This Bank Holiday weekend plenty of Britons will be far away soaking up foreign sunshine but faithful dog, Walpole and I will be making the most of Britain. We are off to seek out an exotic garden where the world will come to us. Make the most of the last weeks of high summer.
- Biddulph Grange, James Bateman’s famous Victorian garden is a bit like going on a gap year without the airports. A bit of China, something of India, Ancient Egypt, Italian terraces and a Scottish glen. And a thoroughly English tea, I hope, kindly laid on by those nice people at the National Trust.
- If you like the gap year idea and only have a day to spare you can play the same travel trick in Kent at Tom Hart Dyke’s extraordinary World Garden at Lullingstone Castle. This one is all about plants, collected from every corner of the globe, and this weekend are special tours of their amazing conifer collection. If it rains you can shelter in the Hot and Spikey House or the Cloud Garden house. If it’s nice, you might take a picnic or buy sandwiches to eat by the lake. Walpole would be left at home (one of the hot and spikey cactuses apparently smells of dog poo and might be too exciting).
- Less of a gap year and more of a Grand Tour atmosphere is to be had at architect Clough Williams-Ellis’ home, Plas Brondanw, North Wales where gardens with topiary and Italianate statuary echo the Mediterranean influence of nearby Portmeirion. A small intimate garden with views of Snowdonia and particularly delicious Welsh Rarebit to be eaten by the garden pond. Not quite the Alps, but not far off.
- Still in Italy, Harold Peto’s Edwardian garden at Iford Manor in Wiltshire combines loggias, terraces with flowers, trees and Byzantine and Italian renaissance statuary. The marriage of soft Cotswold stone with scented day lilies and mature trees is truly exotic on a hot summer day. No lunch here but clotted cream teas to die for.
- In an era before gap years, Sir Walter Raleigh was a renowned Elizabethan adventurer. Without him after all, we would have had to wait longer for potatoes and tobacco. Among an exceptional collection of specimen trees at his home at Sherborne Castle in Dorset is a pair of Cedars of Lebanon planted by Sir Walter. When the ancient Portuguese cork oak succumbed to old age last year, it was transformed into a massive carved seat from which to view the gardens.
- If you are an armchair traveller in Scotland, you won’t get a bank holiday, so get out at the weekend and try Cawdor Castle, near Nairn. The formal French garden established here in the 18th century is now the backdrop to a flower garden at its best in the late summer and if that is not exotic enough for you, the dower house at Auchindoune, just a short stroll through the woods boasts at Tibetan garden.
Don’t forget to tweet us your pictures @HudsonsHeritage, we love to see what you’ve been up to!