Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Enjoy a great day out at Blenheim Palace and discover its magical mix of ancient woodland, lakes, formal gardens and 2,000 acres of Capability Brown-landscaped parkland. The UNESCO World Heritage site, located in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, boasts a series of outdoor route options for visitors to explore, as well as a new audio guide for the formal gardens, downloadable for free onto any smartphone. Created over the centuries, the formal gardens reflect a journey through the horticultural styles of the ages. They surround the Palace and include the majestic Water Terraces, the Duke’s Private Italian Garden and the beautifully delicate Rose Garden. The Walled Garden has been especially designed for younger members of the family with a children’s play area, while the fragrant Lavender Garden is specifically set out to enhance the native butterflies with plenty of nectar-rich plants.
In contrast to the formal gardens and sweeping parkland, the Secret Garden is a secluded area where winding paths lead over bridges of tranquil water. This informal style – and the fact that the plants here are labelled – provides a welcoming atmosphere for keen gardeners and families alike.
• Park and Gardens tickets cost £19.50 for adults and £9.50 for children aged five and over. Go to Blenheimpalace.com for more information and to book.
Walmer Castle and Gardens, Kent
The fabulous stately home and Tudor fortress of Walmer Castle is perched right on the coast near Deal, and has beautiful gardens to visit all year round. A former residence of HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, in her role as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, Walmer Castle was also once home to the First Duke of Wellington and houses a pair of original “Wellington” boots. Visit the stunning gardens, which include the Queen Mother’s 95th birthday garden, Broadwalk Garden and Kitchen Garden, and wander around taking time to enjoy the spectacular spring flowers that fill the grounds with colour at this time of year. For a refuelling pit stop, don’t miss the Lord Warden’s Tearoom or new Glasshouse Café.
• Entrance costs £13.90 for adults, £8.40 for children and £12.50 for concessions. As Walmer Castle is an English Heritage property, admission is free for English Heritage members. Go to Whitecliffscountry.org.uk or English-heritage.org.uk to find out more information.
Old Wollerton Hall, Shropshire
With a David Austin Rose named after it, Old Wollerton Hall has a special place in the hearts of gardeners. Regarded as a world class example of an English garden, it’s the creation of Lesley Jenkins, a former artist with a passion for gardening, who has designed a formal, modern garden on an old site – her old childhood home. Located in North Shropshire and covering four acres, its garden “rooms” are richly planted with perennials and bursting with colour. The garden is renowned for its seasonal mastery and the use of colour, form and scale. Wander the grounds, soak up sights and scents, and enjoy the tearoom, plant nursery and regular on-site events, too.
• Open on Fridays, Sundays and Bank Holidays, tickets cost £8.50 for adults and £1 for children. For more information, go to Wollertonoldhallgarden.com
National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire
With 400 acres to explore, Waun Las National Nature Reserve has flower-rich meadows, woodlands, waterfalls and cascades. Over the past five years, it’s undergone a £7million restoration project and historic features have been unearthed and renewed, while pathways, bridges and lakes have been reinstated. There’s a new 4.5km Regency Walk to discover, plus shorter spring bloom garden walks on offer, too. The world’s largest glasshouse provides a warm retreat and plenty of incredible tropical plants to see, and the British Bird of Prey Centre houses over 20 native birds of prey and offers guests the chance to experience close encounters with hawks, falcons, kestrels, kites, buzzards and a golden eagle. There’s a children’s play area, garden centre, shop and café, and there are regular Doggy Days, so your four-legged friend can join the fun, too.
• Entry is priced from £12.50 for adults and £6 for children (aged five to 16). Go to Botanicgarden.wales or call 01558 667149 to book.
Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall
Next month will mark 30 years since Sir Tim Smit discovered The Lost Gardens of Heligan, where it had been hidden behind brambles and thickets since the outbreak of the First World War. Now, Heligan’s 200 acres are a paradise for wildlife fans, plant lovers and garden romantics of all ages. Victorian Productive Gardens and Pleasure Grounds beckon along winding paths. The Jungle takes explorers on a sub-tropical journey through bamboo tunnels and under majestic tree ferns, giant rhubarb and bananas, while the estate reveals a lost world of traditional breeds and wildlife. An adventure playground, rope bridge and lots of family events mean there’s plenty to keep everyone entertained, and dogs are welcome. A restaurant, café, and takeaway kiosk ensure you can treat your tastebuds, too.
• Tickets cost £17.50 for adults and £8.50 for children. Go to Heligan.com for more information and to book.
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Words: Jo Chapman. Photos: Jim Holden for English Heritage.