Posted by: marymarthatours | January 28, 2013

A Garden Tour Dilemma

Spring in Cornwall or September in Wales?

Martha and I have been thinking ahead to what sort of tour we should offer in 2014.  After two years of specialized tours – the England in Miniature Tour in 2012 and the Quilts & Textiles of England & Wales Tour in 2013, it was easy to decide that a return to a garden-focused tour in 2014 would be perfect.  But where to go…and when?? 

Our first thought was Wales in September 2014.  As we planned the itinerary for this year’s tour, it became clear that our two days in Wales would be too short a time to visit some of the wonderful gardens there.  But a Gardens and Castle of Wales in 2014 tour would be marvelous.  We would plan to stay for a number of nights each in three areas.

  • North WalesMy favorite place to stay in North Wales would be Betws-y-Coed.  (I’ll teach you the correct Welsh pronunciation on the tour, but we Americans usually just say “Betsy Co-ed”.)  It’s a charming town and centrally located to facilitate day-trips to such places as Bodnant Garden and Conwy Castle to the north; Caernarfon Castle and Plas Newydd House and Garden to the west; Powys Castle Garden and Llangollen to the east; and a little to the southwest is slate country and the fairytale landscape of Portmeirion.   And, of course, we’d be in Snowdonia with its beautiful mountain landscapes.

Portmeirion5, Ben Salter, CCA2.0      Powys Castle, Sjwells53, CCASA3.0

The fanciful town of Portmeirion (1)                                                                the gardens at Powys Castle (2)

  • Southwest Wales.  I couldn’t plan a garden itinerary in Wales without stops at the National Botanic Garden of Wales and Aberglasney.  It’s been a number of years since I’ve been to these amazing gardens, and I’m eager to return.  And since we’d be in the neighborhood, we’d definitely have to stop at Newton House where we can all see the newly restored garden and the hearty among us can climb the ridge to Martha’s and my ancestral Welsh home, Dinefwr Castle.   There are other gardens in the SW that I would love to visit, such as Cae Hir and Llanllyr, and another visit to beautiful St. David’s Cathedral would be wonderful.

Aberglasney6, mick lobb, CCASA2.0

Aberglasney Garden (3)

  • Southeast Wales.   Although we would want to see a bit of Cardiff, the Welsh capitol, we would probably choose to stay in Abergavenny, a medieval-era market town in the heart of the area’s beautiful garden options.  We will certainly want to include both the modern Veddw House Garden and the rediscovered and restored lost garden at Dewstow Gardens and Grottoes.  And for those who love to read about gardens (or anything else), we might have to nip into Hay-on-Wye, the fabulous town of bookstores.

dewstow gdn3, robin drayton, CCASA2.0    Dewstow gdn, Robin Drayton, CCASA2.0

Dewstow Gardens and Grottoes (4)

September in Wales sounds like a great tour, but then we started thinking about the possibility of offering our first-ever spring garden tour in the UK.   And for spring gardens, there is no place like southwest England with their gardens full of spring bulbs, rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, and magnolias.  I’ve been to this area in the summer and fall, and love the scenery of moors and coasts.  A Spring Gardens of Southwest England Tour in May of 2014 would certainly want to include:

  • Cornwall.  Based in the picturesque seaside town of Falmouth, we’d plan to visit a number of the spectacular spring gardens in the area, but the choice will be difficult.  The Eden Project, the Lost Gardens of Heligan, Trewithen Garden, and Caerhays Castle would all have to go on the list, and then we’d have to see how many more we could fit in.

Eden Project, Pam Brophy, CCASA2.0     Trewithen gdn, Rod Allday, CCASA2.0

The Eden Project (5)      and         Trewithen Garden in the spring (6)

  • DevonThe town of Exeter with its exquisite Cathedral would make a good base for touring the gardens of the area.  The many great spring gardens in Devon will make choosing our stops tough, but Coleton Fishacre, Dartington Hall, and Knightshayes Court shouldn’t be missed.

coleton fishacre, Martin Bodman, CCASA2.0

Coleton Fishacre house and garden (7)

  • Somerset.  Bath is one of our favorite places to stay, with so much available to see and do within walking distance of our hotel.  And the many gardens nearby include Bowood House, Abbey House Garden, and Iford Manor, all of which offer highlights in the spring.

abbey hs gdn, Sarah Smith, CCASA2.0      iford manor2, Neosnaps, CCA2.0

Abbey House Garden (8)                         and                            Iford Manor Garden (9)

  • The Great Malvern Flower Show.  Held each year in early May, the Great Malvern Flower Show is the West Country’s answer to Chelsea in London.  It’s full of the same gorgeous demonstration and show gardens, educational events, and plant pavilions but without the frenzy.

malvern flower show, Andy F., CCASA2.0

Visitors at the Great Malvern Spring Flower Show (10)

Oh, dear, how can we choose?  Perhaps you would be so kind as to help us.  Just go to the Poll at the upper right of this post and indicate whether you would prefer Spring Gardens of SW England or Gardens and Castles of Wales in 2014.  Can’t decide either?  Play “Fantasy Travel” and pretend that someone has just offered you a free trip to one of those destinations.  (We are NOT offering a free trip, but, hey, pretending might help you decide.)  Thanks for helping.

(by Mary)

Photo credits:  (1) copyright Ben Salter and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0;  (2) copyright Sjwells53 and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License 3.0;  (3) copyright Mick Lobb and licensed for for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License 2.0;  (4) copyright Robin Drayton and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License 2.0;  (5) copyright Pam Brophy and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License 2.0;  (6) copyright Rod Allday and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License 2.0;  (7) copyright Martin Bodman and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License 2.0;  (8) copyright Sarah Smith and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License 2.0;  (9) copyright Neosnaps and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0;  (10) copyright Andy F. and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License 2.0. 

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Responses

  1. Cornwall in 14 and Wales in 15, please.

  2. I don’t see the poll, but I think i would want the intensive Wales tour…!

  3. Spring in Cornwall

  4. I vote for Spring in Cornwall!! Joyce Wenz

  5. I would love the trip to Wales – and the trip to Cornwall… which one…which one.???. I agree with both – one in 2013 and the other in 2014. Maybe Wales first, then Cornwall next. Dorothy


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