The Hanging gardens of Marqueyssac
The magical gardens of Marqueyssac look like something straight out a story book (especially if that story book happens to be Alice in Wonderland). With some of the most beautifully manicured landscapes we have ever encountered, Marqueyssac Gardens in France's Dordogne region will leave you open-jawed at the attention to detail. The gardens are some 300 years old, that have recently undergone extensive restoration, now boast more than 5km of walking trails through lush scenes of green.
Nearest train station: Sarlat-la-Canéda
Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse in southern Holland are as vast as they are beautiful. With a cool 7,000,000 (yep that's 7 million) flower bulbs planted over 32 acres, including tulips, the iconic bloom of the Netherlands. The name translates as kitchen garden, pointing to the historical use for growing culinary herbs, but now it attracts three quarters of a million visitors between March and May when it's open to the public in all its floral glory. In 2012 it's open from 22nd March until 20th May, and since the journey starts at just 4 and half hours by train from London you could almost go for a day trip! For spectacular giant sized floral creations, put 21st April 2012 in your diary, the day of the Flower Parade.
Nearest train station: Leiden
In case you need another reason to visit Italy's magnificent Lake Maggiore, Isola Bella is it. This rocky island was transformed in 1670 by Count Borromeo, and is the location for his grand villa and equally gorgeous gardens. According to local folklore, ladies from the Count's household requested that he develop it so he could transfer prisoners from the dungeons of his mainland castle and save them from the sound of their screams (nice!). Nowadays, the terraced gardens, inspired by the hanging gardens of Babylon and with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains are a sight to behold, both on the approach by boat, and up close.
Nearest train station: Stresa - from here you can head to Carciano dock and get a water taxi to the island.
Tarot Garden, Italy
The Giardino dei Tarrochi in Bomarzo, Italy, is a sculpture garden with larger than life mosaic figures that take tarot cards as their inspiration. Influenced by Gaudí´s Parc Güell in Barcelona, it is a labour of love created by Niki de Siant Phalle which finally opened to the public in 1998 after 20 years work. During it's construction, Nikki lived in The Empress, a Sphinx shaped mirror-mosaic cavern which became her home and studio for the next seven years.
Nearest train station: Capalbio
Garden of Cosmic Speculation
Now for cheeky garden that graces our own shores. It's only a few hours away in Scotland and only open for one day a year (exclusive!), but the Garden of Cosmic Speculation more than lives up to its name making it worthy of mention on any magical gardens rundown. With evocative names like "Spirals of Time", "Black Holes" and "Fractals", features are based on scientific phenomena and mathematica formulae - so though scant on plants the garden is rather an elegant marriage of nature with science.
Nearest train station: Dumfries