuries. The Nature Trail offers spectacular trees planted by the 13th Earl in 1870; many are among the tallest of their species in Scotland.
Abbotsford House Gardens: The gardens at Abbotsford House, the home of Sir Walter Scott, could come straight out of one of the famed writer’s historical romances. The South Court includes fabulous Gothic details. The Morris Garden is a sunken garden with old roses and peonies among the paths. The Walled Garden, where Scott grew his fruits and vegetables, includes a rare glass house. Visitors can also enjoy the breathtaking views of the River Tweed, flowing along the scenic border region between Scotland and England.
Mount Stuart House Gardens: Mount Stuart House on Scotland’s Isle of Bute is an innovative Victorian home inspired by astrology, art, and mythology. The 300 acres of gardens include collections of global significance, with plants that have been introduced over centuries. The mix includes unexpected tropical plants, winding woodlands, and The Pinetum, home to more than 800 towering conifers. It’s all set against the striking Firth of Clyde.
Blarney Castle and Gardens: Ireland’s Blarney Castle is famed for its legendary stone that bestows the gift of the gab, but visitors shouldn’t miss the 60 acres of gardens and arboretums. They are full of surprises, including the Carnivorous Courtyard, with plants that lure their victims with colorful leaves and pungent scents only to trap them with glue or tentacles. The Poison Garden includes plants that are used in modern medicines. The Rock Close is said to be the site of an ancient Druidic settlement.
Irish National Stud and Gardens: Located in the heart of Ireland’s horse country in County Kildare, the National Stud is the home of thoroughbred champions. The gardens are equally winning, with a splendidly serene Japanese garden that traces the journey of a soul from birth to the beyond. St. Fiachra’s Garden, named for the patron saint of gardeners, was inspired by the lives of medieval monks; it is designed with a focus on rocks and water to create a tranquil atmosphere for reflection and contemplation.
About CIE Tours
Travel with CIE Tours, the premier tour operator into Ireland and Britain – offering dozens of expertly crafted vacations to Ireland and Britain to suit every travel style and taste, from the camaraderie of coach tours and custom group travel to a variety of independent adventures, small group tours and personalized private driver experiences. See CIETours.com for more information.
Noreen Bowden is the Content Manager for CIE Tours. She is a writer and editor who has lived and worked in Ireland and traveled extensively throughout Ireland and Britain.
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