Some of our hotels not only offer us exquisite interiors but also the most gorgeous gardens…
It’s a funny thing, but when hotels boast their facilities – spa, gym, indoor pool and so on – they rarely trumpet their immaculately kept, flower-filled grounds, however beautiful, however special. But what better way to relax than unwind than in a British garden at its magnificent best? As they say at Hotel Endsleigh, with its Humphrey Repton-designed borders and arboretum: ‘no, we don’t have a spa; a cup of tea in the garden is our spa’.
Gravetye Manor, West Sussex
William Robinson, pioneer of natural planting, created the ground-breaking and surpassingly beautiful gardens at Gravetye Manor in the late 19th century. In recent years, they have been comprehensively restored and, thanks to head gardener Tom Coward and his team, are glorious once more. Most recently the Victorian peach house has been replanted, while the magnificent walled kitchen garden is a model of its kind. The hotel is a haven of traditional comfort, good food and good taste, but it’s outside that you will most want to be.
Howard’s House, Wiltshire
What better than to hunker down than in a charming house, surrounded by the prettiest of gardens set in the heart of an idyllic but little known village far from main roads? Sitting on the lovely wide terrace at Howard’s House, in a garden protected by an undulating topiary hedge and containing a magnificent ornamental crab apple amongst other trees, the only sounds you are likely to hear are of birdsong and the knock of croquet mallet on ball. Here is the gentle English country garden at its finest.
Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Oxfordshire
It’s not just a hotel and restaurant: it’s another country, a land of magnificent inter-connecting gardens, ponds and sculptures: the accomplished, munificent realm of one fervent Frenchman, Raymond Blanc. There’s so much to see: vegetable garden; herb garden; mushroom valley; cloche tunnels; Japanese tea garden; orchard (over 800 apple and pear trees alone); English water garden. Only the Manoir’s food will lure you back inside.
Askham Hall, Cumbria
The Grade II listed gardens that surround Askham Hall, previously the home of the Countess of Lowther, are so special that they are open to the public, with a Kitchen Garden Café for visitors. There are colourful terraces, rare species, a 230ft-long double herbaceous border, formal lawns, woodland, meadows and ponds. There are also absorbing and ever growing edible plants and kitchen gardens for the chefs at Askham Hall and its sister the George and Dragon at Clifton, and animal trails to see shorthorn cattle, rare breed pigs and boer goats.
Barnsley House, Gloucestershire
Until 2003 when it became a hotel, Barnsley House was the home of renowned horticulturalist Rosemary Verey. Nowadays, instead of paying to visit her celebrated four-acre garden for an hour or two, you can stay in her former home, now chic and luxurious, and enjoy at leisure the richly complex yet natural and abundant garden that she created during her lifetime. There are knot gardens, ornamental fruits and vegetables and much more, all melting into the surrounding Cotswold landscape.
Bodysgallen Hall, Conwy
Snowdonia is the stunning backdrop to 200 acres of award-winning gardens and parkland, featuring follies, a walled garden, lily-pad ponds and a rare 17th century parterre of box hedges filled with colourful sweet herbs. Guests can follow a trail with their own map and discover prize specimen trees, including a marvellous Stone Pine and a Commemorative English Oak. The extensive kitchen garden is in constant use by the hotel’s chefs and you can survey all from the top of the medieval look out tower.
Congham Hall, Norfolk
Anyone interested in culinary plants should make a beeline for Congham Hall, where the hotel’s renowned Herb Garden contains a collection of almost 400 varieties, including rare medicinal ones and many that can be used in cooking, including by the hotel’s chefs. Stroll around the Herb Garden (open to the public during the day) at dusk, when heady aromas scent the air. It’s also part of a trail of the Magnificent Seven local gardens.
Millgate House, North Yorkshire
‘Guests,’ say Tim Culkin and Austin Lynch, proprietors of this exceptional guesthouse ‘are like cushions. They arrive a bit pommeled but we try to send them off plumped up again.’ They also leave delighted by the beauty of the small but sensational garden, featured on Alan Tichmarsh’s Britain’s Best Gardens. In spring, many species of hellebore, snowdrop, aconite, crocus and narcissus carpet the ground. In summer, it’s awash with harmonious colour, including many varieties of rose.
Overlooking Soldier’s Leap in the stunning Pass of Killiecrankie, this charming hotel has a relaxing and delightful garden that matches the setting. In five acres of wooded grounds, the pretty whitewashed 1840’s house is surrounded by lawns, with a showpiece herbaceous border and a rose garden to the west of the house. ‘Please shut the gate to keep out the rabbits’, reads a sign at the entrance to the old fashioned, abundant kitchen garden.