There’s something very English about exploring gardens, imagining yourself as a Lord or Lady of the Manor, recreating classic scenes from English literature (Remember Mr Darcy emerging from the lake at Pemberley?!). In fact, according to research from VisitEngland, Brits make 35 million day trips to public gardens each year, so you’re in good company if this is your sort of pastime.
Yorkshire has a fantastic selection of gardens to explore, each offering something different. Whether you fancy taking in the grounds of a stately home, exploring woodland trails and mazes with children or simply switching off and enjoying the tranquillity of a lakeside picnic with the papers, the region has the perfect place for you.
Celebrating the 300th anniversary of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, arguably England's Greatest Gardener, 2016 has been named the year of the English Garden, so there’s even more reason to include a visit or two in your holiday itinerary.
Harewood House, Harewood
Between Leeds and Harrogate
The stunning landscape surrounding Harewood House was designed by Capability Brown, whose vision was to ensure the gardens were as imposing as the house. With more than 100 acres of grounds to explore, make sure you leave ample time to enjoy the Terrace, Lakeside Garden, Himalayan Garden and Walled Garden.
For nature lovers, a visit to the renowned Bird Garden to see its collection of exotic species including penguins, owls, flamingos and parrots is well worth it. Younger visitors will love the farm experience and the adventure playground has slides, swings and climbing frames with café, picnic areas, ice cream stall and toilets handily nearby.
If you’re visiting in the spring, you’ll be lucky enough to see the collection of rhododendrons growing beneath the trees and along the margins of the lake. The collection was started by the 6th Earl of Harewood in the 1930s and has become something of a tradition at Harewood, with each successive generation of the Family contributing to the collection.
Top Tip: Check the timings for penguin feeding!
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Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden
The landscape around Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden may well feel familiar, even if you’ve never been before, as the stunning scenery has featured on the big and small screen. The 2013 BBC drama Death Comes to Pemberley, the 1993 version of The Secret Garden and the comedy drama film, The History Boys have all used the stunning site as a location and it’s easy to see why.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site contains a dramatic water garden with ornamental lakes, mirror-like ponds, statues and follies, built around the romantic ruins of the 12th century Fountains Abbey. With large stretches of lush lawn, it’s also a perfect location for picnics and leisurely strolls.
The garden dates back to the early 18th century when John Aislabie and his son William wanted to impress visitors to his Yorkshire estate. Inspired by French landscape gardeners, the two transformed the wild and wooded valley into a spectacular Georgian water garden, incorporating geometric shapes and creating extraordinary vistas along with classical statues carefully positioned within the grounds for guests to discover and enjoy.
One particular treat for visitors is the ‘The Surprise View’ or ‘Anne Boleyn’s Seat’. Designed by Aislabie to be literally ‘breathtaking’, the spot offers an incredible view of the Abbey ruins in the distance.
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East Riding of Yorkshire
This Elizabethan stately home has been within the same family for more than 400 years and whilst the halls are filled with paintings, tapestries and modern artwork, the award-winning gardens offer equal treasures.
Explore the woodland walks, marvel at the beautifully sculpted pathways and herbaceous borders and wander round the walled garden, which has over four thousand different plant species including a national collection of campanulas. There’s also a jungle garden and a maze for children (and keen adults!).
Check the website in advance to see if there are any special events on. There are several ‘meet the gardener’ sessions and festivals which take place throughout the year.
If you’re visiting with children, make sure you pick up one of the excellent guidebooks from the visitor desk. For those with very young children, toddler 'hip seats' are also available to help carry them around the grounds.
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Castle Howard is not only home to one of England’s finest historic homes, the surrounding 1,000 acres of gardens and woodland offers something for everyone, whatever the weather.
You could easily lose a day wandering around the parkland, formal gardens and lakeside terraces. The landscape offers stunning views, complemented by the annual displays of daffodils, rhododendrons, bluebells and roses. From March to October, take advantage of the free daily outdoor tours to find out more about these beautiful gardens.
Don’t miss: ‘Ray Wood’, the woodland garden described as ‘a rare botanical jewel’ for rhododendrons, magnolias and azaleas.
What’s more, if you’re inspired by what you see, you can purchase some of the plant, tree and shrubs species at the Castle Howard Garden Centre. There’s also a wide range of bulbs and seeds, tools and clothing as well as gifts, perfect for friends and family who enjoy the great outdoors.
Image courtesy of VisitEngland
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