Planets and playtime in Lincolnshire
16th century Burghley House, known as ‘England’s Greatest Elizabethan House’, was designed by William Cecil, Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I, and is still lived in today by his descendants. Staggeringly, completion of the building of this towering edifice took 32 years.
The gardens and parkland were designed by the famous Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. In his inimitable sweeping style, he graced Burghley with elegant avenues, the shimmering Serpentine Lake and undulating parkland where deer still roam freely.
The 13-acre contemporary Sculpture Garden is a striking contrast within its historic setting, particularly in 2018 when installations include a man polishing the moon and a helicopter-esque UFO – part of Burghley’s ‘Otherworldly’ exhibition.
The Garden of Surprises is exactly that. Imaginations have been stretched; water features used wherever possible. This whimsical Tudor garden features swivelling Caesar busts, jets and a mirrored maze.
Stay 30 minutes’ drive away at Hambleton Hall.
The gardens at Burghley House
Extraterrestrial efflorescence in Scotland
Not a garden, strictly speaking, no. But Galloway Forest Park in southern Scotland is an expanse of land so wildly beautiful, and with such stellar attraction, it’s an exception warranting inclusion.
Britain’s largest forest park, it spans three hundred square miles and is so remote that light pollution is practically non-existent. That’s why, in 2009, it was awarded ‘Dark Sky Parks’ status – the UK’s only one and, more amazingly, one of just four in the world.
So, imagine a sky garden, and every night a different display: seeing 7,000 stars and planets blinking in the inky blackness, and meteors streaking their momentary marks. Pack a thermos and a blanket and pick one of the three visitor centres to see the show. The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory, near Dalmellington, has a roll-off roof and two very powerful telescopes.
Stay 45 minutes’ drive away at Glenapp Castle
Galloway Forest Park
Triumphant training and tons of fruit in the Lake District
Levens Hall, near Kendal in Cumbria, holds the Guinness World Record for the oldest topiary. Some of the designs, all sculpted from box and yew, are over 300 years old, having been planted in the 1690s. There is a surreal feel to the Topiary Gardens. It’s an astonishing assortment of over 100 impeccably clipped, dark green shapes – somewhat like a scene you might imagine from Alice in Wonderland. Most pieces are abstract or geometric shapes but some topiaries – including Chess pieces, the Great Umbrellas and four Peacocks – are easily distinguishable.
Levens Hall itself is a splendid Elizabethan mansion set in 12 acres of gardens planted with over 30,000 flowers. In spring, the ancient Orchard is a vivid display of pink blossom; in autumn, its apple harvest produces over four tons of fruit, used in Levens’ own cider and wonderful homemade apple pies. There are also vegetable and herb gardens, a rose garden (planted solely with English varieties), a fountain garden, wildflower meadows and a willow labyrinth.
The gardens at Levens Hall
Article written by Mischa Mack