British stately homes with gardens to visit right now

With the UK's stately homes re-opening their garden gates to visitors, we discover those with the most intriguing stories

The atmospheric view of the Victorian-style parterre with tall sentinel yews at Lanhydrock, Cornwall.

BEFORE YOU TRAVEL Check websites for the most up-to-date information. In most cases, pre-booking is essential.

Advertisement
1

Lanhydrock, Cornwall

One of the most impressive historic houses in Cornwall, it was built between 1620-1640 for one of the wealthiest men in the country, Sir Richard Robartes. Following a devastating fire, it was rebuilt in 1881, becoming the family home of the Agar-Robartes until 1969.

Set in 1,000 acres of parkland and woodland, the garden features rare shrubs and trees, there’s a splendid courtyard garden and herbaceous borders that look spectacular during the summer months. Follow the 2.5-mile walk (details on the National Trust’s website) to explore the estate, including the famous avenue of beech trees, which were planted in the 19th century, updating a line of sycamore trees that commemorated Parliament’s victory in the Civil War. Some ancient sycamores remain, but it is the beech that plays host to more than 130 lichens, including rare species. nationaltrust.org.uk/lanhydrock

A gardener at Chatsworth planting and maintaining the gardens

2

Brodsworth Hall, South Yorkshire

Virtually unchanged since the hall and its gardens were laid out in the 1860s for the Thellusson family and their servants to enjoy, the house is in the Italianate style. It’s a design that was favoured by Queen Victoria and chosen for her family home, Osborne House.

While the house is noted for the Thellussons’ collection of paintings and sculptures, the gardens feature an abundance of fountains, urns and tazzas, as well as classical statuary. The building was restored by English Heritage, who received it in 1990, and extensive research into the garden’s history revealed the costs of creating such a masterpiece back then. In a two-year period, the costs increased from £169 18s in 1861 to £782 15s 2d in 1863.

The grounds, a collection of grand gardens in miniature, include a grotto planted with hundreds of ferns, a shrubbery, ornamental woodland walks and rose garden planted with both wild and native examples. The gardens boast many impressive collections, including geranium, fern, alpine and snowdrop, all of which were introduced by English Heritage. The collection of holly trees dates back to Victorian times. Happily, English Heritage welcomes visitors to bring a picnic when they enjoy the gardens.
english-heritage.org.uk

Brodsworth Hall looms behind the Flower Garden.
Brodsworth Hall looms behind the Flower Garden.

 

3

Sherborne Castle & Gardens, Dorset

A spectacular home and garden with an illustrious history dating back to the 12th century, which includes several historical figures who have crossed its hallowed bridge. Most notable among them is Sir Walter Raleigh, who acquired the Old Castle in 1592 and, having failed to restore the property to his liking, built the house that stands today.

The grounds are set out over 42 acres of gardens with an additional 1,000 acres of magnificent parkland, much of which was landscaped by Capability Brown. His scheme survives, largely unchanged. From 1753, Brown installed the lake and cascade, where the valley narrows and the River Yeo forms natural rapids, returning in 1776 to landscape the grounds closer to the house. His later additions include features such as a boat-shaped bed in the Castle Yard and improving views of the lake. Another spectacular feature is the collection of gigantic Cedar of Lebanon trees, Cedrus libani, which were planted c1769 and are sometimes referred to locally as ‘Walter Raleigh’s Cedars’, in homage to Sherborne’s most famous owner.

The walk around the 50-acre lake offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and parkland. There is also the Dry Walk, described as a ‘hidden gem’, which is a historic path that partly follows the route of the old London Road. sherbornecastle.com

The re-landscaping of the grounds at Sherborne Castle to include a 50-acre lake was a huge project that took two years.
The re-landscaping of the grounds at Sherborne Castle to include a 50-acre lake was a huge project that took two years.
4

Bodrhyddan Hall, North Wales

Home of Lord Langford and his family for over 500 years, this exquisite Grade I-listed, 17th-century stately residence (built on old foundations) has a mix of formal and informal gardens. They were created by two notable designers: firstly, Inigo Jones, regarded as the first English architect of significance, is thought to have helped with the early 17th-century design. Two centuries later, landscape architect William Andrews Nesfield laid out new gardens creating a Victorian parterre within the 12-acre space.

One of the leading designers of the period, Nesfield was asked to redesign the arboretum at Kew Gardens in 1844 and several of London’s Royal Parks, in addition to working on over 260 estates around the country. Nesfield enjoyed a reputation for creating exceptional terraces and parterres, such as the fine example at Bodrhyddan, which is replanted every summer with combinations including geraniums and ageratum. There are also impressive waterlilies and the gardens are beautiful throughout the year. The sweeping lawns and woodland walk also offer visitors plenty of space to meander. bodrhyddan.co.uk

A Giverny-style bridge spans a pretty waterway in the Bodrhyddan gardens.
A Giverny-style bridge spans a pretty waterway in the Bodrhyddan gardens.
5

Arley Hall, Cheshire

The Warburton family has owned the land at Arley since the 12th century. In 1832, Rowland Egerton-Warburton decided to rebuild the house in the fashionable Jacobean style.

The gardens as they are today evolved at around the time the house was completed, and a plan dating from 1846 shows that the gardens have changed very little since. It’s worth making a visit to Arley Hall for its herbaceous borders alone, believed by many to be the first ever created in England. These days, this type of cottage-style border is synonymous with quintessentially English gardens, but before William Robinson introduced the concept of naturalistic planting in his book, The English Flower Garden (published in 1883), formal and constrained displays were the order of the day.

Another highlight of the estate is The Grove, an informal garden surrounded by woodland, begun over 50 years ago by the current owner, Lord Ashbrook, and his mother, which features an impressive collection of over 400 rhododendrons planted alongside ornamental shrubs such as oak, birch, magnolia, prunus, sorbs, malus, kalmia and hydrangea.

Other unmissable features at Arley Hall include the Furlong Walk, the Kitchen Garden, the Scented and Herb Gardens, the Walled Garden and the Wildflower Meadow. arleyhallandgardens.com

It is said that the majestic herbaceous borders at Arley were the first of their kind in the country.
It is said that the majestic herbaceous borders at Arley were the first of their kind in the country.
6

Highclere Castle, Berkshire

Needing little introduction, Highclere Castle has a place in the nation’s hearts as the much-loved Downton Abbey in ITV’s drama of the same name.

Seat of the Carnarvon family since 1679, it has illustrious origins. A settlement at Highclere was recorded in the Domesday Book, while the present- day castle was the brainchild of Sir Charles Barry, the architect who designed the Houses of Parliament. The landscape surrounding the castle has an equally fascinating past. Records show that gardens were cultivated on the site as early as the 1200s, and today you can wander around the original Monks’ Garden. In 1218, the Bishop of Winchester planted 61 fruit trees on the land and, while these have since been replaced by climbing roses and penstemons, medlar and pear trees have been trained to climb the old walls.

The spectacular parkland was designed for the 1st Earl of Carnarvon by Capability Brown in 1770. Lord and Lady Gardens Carnarvon have carefully maintained Brown’s vision for the landscape at Highclere. During your visit you will see hundreds of cedar trees, many of which were planted over 200 hundred years ago, some of them grown from seedlings that were given to the 1st Earl.

Other highlights not to be missed include the White Border, the Wood of Goodwill, the Rose Arbour, the Wild Flower Meadow and the Healing Herb Garden, overseen by Lady Carnarvon. highclerecastle.co.uk

The well-loved Highclere Castle stands proud in awe-inspiring grounds modelled by Capability Brown.
The well-loved Highclere Castle stands proud in awe-inspiring grounds
modelled by Capability Brown.