Italian Garden at Powerscourt House and Gardens, Co. Wicklow.
Rousham House & Garden, Bicester
Rousham, on the doorstep of Bicester Village, is said to be the finest garden in England. It’s dotted with eccentric English touches including architectural follies, a grotto and an old dovecote. Still in use today, the dovecote is full of cooing birds that fly around the surrounding fruit trees and flowers. The celebrated landscapes frame classical sculptures and statues and stretch down to the River Cherwell.
Villa Borromeo Visconti Litta, Milan
If you happen to have an afternoon to spare after a trip to Fidenza Village, head for this unusual garden created by Count Pirro I Visconti, just north of Milan. If it’s a hot and sunny afternoon, even better. This nymphaeum, dedicated to the water nymphs of classical myth, hides numerous giochi d’acqua – water jokes designed to drench the Count’s unwary friends. Stepping on the wrong spot triggered a soaking, but nonetheless, visitors returned time and again to enjoy the riot of mosaics and surreal sculptures.
Powerscourt House & Gardens, County Wicklow
Add a short detour to Powerscourt when visiting Kildare Village. The gardens, set against the backdrop of the Wicklow mountains, are among the most spectacular in Ireland. From tree plantations, a walled garden, a fishpond, wooded walks, cascades, grottos, and terraces to the fabulous winged horses overlooking the lake, the variety here delights at every turn.
Promenade Plantée, Paris
The Promenade Plantée is one of the most imaginative Parisian gardens. Planted along a retired nineteenth-century railway viaduct, this earthy promenade stretches nearly three miles east from Bastille. Abundantly green and richly planted, it contrasts brightly with the stone and brick of the city around it. Visit en route to La Vallée Village.
Jardins Artigas, Catalonia
Antoni Gaudí is one of Catalonia’s most famous sons, his genius clear throughout Barcelona. But the great Modernist architect also turned his hand to gardens. Although Park Güell in the Catalan capital is his most famous, the Jardins Artigas, north of the city and La Roca, is arguably his most spectacular. Classically Gaudí-esque, with wooden beams, odd figurines and jagged local-stone structures flowing through a gorge, it is as vivid and absorbing as his architecture.
Court Gardens, Würzburg
The grounds of the Würzburg Residenz, one of Germany’s grandest baroque palaces, feature the delightful Hofgarten (Court Gardens), created by the energetic eighteenth century court gardener, Johann Prokop Mayer, under the patronage of the city’s prince-bishops. His topiary was a sight to behold and its legacy lives on – trees continue to be cultivated using methods that Mayer noted in his handbook, Pomona Franconica. They can be seen in the reconstructed kitchen garden, a charming spot to linger after a visit to the Wertheim Village.
Parc des Topiaires, Durbuy
The pretty Belgian town of Durbuy, near Maasmechelen Village, is so tiny that it claims to be the smallest town in the world. Dotted around its Parc des Topiares garden are 250 yew, laurel, holly and cypress trees, pruned and sculpted into human figures and animals as diverse as elephants and squirrels. The surreal result of a local man’s hobby, the park is slightly bizarre, but very entertaining.