Cornwall gardens and historic houses

  • Cornish gardens are always a delight whatever the season,
    but when the magnolias are in bloom they are truly a sight to behold.
  • (Roy Lancaster, author, broadcaster and horticulturalist)

Exposed to the elements from the English Channel and The Atlantic’s prevailing south westerly’s and given that the vast granite uplands leave little room for anything other than heather and grasses, it may be surprising to know just how many Cornwall gardens and historic houses there are to visit! However, with uplands come lush green valleys, often with their own little micro climate.

Cornwall’s mining industry gave rise to a vast number of wealthy estates and has left the county with an amazing array of historic houses with wonderful gardens, woodlands and walks. Many of the vast estates became havens for the exotic plants bought back by intrepid explorers, which thrived in Cornwall’s unusually mild conditions.

It’s those conditions that bring forward the gardening seasons in Cornwall and have given rise to a campaign in the county to draw awareness to the early spring season. It is said that when the Magnolias bloom, Spring has arrived and this can be as early as February!

Historic houses and estates

Whatever the season, there will be an abundance of colour and fragrance to enjoy. From walled kitchen gardens to exotic sub-tropical ravines, from carpets of snow drops to valleys of bluebells, daffodils and onto camellias, hydrangeas and rhododendrons, Cornwall’s (often award winning) gardens and historic houses are bound to delight.

Houses and gardens closest to Porth (in distance order)

Trerice – Trerice’s Elizabethan Manor House and pretty gardens remain largely as they were in their heyday. Renown for its tranquility, discover tudor games and artefacts or join one of the living history days to find out what it really was like to be an Elizabethan in Cornwall. Bowling green, informal garden and Cornish orchard (National Trust). Kestle Mill, near Newquay TR8 4PG

The Japanese Garden and Bonsai Nursery – Beautiful 2 acre Japanese garden including a water garden and zen garden planted with Japanese maples, ornamental grasses and bamboo. Bonsai starter kits and ornaments on sale in the further one acre nursery. Open all year. St.Mawgan Village, Nr Newquay, TR8 4ET

boathouse on lake

Trewithen House & Gardens – Trewithen House’s unique architecture and RHS recommended garden is also a Camellia Society International Garden of Excellence with an iconic Magnolia Fountain. Raised platforms offer views of the floral canopies with a wildflower meadow, woodlands, champion trees and exotic fern collections. Spring displays of crocus, daffodils and scillas line the estate avenue. House open to the public on certain days. Truro TR2 4DD. Tel: 01726 883794

Prideaux Place – Prideaux Place is essentially a family mansion house, still inhabited today by Peter and Elisabeth Prideaux-Brune. Commissioned in 1592, the mansion survives complete with unique buildings such as the gothic double dairy and 18th century stable courtyard. Overlooking the Deer Park and Camel Estuary, it has also been used as a film location. Garden restoration continues today with the Victorian formal garden and Woodland Walks complimenting the decorative garden and Lime Avenue. Light lunches and cream teas are served in the tearoom. Padstow PL28 8RP

Lake with Bridge covered in Wisteria

Tregothnan Estate – The home of English flowers and English tea, Tregothnan is committed to only growing and supplying English products including tea and herbal infusions, jam from the orchard produce, honey from the estate bees and charcoal and wood products from the woodlands. The estate and tea plantation is only open for private garden visits or an Annual Charity Garden Weekend. Tresillian, Truro TR2 4AN

Vegetable garden early morning

Pine Lodge Gardens at Pinetum Park – A pinetum arboretum, waterfalls, ponds, shrubberies, a formal garden, a cottage garden, Japanese garden, lake and 3 acre winter garden with over 6,000 species of rare and unusual plants, all labelled. Many species available in the nursery. Tearooms and farm shop. St Austell PL25 3RQ

The Lost Gardens of Heligan – Internationally recognised reclaimed gardens on the Heligan Estate. Woodland walks with intriguing sculptures, jungle garden with palms and giant rhubarb amongst other exotics, an Italian formal garden, wildlife areas and a kitchen garden. Free entry to the tea room, shop and plant centre. Dog friendly and wheelchair accessible. Open daily all year round from 10am. Nr St Austell. Tel: 01726 845100

large image of the mud maid

Eden Project – Cornwall’s eco project bringing to life world climates, horticulture, food, art and music. Giant biomes house a jungle rainforest and sub-tropical plants along with a Mediterranean biome and a ‘Core’ centre for eduction. Seasonal events and activities include summer concerts and a winter ice rink. Bodelva, PL24 2SG

Pine Lodge Gardens, Trebah Gardens, The Lost Gardens of Heligan and the Eden Project all feature in our:

garden breaks rectangle

Burncoose Nursery and Gardens – Whatever time of year, the woodlands and flower garden at Burncoose will be brimming with blooms and buds. Dog friendly, the gardens are extensive and make for fantastic walks. Gold medal winners at Chelsea and other regional competitions, spring daffodils through to summer hydrangeas compliment the camellias, rhododendrons and ornamental trees. Guided tours available. Gwennap, Redruth TR16 6BJ

Pencarrow House – Historic Pencarrow with its 50 acres of parkland include Grade II listed formal gardens complete with a rock garden, ice house, lake and woodland. Used as a film location, guided tours around the Georgian mansion, private home to the Molesworth-St Aubyn family, will reveal porcelain and art collections. Dogs welcome (on leads around the gardens and house) and visitors are encouraged to pick their own soft fruit when in season. Café, gift and plant shop as well as children’s play and pet area. Bodmin PL30 3AG

Trelissick Garden – 30 acre garden on the edge of the Fal River with varied woodland planting, exotic perennials and a collection of photinia and azaleas. Over 375 acres of parkland with riverside and woodland trails make it a haven for walkers, with dogs allowed in the woodland areas only. Art and craft gallery, café and shop (National Trust). Feock, near Truro TR3 6QL

Heartlands – Sculptures, exhibitions, gardens and play areas at a World Heritage site. Redruth TR15 3QY Tel: 01209 722320

Water Garden

Tregrehan Gardens – Created over the last 200 years, the 20 acre woodland garden reflects the plantings of the Carlyon family with many specialist rare and unusual species and a collection of camellias. Tea room, no dogs allowed in the gardens. Par PL24 2SJ

Caerhays Estate – Home to a National Magnolia Collection, Caerhays 120 acres of woodland gardens centred around the castle includes many new plants and species. Essentially a spring garden with hybrid daffodil and rhododendrons, the castle and gardens are only open to the public from mid February to mid June. Gorran, St Austell PL26 6LY

Lanhydrock – Learn about life up and below stairs at the Victorian country house and 30 acre woodland estate. Spring shows of cream and white magnolias compliment the carpets of woodland wild flowers. Restaurant, museum and second hand bookshop. Opening onto wonderful countryside walks (National Trust). Bodmin, Cornwall, PL30 5AD

20 – 30 miles from Porth

Pinsla Garden & Nursery – 1 ½ acre artists cottage garden with specialist planting including ferns, shade plants, scented geraniums, cranesbills, perennials, acers, succulents, bedding, and bamboos. Garden advice and nursery with sculptures and garden furniture. Glynn, nr Cardinham, Bodmin PL30 4AY

Hidden Valley Gardens – Lose yourself in the 3 acre award winning Mediterranean borders and cottage garden beds, alive in summer with the ‘hot beds’ of dahlias and sunflowers. Pick your own strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and tayberries amongst the fruit trees. Dog friendly. Par PL24 2TU

Lamorran House Gardens – 4 acres of Mediterranean style garden overlooking Falmouth Bay bursting with sub-tropical plants and over 500 varieties of azaleas. Highlights include watergardens and terraces full of palms as well as a grotto and waterfall in the Japanese garden. St Mawes TR2 5BZ

Trebah Gardens – 25 acres of sub-tropical ravine gardens leading down to a beach on the Helford River. Marvel at the heights of the Australian tree ferns and palms and enjoy a year round array of displays. Trebah is rated as one of the top 80 gardens to visit in the world and also boasts an award winning Visitor Centre with a restaurant, terrace, gift and plant shops. Dog friendly with play trails and play areas for children. Nr Falmouth. Tel: 01326 252200

Glendurgan Garden – The sub-tropical gardens situated on the Helford River over 3 valleys are noted for their spring magnolias and camellias. Using Pinus Pinasta as wind breaks there are many rare shrubs, several orchards and exotic jungle. An iconic cherry laurel maze and wild flower carpeted valley runs down to the beach at Durgan. Children will enjoy ‘The Giant’s Stride’ swing. Tearooms. Mawnan Smith, near Falmouth TR11 5JZ

Godolphin – National Trust medieval gardens and historic house which was one of the most important in Europe in its heyday. Walk through the estate to see the remains of the Leeds Engine House and stack in the strange undulating landscape, a result of the Godolphin family mine. Look over St Ives Bay and St Michael’s Mount or take a riverside walk and visit the tearooms. Godolphin Cross, Helston, Cornwall, TR13 9RE

30+ miles from Porth

Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens – art installations woven through exotic and sub-tropical plants in the valley, wood and stream. Lime Tree Café provides locally sourced fresh and seasonal snacks and dishes. Gallery, shop and deli. Nr Gulval, Penzance TR20 8YL

Trewidden Garden – 15 acre garden including a large camellia and magnolia collection. rare and champion trees and shrubs as well as plant sales and refreshments. Buryas Bridge, Penzance TR20 8TT

Tregwainton – 25 acres with spectacular views across Mount’s Bay. Wooded paths, a stream, and a magnificent series of walled gardens full of many unusual species bought back by intrepid plant explorers and then hybridised. Children’s trails and tearoom. (National Trust). Madron, near Penzance, Cornwall, TR20 8RZ

Antony – The location for Tim Burton’s ‘Alice In Wonderland’ and one of the finest Queen Anne houses in the West Country, step back in time to the era of the Civil War, now home to the Carew Pole family. Art, gardens and sculptures including a National Collection of Daylilies, formal gardens with topiary, a knot garden and woodland garden. Torpoint  PL11 2QA

Cotehele Manor and Cotehele Mill – Built between 1485 and 1627 the Tudor house beside the River Tamar, was home to The Edcgcumbe family. Formally planted terraces look over the Valley garden with its medieval dovecote, stewpond, orchards, Victorian summerhouse and tower. Historic quayside buildings sit by the restored family sailing barge. Surrounded by countryside walks, Cotehele Mill can be reached through the Morden Valley where freshly ground wholemeal flour can be purchased on milling days and is also used in the estates restaurants (National Trust). St Dominick, near Saltash, PL12 6TA

Mount Edgcumbe Country Park – Restored to 18th century splendour, the house was home to the Earls of Mount Edgcumbe for 400 years and set in some 865 acres of parkland on the Rame Peninsula. The Grade 1 listed gardens include English, Italian, French, American and New Zealand along with a deer park. Wonderful woodland and coastal walks, several tearooms and restaurant, Adventure Segway and Disc Golf. Cremyll, Torpoint, PL10 1HZ

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