Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.
Pandemic or not, being outdoors can be nourishing. Take secret gardens, for example. They are oases of flora and fauna, uniquely shaped trees and shaded nooks to rest, that may even evoke Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic book, "The Secret Garden," which was recently adapted into a movie on Netflix.
Beyond our screens and book pages, however, the world offers a number of its own fairytale-like outdoor escapes. These are six of the most enchanting secret gardens around the world, from California to Canada.
Dromoland Castle in County Clare, Ireland
The scenic walled gardens at this 16th-century castle-turned-hotel are tucked away past a long arched tunnel on the southern end of the grounds. Once you reach them, you’ll witness an array of autumnal colors, a Renaissance style water pool, a vintage greenhouse, and the woman who has lived her life building and restoring it all: Dorothea Madden. As head gardener, Madden offers guests private tours of the gardens, which were originally based on designs by André Le Nôtre, the mastermind behind the famous gardens at Versailles. Guests at Dromoland receive a map of the gardens upon check-in, and should not miss the dramatic yew tree gallery, which dates back to 1740.
Far Niente in Napa, California
Come for the wine, and stay for the remarkable foliage. At this Napa vineyard, there are 13 acres of stunning gardens surrounding the winery, including the largest planting of azaleas on the West Coast. At the height of their bloom, the plants color the estate with hues of bright red and pink. More than 100 Autumn Gold ginkgo trees line both sides of the road leading up to the winery, and in the fall months, they light up in electrifying gold colors. The gardens are also home to Japanese maple, Japanese snowbell, lion’s head maple, Chinese fringe, and saucer magnolia trees. Far Niente describes its gardens as a "three-act play," increasing in drama at each point: the road leading to the winery lined with gingko trees; the entrance, with its towering redwoods, acacias, dogwoods, and century-old cork oak trees; and the final act, which reveals the winery, lined with olive trees along the front drive and cloaked in colorful Virginia creepers.
Newton Vineyard in Napa Valley, California
This mountaintop garden, situated 500 feet above sea level, is one of Napa's best-kept secrets. Created to resemble a mini version of the gardens of Versailles, Newton’s garden was planted in 1982 on the roof of the vineyard's underground cave by founder Peter Newton. This unforgettable escape includes a geometric maze of planter beds, spiraled trees, rows of dark blue and white lavender, several varieties of roses and fruit trees, and 60 juniper corkscrew topiary bushes. There’s also Pino Solo, a 100-foot-tall pine tree that towers over the vineyard. Tours and tastings are by appointment only and can include a private experience that takes guests to the property's peak to admire the 360-degree view. Tastings range from $75 to $250 per person.
Manoir Hovey in Quebec, Canada
Tucked in the Appalachian Mountains of Quebec, Canada, you'll find a five-star historic manor sitting on 35 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens and birch forest along the shores of Lake Massawippi near North Hatley. The gardens include perennials, annuals, herbs, and produce from the edible garden.
The Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall, England
Seemingly plucked from the pages of a storybook, The Lost Gardens of Heligan include 200 acres of excitement for any plant and wildlife lover. Although not a secret anymore, the gardens were once completely hidden and forgotten after World War I. It wasn’t until the 1990s that a team brought the oasis back to life, making it the largest restored garden in Europe. Thanks to those efforts, visitors can now roam around this paradise of bamboo tunnels, majestic tree ferns, and ancient rhododendrons. There’s even a jungle that contains ponds, rhubarbs, banana trees, and lines of palms.
Las Pozas in Xilitla, Mexico
Created by English poet and surrealist art collector Edward James, with the guidance of Plutarco Gastélum, Las Pozas is an eccentric garden nestled in the jungles of Mexico. The whimsical sculpture garden includes natural waterfalls and pools, a bathtub shaped like an eye, and surrealist structures like spiral staircases that end abruptly in midair.
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