The 8 Best Gardens to Visit in the Lake District
For centuries our gardens have been a place to escape. A place to lose ourselves, in trimming hedges, planting bulbs or reading a book; spaces of tranquility to relax and unwind. When the weather is good, we play, entertain and socialise in them too. The Lake District is home to some of the very finest gardens in Britain; from cottage gardens filled with charm and quaintness to grand stately estates and modern designed places to escape.
Come and visit the best gardens in the Lake District and return home with some inspiration for upping the stakes in your own patch at home.
William Wordsworth was one of the greatest English poets that ever lived and some of his best-loved work was inspired by the unique Lake District fell and lake scenery, which his forefathers had feared as wild and fierce. Wordsworth loved nature and indeed claimed that he would have been a gardener had he not been a writer. In his first family garden at Dove Cottage, Grasmere, he used local plants to create a wild cottage garden directly inspired by the fellside, filled with wildflowers and native plants, like ferns, crocuses, daffodils and hellebores. He penned much of his work in his garden, which he created to be his very own ‘little domestic slip of mountain’. Visit this petite little slice of Lake District history any time of year to get a taste of a traditional Lakeland cottage garden.
“This plot of Orchard-ground is ours; My trees they are, my Sister's flowers; Here rest your wings when they are weary, Here lodge as in a sanctuary!” (from William Wordsworth’s ‘To a Butterfly’).
Time well spent in our Grasmere & Rydal cottages.
130 acres of lost gardens are set around a ruined 19th-century castle at Lowther Castle & Gardens and are being restored by TV gardener Dan Pearson.
Located on the fringe of Penrith in the North Lakes, Lowther Castle Gardens were once home to one of England’s quirkiest lords - ‘the Yellow Earl’, called this due to his insistence on all things yellow.
From a fleet of yellow motorcars and pack of yellow dogs and a hot-house to grow yellow gardenias for his buttonhole. His castle had a room for every day of the year and the gardens were the envy of the north as the Yellow Earl frantically tried to keep up with every fashion in the gardening world.
It’s a great place to simply relax as well as take in horticultural trends from across the eras. Visit in the summer when their famous sweeping meadows are in full bloom and hearts will fill.
John Ruskin was from London but became one of the big names associated with the Lake District’s history. He visited when he was just 5-years old and at 52-years-old started renovating Brantwood House, overlooking the shores of Coniston. Brantwood ended up becoming an embodiment of his work as one of England’s top commentators on social reform and art. Find out more about this visionary Victorian art critic with a visit to his garden, which he designed himself between 1871 – 1886. As you’d expect from the quirky Ruskin, the 8 spaces that make up the 250 acres are unusual and today his radical experimentation of land management and gardening continues. The ‘High Walk’ was designed to take in the spectacular Lake District scenery; the ‘Zig Zaggy’ is much more formal and based on Ruskin’s hand-drawn designs from 130-years ago; and the ‘Professors Garden’ was Ruskin’s favourite. Expect the unexpected here.
Visit the garden of Beatrix Potter when staying in our Hawkshead & Coniston cottages.
Not only is it a sea of bluebells that brings joy in the privately-owned house of Muncaster Castle and 77 acres of gardens, but this is one of the Lake District’s rare coastal gardens, with its lofty vantage point giving it some of the best views in the Lakes. Built high above the old Roman coastal port of Ravenglass (the only port in the Lake District), Muncaster gardens offer amazing views. They were described by John Ruskin as the ‘Gateway to Paradise’, looking out across Eskdale to the highest peaks in England and in the opposite direction across the Esk Estuary and out to the Irish Sea.
It is a ‘wild and hilly’ garden, designed 800-years-ago as a ‘Wild Woodland’ packed with azaleas and rhododendrons and can be enjoyed all seasons. However, make sure you visit in spring to enjoy their famous bluebell walk.
Privately owned, Holker Hall & Gardens offers 23 acres of the most immaculately kept gardens, located right on the fringe of the South Lake District. Find further inspiration in the gift shop, including Lord Cavendish’s ‘A Time to Plant: Life and Gardening at Holker’ as well as other gardening goodies.
There’s a series of formal gardens before you enjoy the informal landscape of trees and meadows. A labyrinth is a peaceful place for reflection and the Great Lime tree, with its huge, thick trunk, is one of The Tree Council’s 50 Great British Trees.
Pick up a map when you arrive to follow a ‘garden walk’, or simply wander through the clipped topiary, cascading rhododendron blooms and pretty tulip beds, enjoying the crunch of the gravel paths underfoot before a delightful refreshment in the cafe.
Home to the Lakeland Horticultural Society, Holehird is 10-acres of volunteer-managed gardens set on a challenging hillside location, overlooking Lake Windermere.
Open all-year-round, visit in spring to see daffodils and gushing natural water features and in autumn the specimen trees, shrubs and heather gardens are impressive.
Within the Walled Garden, a glasshouse has a seasonally-changing display and is definitely the place to get inspiration for your own garden, back home.
Book a soothing stay in one of our Bowness & Windermere cottages.
A miniature, 8-acre, woodland garden that can be reached on foot right from Ambleside town centre.
From May through to August the azaleas and rhododendrons (of which there are over 300) are a riot of colour - look out for the Artists Palette, created in the shape of a paint palette, complete with thumb hole! There’s a viewing seat for looking out over Windermere, cascading waterfalls too from the stream.
In the autumn, there’s a riot of colour from the trees and in the spring the wildflower display of daffodils are a delight. This garden is a wonderful escape, hidden just off the bustle of Ambleside.
Find yourself in the heart of the Lakes with a break in one of our Ambleside cottages.
This is a garden for quiet contemplation, reflection and nourishing the soul. Although the formal gardens, designed by renowned landscape architect of the 16th century, Thomas Mawson, they are genteel and a great example of an Arts & Crafts style garden sitting harmoniously and complementing the surrounding Lake District landscape. You can drink in the inspiring views, such as the iconic Lake District mountain, the Fairfield Horseshoe from the garden. In fact, Britain’s first-ever purpose-built viewing station was created here - the Grot (or grotto) was designed to frame Rydal Fells, bringing the surrounding landscape into the garden. William Wordsworth enjoyed the grot, and the views inspired some of his poetry.
This list is by no means exhaustive. There are beautiful gardens in the Lake District’s many public parks also, including Hope Park (Keswick). Follow the Yellow Line for ‘Lake District Gardens’ on this wonderful map inspired by the London Underground, by Cumbria’s Living Heritage.