The Best Gardens to Visit in the North East this Spring
Spring has most definitely sprung, meaning many of our favourite gardens in and around the North East are starting to bloom
Botanics have played a pivotal role in the history of Wynyard and this legacy continues to thrive on the estate today. Visit the arboretum which, dating back to 1822, comprises 18 different species including ash, oak, beech and elm, or the beautiful rose garden where a collection of more than 3,000 David Austin roses are bursting with colour. Carefully highlighted with graceful water features and meandering paths, as well as cleverly divided with a wide range of intensively planted hardy perennials, bulbs and shrubs, there is so much to be explored within the 120-acre private grounds. Meanwhile, the gardens also provide homes for lots of different wildlife including a family of deer, squirrels, heron, butterflies and the beloved bees that provide the estate honey.
Wynyard, Billingham TS22 5NF
A pioneering mansion filled with gadgets and inventions for efficient, modern living, Cragside is often referred to as Britain’s original smart home and the gardens here are just as impressive. Man-made lakes, tumbling waterfalls and swathes of rhododendron combine to form this stunning landscape, imagined and engineered by inventor and arms manufacturer Lord Armstrong. Wander amongst the towering trees in the Pinetum, explore the weaving paths and tumbling cascades in the Rock Garden and witness the changing seasons in the Formal Gardens.
Rothbury, Morpeth NE65 7PX
A unique horticultural venue for plant enthusiasts and new gardeners alike, Longframlington Gardens gives you the opportunity to explore a living collection and exhibition of garden plants. Describing itself as a multi-tasking centre for horticulture, plants and gardens, there’s a garden, arboretum, nursery and plant centre here offering a wonderful place to visit, whether you’re looking for plants to buy for your own garden, a unique garden to visit, or just a beautiful place to enjoy a coffee. Plus with 12 acres of walks, landscaped gardens, ponds, garden art, nature trails, information displays and a wild meadow, there’s plenty to see and do. Not to mention, it’s all surrounded by peaceful Northumbrian countryside.
Longframlington, Morpeth NE65 8BE
A Georgian landscape garden forged in an industrial past, Gibside is a must-visit this spring. Escape the hustle and bustle of modern life within 600 acres of garden, including the woodland, Palladian chapel, grand ruin and Column to Liberty towering above it all. Discover fine Derwent Valley views, winding paths and refreshing open spaces, before heading along the avenue and around the garden for miles of tranquil walks and picnic spots. Wildlife and horticulture rich, Gibside is home to roe deer, red kites, amphibian-filled ponds and a fruitful walled garden, while more energetic visitors can compete in a game of frisbee golf, zoom across the zip line at Strawberry Castle play area or take on the low ropes challenge.
Rowlands Gill, Gateshead NE16 6BG
Monteviot House & Gardens
Extending to some 30 acres, these gardens surround Monteviot house itself, spilling down over the lawn and through the woodland onto the flood plain of the river Teviot below. Comprising a series of differing gardens, Monteviot provides its visitors with planting interest from April to October but one of our favourite times to visit has to be spring. There’s a great variety of daffodils in the spring, striking displays of fritillaries, a large collection of interesting and specialist shrubs and trees, and a constant imaginative use of water features to complement the river below. For a special view of the gardens, take a walk through The Laburnum Tunnel where, looking back, the stone turret of the main garden viewpoint is perfectly framed by the tunnel and gates.
Monteviot House, Jedburgh TD8 6UQ
Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens
Visitors to Belsay Hall are in for a feast of colour during spring as many plants begin to flower throughout the gardens. Early spring brings out the deep blue glory-of-the-snow which grace the terraces, as well as stripped squill with their pale blue flowers and dark blue stripes down each petal. Daffodils flower freely at Belsay this season, providing a carpet of rich, buttery yellow stretching far across the gardens, while dog-tooth violets and spring snowflakes collect in snow-like drifts, bringing light to the darkened edges of the surrounding wood. Finally, late spring and early summer is when the quarry is the showpiece at Belsay, with a variety of species of Rhododendrons found flowering there.
Belsay, Northumberland NE20 0DX
Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens
Despite the name, Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens is actually a great place to visit in the spring. While the weather is warmer, spring is notorious for sudden showers but that’s not something you need to worry about at this indoor garden. A 21st century addition to the museum, this impressive glass and steel rotunda is home to a tropical paradise where over 2,000 plants thrive, and from the treetop walkway visitors have a bird’s eye view of the beautiful Mowbray Park. While you’re there we recommend also paying a visit to the exotic resident Koi Carp which live in the ornamental pond.
Burdon Road, Sunderland SR1 1PP
0191 561 2323
Howick Hall Gardens & Arboretum
The ancestral seat of the Earls Grey since 1319, Howick Hall Gardens & Arboretum is a must-visit this time of year. Best known for their spring bulbs and the woodland garden, late March brings daffodils (nearly all of which were planted by Lady Grey, who was particularly fond of the white and pale yellow ones with single trumpets), while on the south side of the Hall in the meadow down by the burn, native fritillaries can be seen in April. In Silverwood, the woodland garden, dark blue scillas appear in late March and a mixture of the dog-tooth violets a little later. Energetic visitors can explore the arboretum – a united nation of shrubs and trees covering over 65 acres – before enjoying a bite to eat and a cup of Earl Grey in the tea house.
Alnwick, Northumberland NE66 3LB
The historic gardens and grounds of Scotland’s largest inhabited castle combine one of the finest examples of a Victorian Kitchen garden within the castle’s four-acre Walled Garden with a more formal Millennium Garden, with its French-style parterre. A riot of colour most of the year, the Walled Garden is home to herbaceous borders, packed with vibrant blooms throughout spring, and impressive glasshouses which date back to the 1850s, where you’ll find fresh fruit and vines growing. Meanwhile, the Millennium Garden was created to celebrate the new millennium, and features the initials of the 10th Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe. It’s also where you’ll find The Queen’s House – the garden’s charming summerhouse built for a visit by Queen Victoria in 1867, one of Floors’ most historic events.
Floors Castle, Kelso, Roxburghshire TD5 7RL
There’s always so much going on at The Alnwick Garden. Marvel at the sight of The Grand Cascade with its 120 water jets or visit the small but deadly Poison Garden, filled with toxic, intoxicating and narcotic plants. Guided tours take place daily – but be sure not to smell, touch or taste any of the plants on your way round! A clear sign that spring has arrived, the Cherry Orchard at Alnwick Garden will soon erupt in beautiful fluffy blossom. Blossom season celebrates the transient beauty of nature and seeing the largest collection of Taihaku in the world, comprising of 329 trees, in full bloom is a great way to join in.
Denwick Lane, Alnwick NE66 1YU
Durham University Botanic Garden
Sitting on the outskirts of the city, Durham University’s 10-hectare botanic garden offers a wide variety of landscapes to explore and discover. The central areas of the garden are surrounded by mature woodlands native to the British Isles, perfect for a peaceful stroll to relax and unwind. Meanwhile, the meadow forms a beautiful wildflower habitat, hosting scores of plant species which in turn act as food for butterflies, moths and many less-familiar insects. Home to a plethora of weird and wonderful life, in the glasshouses you will find everything from tropical rainforest to desert cacti, while hidden within the pathways, trees and gullies of the Botanic Garden reside several art sculptures for you to discover.
Hollingside Lane, South Road,
Durham DH1 3TN
0191 334 2887
As the days get warmer, Thorp Perrow’s arboretum bursts into colour from the thousands of daffodils that come into bloom. Whether the classic jetfire daffodils, tiny cyclamen-flowered daffodils, or even the hoop petticoat daffodils with large funnel-shaped trumpets, there are a variety of these spring bulbs to be seen here. Embrace the arrival of spring with a stroll around the gardens, before watching your children let off steam in the adventure playground, enjoying the wonderful Birds of Prey displays and hand-feeding the wallabies in the Mammal Centre. Thorp Perrow is also home to one of the UK’s finest collections of trees, including five National Plant Collections, and a leading centre for raptor conservation.
Bedale DL8 2PS
Lowther Castle & Gardens
The scale and beauty of the spectacular ruin that is Lowther Castle is reflected in the scope and setting of its 130-acre gardens. The gardens were formally laid out in the 17th century by the first Viscount, Sir John Lowther, but after more than 50 years left to wilderness, in 2008, the gardens were marked out for rescue. Today you’ll find a courtyard with a series of clipped hornbeam sentinels, the Parterre planted with bold combinations of herbaceous perennials, and the Rose Garden inspired by the Sleeping Beauty myth. Summerhouses, tree hives, wildflower meadows and rambling woodland can also be found across the gardens, while the Western Terrace is a spectacular point from which to view the Lowther Valley and the Lake District mountains beyond.
Penrith, Cumbria CA10 2HH
Raby Castle & Deer Park
Set within 200 acres of parkland, Raby Castle is home to an abundance of wildlife, including several herds of wild red and fallow deer. Sadly, the 18th century ornamental Walled Garden is closed for redevelopment, but there’s still plenty to see at Raby this spring. Explore the East Garden’s herbaceous borders and numerous tree species including the tulip tree, not to mention the Wedding Day Rose, whose petals transform through three colour changes. Here you’ll also find the conservatory built to the original 19th century design, formal lawns and an informal heather and conifer garden. The castle’s Kitchen Garden is home to a range of delicious fruits, including the famous Raby redcurrant, whilst in the centre of the South Terrace is a wrought-iron gate bearing the monogram of Lord Barnard.
Raby Castle, Staindrop DL2 3AH
Gifted to the public by Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan, this 13,500-acre estate has something for everyone. The Trevelyans loved being outdoors and close to nature, and Wallington Hall is surrounded by an informal landscape of lawns, lakes, woodland, parkland and farmland, just waiting to be explored. Don’t miss the hidden walled garden – nestled in the woods it remains a beautiful haven whatever the season. Wander past colourful borders and enjoy the scent of flowers in the Edwardian conservatory. With so much to see, hire a bike from the edge of the West Woods and discover the huge estate on two wheels, or take one of the many scenic walks including the river walk.
Cambo, Morpeth NE61 4AR