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The National Trust cares for one of the greatest collections of historic gardens and plants in Europe, if not the world, with some dating back more than 500 years. With over 200 sites across the UK, we've picked six of the best to visit all year round - from lavishly landscaped lawns to secluded garden sanctuaries - plus have highlighted which Collection inns to stay or eat at nearby.
Fountains Abbey was originally founded in 1132 by 13 Benedictine monks from St Mary's church in York. In 1693, John Aislabie inherited both the abbey and Studley Royal Park and created one of the most spectacular water gardens in England. It was once referred to as 'The Wonder of the North' by author Mark Newman due to its silky canals, mirror-glazed ponds and grassy verges surrounding the romantic ruins of the abbey. Visit any time of the year for postcard-pretty strolls, but we suggest going in April and May for bluebell sightings.
Where to stay nearby: The Durham Ox, Crayke
In the tiny village of Madron, tucked away between the moors and sea on the south west coast of Cornwall, is Trengwainton Garden, the home of award-winning magnolias, camellias and rhododendrons - some of which were planted in Britain there for the first time. Find walled gardens filled with exotic flowers and wide grassy lawns with sweeping views across Mount's Bay towards the Lizard peninsula beyond. The place for a summer picnic? We suggest the orchard, amongst the small apple trees.
Where to stay nearby: The Gurnard's Head, Zennor; The Old Coastguard, Mousehole
Just outside the tiny village of Sissinghurst in Kent is Sissinghurst Castle Gardens - a world-renowned horticultural treasure created by poet Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson during the 20th-century. Don't miss Vita's writing room tower for panoramic views of the 450-acre surrounding estate and the bright and bold Cottage Garden. Ramblers should set out on the National Trust estate walk, passing through fairy-tale woodlands and alongside the nearby lake.
Where to stay nearby: The Bell, Ticehurst; The Goudhurst Inn, Goudhurst; The Woolpack, Tenterden
In the quaint Cotswold hamlet of Hidcote Bartrim, just a short drive from Shipston-on-Stour, is Hidcote - a Grade I listed Arts-and-Crafts-inspired garden designed in the early 1900s by the talented horticulturist Major Lawrence Johnston. Covering almost 11 acres, wind your way through intricately designed outdoor 'rooms', each with their own personality and filled with herbaceous borders, glistening fountains and rare shrubs from across the world.
Where to stay nearby: Horse & Groom, Burton-on-the-Hill; The Bell, Alderminster; The Kingham Plough, Kingham; The Sheep, Stow-on-the-Wold
Ancient trees, velvety rivers and neatly mown lawns set the scene for Mottisfont, an 18th-century house and garden found close to the Georgian city of Bath. Maud Russell in the 1930s made Mottisfont her home and invited a variety of artists there each year to relax and create paintings inspired by their surroundings - you can find some of these on display in the top-floor gallery. With world-famous roses in summer, carpets of spring bluebells, candy-cane-coloured winter gardens and fiery autumn leaves, there's a feast for the senses all year round.
Where to stay nearby: The Greyhound on the Test, Stockbridge; The Peat Spade, Longstock; The King's Head, Hursley
A spectacle of bright colours constantly glows throughout this landscaped garden settled in the Sheffield Estate Parkland close to the historic village of Fletching - although autumn is the time of year when everything comes alive. It was originally created in the 18th-century by landscape architect 'Capability' Brown before having several other gardeners, including Humphry Repton, incorporate their own creations into the land. Look out for the four mirror-like lakes, beautifully framed by trees and glades.
Where to stay nearby: The Griffin Inn, Fletching; The Dorset Arms, Withyham
Last updated: 18.08.22