Hunting for the UK’s most secret gardens

Summer is around the corner – hurrah! So to celebrate, we’ve put together a list of some of the best, lesser-known, gardens that the UK has to offer. Gardens that are perfect for a picnic on a sunny day, but ones where you don’t have to fight for a space on the lawn. We’ve already looked at London, so now here’s our pick for the UK. If you know of a garden that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, then let us know in the comments below.

  

Northern England: Dalemain Mansion & Historic Gardens

Often overlooked by visitors in favour of Levens Hall, Dalemain Mansion is a day out you should not miss. Set in the peaceful countryside near the Ullswater, this 14th Century manor is encircled by magnificent grounds, featuring many rare plants and delightful features. Take a stroll along the Georgian terrace border, walk around the Tudor knot garden, or visit the Rose Walk with over 100 old-fashioned roses and ancient apple trees.

Snowdrops, foxgloves, chamomile flowers… this is a garden that’s always in colour. Visit the secret wood in early summer to catch the Himalayan blue poppies in all their glory. And don’t miss the 200-year-old Tulip tree, or the Greek Fir; the biggest of its kind in the UK. Grab a coffee at the manor house and enjoy some stunning views across the rolling hills of the Lake District National Park. A truly wonderful day out.BK-Dalemain-Day-3-025969Open: Sunday – Thursday, 10.30 – 17:00 (until 29th October)

Admission: Adults from £8 (for gardens only), senior citizens £7.50, under 16s go free.

Click here for more information.

 

Northern England: Holehird Gardens

There are so many gorgeous gardens in the Lake District that Holehird can sometimes get overlooked. This 17-acre hillside is home to the Lakeland Horticultural Society, whose dedicated gardening enthusiasts look after the maintenance of the entire garden. One of the aims of the society is to determine what plants thrive in the Lake District’s wet conditions, so Holehird has become a wonderful source of knowledge for gardeners across the region.

The garden is spread over 10 acres, with lovely views west across Lake Windermere to the peaks of Langdale. Visitors begin in the walled kitchen garden which has colourful herbaceous borders around a central lawn, filled with equally striking flower beds, including a delightful-smelling Mediterranean area.

Then, move on through to the extensive outer gardens where there are many rock gardens, alpine houses and a stream running through the grounds, cascading down into the Gunnera pond. Winding paths take you past many gorgeous beds full of summer and winter heathers, magnolias, alpines, acers and dwarf conifers. Visit in August or September and you’ll be treated to a stunning display of hydrangeas, as the rest of the garden features a dazzling array of fruits, berries, seeds and leaf colour, particularly from the many maples and azaleas.DSCF4111

Open: Every day, from dawn to dusk

Admission: Free, but a donation is suggested.

Click here for more information.

 

Southern England: The Plantation Garden

Set in the heart of Norwich city centre, yet relatively unknown because of its hard-to-find location, is The Plantation Garden. Overlooked by the Roman Catholic Church, this three acre hidden garden is set in an amphitheatre-style hollow, forming a relaxing oasis in the middle of a busy city. The garden itself began life as the brain child of prosperous Victorian businessman, Henry Trevor. In 1856 he took a lease on a former flint quarry and over the next 40 years, turned it into an extraordinary garden.

After falling into disrepair after the Second World War, the garden was effectively abandoned until 1980, when the Plantation Garden Preservation Trust was set up. Nowadays this Grade II listed garden is as glorious now, as it was back then. With an impressive gothic-style fountain, Italian terrace, woodland walkways and a rustic summerhouse, plus many other features popular with Victorian gardens. It’s a wonderful glimpse into a bygone era.IMG_20130630_153541

Open: Everyday, from 9am-6pm

Admission: £2

Click here for more information.

 

 Southern England: Overbeck’s Garden

The most unusual garden on our list goes to the seaside home of inventor and scientist Otto Overbeck. Perched high on the cliffs above Salcombe, his gardens and house offer stunning panoramic views over the estuary and coast.

But that’s not all. The garden itself is a subtropical paradise, completely out-of-place with the surrounding South Devon countryside. Follow the winding paths past herbaceous borders full of colour, under giant palm trees. Citrus trees and olive groves grow here, and even banana plants, thriving in a microclimate created by the protection of the South Ham hills. It’s no wonder many visitors feel they’re in a different country when taking a stroll through this garden.

The house too is full of surprises. This Edwardian property contains the varied, quirky collections of Otto himself, from a polyphon (a giant Victorian music box), to his own invention ‘The Rejuvenator’. Look out for the secret door. RHS-Show-19.4.13-020-(2)Open: 11:00 – 17:00, everyday until 1st November

Admission: £8.00 adult, £5.00 children.

Click here for more information.

 

Scotland: Dr Neil’s Garden

This garden is a little hard to find, but it’s perhaps what makes it so special. Known informally as ‘Edinburgh’s secret garden’, Dr Neil’s Garden is the result of many years of hard work and sheer dedication by Drs, Andrew and Nancy Neil. What started as little more than a wild, overgrown patch of land has become a place of peace and serenity. Twisting gardens paths take you past conifers, heathers and alpines, and beds full of primulas, magnolias and some herbaceous borders. There’s also a special eye-catching collection of Azaleas and Rhododendrons below the garden nursery.

But it’s the setting that really brings a touch of magic to this place. This secluded garden lies next to the 12th Century Duddingston Kirk on the banks of the Duddingston Loch, with Arthur’s Seat as its backdrop. It’s a place of artistic, literary and spiritual inspiration, where locals come to think. So much is this garden treasured by those who use it, that the whole land is maintained purely by volunteers.dr_neils_garden3

Open: Every day, including weekends, from 10am till dusk.

Admission: Free, but a donation is suggested.

Click here for more information.

 

 Scotland: Arduaine Garden

Arriving at Arduaine, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped into a fairy tale. This beautiful coastal garden contains an abundance of beautiful flowers, from giant rhododendrons which fill the air with a sweet perfume, to colourful azaleas and magnolias.

Bright Blue Tibetan poppies can be found in the woodland, while Chatham Island forget-me-knots and Giant Himalayan Lilies bring a wonderful exotic feel to the garden.

Explore the maze of small paths, zig-zagging their way up the slope, past numerous ponds covered in lily pads. At the top of the hilly peninsular, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views out across the Asknish Bay.ntsargp00158-arduaine-garden000001Open: Daily, from 9:30 to sunset

Admission: £6.50 adult, £5.00 concession.

Click here for more information.

 

Wales: Bodnant Garden

While the grounds at Bodnant, near Colwyn Bay in North Wales, aren’t exactly a secret, the ‘Far End’ – or ‘Wild Garden’ – certainly is. For the first time in 140 years, this 10-acre section is open to the public – more than a century after it was planted.

It’s taken a team of gardeners, and countless volunteers, five years to transform this area into the tranquil riverside garden it is today. Take a stroll along the river, visit the arboretum  containing trees planted as far back as the early 1900s, or take a seat down by the skating pond to see kingfishers hunt and perhaps even an otter.

Best of all, once you’ve fully explored this part of the garden, there’s a further 70 acres to discover. With an awe-inspiring plant collection and world-famous Laburnum Arch, it’s easy to see why Bodnant makes for a wonderful day-out.Bodnant-Gardens-0070Open: Thursday – Tuesday 10:00 – 17:00, Wednesday 10:00 – 20:00

Admission: £10.50 adults, £5.50 children.

Click here for more information.

  

Northern Ireland: Benvarden Garden and Grounds

The historic Benvarden estate was first built in the 1630s, owned by the Montgomery family since 1798, and it is said to be one of the best maintained gardens in Northern Ireland. Within its 300-year-old brick walls, there is a two-acre garden filled with a variety of flowers, fruit trees, herb gardens and vegetable patches. There are arched pergolas woven with roses, hot houses full of melons and grape vines, and even a lavender parterre, all intermingled by young fruit trees.

Outside the walls is a wild garden, and area of woodland, carpeted with snowdrops and bluebells. Huge Oaks, Beeches and Sycamores cover the ground, stretching down to the banks of the river Bush, which leads to one of the world’s oldest distilleries, Bushmills.  There’s also a stunning Victorian iron bridge, built by Robert Montgomery in 1878, a man who fought in, and survived, the Crimean War. His great great grandson now looks after the estate, ensuring it remains as original and wonderful a place for generations to come.460benvarden1Open: Tuesday – Sunday 12:00 – 17:30 (1st June – end of August)

Admission: £4, under 14s go free.

Click here for more information.

 

So, what do you think of our selection? Share these gardens with your friends on facebook, twitter or Google+. Or, if you have a favourite garden in the UK, then don’t keep it a secret. Tell us about it in the comments below.

 

Featured image: Lumix

Image 1: Dalemain

Image 2: The Plantation Garden

Image 3: Heritage Gardens

Image 4: Holehird Gardens

Image 5: Doctor Neil’s Garden

Image 6: National Trust for Scotland

Image 7: Britain Express

Image 8: Antrim Garden Trail

 

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