Honey-coloured stone villages, gently rolling hills and babbling brooks, the Cotswolds is a beautiful part of the country. There are lots of places to stay from award-winning hotels to country pubs – it’s the perfect corner of England for garden lovers and walkers. It’s also within easy reach of London and Oxford.
I have included the postcode and nearest village for each garden as well as information regarding entry. If the garden has Historic Houses or National Trust next to the postcode and you are a member, the gardens let you in for free – if you are visiting several places, it may make sense to take out membership.
There’s also info regarding wheelchair access, playgrounds and whether dogs are allowed.
Near Chipping Camden and a stone’s throw from Stratford-upon-Avon | GL55 6LR | National Trust
Hidcote in the Cotswolds is a very popular Arts and Crafts style garden and was created by Lawrence Waterbury Johnston at the beginning of the twentieth century. Designed as a series of rooms, the narrow paved paths link the gardens together
and you’ll find secret gardens, Mrs Winthrop’s Garden, the Old Garden and many other areas including the Red Border
which sadly was closed on my visit. Many of the plants were brought back to Hidcote by Johnston from his numerous hunting trips abroad although according to one of his companions, he spent more time socialising than finding plants.
After the Second World War, the garden had become ‘a jungle of beauty’ but was rescued by the National Trust; this was the first time the Trust had bought a property specifically for the garden.
There are trails and quizzes for kids, a café and a shop but the garden is not wheelchair friendly and dogs are not allowed.
Chipping Camden | GL55 6LN |Historic Houses
Opposite Hidcote is Kiftsgate – unlike its neighbour, Kiftsgate has wonderful views over the Vale of Evesham and beyond to Bredon Hill. The same family have been gardening here for hundreds of years, and each generation has left their own mark.
There’s lots to see (ask for a map when you arrive) including the eponymous Kiftsgate rose although sadly it had finished flowering on my visit. Make sure you walk down the narrow steps to the semi-circular pool in the lower garden,
with the Greek Temple.
Discover the white sunk garden, the Mound and walk along the Rose Border to the Water Garden – my favourite area of Kiftsgate.
Sit and listen to the sound of water trickling from the bronze philodendron back into the pool and enjoy the limited colours of green, black and stone – a wonderful contrast to the brightly coloured flowers in other parts of the garden.
Dogs are not allowed and there is limited access for wheelchair users.
3. Newark Park
Wotton-under-Edge | GL12 7PZ | National Trust
Newark Park was built by Sir Nicholas Poyntz in 1550s for entertaining and so his guests could watch the hawks hunting over the Ozleworth Valley.
The house and gardens were restored in the twentieth century by Robert Parsons, an American architect.
A steep path leads down to the lake through the Terraced Garden which on my visit was being restored.
There’s a beautiful herbaceous border with an eighteenth century summerhouse.
The National Trust is building a replica at the other end of the lake as part of an adventure playground.
Dogs are allowed but the gardens are not recommended for wheelchair users
Near Uley | GL11 5BZ
Parts of the original house date back to the fifteenth century although when the famous Arts and Crafts architect, Norman Jewson, bought the estate for £3,200 at the beginning of the twentieth century, he was saving ‘this ancient house from ruin’.
After restoring the house, Jewson sold the property to Barbara Crohan who held numerous house parties with guests including Vita Sackville-West, Geoffrey Jellicoe and Gertrude Jekyll.
Vita’s description of the garden in 1941, is still true today: Owlpen, that tiny grey manor-house, cowering amongst its enormous yews, yews that make rooms in the garden with walls taller than any rooms in the house; dark, secret rooms of yew hiding in the slope of the valley.
The current owners are Sir Nicholas and Lady Mander who have bought back much of the Estate.
Dogs are not allowed and the garden is not suitable for wheelchair users
Painswick | GL6 6TH | Historic Houses
Painswick is the only example in England of a complete surviving rococo garden. It was built by Benjamin Hyett in 1740s so that he and his friends could enjoy themselves. The fun starts at the beginning when Pan – the god of the wild – welcomes us to the garden
and you get the first glimpse of the kitchen garden, bowling green and exedra.
Turn left and you arrive at the Eagle House from where the path twists down to the fish pond and into the woods. There are several wonderful buildings including the Hermitage, the Gothic Alcove and the Pigeon House – as well as a playground. Emerge from the trees and walk past the Plunge Pool – where Hyett and his friends would bathe naked – to the Kitchen Garden and the white Gothic Exedra.
The Maze lies to the left
and don’t miss the Red House
as you walk back to the café with its delicious coffee and cakes.
There’s also a playground in the woods and dogs are allowed on leads.
Near Cirencester |GL7 6PF | Historic Houses
Rodmarton is on the very edge of the Cotswolds but as it’s one of my favourite gardens, I have included it here.
In 1909, Claud and Margaret Biddulph chose Ernest Barnsley to build Rodmarton. It was to be an experiment in communitarian living, with people from the village coming to the house every day to improve their skills and pass their learning on to others.
Ernest Barnsley also laid out the series of garden rooms which include the Leisure Garden, the Winter Garden, the Troughery, the Topiary Garden, the Sunken Garden, the Orchard and a large Kitchen Garden.
The Biddulphs still live at Rodmarton and as I wandered around the garden, I was reminded that this is first and foremost a family home.
Tennis rackets were left on the court and just as I was leaving, the children were getting ready to jump in the pool.
Dogs are not allowed and there is limited access for wheelchair users.
Moreton-in-Marsh | GL56 9AW | Historic Houses
Nothing can prepare you for your first glimpse of Sezincote – a magnificent Mogul Indian Palace built of orange stone and topped by a green dome. It was built by Charles Cockerell in 1805 and designed by his brother Samuel Pepys Cockerell. Unlike his brother who had lived in India, Pepys Cockerell had never visited and had to learn about the architecture from paintings.
There is a short walk from the car park to the ticket office – take cash as credit cards don’t work here – and explore the Lower Thornery
and the Upper Thorney with the Temple to Surya
and don’t miss the Paradise Garden (in front of the house), the Snake Pool,
the Island Pool, the wildflower meadow, the Old Dairy, the limestone grotto and the Indian pavilion.
The house and gardens were restored by Sir Cyril and Lady Kleinwort at the beginning of the twentieth century and the family still live here.
But perhaps I should leave it to John Betjeman to describe Sezincote:
Down the drive, under the early leaves of oaks; One lodge is Tudor, one in Indian Style. The bridge, the waterfall, the Temple pool And there they burst upon us, The onion domes, Chajjas and chattris, Made of amber tone: ‘Home of the Oaks’, exotic Sezincote.
Dogs are not allowed and there is limited access for wheelchair users – don’t miss the café in the Orangery!
Broadway |WR12 7JU |National Trust
There’s quite a long walk from the Car Park to the house although the National Trust does run a buggy service. But if you are able to walk, it’s a great introduction to the eccentric Englishman who created Snowshill – Charles Paget Wade – with quotes by him on either side of the path.
This ‘children’s fairyland’ is full of steps, of light and shade, of crooks and crannies and is a great place to explore.
Wade wrote: ‘a delightful garden can be made in which flowers play a very small part, by using effects of light and shade, vistas, steps to changing levels, terraces, walls, fountains, running water, an old well head or a statue in the right place, the gleam of heraldry or a dome garden temple.’
Dogs are not allowed in the garden and as there are many steps, it is not suitable for wheelchair users. There’s the usual National Trust café and shop.
9. Sudeley Castle
Winchcombe | GL54 7JU | Historic Houses
Sudeley Castle has a long and turbulent history: in the ninth century it belonged to King Ethelred, it became home to Catherine Parr thirty-four days after the death of her husband, Henry VIII and was visited by Queen Elizabeth I. The Castle was damaged during the English Civil War and was not restored until 1830s – it is now owned by Lady Elizabeth Ashcombe and her two children.
Wander around the extensive gardens including the Moorish Knot Garden,
the Mulberry Garden, the Queens Garden, the Secret Garden and a series of Tudor gardens
and don’t miss the roses climbing up the remains of the Banqueting Hall.
Dogs are not allowed but there is a circular route around the garden for wheelchair users. There is a magnificent children’s playground which is accessed by a wooden drawbridge with a willow maze nearby.
10. Westbury Court
Westbury-on-Severn |GL14 1PD |National Trust
Driving along the A48, it’s easy to go past the gate and miss what’s behind the wall. Few people visit Westbury Court and the small ticket office also doubles as a café and shop. However, it’s worth popping in as it’s a wonderful example of a Franco-Dutch garden created during the reign of William and Mary.
Much of the land has been redeveloped for housing and all that is left of the original garden is the Tall Pavilion,
the geometric canals and beds
and an eighteenth century gazebo within a walled garden which is filled with period flowers and lots of roses.
The National Trust is doing a great job restoring the garden and has replanted the middle bed with vegetables and fruit. The far side which the creator of the garden, Maynard Colchester had intended to be fruit trees, has been laid out as a formal garden.
Dogs are allowed although there is limited access for wheelchair users.
Between Broadway and Winchcombe | GL54 5PQ | Historic Houses
I haven’t been to Stanway House as it was closed on my visit to the Cotswolds but according to all reports, it’s well worth seeing. The Jacobean house is thought to have been built by Sir Paul Tracy at the beginning of the seventeenth century and was enlarged by his son. The formal landscape was developed in the mid-eighteenth century and includes terracing, the Long Canal, Pyramid, Arboretum and Cascade.
The Stanway Fountain is at the back of the garden and rises to over 91 meters. It was built in 2004 and is the tallest fountain in Britain. The house is owned by 13th Earl of Weymss and March.
Dogs are allowed although there is limited access for wheelchair users with no access to the Fountain.