Thursday, 13 October 2011

An Englishman's home is his castle! British castle gardens I

Ardtornish, seen through the trees in October
Britain has more than its fair share of castles - originally built to protect their inhabitants against marauding invaders, but now many of them are in the stewardship of organisations like the National Trust and open to the public. We're also incredibly lucky that many of them have beautiful gardens and in this first of three blog entries about castles, I shall review some I've seen in the last couple of years, starting in the far north of the country at Ardtornish, home of the Raven family, which has a magnificent garden, filled with trees, and exceptionally beautiful at this time of year.
Ardtornish has wonderful views over the Loch and many fine specimen trees
Ardtornish is a plantsman's garden filled with many fine shrubs, specimen trees and fine views over the adjacent loch. It's also the former home of John Raven, the well-known botanist who wrote "The Botanist's Garden" and Sarah Raven, who runs the Cutting Garden at Perch Hill. A visit to this garden makes a wonderful day out if you're up in this part of Scotland, because you can take a ferry from Oban and admire the impressive Highland scenery.
Arundel Castle is an impressive sight when viewed from below
Arundel Castle in Sussex is still home to the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk. It's an impressive sight when you see it from below, perched on top of a hill. The present Duchess has completely redesigned the gardens in the last 15 years and the new Collector Earl's Garden (below) has breathed new life into the castle grounds. Opened by Prince Charles in 2008, it's a bold, theatrical design conceived by Julian and Isabel Bannerman, who also designed the water garden at nearby Woolbeding.
Collector Earl's garden at Arundel Castle
Caerhays Castle in Cornwall, is spectacular in its own right when seen from the sea, or from the road as you approach. Famous for its fantastic spring displays of rhododendrons, magnolias, camellias and azaleas, the garden is one of the best in this part of the country when in flower. But the season here is short and the garden only remains open from March until the end of May, so make sure you get there if you can to see the dazzling spring blossoms.
Caerhays Castle in Cornwall
This is the first of three castle features scheduled for October, so watch this space if you're looking for more castle gardens to visit in 2012. As the evenings draw in, I shall be posting more about some of the wonderful castles here in the UK that will delight gardeners and their families.


  1. Dear Charlotte, Ardtornish is a new for me, but I've seen the others you mention here. Arundel is my favorite. On my recent trip to England I didn't have much time to visit gardens, as my mother is in hospital, but I did see the David Austin Rose Garden... my latest posting ... hope you like it. P. x

  2. We once always got to see Caerhays but failed to look at their opening dates, so sadly arrived to a rather large shut gate! Nice to have a sneaky peak through you though!

  3. Dear Charlotte. May I be picky and object to your title? Ardtornish is a great place, but to describe this Scottish garden under the heading of 'An Englishman's home...' is merely to be provocative, and is apt to remind your northern readers of similar English claims over the centuries. Would you do the same for an Irish castle I wonder?

  4. You are of course, quite right to object! I'm afraid it's the former journalist in me, trying to find a catchy headline. But once we move on to the second post in the series, they will all be English castles .... hope I haven't caused offence!

  5. Wow, beautiful castles and gardens! I love the first picture of the castle nestled in the trees. Thanks for sharing!

  6. What beautiful pictures. You have helped me with my agenda for an English garden tour. Thanks.