Great Gardens To Visit | Living North

Great Gardens To Visit


Our guide to the greatest gardens in the North East

Melrose, Roxburghshire TD6 9BQ
01896 752043

The home of celebrated novelist Sir Walter Scott, the gardens at Abbotsford House fringe the River Tweed and 200 years on still retain many of     the original features he instigated. This includes the general layout of the area, divided into three outdoor ‘rooms’: the South Court, the Morris Garden, and the Walled Garden. We’re a particular fan of the simple sunken Morris Garden, where plants take precedence. You’ll find longstanding roses here, and peonies in midsummer.
Must see: The gorgeous Walled Garden covering an acre of land with fantastic flowers as well as a Gothic orangery.

Denwick Lane, Northumberland NE66 1YU
01665 511350

There’s a reason visitors come to Alnwick from far and wide – and it’s not just because of next door Alnwick Castle’s fame as the film set for Harry Potter. Alnwick Garden is a glorious example of a garden, open all year round and with a cornucopia of plants to wander through. Take a look at Fritillaria meleagris – or the snake head’s fritillary – in April near the Ornamental Garden, or the Chinese wisteria in May on the pergola.
Must see: The Alnwick rose, whose delicately pink cup-shaped buds dot every junction of the Rose Garden.

Belsay, Northumberland NE20 0DX
01661 881636 

With the Winter Garden, Yew Garden, Magnolia Terrace and Quarry Garden, there’s plenty to see when spending a day in the expansive 30-acre grounds of Belsay Hall. The picturesque surroundings are the handiwork, passed down through generations, of Sir Charles Monck, whose family has owned the estate since 1270. The range of flowers on show at Belsay Hall is unparalleled, and you can stroll along canopied walkways to protect you from the sun at its hottest.
Must see: The Quarry Garden, from which the stone used to build the hall was hewn, where exotic trees and plants flourish.

Stanton, Northumberland NE65 8PR
01670 772238

Another former quarry, the gardens at Bide-A-Wee were once nothing more than a scrub of land from which Northumberland stone was extracted. Now they’re a paradise which Gardener’s World Magazine call a ‘very special garden’. When you’ve spent some time in the garden, designed and carefully cultivated by owner Mark Robson, you’ll quickly agree. The gardens are open in the afternoon between April and August, meaning you’ll see it at its very best.
Must see: It’s hard to believe what it once was, but the wildflower meadow shows the stunning transformation from quarry to garden best.

Sunniside, Gateshead NE16 5EL
01207 232262

Tucked between Beamish Open Air Museum and Tanfield Railway this three-acre hillside garden recently reopened from its winter break and is a treat for garden aficionados. The family who tend to the garden moved in in 1987 with dreams of living the good life. The garden in full flourish is a riot of colour with roses, hellebores, waterlilies and tulips that attract an enormous range of wildlife including dragonflies, butterflies, ladybirds and 43 varieties of bird.
Must see: Look out for the 10 varieties of butterflies that visit the gardens from July to September.

Wylam, Tyne & Wear NE41 8JH
01661 852176 

Barely 10 miles outside the centre of Newcastle, Bradley Gardens is one of the hidden treasures of the North East. Designed by John Dobson, the renowned architect behind many of Newcastle’s most famous edifices, this four-acre 18th century walled garden is nestled in the Tyne Valley. When the flowers are in full bloom and the sun streaks down, there are fewer better places to be. Not only is it a fantastic garden, but is also a shopping destination in its own right. 
Must see: Bradley’s Glasshouse Café, once a glasshouse for produce is a great place to quaff a coffee.

Chillingham, Alnwick, Northumberland NE66 5NJ
01668 215359 

Capability Brown toured the nation, designing gardens without comparison, leaving his mark on the landscape. Among the treasures he left the nation is Chillingham Castle. At one point the location for the English attack against William Wallace, this site has grand lakes around which you can wander, fantastic views of the countryside, and lays claim to the longest herbaceous border in northern England. There are a range of fantastic flowers on show here, including rhododendrons, bluebells and daffodils.
Must see: The rare 19th century Italian Garden by eminent Royal Garden Designer Sir Jeffery Wyatville.

Wark, Northumberland NE48 3NT
01434 230203

The grounds surrounding the 12th century Chipchase Castle, which open in April for a precious few months of the year, are filled with wild, natural terrain, and woods which roll down to the North Tyne river. If, on your wanders, you spot a particular plant that takes your fancy, make sure to note it down: the attached nursery sells many of the same varieties.
Must see: Head down towards the river, a popular fishing spot, to see if you can catch a glimpse of Chipchase’s famous salmon.

Rothbury, Northumberland NE65 7PU
01669 620333

Situated high above Debdon Burn, the former country home of famed engineer Lord Armstrong is a jewel in the crown of the region’s cultural heritage. It’s also home to cracking gardens, including one of the largest surviving Victorian glasshouses, dating back to the 1870s, and a carpet of 20,000 plants raised in Cragside’s own nursery.
Must see: The country’s tallest Scots pine, which stretches 131 feet above the grounds, takes pride of place here, and is a sight to behold.

Sidegate, Durham DH1 5SZ
0191 384 8028

This Grade I-listed Medieval hall, dating back to the 13th century, is within walking distance of Durham city centre in six acres of lush, green gardens. From the Shakespeare Garden, established by the previous owners and filled with plants contemporary to the Bard, to the colourful Walled Garden, there’s something for everyone.
Must see: The pear trees, planted long ago in the Secret Walled Garden, that were meant to ward off evil spirits and still live on today.

Dilston, Corbridge NE45 5QZ
07879 533875

One of just a handful of modern physic gardens in the country, almost every plant here has the power to help improve your health and wellbeing. Nestled above the burbling Dyvels Water, Dilston has more than 800 medicinal plant species across its two acres. The fragrant herbs that dot this garden – including lemon balm and lavender – give off a calming mien as you brush past them.
Must see: Whether you’re spiritual or not, the serene stone Buddhas at either end of the bamboo walk will set you at ease.

Hollingside Lane, Durham DH1 3TN
0191 334 2887

On the fringes of Durham city, the university-run Botanic Garden is splayed over 10ha of mature woodland. With a bamboo grove, alpine garden, and a wildflower meadow, the garden is used by the university as a teaching and research resource, as well as being open to the public. For those looking to learn more about the contents of their garden, the Botanic Garden is an invaluable resource: the different plants are labelled, imparting knowledge and inspiration in equal measure.
Must see: The glasshouse, the humid environment of which allows sugarcane, coffee and bananas to grow – a rainforest within the region.

Eggleston, County Durham DL12 0AG
01833 650230

Spread across four acres, Eggleston Hall Gardens have been extant since at least the late 16th century. The numbered walk, taking in a series of marked stones, is the best way to navigate this idiosyncratic garden with delightful foliage at every turn.
Must see: The view of Teesdale from the top arbour of the garden at the end of the numbered walk is one of England’s best-kept secrets.

Kelso, Roxburghshire TD5 7RW
01573 223333 

Scotland’s largest inhabited castle also happens to be a haven for horticulturists, with vast gardens and grounds through which guests can meander. From the recently-redeveloped four-acre Walled Garden, where plants fringe the pathways and walkways, to the grand Millennium Garden, with its elegant ducal coronet, there’s something for everyone.
Must see: The wrought iron seat ringing the lime tree that sits in the centre of the Star Plantation, a woodland garden beyond compare.

Langley, Hexham, Northumberland NE47 5LA
01434 684391

The North East lays claim to a number of fantastical gardens, but The Garden Station is unlike any other. Hidden in the seclusion of Langley Woods, its focus is a restored Victorian railway station serving homemade food. Where once there were locos, there are now trees, shrubs and plants including primula, hellebore and foxgloves.
Must see: The view as the old railway building appears in the near distance as you walk between two old stone bridges in the garden.

Near Rowlands Gill, Newcastle NE16 6BG
01207 541820

Gibside’s gardens were once the playground of Elizabeth, the late Queen Mother. Designed in the 18th century at the behest of the Bowes family, it has beautiful views, grand woodland and green spaces. Wandering through this haven of greenery is an ideal way to spend an afternoon.
Must see: The gardens are – of course – beautiful, but you’ll also want to drop in at the Gibside Pub, one of two National Trust-managed pubs in the country.

Alnwick, Northumberland NE66 3LB
01665 577285

Much of the work on Howick Hall Gardens was carried out by Charles, 5th Early Grey, and his wife and daughter, Mabel and Mary, in the 20th century, but the hall has been home to the Grey family since 1782. The herbaceous rockery on the south side of the hall, full to the brim with geraniums, poppies and a range of roses, comes into full flourish in the summer months, while the snowdrops dominate the late winter and early spring.
Must see: The Silverwood woodland garden is perhaps Howick Hall’s best-known feature, with rhododendrons and magnolias in their splendour.

Holy Island, Northumberland TD15 2SH
01289 389244

Though the castle at Lindisfarne is closed until April 2018 for restoration work, the Gertrude Jekyll-designed garden remains open to the public. A relatively recent creation, the famed horticulturalist specialising in the Arts and Crafts school of design laid out the garden in 1911 with Edwin Lutyens. Stuffed with sweet peas, the garden comes into its best, most colourful form in summer when the strong winds on Lindisfarne abate, with lavatera and chrysanthemum lining the walkways.
Must see: The views from the garden – both up to the castle and down towards the shore – are absolutely breathtaking, whatever the weather.

Longframlington, Morpeth NE65 8BE
01665 570382 

Formed in 1998 from green pastures, Longframlington is a constantly evolving garden with more than 1,000 trees, shrubs and perennials. Stretching across 12 acres of Northumberland countryside, it includes a number of ponds, gardens, a birch walk and a broad wild meadow and arboretum. 
Must see: The old well in the wild meadow and arboretum, next to the sleeper bridge, is an understated landmark.

Penrith, Cumbria CA10 2HH
01931 712192

Closed to the public for more than 70 years, Lowther Castle and Gardens underwent a grand renovation starting in 2011. The work on the site uncovered a host of original features that had been lost to nature, which are now celebrated across the 130 acres of gardens and woodland. One of the areas to feel a fresh breath of life is the Rock Garden, which has been restored to its former glory.
Must see: The Yew Avenue, one of the oldest features of the original garden, has a range of trees, some of which are hundreds of years old.

Gordon, Berwickshire TD3 6LG
01573 410225

A sweeping parkland garden that dates back nearly 300 years to the time of Scottish architect William Adam, the green space attached to Mellerstain was updated by Sir Reginald Blomfield in 1910, combining terraces, lakes and flowers to instill a sense of grandeur into the garden that remains today. Fragrant and beautiful flowers abound here in mixed borders that appear seemingly out of nowhere as you walk around.
Must see: The view from the lake, looking over the lawn and framed by summer flowers, up to the grand Mellerstain House is simply superb.

Mindrum House, Mindrum TD12 4QN
01890 850228

A seven-acre serene retreat in north Northumberland, Mindrum Garden was revitalised in the 1950s and now is home to old-fashioned roses, violas, hardy perennials and an abundance of mature shrubs and trees. Alongside stunning views across Bowmont Valley, the garden provides a verdant home away from home.
Must see: The river that runs through Mindrum is a calming influence for visitors, and is home to a whole host of river-based wildlife, including kingfishers and otters.

Paxton, Berwick TD15 1SZ
01289 386291 

Originally designed by Robert Robinson, the 80-acre gardens of Paxton House that overlook the River Tweed are famed for their daffodil displays. But it’s the riverside walks and woodland trails that keep visitors returning to the landscape – often with their dogs, which are welcome on a lead.
Must see: The Highland cattle, ruminating as they stretch out in adjacent fields, are a pleasure to watch.

Staindrop, Darlington DL2 3AH
01833 660202

One of the area’s grandest buildings is framed by 200 acres of parkland, the natural habitat for its famed roaming red and fallow deer. But it’s the five acres of the Walled Garden that are perhaps most impressive here. One particular plant: the White Ischia fig, brought to Raby in 1786, still fruits annually in its specially-built house.
Must see: The monogrammed wrought iron gate in the middle of the south terrace, made in the 18th century and placed in situ in 1894.

East Park Road, Gateshead NE9 5AX
0191 433 3267

A truly glorious garden spread over 55 acres in Gateshead, Saltwell Park is popular with local families from near and far. The Victorian park, home to 12 Grade II-listed buildings, has a burbling brook cutting through a dene area, rose gardens, and plenty of open green spaces to explore.
Must see: The maze, near Saltwell Towers, the building around which the park spreads, is a haven for the little ones.

The Avenue, Seaton Sluice NE26 4QR
0191 237 9100

Whether the Vanbrugh Garden, created with Seaton Delaval Hall in 1720, or the meticulously-tended borders of the Contemporary Garden, which arrived at the turn of the 1900s, the gardens here are stunning places to spend a day. The Rose Garden is home to a number of varieties, including the apricot-hued Jude the Obscure, while the Secret Garden, near the courtyard café, is the perfect place for children to run off their excess energy.
Must see: The grand Weeping Ash, dated to at least 300 years ago by a letter sent from one of the hall’s family members. 

Burdon Road, Sunderland SR1 1PP
0191 561 2323

More than 2,000 plants from around the world survive and thrive in the 30-metre glass rotunda of Sunderland Winter Gardens. Some of the most unusual species on the globe have made their home in the humid environment, while the treetop walk gives visitors a new perspective on the greenery.
Must see: Before heading home visit the museum’s collections to see the country’s only known fossil of a gliding reptile, thought to be 250 million years old.

Cambo, Northumberland NE61 4AR
01670 773600

Now in the hands of the National Trust, Wallington Hall and Estate was once the home of MP Sir Charles Trevelyan and his family. With 13,000 acres of woodland, lakes and a colourful secret Walled Garden, it’s a nature-lover’s dream. Keep an eye out for the grizzly stone gargoyle heads that sit on the lawn guarding the house.
Must see: The garden pond, home to a vibrant ecosystem of waterlilies and a family of geese.

The Avenue, Washington NE38 7LE
0191 416 6879

This was once the ancestral home of George Washington, first President of the United States, but its gardens stand on their own. With delicately-designed topiary, beautiful Jacobean gardens and every inch filled with meadows, herbs and flowers, a wander around Washington Old Hall is a way to wake the senses.
Must see: The hall’s orchard, home to 25 species of native British apple trees, is a true treat.

Whalton, Northumberland NE61 3UT
07764 271261

Open by appointment only, this garden – designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and inspired by Gertrude Jekyll – has colourful herbaceous borders full of shrub roses, peonies, wisteria and clematis. It’s a must-see location that can be toured by individuals or groups of up to 50 people.
Must see: The Italianate summerhouse, designed by Lutyens, is a particular delight among the three acres here.

Wynyard Hall, Tees Valley TS22 5NF
01740 665415

Sir John Hall used to watch his father prune rose bushes at their Ashington home when he was a boy – which inspired him to make roses a centrepiece of the grand Wynyard Hall, which he bought in 1987. But Wynyard’s expansive grounds are much more than a rose garden: there is a lily garden, a thyme walk, and a beautiful herbaceous broad walk.
Must see: The 3,000 roses, from floribundas to climbing roses, dotted around the Walled Garden, designed by multi award-winning landscape architect Alistair Baldwin.

For open day dates, admission times and prices please visit each garden’s website.

Published in: April 2017

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