by Joanna Bailey
Things to do
We’re heading to the gardens, we’ve missed them. Yes, we’ve enjoyed our own – but we need inspiration and longer paths to stroll along. And we’ve missed cake! So, it’s no coincidence that all the gardens on our list come with the promise of freshly baked cake, and lots of outdoor space to sit and ponder.
We have so many gardens in Cumbria – Like those sweet jars. Here’s our brief roundup for you to discover more:
Levens Hall Gardens
Many of Cumbria’s heritage gardens have been lovingly tendered by generations of the same family, each preserving and developing them in equal measure. And they love showing them off! Levens Hall, with a Kitchen renowned for cake, is a welcoming sight, whether you’ve arrived on foot along the River Kent, or by car, and the distinctive topiary can be seen rising from behind the ancient garden walls.
Stroll along the path in front of the stunning Elizabethan house to a small wooden gate leading into the Gardens. What awaits you, hidden behind the high stone wall, remains largely unchanged since the 17th century and is truly spectacular and retains many original features including the world’s oldest topiary gardens, but it’s by no means stuck in its past. The beautiful displays of underplanting change with the season and only two years ago they built Levens Kitchen, with a seasonally changing menu that is already winning awards: Best Newcomer, Cumbria Life’s Food and Drink Awards 2020 and Great Places to Eat, UK Heritage Awards 2020.
When we want a magnificent view with our garden visit, we head to Brantwood, on the east shore of Coniston. Brantwood’s unique and beautiful mountainside gardens, set in 250 acre woodland estate has the most spectacular views over Coniston Water and the fells beyond.
So much more than a garden as the estate is made up of ancient semi-natural woodlands, lakeshore meadows and high, open fell. A real outdoor paradise.
The gardens dedicated custodians have continued many of John Ruskin’s radical experiments in land management and horticulture. We enjoy the lower fellside garden best in Spring. While other parts of the gardens are a riot of colour, here it’s the tapestry of greens that delight as the mosses and ferns awake. At Brantwood you can enjoy your cake at The Terrace, its café is perfectly situated to make the very best of the view.
At Dalemain’s Historic Gardens we joined a tour and thoroughly enjoyed it, a gentle walk around the outside of this stunning ‘pink’ mansion house with a knowledgeable guide made the gardens come alive. I enjoyed my tea and cake as a bit of a strolling picnic as there was so much to see. We left knowing a little more about what thrives in this Cumbrian climate and bought a clump of their famous meconopsis blue poppies for our own garden.
Garden tours take place Mon – Thurs, pre-booked tours only via dalemain.com.
Tulips at Holker Hall
The immaculate gardens at Holker have evolved under the guidance of generations of the Cavendish Family, each adding new features and plantings to create a family garden that is now rich in character and beauty. On any day you’ll find inspiration and advice but if you are about in early May then don’t miss their Spring Fair.
Spring Fair Saturday 1 & Sunday 2 May
Just a couple of miles apart – so easily done in one day, are the gardens at Rydal Mount and Dove Cottage, Grasmere. You can walk from one to the other along the old Coffin Route. William and Dorothy Wordsworth were both keen gardeners and the garden at Rydal Mount remains much as William designed it with its fell-side terraces, rock pools and an ancient mound. Dove Cottage garden has just had a ‘reimagining’ as part of a major project of the Wordsworth home at Grasmere, but it remains “The loveliest spot that man hath ever found”.
If you ever want an escape then head to Muncaster, a tranquil historic garden on the west coast. There is always a quiet corner even on busier days. Here spring is the peak of the flowering season and is when Muncaster’s gardens are at their best. Although autumn is fantastic too. I love that it’s not perfectly neat and regimented and like that you can disappear into its this wilder parts.
Wild Garlic Stream at Hutton-in-the-Forrest
Hutton-in-the-Forest’s extensive gardens boast topiary hedges and lawned terraces, a wildflower meadow and its own lake. The Walled Garden, which is now the main flower garden, has a rotation of seasonal colour, fruit blossom and tulips in the spring and lilies and roses to scent the summer air.
Plant and food fair, Sunday 23rd May – Hutton hosts PotFest in the Park each July
Forty years ago, much of the garden at Mirehouse was overgrown, something of a ‘Sleeping Beauty’, unknown even to people living in Keswick. We discovered it about 15 years ago and we visit now every year – for the flowers, the bees and the butterflies – but really for the cake.
All the gardens website details are listed, check for the most up-to-date information about opening times, special events and, in some cases, how to pre-book your visit. Being prepared makes for a great day out.
Dogs on a lead are allowed in some areas of the gardens and cafes. Please check first.
Take a look at our collection of properties that are available this May for a last-minute spring staycation here.
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