May 21, 2019
As warmer weather slowly makes its way to the UK, you might be feeling ready to sink your hands into the soil and prep your gardens. If you are looking for inspiration, here’s a selection of garden-themed holiday ideas:
Why not turn the Chelsea Flower Show into a really special social occasion this year and hire Chelsea House (sleep 16) with friends? A vast and supremely elegant abode in SW3 featuring four-poster beds, trendy chaises longues and exquisite lighting, guests can enjoy the property’s pretty courtyard garden and have exclusive access to a nearby private park with tennis courts. If you don’t feel like putting the fully-equipped kitchen to use, there are plenty of fashionable restaurants in the neighbourhood. A one-night stay costs from £263 pp (£4,200 total) with Big Domain (01237 426777; www.thebigdomain.com).
Located in the countryside south of Mount Fuji, just 90 minutes from Tokyo, Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands (entry ¥700/ £4.90 per adult) was established in 1976. Open from March-November, the garden is home to over 1,700 indigenous plants which can be viewed from wooden boardwalks meandering through marshland, rockeries, ponds, streams, moorland, swamp forest and alpine gardens. Stay nearby at KAI Sengokuhara, a luxury 16-bedroom ryokan (inn), which combines an art gallery and atelier (art studio) with healing hot springs. The price is from £256 per person, per night (half-board). Flights/transfers extra. Contact www.kai-ryokan.jp/en/sengokuhara/.
Like a flower-strewn barge, the flourishing Italian-style gardens of Isola Bella are a floating splendour on Lake Maggiore. Set beneath a majestic Baroque palazzo, the 37m high green haven of overlapping terraces commands impressive views. Nestled amongst 17th century statues and fountains, a plethora of rare exotic plants provide a feast for the senses, while sauntering white peacocks add to the grandeur. Seven nights’ B&B at the family-run Cannero Lakeside Resort costs from £1,181pp (two sharing) for May and June departures, including return flights (Gatwick) and car hire. Call AITO* member Sunvil on 020 8758 4758 (www.sunvil.co.uk).
A naturalist’s paradise, the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira – situated 560 km off the north-west coast of Africa – is often referred to as ‘the floating garden’. This eight-day tour, based in capital city Funchal, is timed to coincide with the peak flowering times of a vast array of beautiful plants. Enjoy daily guided walks across forest, mountain and coastal terrain in search of endemic plants, birds and butterflies, and explore the botanical highlights of Funchal. Madeira – The Floating Garden costs from £1,395 pp (two sharing), including flights (Gatwick), transfers, seven nights’ B&B, lunch daily and expert botanical guiding. Departs 4 June. Call AITO* member Naturetrek on 01962 733051 (www.naturetrek.co.uk).
A kaleidoscope of vivid natural colours, wildlife-rich Costa Rica boasts over 2,000 species of orchid, more than 850 species of birds and a dizzying diversity of natural landscapes, including volcanoes, rainforests, and Atlantic and Pacific coasts. On this 11-night tour, explore the Tortuguero Lagoon by boat, birdwatch in La Selva Nature Reserve, bathe in hot springs near Arenal Volcano, traverse the Monteverde Cloud Forest, and more. Central America’s Garden of Eden costs from £2,345 pp (two sharing), including flights (Gatwick), transfers, B&B, three lunches, three dinners, excursions, naturalist guide & local reps. One overnight flight. Departs 2, 16 and 23 November. Call Jules Verne on 020 3553 3722 (www.vjv.com).
The gardens at Gravetye Manor, an Elizabethan stone mansion in West Sussex, are an oasis of calm, originally designed by visionary gardener William Robinson in 1885. The dynamic flower garden features a combination of annuals, perennials and shrubs, and the walled kitchen garden is filled with produce for use in the Michelin-starred restaurant. There are two acres of orchards and, from May, the surrounding meadows are in bloom with native wild flowers. Daily garden tours are available for residents and lunch guests (11am Mon-Fri; £25 pp). Stay overnight from £295 per room total/ £148 pp (two sharing), including full English breakfast. Call Pride of Britain Hotels on 0800 089 39290 (www.prideofbritainhotels.com).
Take inspiration from the beautiful gardens surrounding The Watermill at Posara, on a week-long painting holiday in rural Tuscany. The complex of historic buildings is set around a sunny courtyard, vine verandah, rose pergola and sunny walled garden. Wild flowers grow along the millstream and there is an old olive press reservoir in the riverside gardens, all of which can be captured on canvas during Sue Ford’s Watercolours, pastels, collage and mixed media course (13-20 July). The cost is from £1,640 pp (two sharing), including tuition, seven nights’ full board, drinks, transfers (Pisa) & a mid-week excursion (Lucca or the Cinque Terre). Flights extra. Contact The Watermill at Posara on 020 7193 6246 (watermill.net).
Where better to seek horticultural inspiration than in the many great gardens dotted along the Côte d’Azur between St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and the Italian border, created by 19th century gardeners attracted both by the region’s climate and its beauty? Visit the famous Hanbury Gardens at La Mortola, Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Clos du Peyronnet, Monte Carlo’s Jardin Exotique, and more, on ‘Gardens of the French & Italian Riviera’. Departing 4 June, it costs from £2,989 pp (two sharing), including BA flights (Heathrow) to Nice, accommodation with breakfast in Menton, all lunches & dinners with wine, entrance fees & gratuities, and Kirker Tour Lecturer. Call AITO* member Kirker on 020 7593 2283 (www.kirkerholidays.com).
The Boutique B & B (sleeps two, plus one well-behaved dog) is a fabulously converted bull pen situated on a pretty farm, overlooking an impressive vegetable garden, in the rolling Monmouthshire countryside close to the Brecon Beacons National Park. The studio-style accommodation has a private wood-fired hot tub (logs provided), a cute kitchen and a sumptuous bedroom. A breakfast hamper awaits your arrival, with an available ‘upgrade’ to include fresh eggs and meat from the farm. A three-night stay in June costs from £180 pp (£359 total) with holidaycottages.co.uk (01237 459888, www.holidaycottages.co.uk).
Situated on the banks of the River Severn in Worcestershire, Arley Arboretum & Gardens (open Wed-Sun; £5.50 per adult) is home to over 300 species of trees and the UK’s longest laburnum arch (65m), which blooms in May and June. Other highlights include a Magnolia Garden with over a dozen varieties, beautifully-restored Italian Gardens and spectacular displays of rhododendrons and azaleas. Stay nearby at Brockencote Hall, an imposing Victorian manor house near Chaddesley Corbett with a private lake, set in 70 acres. An overnight stay is priced from £135 per room/£68 pp (two sharing), including full English breakfast. Call Brockencote Hall Hotel on 01562 777 876 (www.brockencotehall.com).
On Sunday 9 June, Crook Hall & Gardens – a 13th century Grade I Listed medieval hall in Durham City – will host a Gin-Themed Afternoon Tea, including gin-infused scones, cakes and truffles, plus a menu of fabulous gin cocktails. Enjoy this experience out in the glorious, quintessentially English gardens. Stay just 20 minutes away at Seaham Hall, the five-star, seaside boutique hotel where Lord Byron married back in 1815. An overnight stay in a Junior Suite costs from £100 pp (two sharing), including a full English breakfast and use of the spa facilities. Call Seaham Hall on 0191 516 1400 (www.seaham-hall.co.uk).
*AITO is The Specialist Travel Association: more than 120 specialist travel companies providing an unrivalled collection of holiday ideas that cover every corner of the world. Consumers booking with AITO can be assured of high-quality holidays and excellent personal service. Visit www.aito.com for further information.