The picture perfect gardens at Cambo Estates, only 10 minutes from the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, is an ideal respite when you've had enough of golf.
We stumbled upon the gardens almost by accident. After seeing a brochure with a captivating photo of pastel-colored flowers on the front, I lost the pamphlet, couldn't remember the name of the place, and had to ask several locals before I found someone who knew what I was talking about.
When we finally found someone who could point the way down the long driveway to the 1200 acre Cambo Estates, it was raining so hard that even the cows grazing in the yard looked forlorn.
The garden itself, which is surrounded by a high wall, secret garden style, was not visible from the parking area except for a few potted plants. I must admit, that as we sat in the car watching sheets of rain cascade down on the windshield, I was sorely tempted to say, "Let's go."
I am eternally grateful we persisted. The men, who were already wet from eighteen holes on the New Course, reclined the seats of our rental car and opted for a nap while my spunky sister-in-law and I donned our hats and umbrellas and braved the path to the gardens.
Ten minutes later, I was wondering if we'd made the right choice.The trail to the left took us through woodlands that might have been pretty on a dry day, but were fairly average-looking in the rain. On top of that, the sometimes mossy, packed-earth and mulch-covered paths were starting to get slippery from the rain. Just as I started to wonder if we should turn back, we saw a tantalizing sign that pointed to the left. All it said was "To the Sea."
A gardener dressed in yellow oil cloth who happened to be working nearby told us it was only "aboot" ten minutes down to the sea. How could we resist?
Forty-five long, wet minutes and three-quarters of an inch of rain later, the slick path through the woods opened to a thrilling view of a sandy beach and ocean waves, just as promised.
After shooting some magnificent photos of the fern and tree-lined hills and hanging bridge framing the blue waters of the sea, we turned around and headed back to the gardens, thinking we'd see the big event.
Once again, we were so wrong...
When we arrived back at the walled section of the estate, it was still raining so hard that we missed a sign or two and ended up entering the inner garden from the back. No matter, what greeted us was absolutely spectacular.
With fat, heavy raindrops clinging to every flower, fence, and wire, we wandered through acres of exquisitely colorful gardens. Cambo Gardens is famous for its snowdrops -- while June was too late to see for the tiny, white heralds of spring, we enjoyed a dazzling array ofdelphiniums, roses, lupine, and dozens of other exotic flowers whose names I do not know.
The gardens were nicely labeled, and in every direction, clouds of billowing plants covered in pink, blue, white, lavender, and peach blossoms were there to greet us.
The potting shed and greenhouse, where we saw the most beautiful mauve and peachy-yellow lilies I've ever seen, gave us some temporary respite from the rain, but to be honest, we were so mesmerized by that time that we didn't care that we were soaked to the bone.
While we didn't see the resident pigs, Holly and Ivy, I'm told they roam the gardens, eating ivy that would kill the prized snowdrops. A cow with a huge udder munched on grass the whole time we wandered around the estate, unfazed by the rain. A tractor and a wagon were parked in front of the mansion when we went to explore the primitive tea house after our tour. The staff was friendly and accommodating --I'm told there are bed and breakfast accommodations on site as well.
When you visit St. Andrews, I highly recommend taking a break from golf and touring Cambo Estate Gardens. Although it's not as well-known as the old Course, it's a secret garden worth seeking out!