Beautiful gardens for rest and recreation, play and contemplation, surround many of Britain’s best-loved hotels. Here, the editors of The Good Hotel Guide choose ten perennial favourites
Gravetye Manor, East Grinstead, Sussex
The daffodils will be in bloom at Gravetye now, flowering through a carpet of scilla. By May the meadow will be awash with wild flowers, the orchard festooned with blossom. The 35 acres of gardens and woodland surrounding this Elizabethan manor house were created by William Robinson (1838-1935), exponent of the ‘wild garden’ style. Disdaining ‘repulsively gaudy’ formal plantings, Robinson urged gardeners to celebrate nature, mixing native and exotic varieties — ‘say the noble mountain Clematis from Nepal, the sweet C. Flammula from Southern Europe, “Virginian creepers” in variety… various species of hardy vines, Jasmines, Honeysuckles… and wild Roses.’ A walled kitchen garden supplies the Michelin-starred kitchen.
Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Great Milton, Oxfordshire
Scented lavender lines the path to Raymond Blanc’s gastronomic destination, with its two Michelin stars and on-site gardening school. Half-day, one-day and three-day courses are held in a glasshouse in the Heritage Garden, where endangered seed varieties are nurtured. The Manoir gardens are as productive as they are beautiful, with a wildflower meadow, a Japanese tea garden, a heritage orchard, a two-acre organic potager and herb garden, even a mushroom valley. Natural–spring ponds date from the 16th century. Garden tours are offered on weekdays.
B&B from £570, lunch £105-£136 (4-5 courses), 7-course dinner. Garden tours £30. One-day course (including working lunch) from £185. 01844 278881, belmond.com.
Hotel Endsleigh, Milton Abbot, Devon
‘I confess I never so well pleased myself,’ said landscape designer Humphry Repton in 1814, when he presented John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford, with his watercolour schemes for a veritable arcadia. More than 100 acres of gardens and pleasure grounds surround a fishing lodge built for the Duke and Duchess by Sir Jeffry Wyatville above the River Tamar. A cottage orné with tall chimneys, verandas, gables and dormers, it is today owned by doyenne of hoteliers Olga Polizzi. The visitor can roam Grade I listed parkland and formal gardens, discovering an arboretum, streams, dells and waterfalls. A shell house and grotto, a Swiss cottage and fountains are also attributed to Wyatville.
B&B from £211.50, à la carte £50. Gardens, admission £8, guided tour £50. 01822 870 000, hotelendsleigh.com.
Cliveden House, Taplow, Buckinghamshire
A grand Italianate villa designed by Charles (Palace of Westminster) Barry, ‘Clivden’ stands on a bluff overlooking the Thames. Barry worked with John Fleming, pioneer of ribbon-and-carpet bedding, to lay out a terrace garden. After 1893, William Waldorf Astor commissioned an oriental garden. He imported a pagoda made for the 1867 Paris Exposition Universelle, a balustrade from Rome’s Villa Borghese. The Long Garden was created to display his classical sculptures. The National Trust now owns the 376 acres of park, woodland and formal gardens around what is today a luxury hotel. The visitor will discover Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe’s rose garden, the Siena marble Fountain of Love, a pavilion commemorating the Battle of Blenheim, the amphitheatre where Rule Britannia was first played, and a swimming pool with a racy history.
B&B from £495, à la carte £75, tasting menu £97.50. 01628 607107, clivedenhouse.co.uk.
Askham Hall, Penrith, Cumbria
Pass between Grade II listed stone gate piers and follow a drive, to reach Charles Lowther’s ancestral home, built around a medieval pele tower, in a bucolic landscape, overlooking the River Lowther. Run as a country-house hotel, it is a great place for a family day out. Gardens and pleasure grounds blend the formal and informal, with terraces and topiary, a 230-ft herbaceous border, a swimming pool, woodlands, meadows and ponds. Children delight in seeing shorthorn cattle, rare-breed pigs, Boer goats, ducks and chickens. Produce from the kitchen gardens and estate inspires Richard Swale’s Michelin-starred tasting menus, and cheaper fare in the Kitchen Garden Café.
B&B single from £138, double from £150, tasting menu £75. Garden access £4 for adults and children under 12, except for hotel guests or those eating in the café. 01931 712350, askhamhall.co.uk.
Barnsley House, Barnsley, Gloucestershire
The family home of architectural historian David Verey, this 17th-century stone manor house overlooks gardens designed by Verey’s wife, Rosemary, whose signature style won her fans on both sides of the Atlantic. From the mid-1950s, Verey transformed the four acres into the tapestry that hotel guests enjoy today, with 16th– and 17th-century influences, strong structural elements, clipped evergreens, a knot garden, laburnum walk, overflowing borders, and statues by sculptor Simon Verity. A potager drawing inspiration from the Loire Château de Villandry bears witness to Verey’s love of mixing flowers with fresh produce, which finds its way on to your plate in the hotel restaurant and sister Village Pub.
B&B single from £262, double from £280–£789, à la carte £45 (pub £35). Group garden tours Mon-Fri, to include afternoon tea or lunch in pub or restaurant (£35-£56) 01285 740000, barnsleyhouse.com.
Hambleton Hall, Hambleton, Rutland
Built in 1881 as a hunting box, in picturesque old English style, with mullion windows, crow-stepped gables and massive chimneystacks, Hambleton has been run as a hotel since 1980 by Tim and Stefa Hart. It stands in colourful 17-acre gardens that extend down to a meadow and shimmering Rutland Water. Keen gardener Tim Hart has special pride in the cork oaks, pines, and other trees and shrubs planted here over four decades. A parterre with a pond gives year-round pleasure. A croquet lawn and pavilion are available to guests. The walled kitchen garden supplies salad leaves, soft fruit and herbs for the Michelin-starred menus.
B&B single from £210, double from £295, fixed-price dinner £78, tasting menu £98. 01572 756 991. hambletonhall.com.
Goldstone Hall, Market Drayton, Shropshire
On summer days guests can sit down to an alfresco lunch amid the fragrance of old rose varieties at the Cushing family’s redbrick Georgian manor house, in five flower-filled acres, with views to the Shropshire Hills. The gardens were created by owner John Cushing’s late mother, Helen Ward, with double-tiered herbaceous borders around a sweeping lawn that leads to a wild-flower garden. There’s a woodland walk, a croquet lawn, an oak pavilion, an old acacia brimming with birdlife, but the great glory is the walled kitchen garden, one of Britain’s largest, with a herb walk planted with more than 200 herb varieties, supplying a super-abundance of fresh produce to the hotel kitchen.
B&B single from £95, double from £150, 7-course tasting menu £40. Garden visits. groups of 10 or more, £6 per person (£27 with afternoon tea). 01630 661 202, goldstonehallhotel.co.uk.
Bodysgallen Hall, Llandudno, Conwy
The name means ‘House among the Thistles’, which rather undersells this Elizabethan manor house, now owned by the National Trust, which sits on high ground overlooking more than 200 acres of parkland. Descending terraces are home to a 17th-century parterre with a sundial, a formal rose garden and courtyard, lily ponds, a rockery, cascade, follies, springs, and specimen trees. Woodland trails include the Pydew Village Walk, which leads to a gothic tower and obelisk on the summit of Pydew mountain. There are gorgeous garden views from the leaded windows of the dining room, and Robert Owen, the long-time head gardener, hosts a programme of themed tours through the year.
B&B single from £190, double from 215, fine-dining menu £52-£66, 01492 584 466, bodysgallen.com.
Glenapp Castle, Ballantrae, Ayrshire
Every bedroom overlooks the sea or gardens at Paul and Poppy Szkiler’s Scottish-baronial-style castle, with views to Ailsa Craig and the Firth of Clyde. Paths criss-cross the 36-acre grounds, threading together a wooded glen, a deer park and an Italian garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll… Along the way there are ornamental ponds and picnic spots, a croquet lawn, a gazebo, garden cottages, beehives, and champion trees, including coastal redwoods and Britain’s tallest Cilician fir. In season, light lunches and cream teas are served in the walled garden, where Victorian glasshouses supply produce to the hotel’s kitchen.
B&B from £415, à la carte £55. 01465 831212, glenappcastle.com