Walled gardens, arboretums, exotic plants and aromatic lawns; in 2016, The Year of the English Garden, Northumberland will excite the senses of all garden lovers. Northumberland boasts an impressive collection of gardens, each with their own characteristics and charms.
One of the world’s most contemporary gardens, The Alnwick Garden was built to break the rules. Eighteen years ago, The Duchess of Northumberland embarked upon the creation of “A huge public garden of classic symmetry and astonishing beauty…” and today, the garden is not only an inspiring landscape with beautifully sculpted foliage vivified by water but the Wirtz International design has combined unique features and spaces to encourage interaction, learning and play.
The inclusion of the UK’s only Poison Garden, home to a gruesome collection of lethal plants, is a testament to its audacious nature, and the home to Europe’s largest wooden Treehouse, The Alnwick Garden provides unexpected adventure amongst its 200 species of roses and perfectly manicured Ornamental Garden.
Visitors are encouraged to play in the spell-binding water sculptures of the Serpent Garden and toy tractors are even provided for children to collect water from the overflowing walls of the splendid Grand Cascade, with which they then tend to water the lawns!
No two visits are the same, as each season brings a new lease of life. Spring is an exciting time as many thousands of bulbs appear, heralding the start of the new season. In May, the Cherry Orchard is transformed as it becomes a cloud of white cherry blossom, carpeted with thousands of alliums in a sea of purple. In summer, the towering blue delphiniums are a highlight of the Ornamental Garden, a strikingly geometric garden with the country’s largest collection of European plants. The David Austin Rose Garden, swathed with honeysuckle and clematis, sports more than 3000 roses when in full bloom, filling the garden with incredible scents.
As autumn arrives, there is a chameleon-like transformation of the hornbeams that border the Grand Cascade, and the crab apple hedges glow with bright red and yellow crabs, creating stunning bands of colour on the UK's only crab apple pleaching.
Winter is the perfect time to appreciate the strong green structure of the Wirtz design with bursts of vivid colour from the winter-flowering cherry. As the winter nights draw in, The Alnwick Garden transforms the dark evenings into a stunning spectacle of light and colour.
The yearly Christmas Lantern Parade and Sparkle Light display provide a magnificent spectacle of illumination across the garden and this year, visitors will be able to further indulge in Christmas revelry with live caroling, traditional refreshments and the opportunity to purchase a wide selection of eclectic gifts at their Christmas market.
Newly introduced in 2015, A Garden of Fairy Tales provides visiting families with a magical adventure around The Garden and is free with regular admission. Families can dress up in the Fairy Tale Attic and with help from our fairy tale characters must follow search for enchanted clues such as a magical bench, hidden door and Cinderella’s glass slipper, in order to stop the Wicked Queen Poisoning Beauty. They can then finish their journey at our Crafty Cottage to create a fairy tale themed craft such as fairy doors, magic mirrors or a beanstalk and claim your reward.
Belsay Hall is a true natural enigma and unlike any other garden you will see. As you take the long winding drive up to this 40 acre country estate, from a distance, Belsay looks like a typical historic hall with well-manicured lawns and borders. But further exploration behind the impressive façade reveals exotic and formal gardens in a magnificent and magical setting.
It’s hard not to fall in love with Belsay. Take a walk through the stunning floral displays that change with the seasons, explore the cavernous Quarry Garden which leads to the Medieval Castle, take tea and homemade cakes in the Victorian Tearoom and marvel at the impressive architecture of the Pillar Hall. Belsay hosts events for all the family all year round. It’s in our nature and just waiting to be discovered right here in Northumberland.
At Wallington, explore the wonderful 18th-century pleasure ground waiting for you in the woods. Hidden behind high walls at the bottom of a tranquil valley is a delightful secret space. Using the area of the previous kitchen garden, the borders are now ornamental and themed in a range of colours. It’s the perfect place to relax in or explore a little further, it's a garden that delights once you've made the discovery.
Lord Armstrong was a landscape genius and Cragside is his imagination in physical form. Visit the Formal Gardens, Pinetum and Rock Garden and see how he experimented with plants, trees and water on a gigantic scale to create the beautiful surroundings. With one of Europe's largest rock gardens, the UK’s tallest Scots pine and flowers bursting to life in every season, Cragside is a must do.
The gardens at Seaton Delaval Hall, created by John Vanbrugh are now the most complete Vanbrugh landscape in existence, pre-dating Capability Brown. The structure of the parterre and rose gardens as well as the colourful herbaceous borders make the gardens here truly unique and during the summer months one of the most vibrant places to take a stroll is under the glowing yellow laburnum arch.
On Holy Island, visit the walled summer garden that thrives by the sea. Designed to be viewed from Lindisfarne Castle by Gertrude Jekyll and located on the site of the vegetable patch that once provided the soldiers in the castle with food. The garden is now a riot of colour in high summer especially and the air is filled with the scent of sweet peas.
Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and strongly influenced by Gertrude Jeckyll, Whalton Manor Gardens is truly a hidden gem, lovingly restored by owner Penny Norton. Open exclusively by appointment for individuals and pre-booked groups you can enjoy the magnificent walled garden, listed summerhouses, pergolas and rose garden in private.
Howick Hall Gardens are aimed at garden lovers and are a plantsman's delight with extensive grounds offering a stunning variety of unusual plants throughout the seasons.From snowdrops in February to autumn colour in November there is always something different to see at Howick Hall Gardens.
The William Turner Garden is an oasis of tranquility in Carlisle Park in the heart of Morpeth. This modern garden features elements of a 16th Century Tudor Garden including Physic Beds, a Knot Garden and Viewing Mound. Entry to the garden is free.
Discover the 'Living Exhibition of Plants' at Longfarmlington Gardens with over 1000 different types of trees, shrubs and perennials. Meandering mown grass paths lead you from one area to another.
For a healing experience relax on the fragrant chamomile lawn, discover the secret powers of plants and follow the aroma trail at Dilston Physic Garden.
Lemurs, wallabies, meerkats and snakes are just some of the 130 species of animals to be found at Kirkley Hall Zoological Gardens. That’s not all, there is also the Victorian Walled garden, sunken and woodland gardens and the National Fagus (Beach Tree) Collection, making it a great day out for all the family.