Britain’s Gardens: The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall

There is a garden for everyone in Britain, as this nation of garden lovers offers some of the most famous green spaces in the world. One of the most loved garderns is Cornwall’s  The Lost Gardens of Heligan, voted as “The Nation’s Favourite Garden” by BBC Gardeners’ World viewers.  This stunning Cornish valley garden offers a year round experience for its visitors.

Heligan – Cornish for Willow Tree – was first mentioned in the 12th century as being an estate owned by the Ardundell family and changed hands a number of times up until the 20th century when the Tremayne family took over the estate.  With the outbreak of the First World War, the Heligan estate went into decline. Sixteen out of twenty gardeners perished during the War and the gardens fell into a serious state of neglect. In 1970, the Tremayne family decided to sell the Heligan house as flats and the gardens were lost to sight until 1992, when John Willis inherited the gardens. John took Tim Smit, John Nelson and Robert Poole on an adventure and chopped their way through the wilderness that once was a garden. They decided to restore the gardens to its former glory. Throughout the restoration, the project was filmed by Channel 4 as the subject of a six part television series. The gardens were unveiled to the public in 1992 and the restoration project was hailed by The Times as “the garden restoration of the century”.

The 200 acre site offers visitors the Northern Garden, the Jungle, the Wider Estate, the Horsemoor hide interpretation centre and Heligan Wild. Discover the romantic Victorian productive gardens with their amazing plant collections, exotic glasshouses, a two-acre productive kitchen garden, a series of walled gardens, a 22-acre sub-tropical garden called the Jungle and a 30-acre Lost Valley including ponds and lakes! Step into the Jungle garden (you can easily be in New Zealand) with its Maori-carved tree ferns, banana plants and bamboo tunnels or explore the Italian Garden and Alpine inspired Ravine. Discover The Giant’s Head, Grey Lady and Mud Maid along the Woodland Walk. There is something to please everyone! You can also purchase the gorgeous plants that can be found in the gardens at the gift shop. Furthermore, you can enjoy a picnic in the picnic areas of the Garden or you can visit the Tearoom for a morning coffee, light home-made lunch and Cornish cream tea. The inspirational Lost Gardens is truly a living museum and so much more than a restored garden!

The Lost Gardens of Heligan are open all year round from 10am to 5pm in winter time (1st October to 31st March). The tearoom is open from 9:30am and the Heligan Shop and Plant from 10am to 5pm (Sundays from 11am to 5pm). There may be specific restrictions due to ongoing restoration work or adverse weather conditions. You can find details of these restrictions on the daily notice board.

Tickets are £12 for adults, £10 for seniors, £6 for children (5-16), free for children under 5 and £30 for family tickets (2 adults and up to 3 children). Entrance to the Heligan Shop and Tearoom is free as well as parking. Visiting the nearby Eden Project as well? Make sure you pick up a 25% discount voucher at the ticket office!

If you are looking for a retreat after a long day of strolling around the gardens of Heligan, stay at the lovely Cornwall Hotel (situated only 10 minutes from The Gardens of Heligan by car). This spectacular 4-star addition to the Cornish hotel scene nestles within a mature 43-acre Victorian woodland estate just south of St Austell, adjacent to many of Cornwall’s main attractions. Stylish contemporary Woodland Rooms offer spacious accommodation, modern open plan and traditional en-suites and generous balconies with spellbinding views across the Estate’s sweeping parkland to the Pentewan Valley beyond. Unwind in the sauna and aroma steam room or just relax with a good book in the juice bar. Whether you fine-dine at The Arboretum or try the informal Acorns Brasserie, you will savour the authentic taste of the finest Cornish ingredients.

Alternatively, you can stay at the wonderful Anchorage House. Set in an acre of beautifully landscaped gardens at the end of a private drive near St Austell, Anchorage House is surely one of the finest B&Bs in Cornwall. Treat yourself to a pre-breakfast or pre-dinner swim in the 15 metre indoor swimming pool, a soak in the outdoor hot tub or a gym session followed by relaxation in the sauna. Breakfast at Anchorage House is a treat – the ingredients are fresh, the food is scrumptious and there are lots to choose from – as well as being award winning (with awards from both the AA and Visit Britain). Nearby you will find the best Cornwall has to offer. The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Carlyon Bay, the tall ships at Charlestown and lovely Fowey are all within 15 minutes away by car and just a bit further afield (but under an hour away) are such classics as Lanhydrock house, Lands End, Lizard Penninsula, St. Michael’s Mount, Bodmin Moor, Newquay, Padstow, St. Ives and Tintagel Castle, not to mention delightful walks along the coastal paths.

Have a great time exploring The Lost Gardens of Heligan!

Flowers, Pumpkins, Jungle and Kitchen Garden image by Hannah Hawke, Sleeping Goddess image by Loco Steve and the Garden image by Philip Sheldrake.