The Big Six: Garden retreats
Friday 18 May 2012
Parador de Granada, Spain
Few hotels can rival the setting of the Parador de Granada, which is set within the magnificent Alhambra Palace. The hotel is housed in the former 15th-century San Francisco convent, with an impressive internal cloister. The views are stunning – looking out over fragrant rose gardens and the Generalife pleasure gardens.
Parador de Granada, San Francisco, Real de La Alhambra, Granada, Spain (00 34 958 22 1440; parador.es). Doubles from €330, with breakfast.
Villa Cimbrone, Italy
Gore Vidal called Villa Cimbrone's Terrace of Infinity "the most beautiful view in the world" – and it's hard to disagree. The terrace teeters on a 1,600ft drop to the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the crowning glory of the spectacular gardens that surround this 12th-century villa near Ravello.
Villa Cimbrone, via Santa Chiara, Ravello, Italy (00 39 089 857 459; villacimbrone.com). Doubles start at €360, including breakfast.
Prieuré Notre Dame d'Orsan, France
This former 12th-century monastery deep in the Centre region has outstanding gardens that have been recently restored. The seven tasteful rooms have views of the grounds that include a cloister, meadow, orchard and herb garden.
Prieuré Notre Dame d'Orsan, Maisonnais, France (00 33 2 48 56 27 50; prieuredorsan.com). Doubles from €395, half-board.
Argentikon Estate, Greece
A heady scent from 42 varieties of roses greets guests at the Argentikon Estate on the island of Chios in the north-east Aegean, near Turkey. Built in 1550 by a noble Genoese family, the estate now offers eight suites and a further five villas. The formal Ligurian-style gardens take their inspiration from the the celebrated Villa Hanbury on the Italian Riviera. There are orchards with orange, lemon and mandarin trees supplying produce for the restaurant, as well as a pool for lazy afternoons.
Argentikon Estate, Kampos, Chios, Greece (00 30 22 710 33 111; argentikon.gr). Doubles start at €390, including breakfast.
Quinta da Casa Branca, Madeira
Madeira has diverse, tropical plant life, showcased at the Quinta da Casa Branca. The estate dates back to the 18th century but a striking contemporary building houses 42 guestrooms with huge picture windows. The gardens include Indian rubber, floss silk and African tulip trees, as well as Norfolk pines. There is also a palm-shaded pool and spa.
Quinta da Casa Branca, rua da Casa Branca, Funchal, Madeira (00 351 291 700 770; quintacasabranca.pt). Doubles start at €170, including breakfast.
At this time of year, guests at Ballyfin are treated to one of the finest displays of bluebells in Ireland. This is just one of the highlights of the estate's 600-acre expanse of gardens and parklands, with an opulent Regency mansion at its centre. There are meadows, a walled garden, fernery, an 18th-century grotto, dramatic cascade fountain, large ornamental lake, and a hilltop folly with spectacular views.
Ballyfin Demesne, Ballyfin, Co Laois, Ireland (00 353 5787 558 66; ballyfin.com). Doubles start at €950, full board.
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