For such a northern county, Cumbria has some amazing gardens to visit. Perhaps because of all the rain they seem to be lush green oases in a sea of, well, lush green scenery! I love wandering round them whatever the weather; here’s a handful of my favourites.
Technically just outside the Lake District National Park but who cares when the gardens are as beautiful as this?! There’s a pond with newts, lots of herbaceous borders, an old orchard, and best of all, a massive walled garden filled with hundreds of different varieties of herbs and medicinal plants, all with helpful labels explaining their various uses. It’s fascinating as well as pretty.
The home of the Lakeland Horticultural Society with sweeping gardens overlooking Windermere (the lake) and the distant fells. There are lots of different areas including a walled garden, a stream, several old glasshouses filled with alpines, and more informal semi-wooded slopes. Best of all – it’s free to enter, although visitors are encouraged to donate via an honesty box.
Another one that’s just outside the National Park, but only just – and it’s well worth a visit because it’s so unique. Not only do the gardens include the usual herbaceous borders, rose garden, ponds, fountains etc, but also the world’s first recorded “ha-ha” boundary feature – and more importantly, the world’s oldest topiary. An absolute gem.
A short drive from Levens is this wonderfully romantic old hall (photo above) with some of the most picturesque gardens I’ve ever seen, anywhere. It’s almost impossible not to like the sweeping lawns and pools with the ever-present backdrop of the medieval castle itself. The grounds also house the largest limestone rock garden currently owned by the National Trust – a wonderful tangle of winding paths, streams, cascades, bridges and limestone “crags”.
Another National Trust property, this small but lovely garden scrambles up the steep lower slopes of Wansfell on the outskirts of Ambleside, following the valley of a pretty mountain stream through woodland interplanted with bulbs, rhododendrons, and camellias. There are sudden views of Windermere between the trees and if you’re feeling fit you can continue walking into Skelghyll Woods which back onto the garden.