If you’re looking to explore the essence of the English country garden, then North Devon is a great place to start! A North Devon gardens tour provides variety, contrast and some of the most beautiful surrounding natural scenery England has to offer.
The oceanic climate of the region delivers milder winters than most parts of the UK and all year precipitation which brings a distinctive lushness to the green and rolling hills which characterise this part of the world. Plants and flowers thrive in this part of the world – the parish of Braunton for example is one of the most bio-diverse in the country, with 470 species of flowering plant found on Braunton Burrows (a UNESCO biosphere) and 11 species of orchid alone.
Over the years, cultivators have made the most of this environment, and a North Devon garden tour reveals some real treats for garden aficionados. The Carlton Hotelin Ilfracombe provides a great location to explore the region’s gardens (see below for details of our Gardens of North Devonpackage) Here we choose 5 of the best:
Marwood Hill Gardens
An enchanted private garden that is open to the public, Marwood Hill Gardensare set over a 20 acre site, sequestered within a sheltered valley. Its three lakes, lovely views and peaceful ambience make it a favourite stop on any North Devon gardens tour. Marwood was established in the 950s by passionate gardener, Dr Jimmy Smart VMH, who devoted his life to growing this beautiful garden which boasts an impressive collection of plants – including Betula, Eucryphia, Eucalyptus, Rhododendron, Hosta and Iris. Of particular note is the impressive Camellia collection (containing 800+ cultivars).
RHS Garden Rosemoor
The regional jewel in the RHS crown, Rosemoor(which is near the town of Torrington) is a popular stop on any North Devon gardens tour. Work on the garden began in 1959 on an original 8 acre site which was developed in a naturalistic style – first opened to the public in 1967 it now comprises of 65 acres.
Well managed, the site contains a number of different gardens including the Hot garden, Winter garden, Model gardens and Exotic garden. Rosemoor also has lake and woodland scenery as well as arboretom and orchard areas. As a consequence, this is a real garden for all seasons and most months of the year has something to show.
Tapeley Park’scharm lies in its age (with parts of the garden dating back to the mid nineteenth century) and the unorthodox path travelled by its current custodian, Hector Christie, who has been a champion of organic farming and working with nature since the early 1990s. This is typified by Tapeley’s permaculture garden one of the oldest in the UK, which to the untrained eye looks ‘wild’, but up close is a fine example of working with mother nature.
Beneath a canopy of traditional trees and shrubs, system and partner plants attract beneficial insects and bees (Tapeley is pesticide free). The result is a wonderful garden filled with exotic edible plants that can be tasted. The permaculture gardeners are always happy to show visitors around and illustrate the benefits of this form of gardening. The classical style of the Italian terraces portray a more orthodox garden style.
Docton Mill is located near to the village of Clovelly (and often combined with a day trip to the cobbled streets of this cliff top village). A privately owned garden, Docton has been an exciting work in progress since the property was taken over in the 1970s. Its stunning wildflower gardens thrive in this beautiful valley location.
The valley environment is also home to different sections including Woodland garden and Bog garden with the wonderful Magnolia garden and large Herbaceous borders lending a real splash of colour throughout the seasons. As well as amazing gardens, Docton Mill is also home to a rather amazing tea room!
While the gardens of this National Trust property are not its main focus, Arlington Courtis still a popular stop on any North Devon gardens tour. The Victorian garden, Walled kItchen garden and conservatory display a range of colourful annual flowers, fruits and vegetables and plants more commonly seen in the southern hemisphere.
The larger Arlington Estate holds many treats for the visitor; from the collections on display inside the classical regency house to one of the country’s most significant collection of carriages, housed in the old stable block. Also very popular are the many trails and footpaths (20 miles of them!), that criss-cross this grand country Estate.
The best time to visit North Devon’s gardens is spring to early summer, when the blooms are at their most vibrant, although between March and October there is still plenty to see and admire. Explore North Devon’s wonderful gardens from the Carlton, which offers luxurious roomsand excellent dining to make the most of a relaxing break.
Take advantage of the Gardens of North Devonpackage. Based at The Carlton and including two nights accommodation with full English breakfast, three course dinner on one evening, afternoon tea with fizz and free admission to both RHS Rosemoor and Marwood Hill Gardens. Priced at £69 per person per night and available on selected dates during September, October and into November.