|The impressive entrance to Lytes Cary, with its immaculate topiary|
It really doesn't get much better than this, if you're interested in ancient houses and gardens! Today's picks are within a stone's throw of each other in Somerset and open for business in the next few weeks. First port of call is Lytes Cary (above) - a glorious six-acre Arts and Crafts garden, restored in Gertrude Jekyll style by the National Trust in the 1960s.
Particularly lovely in high summer, with an abundance of blooms and outstanding topiary; there is also a large orchard (ideal for picnics!) and a good restaurant on site. Worth remembering though is that this property is closed on Thursdays.
|One of the two "pudding" houses at Montacute|
Move on to Montacute House - one of the finest surviving Elizabethan houses in Britain - with its formal gardens. The pavilion (above) is one of two in the grounds, known as "pudding" houses, because, in days gone by, dinner guests would retire here after their main course to eat dessert! A stunning house and lovely gardens - much larger and grander than the other two properties featured today and definitely worth a visit if you're in the area.
|Another impressive entrance at nearby Tintinhull, former home of Penelope Hobhouse, UK garden designer|
Tintinhull, just over a mile away from Montacute, has two acres of gardens, attributed in part to Harold Peto of Iford Manor fame. The gardens here owe a lot to well-known British garden designer, Penelope Hobhouse, who lived here from 1980 to 1993 and put her own inimitable stamp on both the choice of plants and the layout of this lovely garden.
Three truly wonderful properties to visit in a day, but just to remind you again, the only days you can visit all three are Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Each one has different closing days and if you try and visit on Monday, Tuesday or Thursday, you'll be disappointed. All three properties come under the umbrella of the National Trust, so members get in free.