The Lake District boasts some very special estates and gardens that are open to the public, both large and small – ranging from those that reflect the individual style of their creators, such as Brantwood, to those that reflect a particular historical era, such as Levens.
Holker Hall and Gardens (Cark in Cartmel, near Grange-over-Sands)
This elegant historic house, situated about 15 miles from Windermere, is a real Victorian family home set in 25 acres of romantic gardens that visitors can explore – including immaculately-maintained formal areas, pretty woodland, and ancient parkland. There is a resident herd of graceful Menil fallow deer; an adventure playground where children can let off steam; and a picnic area if you fancy taking your own lunch. The gift shop is stocked with luxury home and garden products, while you can pick up quality local produce from Holker’s Food Hall — or tuck into delicious homemade food at the Courtyard Cafe.
Brantwood, Home of John Ruskin (Coniston)
This museum is the former home of John Ruskin, the most famous English art critic of the Victorian era, who was also an art patron, draughtsman, water colour artist and philanthropist. In 1871 Ruskin bought Brantwood – situated on the shores of Coniston Water, about 12 miles from Windermere – in a rather dilapidated state. He lived there until he died in 1900, during which time he made significant alterations to the house, and designed an array of radical, experimental mountainside gardens. Today visitors can look around nine of the interior rooms; browse a range of special exhibitions; and explore eight of the unique gardens designed by Ruskin himself – offering spectacular views of Coniston and wonderful walks for all abilities.
Levens Hall and Gardens (near Kendal)
Dating back to 1694, the grade I-listed garden at Levens Hall show off some of the finest and oldest topiary to be found anywhere in the world. Alongside these impressive creations there is also a nuttery, a herb garden, an orchard, a bowling green, an English rose garden, and lush herbaceous borders. Levens is a gardener’s dream, and situated just 15 miles from Windermere it’s well worth a visit on a sunny day – with homemade refreshments available on site at the Bellingham Buttery, and a children’s play area to keep younger visitors entertained.
Peter Rabbit Garden at The World of Beatrix Potter (Bowness-on-Windermere)
The outdoor section of this famous Lake District attraction has proved immensely popular with visitors thanks to its close attention to detail. Full of plants and vegetables, and characters from the books, the gardens authentically recreate the magical atmosphere of the famous tales of Peter Rabbit.
Rydal Mount and Gardens (Rydal)
Wordsworth’s much-loved home for 37 years, peaceful Rydal Mount is an historic home with spectacular terraced gardens landscaped by the poet himself. Visitors can wander freely and soak up the gorgeous views over Lake Windermere and Rydal Water. Situated about six miles from Windermere in the pretty village of Rydal, while you’re there you could take a gentle walk around Rydal Water to take in Dove Cottage, another of Wordsworth’s homes, and pass by Rydal Cave, a big cavern that can be spotted in the hill above the lake.
Other wonderful parks and gardens in the Lake District that are not featured in this article include the Mawson Garden at Brockhole Lake District Visitor Centre; Muncaster Gardens; Lowther Castle Gardens; Honiston Stone Garden at the Honister Slate Mine; the Wordsworth Garden at Wordsworth House and Garden; and Dalemain Historic House and Gardens – amongst many others.