25 beautiful Somerset gardens you need to visit
Bursting with flora and fauna and pretty in bloom throughout the year, Charles Williams picks the best of Somerset’s glorious open spaces to explore
Barrington, near Ilminster
Set against the picturesque backdrop of a restored Tudor manor and moat, these Gertrude-Jekyll-inspired gardens benefit from an emphasis on the colours and varieties of their plants, including roses, jasmine, honeysuckle and clematis. The Goose orchard and the walled kitchen garden supply the dining and tea rooms here, where you can taste the home-grown produce yourself. Complete your visit by browsing in the shop and the book barn.
Claverton Manor, Bath
This museum of American culture boasts superb views, a café, extensive parkland and impressive gardens, chiefly the Mount Vernon Garden. With roses, seed house and white picket fence, it is based on George Washington's garden on the Potomac River, Virginia, which he designed using plants and seeds from Bath.
Tickenham Road, Clevedon
Now managed by the National Trust, Clevedon Court was for centuries home to the lords of Clevedon. This majestic 14th century manor house offers excellent views and a small but pleasant garden. Take a walk or have a picnic in the 18th century terraced garden, with its trees, wooded hillside and wild flowers, and buy refreshments from the tea kiosk. Note: No debit or credit cards accepted at the kiosk.
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Greenham, near Wellington
This 15th century medieval manor house, possibly the finest example of its kind in the country, is surrounded by 12 acres of gardens, with self-contained garden rooms leading off a lengthy yew hedging walk. In April, the gardens come alive with thousands of white tulips, while there are also river trails and a meadow nearby.
Dunster, near Minehead
This hillside Norman castle is the perfect setting for a garden visit, with plenty to see and plenty of walks. The views here are outstanding all round. From the castle, visitors can see across to Exmoor, the Quantocks and the Bristol Channel, while the subtropical gardens themselves are a visual treat, with palm trees and floral terraces.
This Grade I listed cottage garden is a testament to the efforts of the late Margery Fish, the renowned gardener and gardening writer. Among the attractions in this informal setting are collections of snowdrops, hellebores and geraniums. You will also find a herbaceous plant nursery, as well as a pleasant café in the 17th century Malthouse.
Tucked into the Quantock Hills, Fyne Court was once the home of the Crosse family before its fiery destruction in1894. Today, the site is home to a wild garden and woodland walks on which you can encounter a variety of flora and fauna. Visitors can relax in the refurbished courtyard tea room, and there are several natural play areas for children, who can explore a play trail, climb trees, build dens or even play a giant game of Jenga.
Lovingly and carefully crafted since 1966 by the late Joan Loraine, the organic Greencombe Gardens is well worth experiencing. The site of the woodland garden overlooks the Bristol Channel and its features include dogwood, rhododendrons, and oak and sweet chestnut trees. Greencombe is also home to four national plant collections: Erythronium (small mountain lilies); Polystichum (the thumbs-up fern); Vaccinium (Wortleberries); and Gaultheria (Berries for Bears).
Durslade Farm, Dropping Lane, Bruton
The Hauser & Wirth Somerset gallery and arts centre is also the home of Oudolf Field, a garden designed by the Dutch landscape architect Piet Oudolf. Set in a perennial meadow, the garden has both classical and informal aspects. Bordered by hedges, cut through by paths for visitors and framed by trees, this is a relaxing and scenic work of art.
The Herschel Museum of Astronomy, Bath
If you're looking for a rather different garden experience, visit the spot on which, in 1781, astronomer William Herschel discovered Uranus, the first newly discovered planet since the time of Ancient Greece. The garden, which complements the adjoining astronomy museum, resembles a classic Georgian design, with quinces, cypresses and plants punctuated by sculptures and carvings.
Hestercombe Gardens, Cheddon Fitzpaine, Taunton
Three historic periods meet and complement each other in Hestercombe Gardens, with a Victorian Shrubbery, a Georgian Landscape Garden and Edwardian Formal Gardens combining to make this a unique destination. Intriguing buildings are scattered among the spectacular walks, and you can see designs by Sir Edward Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll.
Lytes Cary Manor, near Somerton
Mediaeval Lytes Cary Manor was once the home of herbalist Henry Lyte, benefitted from a 20th century garden restoration by Sir Walter Jenner, and is now an attractive spot with numerous highlights. The Arts and Crafts garden contains fine topiary, roses and colourful herbaceous borders, besides a Medlar and Quince orchard. There is also a well-stocked barn shop and a tea room offering light refreshments.
Mill Lane, Midney, Somerton
Midney Gardens is a network of gardens, linked together but each distinct. The coastal-toned Seaside Garden, the colourful Fire Garden and the Art Nouveau-inspired Clarice Cliff Garden are some of those waiting to be explored. There is also a nursery here for gardeners to explore, stocking grasses, herbs, alpines and herbaceous plants, each organically grown here. On top of that, a tea room serves coffee, homemade cakes and cream teas.
Milton Lodge, Old Bristol Road, Wells
The layout of the Milton Lodge Gardens was the brainchild of Charles Tudway, great grandfather of the Lodge's present owner. The peaceful and attractive Grade II listed gardens incorporate trees, yew hedges and roses while architectural terraces, including the Pool Terrace and the Sundial Terrace, give stunning views towards Wells Cathedral and the Vale of Avalon. There is also a seven-acre arboretum.
Montacute House is an Elizabethan Renaissance gem, and makes a stunning backdrop to the graceful gardens around it. Here, fine lawns are surrounded by neatly-trimmed yews, while a sunken lawn is backed by pavilions and walls with balustrades and pinnacles. Also, Montacute's tree-lined West Drive can be seen in Sense and Sensibility (1995), which was partially filmed here (find some more of Somerset's famous film locations here). Visitors can have a meal or snack at the courtyard café, or pick up a gift in the shop.
Grand Parade, Bath
Centrally located in Bath, the Parade Gardens cover more than two acres and look out over the River Avon. The gardens are a great location for a relaxing time, with excellent flower displays and, annually, during the summer, unique three dimensional carpet bedding. A bandstand hosts concerts during the summer and deck chairs are available on a first-come, first-served basis, as well as a private refreshment kiosk from Easter until September.
Ralph Allen Drive, Bath
Set in a valley with outstanding views of the city of Bath, this beautiful landscape garden is also only minutes away from the Bath skyline, with its meadows, Iron Age fort and Roman ruins. In Prior Park, you can cross over a Palladian bridge which is one of just four of its kind in the world. There are various children's activities available, too, including a natural play area and discovery trails.
Horsepond Farm, Faulkland
Between May and September, the two Lavender Fields here are a sight to see, with the lavender swarming with bees collecting pollen. There's also the Lavender Garden, brimming with varieties of lavender, and with a rose arbour where visitors can relax. The Healing Garden contains herbs with medicinal value, such as camomile, mint and thyme, and the Flower and Vegetable Garden supplies the café, which also sells drinks, cakes and lunches.
The Bishop's Palace, Market Place, Wells
Behind a moat and ramparts, this peaceful 14-acre garden has plenty to see. An arboretum, herbaceous borders, roses, a waterfall and a Garden of Reflection, to name a few, to say nothing of the view from those ancient ramparts. Wonderfully presented and colourful, the Palace grounds also host theatrical, musical and mediaeval entertainment during the summer.
Rectory Garden, Selwood Street, Mells
The Walled Garden began life as the garden supplying Mells Rectory, which was then demolished in the 1540s during Henry VIII's dissolution of the Monasteries. Today, you can enjoy the wonderful views over a pasture and meadow from the rose terrace, stroll past olive, bay and fig trees, see vibrant borders and locally-made ironwork garden sculptures, or sample the café's Mediterranean menu including gelato and oven-baked pizza.
Church Street, Cannington, near Bridgwater
The Walled Gardens of Cannington are situated in the grounds of a medieval priory, many of whose structures remain, including the walls which lend the garden its name. Highlights include the Sub-Tropical Walk, Botanical Glasshouse, Victorian-style fernery, and the restful Bishop's and Australasian Gardens. You can also find a tea room, gift shop and plant nursery here, and you don't need to actually visit the gardens to take advantage of these.
Farm Street, Tintinhull, Yeovil
The garden around this 17th century house, which serves as a National Trust holiday home, is well worth seeing, with an orchard, productive kitchen garden, lawns, pools and fantastic topiary. Its sections include the Eagle Court, where box-hedge domes line the pathway, and the Pool Garden, with its summerhouse and its dyed blue reflective pond. A small tea room also serves cakes and teas.
Holt Farm, Bath Road, Blagdon
Farmed by the Mead family since the 15th century and renowned for its dairy products, Yeo Valley is also home to one of Britain's few ornamental organic gardens. Covering 6.5 acres and with views of the Mendips and Blagdon Lake, it promises a colourful experience, with continuously developing edible and ornamental displays. Also, the Garden Café offers homemade refreshments.
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