As I wandered round the various paths I came across a small narrow section of grass almost tucked away in the angle of a curved hedge in a quiet corner of the garden. A dozen or so small stone slabs were set into the ground with one larger one standing upright against the hedge, and when I looked closely I realised it was a pet cemetery. The inscriptions on the stones were quite difficult to read as the surfaces had worn away over time but I could make some of them out - "Pincher, the most faithful of dogs, died much lamented May 1886" - "My dear little Bobs, died August 1905 aged 9 years" - "Dear little Nettle, died 1895 aged 18, surviving her beloved mistress 6 years". All very sweet but rather sad too I thought.
It was just after I left the pet cemetery behind that I came upon something totally unexpected; after passing between tall hedges and several varieties of shrubbery the path emerged at a section of huge sweeping lawn and in front of me was the most incredible and prettiest view of a garden I've ever seen. If the sky had been blue it would have been absolutely stunning, even so it still looked amazing. Definitely worth a photo, and I don't think I need to describe what I was seeing - this was certainly a case of a picture painting a thousand words.
There was a large rockery behind the summerhouse and another path leading back to the lawn, and it was only when I was satisfied that I'd photographed everything worth pointing the camera at that I made my way to another part of the garden. With more flowering shrubs, rhododendrons, azaleas, daffodils, magnolias and bench seats in strategic places to sit and take in the views I got several more shots before heading back towards the castle.
With one final shot looking down the length of the lawn I made my way back past the castle and down the hill towards the car park, but just before I got there I spotted something I hadn't noticed earlier on. Set back in a corner and across a small green were a couple of stone cottages with red brick chimneys; they looked so cute and quaint that they were definitely worth a photo.
As I walked back to the van I noticed that the line of cars parked in front of the trees on the left of the car park had increased by at least a dozen vehicles in the time I'd been at the castle - so much for there being 'no spaces' when I arrived, I could have easily parked there after all. Maybe the NT should give their volunteer marshalls some training in good customer service!
The exit road through the castle estate was a different one from the entrance road and it ended close to a black and white cottage and a set of very ornate white gates and railings. This was definitely a photo opportunity not to be missed so I pulled up just off the road and got half a dozen shots - and I actually got a fleeting patch of blue sky in one of them.
From there I drove down into Chirk and back to the A5, heading back to Llangollen. It was only 2pm and my day wasn't over yet - I had another place to go to, and from what I'd read on the internet there was quite a fascinating story to it. I'd been once before, a couple of years ago, but it had been closed then so I was really looking forward to seeing round it this time - fingers crossed it was worth going to.