Britain’s stately homes offer a true taste of horticultural grandeur and whether visitors dream of fragrant floral displays or retracing royal footsteps, there’s a garden with their name on it. From Capability Brown at Chatsworth to topiary inspired by Queen Elizabeth I’s dress, our round-up reveals some of the finest, giving green-fingered visitors all the inspiration they need for a future trip to Britain.
Built by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham for the Countess of Shrewsbury and once home to Prince Frederick of Wales, Cliveden is a dazzling Italianate mansion come five-star hotel in Buckinghamshire, approximately 30 miles from central London. The formal gardens include a topiary and sculpture-filled Long Garden, and a striking six-acre Parterre, designed with 16 triangular flower beds showcasing the season’s best blooms. There is also a serene Asian-inspired Water Garden, home to Japanese blossom, a restored Chinese pagoda and a lily pond complete with Koi Carp. Once owned by daring art collectors the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland and later by William Waldorf Astor and Nancy Astor, Britain’s second elected female MP, the grounds of Cliveden are filled with glorious 19th century sculptures. Highlights include the extravagantly romantic Fountain of Love, composed of marble female figures and cherubs that adorn a grand water feature.
Frequented by King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Richard III, Sudeley Castle has been the gem in the Cotswold hills since 1442. This grand abode boasts a 1,200-acre estate, complete with 10 spectacular restored gardens. From the enchanting Secret Garden to the majestic 15th-century relics in The Ruins Garden, each brings the history of the Castle to life in unexpected ways. The centrepiece is the Queen’s Garden, a Victorian reimagining of the original Parterre that is home to 80 types of rose and historic yew trees. The Knot Garden also pays homage to the estate’s history. The sheltered courtyard and intricate box-hedge design were inspired by Queen Elizabeth I’s dress in the painting, The Allegory of the Tudor Succession. The stately home is also said to have been the setting for a three-day party in 1592, to celebrate Queen Elizabeth I’s visit and the anniversary of the defeat of the Spanish Armada.
The birthplace of Winston Churchill and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Blenheim Palace is one of Britain’s grandest houses. Mirroring the splendour of the Palace’s Baroque style, the 150-acre Formal Gardens include a picturesque Water Terrace, a Secret Garden and fragrant rose garden. Another horticultural highlight is the two-mile Marlborough Maze, created with thousands of yew trees which guide visitors through Blenheim’s past.
Another highlight is the Churchill Memorial Garden, which gives a unique insight into the political figure’s life. Future visitors can explore the path mapping Churchill’s life and achievements, including the spot where he proposed to his wife. They can also discover his favourite flora, which grow alongside the path.
Widely regarded as one of the most impressive estates in Wales, the 17th-century red brick Tredegar House was the home of the Morgan family for more than 500 years. Future visitors can dream of wandering the 90-acre estate’s walled gardens, which include a ‘wild’ Orchard, complete with glasshouses and ‘Priest’s House’, and a Cedar Garden, where mature trees and herbaceous borders make for an idyllic picnic spot.
The little Orangery, the smallest of the gardens, offers a chance to step back in time, as green-fingered visitors can walk amongst the same fruit trees and herbaceous plants that would have been planted here in the 18th century. This part of the garden is also home to paths created using numerous materials, from sea shells and coal dust to white sands and lime mortar.
Burghley House, Lincolnshire
Commissioned in 1555 by William Cecil, Burghley House is one of the most impressive surviving Elizabethan mansions in Britain. The modern-day estate includes a Garden of Surprises complete with babbling fountains and water garden. Many other treats await, such as the hidden Moss House, Neptune’s shell grotto and a marvellous mirrored maze, an ideal space for a family adventure.
There’s also the chance to explore the previously lost lower gardens. Designed by Capability Brown, Britain’s most famous landscape designer, the Sculpture Garden was recovered in 1994 and is the setting for annual sculpture shows featuring highlights from Burghley’s collection. It is also home to an eye-catching limestone cliff, a winding stream and a fascinating domed Ice House.
Home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, Chatsworth House is nestled on the edge of the Derbyshire Peak District. It is one of Britain’s most extravagant stately homes and features 105 acres of glorious gardens.
Designed by Capability Brown in the 1700s, the gardens at Chatsworth also feature a 24-step water Cascade, originally created by French engineer Monsieur Grillet in 1696. Another highlight is the majestic Emperor Fountain, a gravity-fed fountain that reaches up to 200ft in the air. Horticultural fans should not miss the stream-side Azalea Dell, the Maze, with its human sundial, or the Great Conservatory – the very spot where ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ bananas were cultivated and are still grown today. And art lovers can look forward to the beautiful array of sculptures on display from world-famous artists, both past and present.
Blending Georgian and neo-gothic Victorian architecture on the Isle of Bute in Scotland, Mount Stuart House is full of surprises. The dazzling ceiling of the Marble Hall and richly designed interior are highlights of this extravagant estate, a theme that can also be seen throughout its vast gardens.
The 300-acre outdoor haven includes a vibrant Kitchen Garden, exotic plants in the Wee Garden, and a striking Asian-themed Rock Garden, which boasts a 20ft-high magnolia and a series of jewel-like ponds. For a refreshing walk through peaceful woodland, visitors can look forward to exploring one of Britain’s richest Pinetums. A tranquil space created in the Victorian period, it is home to more than 800 towering confiners that stretch towards a serene shoreline.
Restrictions on travel to and around Britain are in place due to Covid-19. Visitors are encouraged to always check individual websites for the latest information, as details are subject to change.
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