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Europe’s Must See Gardens

25 September 2015

Pick up tips from the best in the business and find your own inspiration amongst the captivating grounds of some of the world's must see gardens.

Explore the celebrated Loire Valley in central France, famous for its verdant pastures and charming chateau's. This region of France is home to Château de Villandry, a picturesque 16th century castle-palace set amongst some of the country's finest Renaissance gardens, including a variety of ornate water gardens and ornamental flowerbeds nestled amidst a myriad of maze-like hedgerows. Not far from Château de Villandry is the former Royal residence at Versailles. The grand Palace was the seat of French Royalty up until the Revolution but, despite the change in ownership, the Palace has retained much of its former opulence and this is very much reflected in the wonderfully sumptuous gardens and grounds. From sprawling, manicured lawns to extravagant fountains and winding canals, the Versailles Gardens are some of the most recognisable and celebrated in the world and a stroll through them is a mesmerizing experience. 

The gardens of Italy are equally as impressive. A country rich in beautiful landscapes, from the rolling vineyards of Tuscany to the shimmering shores of Lake Garda, the Italians are no strangers to imaginative landscaping and no trip to Northern Italy is complete without a visit to the colourful oasis of the Sigurta Gardens, complete with its woodland grottoes and aromatic herb gardens that remind one of an authentic Italian kitchen. From there, discover the UNESCO listed Orto Botanico, the oldest remaining Botanical Gardens anywhere on Earth. Situated in the city of Padua, a favoured location of playwright William Shakespeare, these traditional Romanesque-style gardens first opened in 1545 and preserves much of the original layout.

Netherlands' Keukenhof Gardens, open for just two months a year, is the perfect embodiment of Spring; hundreds of different flower species provide row upon row of vivid colours set amongst tranquil woodland and trickling streams. The rolling hills of Keukenhof are awash with over seven million tulip bulbs and there is also a variety of indoor greenhouse exhibits as well as a charming windmill to visit. 

Historically perhaps the most inspiring and innovative landscape design is the classical English country garden, specifically those attributed to the almost-mythical design talents of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. The inventive landscape artist coined the idea of the stereotypical English country garden; smooth grass, scattered tress and serpentine lakes that have since become iconic and apparent at many of the country's remaining stately homes, including Blenheim Palace, Warwick Castle and Kew Gardens. The style was taken worldwide in the 18th century and is now one of the most celebrated and common of large-scale landscape designs used across the globe.

Britain's countryside also has its fair share of more modern gardening experiences and none are arguably as breath-taking as Cornwall's futuristic Eden Project. This westerly tourist attraction is a captivating complex dedicated to educating on man and plants continued and necessary co-existence. Central to the Eden Project complex is the two vast indoor 'biome' gardens for which the park is famous. Mini-climates in their own right, one biome houses a variety of Mediterranean species and features gardens and courtyards designed to reflect the sun-swept terraces of Spain and Italy. The larger biome features the park's indoor rainforest, complete with cascading waterfalls and towering banana trees.

Explore all these wonderful gardens and more with Great Rail Journeys' fantastic selection of garden themed escorted rail holidays