A beautiful, contemporary retreat, Villa Franeli (ref. FCA342) has been stylishly designed and beautifully furnished. All rooms benefit from south-facing patio doors, with views over the pool area and overlooking the quaint Provençal village of Le Rouret. Sleeps 8. More info on our website.
Generally speaking, festival food is nothing to write home about. OK, so a soggy kebab might taste amazing in a field at 3am after six hours of energetic dancing, but it’s no Michelin-starred experience.
Some of the more bohemian festivals have started to catch on to the foodie trend, and the likes of Wilderness, Festival No.6 and Bestival now proudly offer gourmet meals and appearances by celebrity chefs. But for true food lovers, you really can’t beat a festival where the food takes top billing and the music comes second. Here are our pick of the top eight foodie festivals happening this summer.
The Big Feastival
Location: Alex James’ Farm, The Cotswolds
Date: 28-30 August
If you love cheese, Alex James will already be on your radar. The Blur bassist famously packed in his rock star life a few years back and bought a farm in The Cotswolds where he began making award-winning cheeses.
A few years back he teamed up with Jamie Oliver to launch The Big Feastival – a weekend of music, food and nature, right there on Alex’s own farm.
This year, acts include Dizzee Rascal, Grandmaster Flash, Ella Eyre and Groove Armada, as well as a whole host of old and new favourites. Meanwhile, world famous chefs such as Raymond Blanc, Monica Galetti and, of course, Jamie Oliver will be sharing their top tips and handing out delicious food samples.
Keep your eyes peeled for celebrity spotting – past attendees include Kate Moss, Daisy Lowe and, erm, David Cameron.
Don’t Miss – Raymond Blanc. The ludicrously charming French chef will be hosting a live cooking demo followed by a Q&A.
Location: Bristol, Harbourside
Date: 11-12 July
Bristol has quietly built up a reputation as one of England’s best foodie cities, so it is no surprise that Grillstock has chosen it as its latest location. Following on from the success of Grillstock London and Grillstock Manchester, the Americana-loving, BBQ-obsessed weekend is hitting Bristol, in all its flame-licked glory.
Musical acts include De La Soul, Goldie Lookin Chain, and The Heavy, as well as a clutch of bluegrass bands from America’s Deep South. Vintage jeans and flannel shirts are non-negotiable.
Don’t Miss – The Chilli Eating Competition. They start off mild and get hotter and hotter until you are eating some of the hottest chilli peppers on the planet. The last one standing is the winner.
International Cheese Awards
Location: Dorfold Hall, Nantwich
Date: 28-29 July
This is not your typical awards ceremony. The International Cheese Awards stretches across two full days and features more than 4,000 different cheeses from 24 countries across the world. At the end of the festival, one cheese is chosen as the Supreme Champion – last year’s winner was the now-ubiquitous Colston Basset Stilton.
While the judges do their thing, guests can wander from tent to tent, sampling cheeses and picking up cookery tips from celebrity chefs such as James Martin, Will Holland and Jonathan Harrison.
Don’t Miss – the 80,500 sq ft Cheese Marquee, the largest in the world. On Show Day (29 July), it will be filled with all the cheeses you can imagine…and a few you cannot. Doors open at 8am, so arrive early to get your pick of the samples.
Port Eliot Festival
Location: St Germains, Cornwall
Date: 30 July – 2 August
This is the ultimate foodie retreat. Featuring the likes of Thomasina Miers, Rick Stein and Tom Parker Bowles, it is a celebration of all things fresh and organic, with an emphasis on Cornish cuisine. Grab a pasty at the Cornish Picnic, or try a classic cream tea at the Orangery.
There is music by Stornoway, The Unthanks and many more, plus comedy from Dom Joly and Shappi Khorsandi, but the busiest area is always the Flower and Fodder Stage, where the chefs hang out.
Don’t Miss – Hix’s Fish Dogs – a Port Eliot institution. Think hot breaded fish fingers, served in a fresh bap, with minted mushy peas and homemade tartar sauce. Unmissable.
Newlyn Fish Festival
Location: Newlyn Harbour, Cornwall
Date: 31 August
This is without a doubt the fishiest fish festival in the whole of the UK. The entire event began with a humble fish auction, but it has grown to include a huge series of fish-related events, from the kid-friendly Fishy Trail; to the Great Cornish Fish Off; cooking demonstrations; and punting around the harbour. The highlight is the Lugger Rowing Championship, where competitors race traditional wooden boats along the coasts. Only the winners can claim the coveted Golden Pilchard award.
Don’t Miss – the fish auction. Which is exactly what you imagine it’s going to be like, except louder.
Ludlow Food Festival
Location: Ludlow Castle, Ludlow
Date: 11-13 September
The Ludlow Food Festival is one of the best kept secrets among dedicated foodies. It has been held on the magnificent grounds of Ludlow Castle for the past 20 years, and the organisers are as passionate about food as they are about drink – as long as it is all produced locally, of course.
More than 180 vendors will be there this year, doling out local produce, and offering tastings and demonstrations. Masterclasses take place throughout the weekend, teaching essential life skills such as ‘how to fillet a fish’, and the ominously-titled ‘knife skills’.
Don’t Miss – the Real Ale Trail. Not so much a trail, as a nice sit down in a country pub while bar staff pass you 12 different pints of various local brews. The last one’s always the nicest.
Edinburgh Vegan Festival
Location: The Roxburghe Hotel, Edinburgh
Date: 8 August
Once upon a time, vegan cuisine consisted of lentils, beans, rice and little else. But today, vegans are at the forefront of the food revolution, introducing exotic new ingredients (quinoa; tempeh; miso) into British kitchens. Even Beyonce has embraced the joys of veganism!
The first ever Edinburgh Vegan Festival is being organized by the same people who launched the Newcastle Vegan Festival last year, so you can expect plenty of TED-style talks on organic farming, animal cruelty and cooking tips, as well as dozens of food stalls and the odd cookery demonstration.
Get in on the ground floor so you can say you were there when veganism really started to take off.
Don’t Miss – Yaoh manager Tim Barford’s Hemp Smoothie Demo. Guaranteed to get messy, but in a good way.
Location: Castle Hill, North Devon
Date: 23-27 July
Every year, the Somersault Festival presents an eclectic array of stellar performers, new artists, outdoor pursuits and edgy comedy. But year after year, all anyone wants to talk about is the food.
Each evening, a different celebrity chef prepares an enormous feast for festival-goers, which is served by a giant bonfire and includes only the finest locally sourced ingredients. This year, the organisers have signed up Jamie Oliver and his team at Fifteen Cornwall, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage chefs, Valentine Warner and multi-award-winning The Ethicurean. This is probably the only time it will ever be appropriate to eat Michelin-starred food with a plastic fork.
If you’re stuck for something to do while you wait for your evening meal, check out headliners such as Laura Marling, Bombay Bicycle Club, Passenger and Crystal Fighters, or try your hand at a spot of coasteering or mountain biking in the surrounding countryside.
Don’t Miss – Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Sunday. This year’s feast includes Cornish Crab on toasted sourdough with barbecued lettuce, mint, spring onions, parsley and chervil.
Festivals are rarely cheap. In fact, a recent survey by MSN found that the average cost of attending a music festival is £423.01, while Glastonbury charges upwards of £210 for the ticket alone. That might be enough to put most people off the idea of booking a festival this summer – but there some good budget-friendly options about if you look for them. And we’re not talking about dodgy wristbands here…
For a start, you can actually save a lot of money if you eschew the camping tickets and source your own accommodation with mates. By the time you’ve paid for your camping ticket, your tent, your equipment, your food and access to basic amenities (because you WILL need a hot shower at some point), you may as well have pre-booked a cottage or villa nearby.
Whatever you are looking for from your summer festival, we’ve tracked down ten great options that won’t empty your bank balance, including a few freebie options…
Location: All over Sheffield
Date: 24-26 July
Cost: From £20 for a weekend ticket
Tramlines is perfect for anyone who has an aversion to muddy fields and unexpected downpours. Most of the gigs take place indoors, at a different location across Sheffield city centre. Simply choose the acts you most want to see (e.g. Wu Tang Clan, Billy Bragg, The Charlatans, Slaves) and track them down at their given location. You could find yourself dancing like a maniac in City Hall, at Sheffield Cathedral or at Queens Social Club – there’s no better introduction to Sheffield’s nightlife.
Location: Gilcombe Farm, Somerset
Date: 31 July – 1 August
Cost: £49 for a weekend pass
Since it launched 10 years ago, Farmfest has styled itself as an ethical festival, where tickets are affordable to all, and any on-site profits go to charity (this year’s charity is Send a Cow). Given the quality of its live acts and entertainment, it could really be charging a lot more by now, yet Farmfest has stuck to its roots and still offers full weekend tickets for £49.
Some of this year’s acts include Lamb, Portico and Stealing Sheep, while activities include a graffiti workshop, a pop up cinema and something called ‘sound bath relaxation’.
Perfect for families and couples looking for a stimulating yet chilled out weekend.
Location: Margam Country Park, South Wales
Date: 7-9 August
Cost: From £30 per day
This little-known festival has a dedicated following. Now in its fourth year, it is able to attract an impressive line-up of musicians from across the world – this year’s highlights include The Turbans, Norman Jay MBE, The Brand New Heavies, and Lionstar, plus more than 100 other established names and emerging acts. A giant kids’ area features numerous bouncy castles, a Fairy and Elf Workshop, and West African drumming lessons.
Location: The Hebrides, Scotland
Date: 15-18 July
Cost: From £64
HebCelt is celebrating 20 years of traditional folk music with its biggest line up yet. This year the Scottish islands play host to Afro Celt Sound System, Idlewild, and a whole host of traditional performers. The perfect place to discover Celtic music and dance up a storm.
Location: War Memorial Park, Coventry
Date: 3-5 July
Godiva Festival is probably the UK’s only ticket-free, cost-free festival…that actually has some good bands. This year they’ve got music from the Fun Lovin’ Criminals, The Wombats and Embrace, as well as scores of other bands playing across the festival’s four stages.
Craft stalls, a vintage fair, and an actual bungee experience are also in attendance, plus bar, food stalls and plenty of family-friendly activities.
2000 Trees Festival
Location: Cotswold Hills
Date: 9-11 July
Cost: From £72
This award-winning independent festival is still limited to just 5,000 people, but in every other way it has gotten bigger. This year, headliners include The Subways, Alkaline Trio, Idlewild and Deaf Havana, all playing some of their tiniest gigs of the season. As always, there is always a great selection of locally-sourced food and drink to choose from.
Location: Bromyard, Hertfordshire
Date: 24-26 July
Cost: From £80
Nozstock is one of the quirkier festivals on the summer calendar. It features huge acts such as the Wu Tang Clan, as well as quaint traditions such as the annual ‘Celebritree’ tree planting ceremony. Plus there’s comedy from the likes of Andrew Maxwell, a dance arena in a former bullpen, swing classes, interactive theatre and a ‘Tent of Temporary Thought’.
AND A FEW FREEBIES….
Eastbourne Lammas Fair
Date: 25-26 July
Expect Morris dancing, live music, storytelling and an open air ceilidh. The high point is the Open Air Lammas ritual, which takes place at 5.30pm sharp on Saturday 25 July, and features the symbolic cutting of the Lammas loaf, and even more Morris dancing…
Rochdale Feel Good Festival
Location: Rochdale, Greater Manchester
Date: 4-5 September
It’s hard to believe this critically-acclaimed festival is still free. This year the festival has managed to bag a rare appearance by The South (a recently reformed version of The Beautiful South, who are not averse to singing a few of the band’s hits), as well as headlining performances by indie legends Toploader and local ska group The Uplifters. The festival focuses on food as well as music, and this year guests can take part in cooking demonstrations with the likes of Rachel Khoo, Andrew Nutter and Kevin Woodford.
Notting Hill Carnival
Location: Notting Hill, London
Date: 30-31 August
OK, so it’s not technically a ‘festival’, but the Notting Hill Carnival is a British institution. Every year, West London shuts down while Reggae music blasts from every street corner, sequined women shimmy down the roads, and Red Stripe is consumed by the gallon.
Dance til you drop to sets by D Riddim Tribe, Bajan Revellers and Cocoyea, while you eat your body weight in jerk chicken and curried goat.
Empty beer cans, broken sunglasses, soggy tents and a million miles of mud….the UKs festivals don’t exactly have a reputation for cleanliness and beauty. But this is all changing… The UK is home to some of the most stunning natural scenery in the world – from the sandy coves of Cornwall up to the wild Scottish countryside – the perfect backdrop for a summer of festivals.
If you want to find festival that you can enjoy during the day as well as the night, look no further. We’ve assembled eight of the most scenic festivals across the country for nature-lovers and music fans alike.
Green Man Festival
Date: 20-23 August
Location: Brecon Beacons, Wales
Its Wales’ answer to Burning Man…a huge wooden giant is assembled (both before and during the festival), then ceremonially set on fire on the Sunday evening in a blaze of fireworks and coloured lights.
But before you get to all that, there’s just the small matter of a festival to attend to. Green Man is set in the stunning Brecon Beacons in South Wales, and it really makes the most of its natural environment. This is one of the cleanest, greenest festivals you will ever see.
TIP: Arrive as the doors are opening on Thursday morning and enjoy a full day of exploring the pristine site and the surrounding Brecon Beacons before the festival kicks off.
End of the Road Festival
Date: 4-6 September
Location: Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset
Larmer Tree Gardens have been lauded for their beauty since they were first opened to the public in 1880 by the impressively-named General Augustus Lane Fox Pitt Rivers. Thomas Hardy himself was a regular visitor during the late 19th century and described them as “quite the prettiest sight I ever saw in my life.”
The Gardens are still officially owned by the Pitt Rivers family, who have maintained the stunning lily ponds, Victorian outhouses, vintage bandstands and glorious floral displays. Each September, the End of the Road Festival takes over to combine the naturally tranquil setting with ambient folk music, to create a one-of-a-kind festival experience.
This year, the big draw is Sufjan Stevens, who is playing his first ever UK festival to mark the 10th anniversary of EOTR.
TIP: Look out for your favourite acts in the crowd – musicians will often stick around for the rest of the festival after they have performed.
Date: 5-9 August
The British Riviera may not be able to guarantee the sun, but it more than delivers when it comes to the setting. The Cornish coast is all jagged edges and secret beaches, with some of the most Insta-worthy views in England.
Boardmasters 2015 offers festival-goers a chance to see this stunning coastline in a totally different way – from the top of a wave in the English Channel
Curated by skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, the festival stretches across several Cornish beaches, and boasts surfing competitions as well as a stellar lineup featuring the likes of Rudimental and Bastille.
TIP: Make a week of it and arrive in Cornwall a few days early so you can squeeze in a few surfing lessons and find your sea legs before the professionals arrive!
Festival No. 6
Date: 3-6 September
Location: Portmeirion, Wales
Arguably the most beautiful boutique festival in the UK, Festival No.6 is set in the picturesque village of Portmeirion in Wales, the very same village where the iconic TV show The Prisoner was shot.
This year, headline acts include Grace Jones, Belle and Sebastian, Mark Ronson and James Bay, but the real gems are to be found further down the programme. Festival No. 6 has a knack for attracting some of the country’s most interesting alternative musicians, artists, poets and writers.
Once you’ve recovered from the sheer beauty of the location, schedule in some ‘wandering round’ time and discover your new favourite performer.
TIP: Bring swimming gear – if the huge outdoor pool doesn’t tempt you, the calm waters of the Afon Dwyryd will.
Date: 22 August
Location: Loch Ness, Scotland
Loch Ness has had a bad rep over the years thanks to a certain alleged monster. But there is no denying that it is one of Scotland’s most beautiful nature spots – regardless of what lurks beneath.
For years, the Rock Ness Festival capitalised on the stunning location to attract festival-goers from all over the world. But in its absence, Groove Festival is doing a fine job.
For one night only, the shores of Lock Ness will be filled with the sounds of Groove Armada, 2 Many DJs and many other dance acts, who have vowed to keep going until sunrise.
Raise a pint to Nessy as the sun goes down, then lose yourself in the magic of the festival until you can’t dance any more.
TIP: Bring a waterproof camera, because, well, you never know….
Date: 30 July-2 August
Location: Lake District, England
Converts will claim that the Lake District is the most beautiful part of England, and it’s not hard to see why. From the rolling hills, to the glassy lakes, and the postcard-perfect country villages – it is one of those rare parts of the country which looks idyllic even in the rain.
Kendal Calling is situated right in the middle of it all – at the sprawling Lowther Deer Park near Penrith. The festival is set up to feel like you’ve wandered into a small market town, where Flavor Flav just happens to be performing. Explore the woodlands, knock back a few craft ales and pretend that this is normal life.
TIP: Arrive by train so you can watch the scenery sweep past you in all its glory before you settle in.
Secret Garden Party
Date: 23-26 July
Location: Abbots Ripton, Cambridgeshire
The SGP people really know how to make a festival look gorgeous. Every year, The Secret Garden Party pulls out all the stops with zany themes (this year’s is Where the Wild Things Are), thousands of fairy lights and an ‘anything goes’ mentality that includes continuous dance-offs, enormous installation artworks, endless parades and a spectacular ‘paint fight’ on the final day.
All of this would look impressive in an abandoned parking lot, but The Secret Garden Party takes place on an old Georgian farmland, which comes complete with its own lake, river and forests.
TIP: When it comes to fancy dress, this is definitely a ‘go big or go home’ situation. Bring glitter; bring wigs; bring the craziest costumes you can find.
Date: 25-26 September
Location: Ullapool, Scotland
Ullapool is a beautiful location in its own right. The harbour village stretches along the North West coast of Scotland, all wild beaches and purple mountains. But add a festival into the mix and the place is transformed into a riotous rural paradise.
Now 11 years old, Loopallu tickets are usually sold out even before the line-up has been announced, but you can expect an enchanting mix of folk music, alternative bands and local musicians.
TIP: Wrap up warmly – the evenings can get a wee bit nippy!
Forget Glastonbury. Britain’s festival circuit is buzzing with a slew of young pretenders, all vying for the business of the festival-going public. There has never been so much choice, with festivals ranging from the very small (Boomtown Fair) to the absolutely massive (V Festival); from the serene (Womad), to the challenging (Wilderness); and from the kooky (Standon Calling), to the eclectic (Latitude).
We’ve hand-picked the eight UK festivals which have proven that they are capable of drawing in the best names in the business and putting on a great show for everyone involved. Whether your idea of a perfect festival is bouncing around a mosh pit, discovering new music, or chilling out in a hot tub under the stars, just read to find your must-see festival of 2015.
Date: 16-19 July
Location: Southwold, Suffolk
No festival can lay claim to being ‘all things to all people’, but Latitude comes pretty close. Now in its tenth year, the Suffolk-based festival prides itself on a diverse collection of music, art, comedy, poetry, theatre and literature.
This is the sort of place where you can have a chat with Hanif Kureishi, chime in on a political debate with Andrew Marr and Kate Fox, then grab a kebab and catch a burlesque show before discovering your new favourite band at the Radio 6 Music Stage. And if this is all just too stimulating for you, simply cool off in the lake or make friends with the multi-coloured sheep.
MUST-SEE ACT: the surprise act…every year, the afternoon slot at the Obelisk Arena is occupied by a mystery performer who isn’t revealed until they come on stage. Past acts include Rudimental, Joanna Newsom and Thom Yorke.
Date: 31 July-2 August
Location: Standon, Hertfordshire
Quirky is the name of the game at Standon Calling. This is the only festival where you can learn the lost art of taxidermy, bathe in an outdoor heated swimming pool, and embrace the Wild West theme at the on-site saloons and crazy nighttime antics. Oh, and there are some bands playing too.
DON’T MISS: The Dandy Warhols, in their only UK festival performance of the year (and their first one in a long time). Channel the Golden Age of Brit Pop with a rousing rendition of Bohemian Like You.
Date: 13-16 August
Location: Winchester, Hampshire
Boomtown Fair is not a festival, it’s a place – a temporary village which is only open for a few days every year, but certainly leaves an impression.
Attracting some of the world’s top names in reggae, punk, ska and gypsy music, it is a non-stop, 24-hour party town where everyone is welcome and anything goes.
When it first hit the scene in 2009, Boomtown was like nothing else on the festival circuit. It was wild, riotous, energetic and weird, with a rolling lineup rather than a set of headliners. Now that the secret is out, the Fair is attracting more and more big names artists (Stephen ‘Ragga’ Marley; Soja; and Flogging Molly, to name just a few), but that underground spirit is still very much there.
MUST SEE ACT: Gogol Bordello, who have the magical ability to get everyone dancing from the very start to the bitter end of their post-punk gypsy set.
If you glamping isn’t glamourous enough for you then take a look at our featured cottages for holiday homes all over the UK.
Date: 22-23 August
Location: Staffordshire and Chelmsford
A monster of a festival; V is so big they’ve had to split it in two with venues in Staffordshire, West Midlands, and Chelmsford, Essex. The lineup is the same in both locations, as the performers play to one V crowd on Saturday night, then head to the other venue the next day (and vice versa). Rock out to festival favourites Kasabian, chill out to Hozier, emote to George Ezra, sing along with Tom Jones, and dance to Clean Bandit.
MUST-SEE ACT: the headlining set from Calvin Harris (Saturday in Chelmsford and Sunday in Staffordshire). Even if you’re not a fan you’ll find yourself singing along to at least one of his chart-topping anthems from the past few years. Eagle-eyed fans might even spot girlfriend Taylor Swift dancing by the side of the stage.
Date: 6-9 August
Location: Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire
The Wilderness Festival pitches itself as one of the season’s most interesting artistic gatherings. Yes, there is great music, but the emphasis is on a multi-sensory experience which offers something a bit different from the usual festival experience. The best way to enjoy Wilderness is to throw away your schedule and see where you end up.
Wander into a talk on economics, walk over hot coals, get bench-pressed by the Mighty Moustache Sir Leopold Aleksander (the festival’s resident strongman), or learn basket-weaving at an outdoor workshop.
MUST-SEE ACT: Bjork. The Icelandic goddess always puts on a good show full of zany costumes, stage props and eccentric chit-chat.
Date: 3-4 July
Location: Vicarage Farm, Hampshire
Blissfields is pulling out all the stops this year. To celebrate its 15th anniversary, the festival site is based around the idea of time-travel. That means futuristic light shows, emerging talent and the occasional wormhole hidden around the site.
You can expect to find more art installations here than ever before, as well as an all-new night time hot tub experience and a series of talks and debates covering fun topics such as the meaning of existence, our status in the universe and where it all goes from here.
MUST-SEE ACT: Subgiant – Expect an epic electro set filled with fond memories, in their first Blissfields performance since they met at the festival ten years ago.
Date: 10-13 September
Location: Isle of Wight
Bestival has a habit of sneaking in at the end of the festival season and completely stealing the show. For a start, there’s the fancy dress theme, which everyone takes VERY seriously. This year, the theme is ‘Summer of Love’, so expect to see plenty of tie-dyed t-shirts, cheesecloth shirts, and floral garlands.
MUST-SEE ACT: The Jacksons – that’s right, the actual, real life Jacksons: Jermaine, Tito, Jackie and Marlon, performing all the hits of the Jackson 5. Considering they have a grueling Vegas residency, this may be your only chance to see them in the UK for a long time.
Date: 24-26 July
Location: Charlton Park, Malmesbury
This is the ultimate world music festival, with a loyal following. The atmosphere is relaxed, family friendly and welcoming to people of all ages, from all walks of life – a true melting pot of music fans from across the UK.
Womad goes to every corner of the globe in search of the best and brightest traditional artists and up and coming musicians. The result is a brilliantly eclectic lineup, featuring the likes of a 76-year-old Brazilian diva (Dona Odete), a reinterpretation of Cambodian pop music from the 60s and 70s (Cambodian Space Project), a Malian superstar (Kasse-Mady Diabate) and a Macedonian brass band (Kocani Orkestar), as well as established names such as De La Soul and Ghostpoet.
If you hate chart music, you will LOVE Womad.
MUST-SEE ACT: Ibeyi, the ridiculously talented French-Cuban twins who are tipped for huge success this year.
If glamping isn’t glamorous for you then take a look at our featured holiday cottages near to summer 2015’s must-see music festivals.
We have been cultivating land and growing plants for our own enjoyment for thousands of years and we have a special relationship with the landscapes around us. Whether you’re a keen horticulturalist, a window box enthusiast or simply want to wander in a modern-day Eden, there’s a gorgeous British garden waiting for you…
Hampton Court Palace Gardens, Greater London
Just outside London, on the banks of the river Thames lies the Royal Palace of Hampton Court. Exquisite and extensive gardens and grounds delight visitors, and every year in early summer, it plays host to the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show. The palace’s Privy Garden is a fantastic example of formal gardening, created for William III in 1702, and restored to its former geometric glory. For centuries this garden had been the exclusive retreat of monarchs, including Henry VIII, who undoubtedly took many a wife for a secluded stroll here. The yew tree maze is an exciting place to lose an hour and The Great Vine – the longest grapevine in the world – is a testament to Capability Brown, who planted it in 1769. It still bears fruit and the sweet black grapes are sold in palace shops in early September.
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire
The sumptuous Chatsworth estate in the Derbyshire Peak District offers many treasures, and perhaps the most striking are its water features. The Squirting Willow Fountain (where clear, cool jets shoot in all directions from its branches) and the towering Emperor Fountain are impressive in their own right, but the pièce de résistance is the commanding 300-year-old Cascade, tumbling down a grassy hillside with sweeping views to the English Baroque architecture of the house itself. Immortalised in the BBC’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Chatsworth promises – if not a semi-clad Colin Firth – a chance for the kids to paddle and let off steam. There is also a modern, sensory garden created to stimulate all of our five senses and a kitchen garden where you can find ‘mummy peas’ – supposedly developed from peas found in Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922.
The Dingle Garden, Welshpool, Wales
The small and secluded Royal Horticultural Society’s Dingle Garden is a serene idyll in the middle of Wales. Four and half acres of lawns and lakeside gardens are dominated by unusual trees and shrubs. And, despite being only two miles from the busy town of Welshpool, in this sheltered dingle (a deep wooded valley or dell) you feel more like a million miles away. There are shady glades and a beautiful arboretum, and Dingle is particularly acclaimed for its colour-themed planting which comes into its own in the autumn. Leaves explode into a rich riot of burnt reds, yellows, oranges and gold and the woods which steeply slope towards a tranquil lake are reflected majestically in the water below.
Abbey Garden, Tresco Island, Isles of Scilly
In 1834 Augustus Smith began creating a garden amongst the 12th century ruins of St Nicholas Priory on the temperate island of Tresco. Abbey Garden is now home to thousands of exotic plants from more than 80 countries. It’s a sub-tropical paradise which survives despite its far-westerly position, 30 miles off the tip of the Cornish coastline. Stroll through monastic arches dwarfed by huge palm trees, and marvel at the array of superb succulents and the sea of bright blues, pinks and flame reds. Walled shelters and a warm, south facing slope provide the perfect conditions for plants usually found in the southern hemisphere to thrive. It’s a richly colourful place to visit, even in the dead of winter, when, incredibly, more than 300 plants are in full bloom.
Inverewe Garden and Estate, Wester Ross, Scotland
Inverewe is a lush, loch-side garden and 2000 acre estate in the North West highlands of Scotland. It occupies a serene position less than a mile from the sea and overlooking Loch Ewe. The National Trust for Scotland’s garden is famed, amongst other things, for its collection of rhododendrons and at least one will be in flower for every month of the year. And, despite its northerly location, warm currents from the Gulf Stream make for a benign environment where exotic plants prosper, in contrast to the surrounding and harsher, highland landscape. The estate is a nature-lover’s dream, with trails offering visitors the opportunity to catch a glimpse of native wildlife, such as red deer, eagles and perhaps even the elusive Pine Marten.
Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden, St Ives, Cornwall
The sculptor Barbara Hepworth is one of Britain’s most important and celebrated 20th century artists. Sitting beside the Barbara Hepworth Museum on a hillside above St Ives harbour is a beautiful and unusual garden filled with her sensational sculptures. Barbara relished the opportunity to work on her pieces in the great outdoors here from 1949 until her death in 1975. Her huge, bold works can today be viewed, in the most part, exactly where she placed them in a garden she laid out herself. Her sculptures are enclosed by the lush foliage and trees surrounding them and the trademark circular holes in smooth, curving bronze act like windows onto nature.
The Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh
Situated just a mile from the bustling, cosmopolitan centre of Scotland’s capital is the 70 acre oasis of The Royal Botanic Garden. A centre of internationally important research and conservation, the garden is home to thousands of alpine flowers and a huge collection of Chinese plants. It also boasts massive American redwoods and the Scottish Heath Garden, which celebrates native species and has created a haven for wildlife within the city. If the infamous Scottish weather is against you there are many magnificent temperate and tropical glasshouses to take refuge in. They house palms, ferns, incredible orchids and exotic rainforest foliage and visitors to The Windows on the World experience can explore ten different climatic zones, (probably all preferable to British drizzle.)
Bodnant Garden, Conwy, Wales
Bodnant Garden is known worldwide for its botanical collection, and has stunning and spectacular views of Snowdonia at any time of the year. Five generations of the same family have created more than 80 acres of fabulous gardens and the amazing collection of plants has been grown from either cuttings or seeds gathered on Victorian plant-hunting exhibitions. One of the most impressive sights is the wonderful yellow scented laburnum arch, at its best in late spring and early summer. Italian-style terraces hold formal gardens, roses and invite visitors to enjoy the dramatic vista of the Carneddau mountains. You can even tie the knot here and a more romantic setting is hard to imagine.
Mottisfont Abbey, Hampshire
Mottisfont, near Romsey in Hampshire is a must-see in early to mid June. Here, the absolute highlight is an internationally-renowned walled rose garden boasting more than 500 varieties of old-fashioned roses. When they are all in full bloom, it’s a feast for the senses – waves of colour accompanied by sensational, sweet scents. Many of the roses growing here are on sale so you can attempt to recreate the magic in your own garden. It is believed that the ancient Mottisfont plane tree is the largest in the country, its branches spreading over more than 1,500 sq metres. The gardens also stretch right down to the River Test, a fantastic chalk stream which due to careful National Trust management and regeneration is now home to otters, water voles, the striking blue flash of the kingfisher and the rare southern damselfly.
Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent
Nestled in the Weald of Kent, the world-famous garden at Sissinghurst is endlessly popular and, for many, is the epitome of an English garden. It was created in the 1930s by poet and writer Vita Sackville-West and her author husband Harold Nicholson and their original vision is now being carefully recreated. A prison for French sailors in the 18th century and a home to the Women’s Land Army during the Second World War the castle has seen many guises. Today wild flowers are being reintroduced, there’s a fragrant herb garden, rose garden, orchard and a nuttery, dedicated to Kentish cobnuts (a variety of hazelnut). A climb to the top of the Elizabethan tower affords a panoramic view of the large estate and the rolling Kent countryside beyond.
Another fantastic new addition to our portfolio, The West Barn (ref.RGGH) is situated at the foot of the Malvern Hills on a quiet country estate complete with its own vineyard. The estate is located near the River Severn and surrounded by the beautiful towns and villages of Hanley Castle, Upton-upon-Severn and Malvern. Sleeps 6 and 1 pet. More info on the property’s listing on our website.