by Jane Watson
Food and Drink
Things to do
Read on for more garden and cake delights…
Levens Hall Gardens
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. With many original features including the world’s oldest topiary gardens, with beautiful seasonally changing underplanting displays. There’s also a lively croquet lawn, home to Westmorland Croquet Club. The sound of the crack of the croquet and gentle laughter and chat is a lovely backdrop to your wander.
Don’t forget the cake! It was just three 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 garden’s 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, 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. The Great Barn is your pitstop for tea and cake, and why not enjoy a strolling picnic as there’s 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. The Courtyard Cafe is an essential tea and cake stop, and don’t forget to call into our friends at A Day’s Walk who now have a shop there, stuffed full of delicious and mouthwatering Cumbrian produce.
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. Forget manicured lawns and neat beds, this place is natural, and you can disappear into its wilder parts. The Creeping Kate’s kitchen in the Stables Cafe is where you’ll find all manner of refreshment. And possibly a ghost or two!
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 15 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 and special events. 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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