Levens Hall

Top 10 British gardens – shades of summer

Experience Britain in high definition this summer. Here are 10 acclaimed gardens – found in all corners of the UK – looking at their summer best…

1. Westbury Court Garden

Where to stay: Chase Hotel, Wye Valley (Forest of Dean)

Westbury Court in Gloucestershire is a rare British example of a 17th Century Dutch water garden. All the plants, flowers and fruits are old varieties, meaning that the lovingly-restored garden appears as it could’ve done at its prime in the 1720s. Visit in July and you’ll see Westbury Court’s tulip tree at its best and the roses in full flower in the walled gardens. Also worth a look are the vegetable plots, where the melons are growing on their frames and traditional carrot and radish varieties are coming along nicely.

2. Dartington Hall Gardens

Where to stay: Dartington Hall Hotel, South Devon

Dartington Estate’s beautiful gardens are Grade II* listed. A high-summer tour of the South Devon estate is the perfect time to see its Sunny Border. Planted in the 1920s and maintained ever since, the Sunny Border runs the length of the Estate’s terraces – right now it’s a riot of blues and greens. Dartington’s choisyas and magnolias are also at their best in high summer. Don’t miss other, year-round highlights either, including Dartington’s Henry Moore sculpture and ancient yew tree, believed to be between 1,500 and 2,000 years old.

3. Craig-y-nos Country Park

Where to stay: Gliffaes Country House Hotel, Brecon Beacons, South Wales

Craig-y-Nos Country Park is the perfect place to visit if you prefer your gardens slightly more rugged than manicured. Craig-y-Nos Castle was once home to a famous opera singer called Adelina Patti who had the gardens landscaped. These days, the Brecon Beacons park is a popular spot for walkers and families, who make the most of its meandering walking trails around the ponds, woodlands and lawns. In summer, Craig-y-Nos’ meadows, dotted with wildflowers, are at their most enchanting.

4. Helmingham Hall Gardens

Where to stay Hintlesham Hall Hotel, Suffolk

Helmingham Hall makes a great first impression: a long, tree-lined drive leading to a grand 16th Century Hall surrounded by a Saxon moat (the moat is believed to pre-date the house). But it’s the grounds that provide the biggest draw. Helmingham’s gardens have Grade I* listed status. Summer is a perfect time to visit – Helmingham’s famous parterre is surrounded on three sides with a rose garden, currently in bloom. The late summer border was designed to look its best at this time of year, planted in a scheme of pinks, silvers and white. Its hydrangeas, late-flowering clematis and viburnum should all be in full flower during a summer visit.

5. Sissinghurst Castle Garden

Where to stay: Hythe Imperial Hotel, Golf & Spa, Kent Coast

Nestled in the Kent Weald, Sissinghurst is one of Britain’s most delightful gardens, with a rich and sometimes surprising history. Sissinghurst’s beginnings were inauspicious: it was built on the site of a pig farm and used as a prison for French sailors during the Seven Years War. But it is perhaps best known for the gardens created by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson when they bought Sissinghurst in the 1930s. It is now managed by the National Trust and summer highlights include the spectacular old roses (Vita’s favourite flower), and the famous White Garden.

6. Bodnant Garden

Where to stay: Imperial Hotel, Llandudno (Promenade), North Wales

These award-winning gardens may be well-known for their spring showing of daffodils and rhododendrons, but clever planting means that Bodnant is a riot of colour throughout the summer months, too. If you’re lucky you might see some of this Welsh garden’s late-flowering rhodos. If not, then make a beeline for the Rose Terraces. In July and August, the flower beds, walls and pergolas are covered in velvety pink and cream roses. The pools are filled with water lilies and the hydrangeas are at their peak as well.

7. Powis Garden

Where to stay: Lake Vyrnwy Hotel & Spa, Powys, Mid Wales

Rose lovers will be in heaven at Powis Garden during the summertime. The gardens of this imposing medieval castle, near the Wales-England border, are well known for the roses that line the walls of the grounds, and the castle itself. Powis’ Italianate terraces, yew hedges and formal gardens stand in striking contrast to the untamed nature surrounding them. From the terraces outside the castle you can see across the valley in front of you towards Long Mountain and the Breidden Hills.

8. Levens Hall

Where to stay: Lindeth Howe Country House Hotel, Lake District (Lake Windermere)

A break at Lindeth Howe in the Lake District is the perfect chance to explore the gardens at nearby Levens Hall. Its 10-acres of gardens were laid out in the 1690s, and really come into their own in late spring and summer. Highlights of a high-summer visit include the wildflower meadows, a fragrant herb garden and a gorgeous rose garden. The latter is planted with English varieties such as Mary Rose, Chaucer and Wife of Bath pinks, crimson-hued Wenlocks and white ‘Winchester Cathedral.’ Don’t miss Levens Hall’s fluffy scones in the Bellingham Buttery – they bake over 6,000 of them over the course of the summer.

9. Stourhead

Where to stay: Milford Hall Hotel & Spa, Salisbury (City Centre)

Stourhead is renowned for its sweeping vistas, lake and classical temples. But the world-famous estate, on the Wiltshire-Somerset border also rewards bloom-hunters on the trail of summer colour. Rhododendron season may have peaked by late June, but Stourhead’s gardeners have also planted some rhodos especially so they’ll bloom later in summer. A stroll through the walled garden reveals Stourhead’s cutting flowers in colourful splendour. It’s also well worth a trip to the greenhouses to see the estate’s pelagoniums.

10. Beth Chatto Gardens

Where to stay: Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf & Spa, Dedham Vale, Suffolk-Essex border

When Beth Chatto planted her Essex gardens in the 1960s, her idea of using plants naturally suited to the local conditions was ahead of its time. These days ecological gardening is well established, and fans of the gardener and author (now in her 90s) flock to the Beth Chatto Gardens to see how it’s done. Chatto’s famous gravel garden is in its prime at this time of year – blue Agapanthus, dainty white gaura and purple Verbena bonariensis should all be at their best during a late summer visit.

Blue skies. Long days. Let’s face it, Britain is not known for its wonderful weather, so make the most of your summer and get outdoors to celebrate Britain’s greatest gardens.

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