Experience the breathtaking beauty of the Lake District – recently awarded prestigious World Heritage Site status – and the unique allure of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, with its rolling green valleys criss-crossed by ancient, dry-stone walls. Famous works of literature and art that owe their existence to inspiration found in the north of England give you a sense of the natural beauty on show. Beatrix Potter, William Wordsworth and Arthur Ransome found their creative voices amid the stunning Lakeland scenery, whilst the Bronte Sisters and James Herriot discovered theirs in Yorkshire. Artists such as JMW Turner, David Hockney, Henry Moore and John Ruskin favoured the north and captured the charms of the landscape in their works.
Numerous stately homes and gardens add to the north’s rich heritage (Castle Howard pictured above). As well as being of architectural importance, many of these treasure houses contain significant art collections and act as living museums offering an insight into the past. The gardens, too, reveal layers of history: from Levens Hall – England’s oldest garden, to the contemporary Scampston Walled Garden – a leader in the new perennial movement.
The historic city of York will charm you with its winding medieval streets, awe-inspiring Gothic Cathedral and almost complete city walls, from which you can admire a city founded more than 2,000 years ago. From the Irish Sea in the west, to the North Sea in the east, traverse the full width of England, delve into its fascinating past, and refresh your spirits amid the beautiful gardens.
Lake Windermere, The Lake District
Probably the best known lake in the country, at 10.5 miles in length and one mile wide, Windermere is the largest natural lake in England and is fed by numerous rivers. The Romans built their fort of Galava at its northern end (Waterhead) and it has always been an important waterway for the movement of heavy materials. The best way to enjoy the lake is to take one of the traditional wooden launches which call at various points along the shore.
The immaculate 25-acre gardens at Holker Hall are part formal, part woodland and feature cascades, wildflower meadows, a labyrinth and some inspirational planting combinations. The Holker lime tree is designated as one of The Tree Council’s 50 Great British Trees and is thought to be 400 years old. The red sandstone neo-Elizabethan stately home is surrounded by some 17,000 acres of ancient park and woodland and has been in the Cavendish family since 1756. www.holker.co.uk
The world-famous topiary displays at Levens Hall have been largely unchanged since the garden was laid out in the 1690s. There are more than 90 pieces of topiary, under planted with thousands of colourful annuals. The eccentric shapes, along with the rose garden, fountain garden, nuttery and herbaceous borders are carefully managed by head gardener, Chris Crowder, who is just the tenth in the job in over 300 years! www.levenshall.co.uk
Harewood House is as grand as they come – Palladian mansion, Chippendale furniture, Adam interiors, Capability Brown landscapes, Italianate terrace, and a world-class collection of paintings. Recently used extensively in the filming of ITV’s Victoria, Harewood tops the chart for grandeur. Harewood House is home to some of the most outstanding pieces of Chippendale furniture ever produced. To celebrate the 300th anniversary of Chippendale’s birth, a series of exhibitions and displays will demonstrate and take inspiration from his brilliance as a designer, maker and decorator this spring. harewood.org
Without doubt, Newby Hall is one of Britain’s finest examples of an ‘Adams House’ with its exceptional 18th century interior decoration and Chippendale furniture. The gardens, mostly laid out in the 1920s, feature one of the longest double herbaceous borders in the country, with far reaching views to the river beyond. It is an absolute treat, as is their superb, national Cornus collection. Newby Hall is also home to one of the finest collections of dolls’ houses and miniatures in the world. www.newbyhall.com
Hill Top was Beatrix Potter’s home for more than 30 years and is now owned by the National Trust. You’ll recognise many features of the house and the surrounding countryside, when you visit, as Potter wrote her whimsical tales from here and based the illustrations in some of her books on the cottage garden, farm and surrounding hills. She instructed the National Trust that the house be presented as if she’d just popped out, with all her belongings in their original place – it remains utterly charming. nationaltrust.org.uk/hill-top
Contemporary design and perennial meadow planting by Piet Oudolf are combined in this stunning 4.5-acre garden. This walled, plantsman’s paradise sits beside the fine regency Scampston House and is surrounded by historic Capability Brown landscape gardens.
A hidden gem in the open expanses of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Parcevall Hall is a private retreat for the Dioceses of West Yorkshire and the Dales and has a uniquely serene air about it. The gardens, inspired by the Arts & Crafts movement, were the creation of Sir William Milner in the 1920s. An architect, garden designer and plantsman, Milner nurtured an extensive plant collection and developed a rock garden, without compare, on the natural limestone pavement of the Dales. parcevallhall.org.uk
Horace Walpole said nobody had ever told him that “at one view I should see a palace, a town, a fortified city, temples on high places, woods worthy of being each a metropolis of Druids, vales connected to hills by other woods, the noblest lawn in the world fenced by half the horizon and a mausoleum that would tempt one to be buried alive; in short I have seen gigantic places before, but never a sublime one.” Over 300 years later, few would quibble at this description of Castle Howard – better known to some as the setting of Brideshead Revisited. This extraordinary baroque mansion took 100 years to complete and sits in the beautiful Howardian hills. castlehoward.co.uk
The most northerly garden in the care of the Royal Horticultural Society, Harlow Carr never fails to impress. With areas such as the fruit garden, kitchen garden, winter garden, scent garden and alpine houses, alongside meadow, stream and woodland, the variety of terrain is remarkable. You are rewarded at the end of your visit with a cream tea at Betty’s – Yorkshire’s finest café. RHS Harlow Carr is connected to the historic spa town of Harrogate by a beautiful walk through the town’s Victorian Valley Gardens, which contain no less than 36 different mineral springs. rhs.org.uk/gardens/harlow-carr
Keen to visit?
There is no better way to experience the north of England than with Sisley Garden Tours – the UK’s leading garden tour specialists with expert guides, exclusive visit small groups, a relaxed pace, high-end hotels and superb service. Click here to find out more and to book your tour: sisley.co.uk
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