Somerset is famous for its gardens and there are over 400 open to the public throughout the country.
Whether you like formal topiary or wild flower meadows, Dorset and Somerset have gardens that will inspire and please you. Often, they sit around, or next to, a staggeringly old building, such as Cothay Manor, a 15th century medieval manor house which acts as a beautiful backdrop to the contemporary plantings. More and more of these gardens now offer tea and delicious home-made cake, so it is easy to while away an afternoon.
Stourhead – 24 miles away
The whole estate is open to explore but the Palladian house (see Places of interest locally section), the garden and King Alfred’s Tower are some highlights.
The 49m high King Alfred’s Tower, also known as The Folly of King Alfred the Great lies in the woods on the wider Stourhead Estate. Climb to the top for great views of Somerset, Wiltshire and Dorset.
The garden was first opened in the early 18th century when its designer, Henry Hoare II, took inspiration from the classical era and his travels around Europe. The landscape is littered with beautiful architectural creations set in the gardens and parkland, such as the Grotto, the pantheon, the temples of Apollo and Flora and the famous Palladian bridge. All create spectacular views as you walk around the park.
East Lambrook Manor Gardens, South Petherton – 10 miles away
Quintessential English cottage garden created by celebrated plants woman and gardening writer Margery Fish between 1938 and 1969. Relaxed and informal planting, combining contemporary and old-fashioned plants, results in a garden of great beauty and charm. It was given Grade 1 status by English Heritage in 1992. Here you will also find a herbaceous plant nursery, as well as a pleasant café in the 17th century Malthouse.
Montacute House Gardens – 15 minutes away
Montacute House is an Elizabethan Renaissance gem, and makes a stunning backdrop to the graceful gardens around it. Here, fine lawns are surrounded by neatly-trimmed yews, while a sunken lawn is backed by pavilions and walls with balustrades and pinnacles. Montacute’s tree-lined West Drive can be seen in Sense and Sensibility (1995), which was partially filmed here. There is a courtyard café and gift shop.
Tintinhull Garden – 6 miles away
Created last century around an attractive 17th-century manor house, this garden is the work of two 20th-century gardeners; one an untrained amateur whose name is largely unknown and the other one of the UK’s most distinguished garden writers and designers. Phyllis Reiss was influenced by gardens such as Hidcote in Gloucestershire and her travels throughout France and Italy. She was part of a circle of gardeners that included the renowned Vita Sackville-West, who created her own garden at Sissinghurst.
Penelope Hobhouse took on the tenancy from the National Trust in the 80’s. It was while living here that Hobhouse developed her ideas on colour and became an internationally renowned garden designer and writer.
The garden has an orchard, productive kitchen garden, lawns, pools and fantastic topiary. Its sections include the Eagle Court, where box-hedge domes line the pathway, and the Pool Garden, with its summerhouse and its dyed blue reflective pond. A small tea room also serves cakes and teas.
Tintinhull is a garden with dramatic impact, but also a haven of quiet calm.
Barrington Court – 14 miles
Set against the picturesque backdrop of a restored Tudor manor and moat, these Gertrude-Jekyll-inspired gardens benefit from an emphasis on the colours and varieties of their plants, including roses, jasmine, honeysuckle and clematis. The Goose orchard and the walled kitchen garden supply the dining and tea rooms here, where you can taste the home-grown produce yourself.
Claverton Manor Gardens (American Museum), Bath – 42 miles
This museum of American culture boasts superb views, a café, extensive parkland and impressive gardens, chiefly the Mount Vernon Garden. With roses, seed house and white picket fence, it is based on George Washington’s garden on the Potomac River, Virginia, which he designed using plants and seeds from Bath.
Cothay Manor and Gardens, Greenham, near Wellington – 40 miles
This 15th century medieval manor house, possibly the finest example of its kind in the country, is surrounded by 12 acres of gardens, with self-contained garden rooms leading off a lengthy yew hedging walk. In April, the gardens come alive with thousands of white tulips, while there are also river trails and a meadow nearby.
Dunster Castle Garden, Dunster, near Minehead – 50 miles
This hillside Norman castle is the perfect setting for a garden visit, with plenty to see and plenty of walks. The views here are outstanding all round. From the castle, you can see across to Exmoor, the Quantocks and the Bristol Channel, while the subtropical gardens themselves are a visual treat, with palm trees and floral terraces.
Fyne Court, Broomfield, Bridgwater – 32 miles
Tucked into the Quantock Hills, Fyne Court was once the home of the Crosse family before its fiery destruction in1894. Today, the site is home to a wild garden and woodland walks on which you can encounter a variety of flora and fauna. Visitors can relax in the refurbished courtyard tea room, and there are several natural play areas for children, who can explore a play trail, climb trees, build dens or even play a giant game of Jenga.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Durslade Farm, Dropping Lane, Bruton – 18 miles
The Hauser & Wirth Somerset gallery and arts centre is also the home of Oudolf Field, a garden designed by the Dutch landscape architect Piet Oudolf. Set in a perennial meadow, the garden has both classical and informal aspects. Bordered by hedges, cut through by paths for visitors and framed by trees, this is a relaxing and scenic work of art.
Lytes Cary Manor, Lytes Cary Manor, near Somerton – 10 miles
Mediaeval Lytes Cary Manor was once the home of herbalist Henry Lyte and benefitted from a 20th century garden restoration by Sir Walter Jenner. The Arts and Crafts garden contains fine topiary, roses and colourful herbaceous borders, besides a medlar and quince orchard. There is also a well-stocked barn shop and a tea room offering light refreshments.
Somerset Lavender, Horsepond Farm, Faulkland – 34 miles
Between May and September, the two Lavender Fields here are a sight to see, with the lavender swarming with bees collecting pollen. There’s also the Lavender Garden, brimming with varieties of lavender, and a rose arbour. The Healing Garden contains herbs with medicinal value, such as camomile, mint and thyme, and the Flower and Vegetable Garden supplies the café, which also sells drinks, cakes and lunches.
The Bishop’s Palace Gardens, The Bishop’s Palace, Market Place, Wells – 23 miles
Behind a moat and ramparts, this peaceful 14-acre garden has plenty to see. An arboretum, herbaceous borders, roses, a waterfall and a Garden of Reflection, to name a few, to say nothing of the view from those ancient ramparts. Wonderfully presented and colourful, the Palace grounds also host theatrical, musical and mediaeval entertainment during the summer.
Newton Surmaville is a dream home for a large house party
…or an intimate gathering of family & friends with lots of different spaces for guests to enjoy both in the house and throughout the property.
The icing on the cake comes in the form of the wonderful staff, Harriet and Stuart, who maintain the house and grounds in immaculate condition and who are unfailingly attentive; their cooked breakfasts, eaten beside the flaming log fire and surrounded by historic objects, will live long in our memory. Whatever the occasion, be it a family holiday or a gathering of friends or colleagues, you can be sure of a warm welcome and an unforgettable experience at Newton Surmaville.
I was fortunate enough to celebrate my friend’s 50th birthday with a girl’s trip to this amazing home. Newton Surmaville combines the magnificence of an established country estate home with all the modern-day creature comforts. There are fruit orchards throughout the property where you can have your pick from apples, pears and plums. We enjoyed walking the property in the morning with our coffee and had cocktails every evening in the bar or in the upstairs library.
The fabulous bucolic views, stunning décor and top of the line linens made for the ultimate, relaxing trip which this stressed-out mom needed! We did some great antique shopping, ate some of the most amazing meals I’ve ever had and took a few day trips to visit the Roman baths and some surrounding historic estates.
I am hoping to return for a couples’ trip soon.
Staying at the Newton Surmaville House in Somerset was a once in a lifetime experience (but we hope to do it again as soon as possible). We were transported back to a period in time almost inconceivable to Americans, with all the amenities and comforts of modern day living — as a royal, that is. (Thanks, Harriet and Stuart!) The house is both grand and cozy, classical and contemporary, rustic and luxurious — and we nearly cried when we left.
Exploring the grounds outside the house was equally thrilling, with a rose garden to get lost in, a footpath along the River Yeo, and a meadow filled with grazing sheep. The surrounding towns Bruton, Bath, Stourhead were picturesque and fascinating, with wonderful architecture, gardens, museums, historic homes, antique stores, and restaurants to experience. To future visitors: whatever you do, don’t let your travel companions talk you out of seeing Stonehenge (like I did).
Our week stay at Newton Surmaville in Somerset was an absolute delight. The house is not only stunningly designed, but each room is cozy, inviting and perfect for time with friends, family or to just relax and enjoy a cup of tea. We also enjoyed walking the property, eating fresh fruit right off the vine and exploring the area all around the home. There are wonderful restaurants locally and many adorable towns to visit but everything we needed was right on property making our week both relaxing and fun.
We could not recommend this beautiful and historic home more and hope to come back for a visit again in the near future!