John Sales, now retired Director of Gardens for the National Trust, has written a book on his career and in an interview relating to the book listed Powis Castle in his top five favourite National Trust gardens – up there with the likes of Sissinghurst and Hidcote! After a visit this summer I feel it is a very well earned and deserved ranking.
The setting is, of course, fabulously dramatic – a red sandstone castle atop a steep cliff with views of the beautiful surrounding countryside. The cliff has been worked to create a series of terraces below the castle with each terrace planted luxuriously and, at the time of our visit, a riot of bright, cheerful summer colour. We seemed to have arrived, quite by accident, on the perfect day and spent five to six hours there strolling around the gardens, coming back on areas a second and third time for they deserved it. It was a marvel!
The terraces – Top Terrace, Aviary Terrace, Orangery Terrace, Lower Terrace and the Western Bank – are Italian in layout and design and echo the gardens of the northern Italian lakes, long narrow gardens planted luxuriously which look outward as much as they look inwards for the views are always magnificent. The Great Lawn and Daffodil Paddock (multitudes of Tenby daffodils in spring – a fabulous sight!) lie below, between the terraces and the woodland. A walk in the woodland gives a complete contrast to the terraces, all calm and quiet, a rest to the senses.
Though there was enough beauty, plant interest and colour on the terraces to satisfy the most enthusiastic gardener the eye is caught by the yew hedge outlines, below and to the left of the castle, of the Formal Garden, the Fountain Garden and the Croquet Lawn – and this area could stand alone as a garden worth the time, distance and effort to visit. It was quite beautiful and the openness of the lawns gave a more relaxed atmosphere where one was inclined to sit and rest and look back towards the castle – an opportunity to take it all in, so to speak.
We had arrived in the late morning and passed the restaurant in the castle courtyard thinking it was a little early for lunch and that we could come back later but we then spent so much time in the gardens that it was approaching six o’clock when we got back to the courtyard again, some of the last to leave the gardens that afternoon, and all was closing up. We found a good restaurant in nearby Welshpool so body and soul were well nourished that day.
A great day out!