Newest Review: ... 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 th... more
A ncie walk through some well maintained gardens
Bodnant Gardens (Nr Colwyn Bay, Wales)
Member Name: pumfster
Bodnant Gardens (Nr Colwyn Bay, Wales)
Date: 05/09/11, updated on 20/02/12 (116 review reads)
Advantages: Good variety of plant and tree species. Nice place for a walk.
Disadvantages: Slightly expensive for a larger family. Very hilly for the less mobile.
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.
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Summary: Well worth a look if you enjoy visiting formal gardens and are in the area.
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