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Bodnant Gardens (Nr Colwyn Bay, Wales)

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The upper garden around Bodnant Hall is landscaped with terraced gardens and informal lawns shaded by trees. The lower portion, also referred to as the "Dell" shapes along the valley of the River Hiraethlyn and contains the Wild garden.

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    3 Reviews
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    • More +
      30.07.2013 16:02
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      A must-see place to visit.

      If you follow the signposts on the A55 to junction 19 a few miles south of Colwyn Bay, then you will discover one of the best gardens the British Isles has to offer. Snuggled amongst the slopes of the beautiful north Wales countryside is Bodnant Gardens. It is one of my favourite places and I usually visit several times a year.

      The gardens are owned by the National Trust and are open to the public for most of the year except Christmas and Boxing Day. Certain areas of the garden are closed in late autumn and winter. Whenever you choose to go, however, there is always something of interest at Bodnant - whether you are a seasoned gardener who wants to browse the botanical collections or someone who just wants to admire the breath-taking beauty of the gardens and their landscape setting. There are eighty acres of fantastic trees and fabulous fauna; long winding walks and plenty of benches to stop and rest upon whilst admiring the views across the Conwy valley.

      There is something to appeal to all tastes at Bodnant. In the formal Italianate style garden there is a large lily pond and a selection of roses which are lovely to walk through when in full bloom and their heady scent envelops you. In summer the trellises are covered in climbing plants and the borders are filled with lilies.
      The National Trust website helpfully gives you an update on what flowers and shrubs are blooming in Bodnant so you know what to look out for. It's certainly somewhere you can take some really excellent camera shots.

      Much of the garden is informal in nature. There are lots of trees and shrubs under-planted with spring flowering bulbs. These areas are also spectacular to visit in autumn as the leaves on the trees become a riot of colour. I have spent hours wandering beneath these leafy canopy's over the years and since the gardens are on the side of a valley - it makes for a good stretch of the legs in places.

      The 'Dell' is my favourite part of the gardens. A river runs along the valley floor and there is a lovely waterfall by the bridge. Everything seems lush and green down there. It feels hidden away from the rest of the world. I have been there in spring, summer and autumn and always have an enjoyable walk. It feels sheltered and cool by the river with a multitude of trees rising up above you from the sides of the valley. There is a huge Sequoia tree which gives you a crick in the neck staring up into its branches.

      As Bodnant is a National Trust property there are lots of events throughout the year you can attend. I like the fact that they have lots of things going on for children. This summer they are running a '50 things to do' promotion with something new to do and explore each day throughout the summer. These days with so many children so focused on technology and gaming it's good to see them getting interested in nature and roaming around outdoors. Adults can also attend special events such as a 'walk and wine evening.' It must be noted that some of these events must be booked ahead of time and there is often a small extra fee. Even dogs are allowed around Bodnant on selected dates. Check the website for details at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden.

      The tearooms offer hot lunches and rolls, homemade cakes and puddings. There are also picnic benches around Bodnant's large car park which is set amongst woodland. There is a gift shop and plants for sale. The loos - as at most National Trust properties - are cleaned and maintained to a very high standard.

      There is plenty to see in Bodnant to make a day of it - but should you want to move on there's plenty to do and see in the immediate area. You are a short drive away from the seaside towns of Llandudno and Colwyn Bay, The Great Orme Copper Mines at Great Orme, Llandudno; the Conwy Suspension Bridge; Penrhyn Castle in Bangor; Bodelwyddan Castle in Rhyl, Denbighshire is less than 20 miles away.

      If you are not a National Trust member the standard prices are: Summer (1 March to 27 October)
      Adult: £8.45
      Child: £4.22
      Group adult: £7.35


      Winter (28 October to 31 December)
      Adult: £4.54
      Child: £2.27
      Group adult: £3.95

      Address:
      Bodnant Gardens,
      Tal-y-Cafn, Colwyn Bay, LL28 5RE
      Telephone: 01492 650460
      www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden

      Bodnant is a really special place to visit. I love it. Would recommend.

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      05.09.2011 19:08
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      Well worth a look if you enjoy visiting formal gardens and are in the area.

      My wife and I are fans of getting out and about for a nice walk in the countryside, and we have often driven past the signposts for Bodnant Garden, and so taking advantage of the long bank holiday weekend, we decided to drive up and give it a go.

      Now Bodnant Garden is situated near to the River Conwy estuary, and is approximately 7 miles inland from the popular coastal resort of Llandudno in North Wales. It is pretty easy to find, as it is well signposted off the coastal A55 dual carriageway, and is the best way for most people to travel to it. It is only a few miles off the dual carriageway along the A470 Llanrwst road. There are buses locally which stop at Bodnant Garden so if you are planning a visit to the area and need to use public transport, it is well worth checking this out. There is also a station at Glan Conwy that is only a few miles away from the gardens.

      Now Bodnant Gardens are run and managed by the National Trust and are the gardens of Bodnant Hall, the stately home of the McLaren family. As the National Trust is a charitable body, there is an admission charge payable at the entrance. The cost is £8.50 for adults, and £4.25 for children under 16. There are no concessions for the elderly or for students. This fee does include a voluntary 10% addition, which is used for the upkeep of the site, and you may also choose to gift aid your donation if you are a resident UK taxpayer. Obviously National Trust members get free entrance on inspection of a membership card, as do members of the RHS. The gardens are open from 10am until 5pm from February until November and then closed for the winter months. Our visit lasted around 2 hours whilst dodging some hefty showers, and to be honest I would say that this is the minimum time required to fully explore the whole site and to get full value for money. It is a good few kilometres to walk the whole site around, with plenty of hills to slow you down too.

      It should be noted here that although Bodnant Gardens is an attraction for the whole family, caution should be taken with young children, as there are several deep ponds and water features with no guard fences. In addition parts of the site are very steep with only stoned paths, and so people who have issues with their mobility may find some parts of the gardens a bit of a struggle. Wheelchairs are available for borrowing on a first come first served basis, but again due to the nature of the site, it will be hard work in places to push them around. There is also a ban on taking food into the site, which I think personally is a little bit picky, as there are some lovely places for a picnic in the gardens, but I suppose this is to prevent litter being dropped and spoiling the attraction for other people.

      A free car park is provided on site, which is a good touch, and there are plenty of spaces provided, so you will be very unlucky if you can't get a space. The car park itself is situated on a steep hill, so care is needed from the get-go as you make your way down towards the entrance. The entrance itself isn't obvious, and we stood around slightly confused for a few seconds, before we were pointed in the right direction, under a tunnel and into a big building. At the entrance you have the choice of paying in either cash or by card, and you will also be offered the chance to take up membership of the National Trust, in which case your entrance fee for the day will be refunded. Guidebooks are also available at a cost of £4.50, which appeared a little steep to be honest, even by tourist attractions standards, but I am a sucker for these and so I bought one anyway! To be fair to the high price, the guidebook itself is very well laid out, with a good bit of background information on the family, the history of the estate and the gardens themselves.

      Once you enter the gardens themselves you are free to wonder around wherever you like, either by following the stony paths around, or wandering off path across the lawn areas. The only restricted parts of the gardens are the immediate front and side of the hall to protect the privacy of the family, which is fair enough. The gardens themselves are effectively split into two sections, the area adjacent to the hall are more of a formal garden, with structure, beds, larger singular trees and water features. Beyond this are the banks of a small tributary of the River Conwy, namely the River Hiraethlyn. Here the garden is wilder, with larger shrubs and plants allowed to grow without much interference. One of the things that the gardens are famous for is the eclectic selection of plants from all over the world, married together to compliment each other. This is clearly evident from early on in your walk.

      The first thing that struck me on entry of the gardens was the size of some of the trees around the house. Many of these have a little story, such as being planted during Royal visits, or as gifts to the family. There are little plaques on some of the more important ones to commemorate the occasion. Some of the older trees are well over 200 years old, and the trunks themselves are something to behold. In addition to this, there is good signage in the gardens themselves explaining the species of plants in the beds and where in the world they are from. All very interesting if you are big into horticulture. There are several water features and lily ponds around the site, with the terracing area to the side of the house particularly impressive if started from the top and worked down.

      As our visit was in late August, many of the bigger flowering plants and shrubs had died off, leaving smaller plants, roses and water lilies as the main sources of colour. The good thing about any big garden attraction is that no matter what time of the year you go, you will always find something different. I think our next visit will likely be in the springtime when the most impressive colours will be on show.

      As you leave the gardens at the end of your visit, you are led through into a small commercial area, which is not part of the National Trust administered site, but instead run as a business by the people who live in the house. There is a small farm shop, garden centre and antiques shop for you to browse around, although as time was getting on a bit, we didn't stop for a look around here. There is also a small tearooms just on the way back to the car park, which is run by the National Trust, which is an ideal place to get a drink and something to eat before heading back to the car. They offer a small selection of cooked foods, cakes and drinks, including some alcoholic ones at a pretty reasonable price for a tourist attraction.

      So to sum this one up, I would say that Bodnant Gardens are definitely worth a visit for anyone holidaying up on the North Wales coast and especially if you are into horticulture, or just enjoy getting away from it all and having a nice stroll through some well manicured gardens. The price is perhaps a little expensive, but to be fair is par for the course these days for most tourist attractions.

      Thanks for reading this review and it may also appear on Ciao under my same username.

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      • More +
        19.06.2008 19:46
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        A great day out for all ages

        When my mother in law came to visit last week we all went for a walk round Bodnant Gardens and I realised, despite the fact that I have visited a few times, I have never written a review on the place. I am about to rectify that error forthwith! LOL!

        Where is it?

        Bodnant Garden is owned by the National Trust and is situated in North Wales about 8 miles south of Llandudno and Colwyn Bay. The address is Bodnant Garden, Tal-y-Cafn, Colwyn Bay, Conwy LL28 5RE. The website address is www.bodnantgarden.co.uk

        How do I get there?

        To get there all you have to do is exit the A55, which is the main North Wales coast road, at junction 19 and follow the signs. The garden is situated on the East side of the Conwy Valley off the A470.

        What is there?

        At the site of Bodnant Garden there is the main garden, a gift shop associated with the garden, some other small gift and craft shops, a small garden centre, a large woodland car park and the Pavilion Tea Room. Of course there are also toilets for both able bodied and disabled visitors.

        The Car Park

        I might as well start at the beginning! The car park is on three levels set into the woods opposite the garden. There are plenty of nice grassy areas for picnics as you are asked not to picnic in the main grounds of the garden. Parking is free whether you intend to visit the garden or just go to the shops or the tea room.

        There is also a small cabin on the edge of the car park where there are National Trust employees to give information about the organisation and where you can join if you want to. If you do join on the day you visit Bodnant Garden then you get your entrance fee refunded. To be honest it is better to join online as you get twelve months subscription for the cost of nine.

        The Pavilion Tea Room

        As you walk from the car park you come to the Pavilion Tea Room. There are toilets set back from the building a short walk up steps into the woods but there are toilets for disabled visitors at the side of the tea rooms which can be accessed without any climbing! The tea room has a serving hatch to the outside so you can order food and drink to be consumed at the tables outside or as part of your picnic in the woods.

        The Pavilion Tea Room itself is a wooden building fitting in well with the surrounding woodland. They serve light meals, snacks, tea, coffee, soft drinks and alcohol (with a meal) and I have always enjoyed any food or drink that we have consumed here. We even went for a Christmas lunch here one year (not on Christmas Day of course!) and it was excellent. The food is good value and freshly prepared and there is always a good selection of cakes too!

        Across the road

        The gardens and the shops are all on the opposite side of the road to the tea shop and car park and, until last year, you had to dodge the traffic to get across. They have now constructed an excellent underpass. It is wide, designed to fit in with the surroundings and the slope is relatively gentle so it's not too bad for pushchairs and wheelchairs.

        The Main Shop

        This is quite a large shop and although it is not a National Trust shop as such it does sell a range of National Trust products, together with other gifts for the garden, for the house and all the usual sweets and biscuits.

        At Christmas the place also has a lovely grotto with Father Christmas and a very good range of Christmas decorations, trees and gifts.

        The Other Shops

        There is another small building to the side of the main shop housing about half a dozen smaller shops selling pictures, hand made sweets, toiletries, gifts and there is also a small tea shop here too.

        The Garden Centre

        The garden centre here is quite small but does stock a good range of bedding plants, shrubs, etc at a reasonable price.

        Bodnant Garden

        As I said earlier it is owned by the National Trust so you have to pay to get in. The current prices are Adult £6.50, Child £3.30 and parties of 15 or more £5 each. There is also second set of prices £7.20, £3.60 and £5.50 which include a voluntary 10% donation to the upkeep of the garden.

        The garden is open from the beginning of March until the end of October each year and from 10am until 5pm with last admissions at 4.30pm.

        The admission price includes a map but not a guide book - that costs extra, but you don't need the guide book to enjoy your walk around the garden.

        As a bit of background information Bodnant garden was only the second garden without a house to be donated to the National Trust, Hidcote being the first. It was donated in 1949 by Henry McLaren, 2nd Baron of Aberconwy and it is still managed by his descendants to this day. Incidentally I got that bit of information from the back of the map that we were given.

        The garden covers about 80 acres and is split into two parts. The upper garden around Bodnant Hall is made up of terraced gardens and lawns and the lower part, known as The Dell, is formed by the valley of the River Hiraethlyn and contains a wild garden.

        The map shows all the paths through the garden and a dotted line on the map shows a route avoiding steps and very steep slopes. Wheelchairs are available for free hire but cannot be prebooked so you have to take potluck.

        I will just say that the first time we visited the garden a couple of years ago I wasn't really looking forward to it at all. I was expecting neat rows of plants and I thought I would be bored silly but how wrong I was!

        As you enter the garden you can walk through an archway planted with laburnum which looks stunning when all the flowers are out.

        The walks through the garden are gentle and you don't feel hurried at all. Since the garden is large there is plenty of room for everyone to wander around without getting under one another's feet!

        There are large lawns with huge trees which must be hundreds of years old. The variety of plants is amazing and as the paths twist around new vistas open up at every turn. Of course the views not only include the plants and the garden but also the Snowdonia Mountains beyond.

        There are lots of azaleas, rhododendrons, roses, hebes, water lilies, clematis to name but a few. Actually if I am honest I am naming the ones that I actually recognised!

        There is a mausoleum in the garden although it was covered in scaffolding when we were there the other week! There are also a couple of other buildings one of which is the Pin Mill which overlooks a long straight pool in an area called the Canal Terrace, which has a magnificent Magnolia border.

        The Dell at the lower part of the garden is wilder in appearance than the semi formal terraces of the upper part. There is a waterfall on the river (I love waterfalls!) and a rock garden.

        The Old Mill in The Dell now houses toilets. It's a long walk all the way round the garden and the sight of the toilets was very welcome I can tell you!

        The other attraction of the garden is the wildlife. There are lots of birds around as you might guess and you will see robins and blackbirds hopping around and her many others singing away happily in the trees. You will be unlikely to walk all the way round without seeing a squirrel - sadly they are grey squirrels here not red ones but very cute for all that. The garden is also home to owls, bats, frogs, otters and hedgehogs although you are much less likely to see these!

        What's On

        Bodnant Garden also has various events throughout the year ranging from archery and falconry demonstrations to the head gardeners walk. Even the Antiques Roadshow will be filmed there on 11th September 2008. Full details of all the events are available on the website.

        In Conclusion

        I hope that I have given you a flavour for the garden and the associated facilities without boring you senseless! It really is worth a visit and we are intending to join the National Trust this year so that we can pop in at various times of the year to see the garden in its different stages and colours during the year.

        Incidentally when we went the other week we spent over two hours walking round and we didn't go down into The Dell as my mother in law is still getting over her hip replacement operation.

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