No one likes being led down the garden path, but when it comes to the South West Coast Path, we’re certain that you will! From charming cottage gardens to subtropical paradises, this glorious National Trail leads you to some of the best gardens around.
Greencombe Gardens, West Porlock, Somerset
Just a 10-minute detour from the Path leads you to Greencombe, an organic woodland garden of international renown. Moss-covered paths meander through a collection of ornamental plants that flourish beneath a canopy of oaks, hollies, conifers and chestnuts. For over 50 years, Greencombe has thrived using organic gardening methods, with a riot of birds and butterflies all around, enjoying views across ancient fields onto Porlock Bay. Expect to see: camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas, maples, lilies, roses, clematis, and hydrangeas all flower in turn among ferns and the garden’s four National Collections: Erythronium, small mountain-lilies; Vaccinium, ‘whortleberries worldwide’; Gaultheria, ‘whortleberries for bears’; and Polystichum, the ‘thumbs-up’ fern.
Docton Mill Gardens, Hartland, North Devon
Open to visitors from the 15th March, Docton Mill Gardens is a hidden gem nestled in a sheltered valley on the Hartland Peninsula. Created around the waterways of an ancient mill, mentioned in the Doomsday book with its origins in Saxon times, this garden’s unique position means it’s incredibly lush, fertile and green. In spring, there are displays of narcissi, primulas, camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas with bluebells covering the woods. In summer the garden is in full bloom with roses, felicia and a magnolia field that boasts no less than 25 varieties. Perhaps the best way to take in this glorious garden though, is to sit in its award-winning tearooms and enjoy a Cream Tea (voted the best in Devon!)
The Lost Gardens of Heligan, near Mevagissey, Cornwall
Owned by the Tremayne family for over 400 years, these historic gardens were woefully neglected when WWI broke out. Until 25 years ago, this ‘Sleeping Beauty’ was unknown, unseen and lost under a tangle of weeds. Thanks to one of Europe’s largest restoration projects, visitors can once again discover the splendour and variety this 200-acre estate has to offer. With hidden trails, ancient woodlands, lakes, vegetable gardens, tropical jungle and banana plantations, these gardens are well worth a visit at any time of year. Here, you’ll become part of a garden fairy tale; going in search of the sleeping ‘Mud Maid’, walking through tunnels of bamboo and sighting giant rhubarb. Peer through the windows of the past in The Kitchen Garden, Flower Garden and Melon Yard, where you’ll learn about exotic glasshouse fruits and Victorian crop rotation.
Overbeck’s, Salcombe, South Devon
You barely have to step foot off the Path to visit the stunning gardens at Overbeck’s. Set in a truly enviable position on Devon’s south coast, Overbeck’s enjoys an astonishingly mild microclimate. This provides ideal growing conditions for many less hardy trees and shrubs and here you’ll see plants from all over the world looking very at home. The borders near the house contain South African plants, such as Crinum and Agapanthus and Echium pininana, with its incredible 16ft tall lavender-blue flower spikes. As a National Trust site, there is also a historic house to explore where you’ll learn about the property’s history when it was used as a convalescent hospital during the First World War. We highly recommend going on a ‘Meet the Gardener’ tour, which takes place on Wednesday throughout the season.
Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, Abbotsbury, Dorset
Voted the Christie’s Garden of the Year 2012 and described as ‘One of the finest gardens I have ever visited’ by none other than Alan Titchmarsh, Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens are not to be missed. Dating back to 1760, the mature gardens benefit from a maritime micro-climate that enables rare and exotic species from all over the world to thrive here. Located slightly inland from the iconic Chesil Beach, this 30-acre landscape has a mixture of formal and informal flowers, world-famous for its camellia groves and magnolias, as well as rhododendrons and hydrangea. Explore the Victorian walled garden, nature trail, sunken gardens and keep an eye out for golden pheasants and peacocks. Make sure you leave time for Sir Simon Hornby’s Magnolia Walk where you’ll be rewarded with views across the unmistakable Jurassic Coast.