National Botanic Garden of Wales

Top choice in Swansea, The Gower & Carmarthenshire

Concealed in the rolling Tywi valley countryside, this lavish complex opened in 2000 and is still maturing. Formerly an aristocratic estate, the garden has a broad range of plant habitats, from lakes and bogs to woodland and heath, with lots of decorative areas and educational exhibits. The centrepiece is the Norman Foster–designed Great Glasshouse, a spectacular glass dome sunken into the earth. The garden is 2 miles southwest of Llanarthne village, signposted from the main roads.

Themed spaces include a historic double-walled garden, a Japanese garden and an apothecaries' garden, and there are fascinating displays on plant medicine in a recreated chemist shop. The 110m-wide Great Glasshouse shelters endangered plants from Mediterranean climes sourced from all over the world. A new addition is the Birds of Prey Centre, home to more than 20 British raptor species and the site of falconry demonstrations (£3.50), and tours and kids' events are regularly offered.

This estate once belonged to Sir William Paxton, the man responsible for the transformation of Tenby into a tourist resort. His grand manor house, built in the 1790s, burnt down in 1931, but you can still see the outline of the foundations, and the old servants' quarters, which are pretty impressive in themselves. The original Regency-era landscaping, comprising a chain of decorative lakes, is undergoing restoration expected to reach completion in 2020. On the hill in the distance, look out for Paxton's Tower, a castle-like structure once used for entertaining.

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