A glorious mixture of castles and spectacular camellia collections make up my choices for "C" gardens today, starting with Caerhays in Cornwall, which has some of the best camellias and magnolias I've ever seen, together with colour displays that will leave you speechless if you visit in the spring! Hidden away on a peninsular overlooking the sea, Caerhays Castle (below) is only open early in the season because that's when the azaleas, camellias and magnolias are in flower. Well worth going out of the way for and you can, of course combine it with some of the other great Cornish gardens.
And no trip to Cornwall would be complete without a visit to Carwinion, near Falmouth (below) - home to one of the best bamboo collections in Britain, and cream teas to die for! This is a wonderful garden with acres and acres to explore and bamboos, particularly the blue ones, that will leave you amazed. You can also stay, since the owners offer bed and breakfast, so base yourself here if you want to explore all the Cornish gardens in the area - it's perfectly located and is right next door to Trebah and Glendurgan.
Castle Drogo in Devon is another must see, with its severe Lutyens house and incredible garden. Steel yourself for the drive though.... as you will encounter narrow country lanes and high hedgerows - definitely not for the fainthearted! But once there, you'll be able to enjoy the views, the spectacular circular lawn big enough for four croquet courts. And if you're there in springtime, you'll see incredible displays of azaleas and rhododendrons.
Coleton Fishacre (below) is one of my all-time favourites - a truly magical arts and crafts garden in deepest Devon - also approached by winding country lanes - for full details you can see my original entry in June - definitely worth making a detour for, but be careful about taking pictures from inside the house, which is filled with art deco treasures! Marvelous walks down to the sea and spectacular views plus many unusual plants that thrive in the microclimate on this sheltered peninsula.
And another garden that took me years to see, because of its severely restricted opening hours and the English weather, is Cranborne Manor in Dorset (below). But it was worth waiting for and from early spring, this garden will give hours of delight, with its fantastic displays of bulbs, magnificent trees and a nursery that you'll be hard-pressed to get away from without buying a selection of plants! Lovely sculptures too.
With all these gardens, you DO need to check opening times as many are off the beaten track and although the countryside is beautiful, you could be disappointed if you don't see the gardens!