The SOUTH-WEST OF ENGLAND is one of the most popular holiday destinations in England. As well as the stunning coastline with its beaches and sheltered bays, it also has lots of beautiful gardens. Here are TWENTY-EIGHT gardens which welcome well-behaved dogs on leads.
Underneath each county (Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall) is a list of gardens with postcode, brief details of the garden, seasonal interest and a link to the garden’s website. Also next to some gardens is a recommended hotel which welcomes dogs! Entrance to the gardens is free if you are a member of the National Trust and/or Historic Houses and their name is included in the description.
Once you have decided where you are going, take a note of the reference number and scroll down the page. You will find photographs and more information about each garden.
ALWAYS check the garden’s website for opening times BEFORE you visit. And some gardens don’t allow dogs in every part of the garden.
This article is in memory of Oz who walked these gardens with me.
WILT1: Iford Manor | Near Bath | BA15 2BA | Steep, narrow paths | Buggies Not Allowed | April – September | Historic Houses
WILT2: Stourhead | Near Warminster | BA12 6QF | Open All Year | Woodland Walks | National Trust
WILT3: The Moot | Downton, near Salisbury | SP5 3PH | Open All Year – Dawn to Dusk | Woodland Walks | Car Park Close By | Free Entry
DOR1: Athelhampton | Near Dorchester | DT2 7LG | Open All Year – Not Every Day | Historic Houses
DOR2: Compton Acres | Poole | BH13 7ES | Open All Year | Privately Owned
DOR3: Cranborne Manor | Near Wimborne | BH21 5PP | March for the Summer – Only Wednesdays | Privately Owned
DOR4: Durlston Country Park | Near Swanage | BH19 2JL | Open All Year | Coastal Walks | Pay for Parking
DOR5: Kingston Maurward | Near Dorchester | DT2 8PX | Open All Year | Dogs Not Allowed in Zoo | Privately Owned
DOR6: Minterne | Near Dorchester | DT2 7AU | February – November | Spring for Rhododendrons & Azaleas | Historic Houses | Where To Stay
SOM1: Bishop’s Palace | Wells | BA5 2PD | Open All Year | Church of England
SOM2: Forde Abbey | Near Chard | TA20 4LU | Open All Year | Spring Flower Festival | Historic Houses
SOM3: Fyne Court | Near Bridgewater | TA5 2EQ | Open All Year – Dawn to Dusk | Woodland Walks | National Trust | Headquarters of Somerset Wildlife Trust
SOM4: Hestercombe | Near Taunton | TA2 8LG | Open All Year | Woodland Walks | Hestercombe Trust
SOM6: Prior Park | Near Bath | BA2 5AH | Open All Year | Steep Walking | No Car Park | National Trust
SOM7: Tyntesfield | Near Bristol | BS48 1NX | Open All Year | Dogs Not Allowed in Rose or Walled Gardens | Woodland Walks | National Trust
DEV1: Arlington Court | Near Barnstaple | EX31 4LP | Most of the Year | Woodland Walks | National Trust
DEV2: Castle Drogo | Near Exeter and Dartmoor | EX6 6PB | Most of the Year | Dogs Not Allowed in Formal Gardens | National Trust
DEV3: Castle Hill Gardens | Near Barnstaple | EX32 0RQ | Open All Year – Closed Saturdays | Historic Houses
DEV4: Hartland Abbey | Near Bideford | EX39 6DT | Open March – October – Not Every Day | Spring | Wild Flowers | Walk to Coast | Historic Houses
DEV5: Knightshayes | Near Tiverton | EX16 7RG | Open All Year | Dogs are Not Allowed in Parts of the Garden | National Trust
CORN1: Caerhays Castle | Near St. Austell | PL26 6LY | Mid-Feb – Mid-June | Coastal Walks | Historic Houses
CORN2: Enys | Near Penryn | TR10 9LB |April – September – Limited Days | Bluebell Festival | Enys Garden Trust
CORN3: Lost Gardens of Heligan | Near Mevagissey | PL26 6EN | All Year Round | Woodland Walks | Privately Owned
CORN4: Mount Edgecumbe | Near Torpoint | PL10 1HZ | Earl’s Garden from April – September – on limited days and dogs NOT allowed | Country Park is Open All Year Round | Woodland Walks | Cornwall & Plymouth County Council
CORN5: Penjerrick | Near Falmouth | TR11 5ED | March to September – usually open Wed, Friday and Sunday 13.30 – 16.30 | Privately Owned | 01872 870105
CORN6: Trebah | Near Falmouth | TR11 5JZ | Open All Year | Walks to Helston River | Trebah Garden Trust
WILT1: Iford Manor
Home to the garden designer Harold Peto from 1899-1933, the terraced gardens have recently been restored. They include water features, garden buildings, colonnades and herbaceous borders.
Stourhead is one of the most beautiful landscape gardens in England. If you only have the time to visit one Arcadian landscape, make sure it’s this one.
Set away from the Palladian house, nothing prepares you for the magnificent sight of the lake and numerous garden buildings. These include the Pantheon, the Temple of Apollo, the Temple of Flora and the Grotto.
The gardens were created by Henry Hoare after he returned from his Grand Tour in 1741.
WILT3: The Moot
There are no restrictions at The Moot as the gardens are always open. There is a car park next door.
Built on the remains of a motte and bailey castle, the gardens were probably designed by the famous landscape designer, Charles Bridgeman in the eighteenth century. Although the layout is still visible with an amphitheatre and tri-lobe lake, none of the original garden buildings remain and the house and garden are in separate ownership.
The garden is looked after by the Downton Moot Preservation Trust.
The Great Hall was built in 1485 by Sir William Martyn. The Arts and Crafts Garden with its enclosed vistas, garden buildings, mounts and terraces was created by Francis Inigo Thomas for Alfred Cart de Lafontaine who bought the estate in 1891.
Further alterations were made in 1950s with advice from Sir Harold Hillier.
Athelhampton remains in private ownership.
DOR2: Compton Acres
Created in 1920s by Thomas William Simpson, the garden at Compton Acres reflects Simpson’s love of travel. Simpson spent over £220,000 on creating a series of themed gardens and employed Mr. Middleton as head gardener.
There is a circular route around the garden which travels through Egypt, the sub-Tropics, Italy, America and Japan. There is also a Heather Dell, an Egyptian garden with palm trees, the Rock and Water Gardens, a sub-Tropical Glen, Zimbabwe, the Sensory Touch Sculpture garden and the Winter Garden.
Compton Acres is still privately owned.
DOR3: Cranborne Manor
The gardens at Cranborne were laid out in seventeenth century by John Tradescant for Robert Cecil and further developed in the twentieth century by Lady Salisbury. The house was originally a hunting lodge for King John.
There are walled gardens, a kitchen garden, a blue and white garden, a water garden, a wild garden and several modern sculptures dotted around.
Still owned by the Marquesses of Salisbury, Cranborne Manor is about beauty, understatement and simplicity.
DOR4: Durlston Country Park
In 1860s, George Burt, a local Swanage man, began buying up a narrow coastal strip of farmland between Swanage and Durlston Head. He wanted to create a high-class housing estate but his plans failed.
Below Durlston Head Castle, is the Great Globe built for Burt at Greenwich in 1889. It weighs 40 tonnes and is made up of 15 segments of Portland stone.
There is a wonderful walk from the Car Park along the cliffs past the Tilly Whim Caves to Anvil Point Lighthouse.
DOR5: Kingston Maurward
Kingston Maurward was built between 1717 and 1720 for George Pitt, nephew of the Prime Minister, William Pitt. The house was probably designed by Thomas Archer.
The estate was bought by Sir Cecil Hanbury in 1914, just as war broke out. Both he and his wife were keen gardeners and they laid out the gardens in a series of rooms. Kingston Maurward was bought by Dorset County Council in 1947. Using old photographs, the gardens have been restored.
The house is now occupied by the Dorset Agricultural College.
Minterne House was designed by Leonard Stokes in 1904-6 for Edward Henry Trafalgar Digby, 10th Baron Digby.
The garden was created by the 9th Baron Digby in the late nineteenth century and continued by his son.
The circular walk meanders through the magnificent collection of rhododendrons and azaleas. Look out for the Himalayan Hut!
DOR7: Sherborne Castle
Queen Elizabeth I gave the estate at Sherborne to Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh was unable to modernise the Castle and built a new house across the river in 1594. In 1617, the estate was sold to Sir John Digby. The gardens were redesigned in the eighteenth century with advice from ‘Capability’ Brown.
Explore the area around the house and then head off to the lake. Enjoy the Maple Garden, the Cascade, Pope’s seat, the Folly and the Clairevoire with the ruins behind you and views over the lake to the New Castle.
The estate is still owned by the Wingfield Digby family.
SOM1: Bishop’s Palace
The Palace at Wells was built in the thirteenth century by Bishop Jocelin. In 1207 the Bishop was granted a licence from King John to create a deer park to the south of the Palace. The Great Hall was built in 1280. The gardens have been remodelled over the years.
Today the entrance is through the archway known as the Bishop’s Eye, across the moat to the Gatehouse and the Croquet Lawn. The formal gardens are at the north end of the garden and are set out in squares. And don’t miss the allotment gardens
SOM2: Forde Abbey
Forde Abbey was founded as a monastery in the twelfth century but was closed after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It was bought in 1649 by Edmund Prideaux who later became Oliver Cromwell’s Attorney General. The estate was inherited in 1702 by Mary Prideaux who with her husband Francis Gwyn, laid out the garden. It remains largely unaltered today.
The award winning gardens include herbaceous borders, an arboretum, a bog garden, the walled garden, the Park Garden and the Rock Garden.
There is a spectacular display of Spring Flowers every year.
Forde Abbey remains in the Roper family.
SOM3: Fyne Court
Fyne Court is inextricably linked with its nineteenth century owner, Andrew Crosse. A great British eccentric, Crosse dedicated his life to Physics and used the rooms of his house as laboratories and the trees surrounding his property as part of his experiments. If you are interested in learning more about this amazing man – I’m sure his work was a major influence in the creation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – then read more about him here: https://www.visitgardens.co.uk/fyne-court/.
There are several walks clearly marked with carpets of snowdrops early in the year and bluebells and orchids in the Spring.
In 1750, Coplestone Warre Bampfylde inherited Hestercombe and he laid out the Arcadian Garden. There are numerous garden buildings including a Witch’s House and Gothic Alcove.
In 1872 the Estate was sold to 1st Viscount Portman. Lord Portman extended the house and commissioned Edwin Lutyens to design a Formal Garden with planting schemes by Gertrude Jekyll.
The Great Plat stretches out in front of the house, enclosed on three sides with the fourth side, a pergola 230 feet long, with views over the Vale of Taunton Dean.
SOM5: Montacute House
Montacute is a prodigy house – a large house built in Jacobean and Elizabethan times to show off wealth and status – and was built by Edward Phelips at the end of the sixteenth century.
The garden at Montacute is dominated by the house, the twin banqueting pavilions in the East Court
and the North Garden. The National Trust has started to recreate a parterre by using old photographs. The first stage is to cut the grass in the pattern.
SOM6: Prior Park
Born in Cornwell in 1693, Ralph Allen created a network of postal roads that revolutionised the postal system. Allen used the money he had made to buy the stone quarries at Coombe Down in 1726 just as the building boom started in Bath. The Palladian style house (now a school) and the gardens were completed by 1735. Alexander Pope was a frequent visitor.
Features include the wilderness, recently restored Grotto, Ice House, cascade, The Cabinet and the magnificent Palladian Bridge.
The philanthropist William Gibbs bought Tyntesfield in 1843. William’s father had made a highly lucrative business of trading in guano and later nitrates from South America. William and Blanche Gibbs commissioned John Norton to enlarge the house in the Gothic style and created the garden. It has changed little from the 1860s.
The gardens include the Rose Garden, terraces, ponds and across a field the Kitchen Garden which was restored by Walter Cave in time for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.
DEV1: Arlington Court
The manor of Arlington was bought by John Chichester in 1384. With increased wealth, the family rebuilt the Tudor house in 1790 but with extensive structural problems, a new house was designed by Thomas Lee of Barnstaple for Colonel John Chichester.
The Tudor gardens were redesigned in the eighteenth century into parkland while the National Trust carried out an extensive restoration programme of the Victorian gardens in 1970s.
From the formal gardens, follow the signs to the lake and surrounding woodlands.
DEV2: Castle Drogo
The castle was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens between 1911 and 1930 for Julius Drewe, founder of the Home and Colonial Stores. Christopher Hussey wrote: ‘the ultimate justification of Drogo is that it does not pretend to be a castle. It is a castle, as a castle is built, of granite, on a mountain, in the twentieth century’.
The formal garden surrounding the castle was also designed by Lutyens with George Dillistone’s assistance and includes herbaceous borders and a rose garden.
The woodland garden contains several species of rhododendron, azaleas and magnolias.
DEV3: Castle Hill Gardens
In the early eighteenth century, Hugh Fortescue, 1st Baron Clinton chose Roger Morris to rebuild a late Tudor House. The house had to be substantially rebuilt following a fire in 1934.
To the south of the house are the nineteenth century formal gardens with fountains, grass terraces and Greek temples while dotted around the estate are several eighteenth century buildings including Sybils’ Cave, the Ugly Bridge,
Satyr’s Temple, the Triumphal Arch and the Sham Castle.
The house is now lived in by Eleanor, Countess of Arran, granddaughter of 6th Earl Fortescue.
DEV4: Hartland Abbey
Originally owned by the Augustinians, the Abbey was given by Henry VIII to William Abbot, Sergeant to the King’s Cellar in 1546. It was transformed into a house around 1600 with later additions by John Meadows in the eighteenth century. Sir George Gilbert Scott carried out further work in 1862.
Gertrude Jekyll was a frequent visitor and helped Lady Stucley design the garden including the Baronet’s Bog Garden, the Victorian Fernery and Camellia Garden. The garden was neglected during the Wars but a restoration programme began in 1996. Make sure you include the Walled Garden on your visit.
The house has never been sold. The current owner is Sir Hugh George Copplestone Bampfylde Stucley, a descendent of the original owner.
Knightshayes was bought in 1867by John Heathcote Amory, a Tiverton lace manufacturer. He commissioned William Burges to design a new house. It was completed by 1872.
Edward Kemp advised on the outer landscape as well as designing terraces,
gravel walks, a rose garden, an American Garden and the kitchen garden.
Further work was carried out in the twentieth century with the help of Lanning Roper who created a new garden within the Bowling Green while the American Garden was transformed into the Azalea Garden.
CORN1: Caerhays Castle
The present castle was designed by John Nash and built between 1807 and 1810 for John Bettesworth-Trevanion. Forced to sell Caerhays because of rising debts, Bettesworth-Trevanion sold the estate to Michael Williams in 1854. The woodland gardens were created by John Charles Williams in 1880s who sponsored several plant hunting expeditions with seeds brought back to England by Ernest Wilson and George Forrest. The garden is also home to a National Magnolia Collection.
The house is still lived in by the Williams family.
There are not photographs as I have yet to visit Caerhays.
The Enys Estate has been owned by members of the Enys family since the thirteenth century. The house is surrounded by a garden which was originally laid out at the end of the seventeenth century.
John David Enys inherited the Estate from his father in 1872. A keen geologist, he lived in New Zealand and regularly sent back specimen plants from South Island and Patagonia. In 1980, the estate was inherited by Prof. G.L. Rogers, who began restoring the derelict garden. Rogers also endowed a charitable trust to secure the long-term future of Enys. The Trust’s aim is to restore the garden to its former glory.
CORN3: Lost Gardens of Heligan
Heligan Manor is first mentioned in twelfth century and by 1569, the property was owned by Sampson Tremayne. In the nineteenth century, John Hearle Tremayne was an avid collector of exotic plants while his son created the Japanese Garden (now called the Jungle) as well as the Italian Garden and Ravine.
The house and garden fell into disrepair during the two World Wars, and it wasn’t until John Willis (a member of the extended Tremayne family) and Tim Smit (Eden Project) met by chance in 1990 that the idea emerged of restoring the garden.
Today, the ethos of the garden is based on Victorian principles.
CORN4: Mount Edgcumbe
Sir Richard Edgcumbe built the house overlooking the Plymouth Sound in 1547. It was largely destroyed by bombs during the Second World War.
The garden nearest the house includes the Earl’s Garden, summerhouses, Shell Seat and knot garden and is only accessible by ticket.
Entrance to the lower garden is free. Its features include the English Garden with its Garden House, the Orangery, Italian Garden, New Zealand Garden, American Garden and French Garden.
Along the coastal path are the eighteenth century amphitheatre, Gothic folly and a Temple dedicated to John Milton.
In 1839, the Fox family bought the freehold of Penjerrick and Robert Barclay Fox began developing the garden with his father, Robert Were Fox. Robert Were’s specialism was sub-tropical planting and the scientific study of plant acclimatisation in Cornwall.
By the entrance to the garden is a map, directions for a circular walk and an impressive list of the trees and shrubs. An honesty box is hidden in shrubs near the house. When I visited in 2016, the house was lived in by Rachel Morin, a member of the Fox family.
There is no longer a view from the Terrace to Falmouth Bay and it was only by chance that I found the wooden bridge over the sunken public road that joins this part of the garden to the Wilderness. By the Upper Pond, there was once a Swiss Cottage but despite climbing over fallen trees, fighting my way through the subtropical undergrowth, I failed to find a sign of any building.
The National Trust turned down this garden and perhaps that’s just as well. For Nature has reclaimed Penjerrick in keeping with the vision of Fox, a devout Quaker: ‘no geometric paths or formal beds, but a garden full of freedom.’
Charles Fox, another member of the Fox Quaker family, created Trebah between 1828 and 1878. It’s a plantsman’s garden with various steep walks either side of the stream to the valley bottom and a beach on the Helford River. Using the micro-climate and the valley’s natural topography, Fox filled the garden with camellias, rhododendrons, a mass of hydrangeas near the lower end of the garden as well as Chusan palms, gunnera and bamboo.
Visitors are encouraged to walk along manicured paths whose names include High Harry and Badger’s Walk with different areas of the garden called Zig-Zag, a Stumpery and a Vinery.
The garden is managed by the Trebah Garden Trust.