I received a frantic sounding message from a friend wanting to visit the National Trust Bodnant Garden, but we had to go within the upcoming 3 weeks! Luckily we both had the same Sunday free, so two weeks later, with packed lunch and a brolly just in case, we set off through the Mersey Tunnel, to the Welsh county of Conwy.
Pretty much a 90 minute drive from Liverpool on an early Sunday morning, we arrived at our pre-booked time of 09.30. Although you don’t need to pre-book an entry time, the Laburnum Arch is a huge attraction, we saw coach loads of people arriving with impressive looking cameras, so booking is highly recommended, although I expect at other times of the year, you could just turn up.
Once we arrived it was a little overwhelming as the place is just so big, armed with a map, we couldn’t quite decide on which way to explore, but then noticing the streams of other people coming in, including a coach full of American tourists, we decided to head straight for the famed Laburnum Arch before it got too busy.
Started 140 years ago, this 55 metre long walkway, was in full bloom when we arrived, said to be possibly the longest and oldest of it’s kind Britain, roughly 50,000 people visit during the short window each year, to experience the walk way beneath the yellow flowers.
We took our time, took loads of photos, got our noses right up into the flowers to really get the full experience and then walked back round to get another go. Second time around, we had time to marvel at the ingenuity of the way the trees were planted and grown over the delicate scaffolding to create this incredible natural pergola, it really was a wonderful immersive experience.
With the weather looking a little overcast we decided to stick to the gardens closest to the coffee shop by the adjacent garden centre, which were to open at 10.30, so we could shelter and get caffeinated if we needed too. The other coffee shop in the heart of the gardens opened at 11.30 and although there is a coffee shop by the main carpark that was already open, that involved exiting and entering again, and was far too complicated to undertake on what was still early on a Sunday morning.
I hadn’t really done any research on the rest of the gardens, but it’s a National Trust garden, so of course there is so much to see other than the Laburnum Arch with its short yearly life span. It’s a huge place, with so many gardens, lakes, bridges, waterfalls, not to mention a gigantic collection of trees, plants and flowers of every size and colour from all over the world.
We made our way over to the Pin Mill, originally it was a lodge house, before becoming a pin factory and then a tannery. With lily pads floating on the water and the scent of roses coming from the nearby rose garden it made for a beautiful wander, along with incredible views of the Welsh hills from nearby Snowdonia in the distance.
Everywhere you turned you were faced with every colour and shape of flower I had ever seen, I really don’t think I have taken that many photographs in one day trip before. I rarely knew what I was looking at, I couldn’t tell you the difference between an oak tree and a yew tree for example, but you don’t need to be an expert to appreciate the sheer beauty of the place.
We returned towards the entrance to make a stop in the coffee shop by the garden centre, whilst we let the dark clouds overhead pass us by. There are also some plug sockets available should you need to recharge your phone after taking too many photos (which we both needed to do!), and toilets are found at the back of the garden centre too. They had diary free milk options, but no diary free cakes, but luckily for me I was prepared with snacks, which I sneakily ate alongside my latte.
We then decided to follow the pathway through the old park, up to the dell, and along the stream, eventually taking the path over to a beautiful building set into a rock, called The Poem. The Poem is actually a mausoleum, but we only figured that out once I zoomed in on my camera through the lattice framework on the door and saw the plaques inside.
Close to The Poem is the gorgeous waterfall bridge, which is exactly as it is described, it’s an incredibly scenic photography spot, with a babbling brook, surrounded by pink, red and green trees, chirping birds and the relaxing sound of the waterfall, so peaceful!
Finding a nice bench with a great view wasn’t hard to find, so we had our packed lunch a top one of the higher footpaths, looking back down onto the river. Sheltered from the elements from one of the huge old trees above us, it was one of the best picnic spots we had found in a long time.
Revitalised with food, we continued walking along one of the many foot paths, over little bridges, streams, a small pond with jumping fish and found the site of a large old fallen tree, a victim of the vicious Storm Arwen from late 2021.
Although starting to feel tired from all that fresh air and the early start, we still had a few footpaths left to explore. So we meandered along, trying to make sure we left no part of the gardens unexplored, around every corner was a new beautiful flower, tree or plant to discover.
Eventually we had to tear ourselves away, conscious that I had another 90 minute drive to Liverpool to drop my friend off and then another 30 mins after that to get myself home. So after picking up some rather delicious Welsh green tea with coconut from the gift shop, we headed back to the carpark, with people still eagerly arriving in their droves for the mid afternoon slot.
Since the trip I have had so many comments from friends and colleagues asking me where I had been and how could they get there, it seems at least in my circle of friends, Bodnant Garden is a bit of an unknown. None of us had heard of it before , but I would recommend it to anyone looking for a peaceful, green, Sunday walk with the most stunning gardens, even a reluctant nature lover would be hard pressed not to enjoy it.