Bodnant Garden

Amid a deep, steep valley on the banks of the Conwy River, to the east of Snowdonia National Park, lies the beautiful, sprawling Bodnant Garden. One of the finest gardens in Wales, it’s an 80-acre estate of woodland, Italianate terraces, formal gardens, lily ponds and wildflower meadows packed with trees, flowers and shrubs from all over the world.

Bodnant Garden dates back to 1874 when industrialist Henry Pochin bought the estate at auction and set about building a world-class garden featuring plants acquired by globe-trotting explorers, such as the botanist George Forrest and horticulturist Harold Comber.

In 1949, Pochin’s grandson Henry McLaren, 2nd Baron Aberconway, presented the garden to the National Trust, and his grandson Michael McLaren, a top London-based barrister, is now its director. Although visitors are given free reign around the garden, the estate’s manor, Bodnant House (below), is still occupied by the family and so is closed to visitors.

Bodnant House

I began my visit by exploring the various gardens around Bodnant House, starting my journey in the attractive formal gardens to the east of the house. I then snaked my way around to the rose garden to the front and onto the north garden, where a gardener pointed out the late Lady Aberconway’s favourite tree.

From there, I made my way to the strikingly beautiful Italianate terraces nearby. The terraces are set out in five rows in front of the house and lead down to a long, thin rectangular lily pond and the Pin Mill (below), on what is known as the canal terrace.

The Pin Mill at Bodnant Garden

The Pin Mill is a small, 18th century summerhouse that Henry McLaren had transplanted, brick by brick, to Bodnant in the 1930s from its original home in Gloucestershire and it’s one of the most recognisable parts of the garden. 

Flower and plant-filled rocky terraces at Bodnant Garden

From the structured terraces, I moved to the wilder Magnolia Walk, unsurprisingly home to lots of magnolia plants, before making my way down the steep, shrub-filled rocky terraces (above) to the old mill.

The Old Mill bridge at Bodnant Garden

Down at the bottom of the valley, I spent some time strolling along the paths close to the River Hiraethlyn (above), a small brook that flows through the estate. It was a stunning part of the world, and aside from an annoyingly loud fellow visitor, very peaceful. I enjoyed quietly ambling around this part of the garden, lost in my thoughts and soaking up the beautiful scenery.

The Bath at Bodnant Garden

Keen to see yet another side of the enormous garden, I made my way back up the oh-so-steep rocky terraces in search of The Bath (above), a small, hidden garden with exotic plants and a large terracotta-tiled pool at its centre.

A fountain in the winter garden at Bodnant Garden

I then continued my journey to another of the formal sections, the winter garden, which features flowers, plants and an attractive fountain (above), and Bodnant’s famous laburnum arch.

Planted in the 1880s, the long laburnum arch is considered one of the finest in the UK. Sadly, it wasn’t in bloom when I visited in August (it flowers in spectacular style in late May/early June) so it was past its best when I walked under it. But after seeing the glorious photos of the arch in full bloom last spring, I’d love to go back in May or June to catch it in all its glory.

Old Park at Bodnant Garden

Having seen the formal parts of the garden, it was time for something a little different, so I set off across the old park (above) in the direction of the yew dell. The old park was so dissimilar to the other parts of the garden that at times it was hard to believe I was still in Bodnant, as the huge expanse of meadow was in complete contrast to the dense woodland at the bottom of the valley.

Arriving at the yew dell, I took a leisurely stroll through the woods, ambling along different paths until I reached the striking waterfall bridge. At the waterfall bridge, which visitors can walk over, water from the River Hiraethlyn gushes over a dam to the lake below to eye-catching effect.

River Hiraethlyn at Bodnant Garden

Now down at the bottom of the valley once again, I decided to explore the area around the lake and the surrounding arboretum, eventually coming to a grassy spot known as the far end. From there, I looped around the lake and began exploring the other side of the garden’s steep valley.

Furnace Meadow at Bodnant Garden

Climbing up the paths on the hillside, I ventured inside and around the steep furnace meadow (above), a large plain of grassland that opened to the public in 2017. From there, I began exploring the paths along the steep woodland terraces of furnace hill, where I enjoyed spectacular views of Bodnant House across the valley and down towards the Conwy River (below).

View of the Clwyd Valley from Bodnant Gardens

Having seen everything in this part of the garden, I scooted back down through furnace hill to the waterfall bridge. Crossing the bridge, I began another steep ascent, this time to the poem, a small tower-like mausoleum where the garden’s founder Henry Pochin and other family members are interred. I then made my way through the woodland glade and yew garden, back towards my starting point.

I spent a lovely few hours at Bodnant Garden, awestruck by the beauty of the place and how much there was to see. Sadly, the weather was atrocious the day of my visit with lots of heavy downpours and as a result, I’m not sure I saw it at its best. I’d love to go back, ideally in late spring when the flowers, particularly the laburnum arch, are in full bloom – and hopefully, when the weather’s a little brighter!


Bodnant Garden, Tal-y-Cafn, Conwy LL28 5RE

Note: I visited Bodnant Garden pre-Covid in August 2019.

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