Explore idyllic gardens at historic houses this spring
Landscaped gardens, cascading countryside and perfect spots for a picnic – here’s our pick of the best grounds and gardens to visit now.
Whether you’re a lover of flora and fauna, looking for a breathtaking view or simply in search of the perfect location for a picnic, these historic houses all have fantastic outdoor spaces for a day spent getting back to nature.
Explore lovingly maintained and curated gardens, take a long wander through the countryside or catch up with a pal in a stunning location.
From the Italian-inspired gardens at Ickworth to the symmetrical flower beds at Audley End House, these are our favourite outdoor spots to visit now.
Remember that many venues now require booking ahead, and have additional measures in place for your safety – be sure to check their websites before visiting, and enjoy your day out.
While many venues are currently charging set prices for entry to their gardens, you can look forward to your usual National Art Pass benefits when their houses and indoor spaces reopen.
Looking as though it’s been plucked straight from the set of tantalising period drama Bridgerton, Ham House sits majestically on the bank of the River Thames. This atmospheric 17th-century house is widely thought to be one of the most haunted spots in Britain, but the ghosts have got nothing on the gorgeous variety of flowers that burst from the ground come spring, including crocuses, poppies, daisies and tulips. Combine a wander through the colourful flower beds, kitchen gardens and charming summerhouses with a stroll along the Thames.
Ham House and Garden is open. Check their website for more details and to book.
Prepare for an unusual sight as you approach Powis Castle, as this dominating medieval fortress appears to rise from the depths of a delicate garden. The front of the castle is lined with giant sculpted hedges and the gardens fan out in layers beneath it, home to rare shrubs, plants and original lead statues. You’d be forgiven for thinking this powerful structure could have inspired the Beast’s castle in Beauty and the Beast. The deer park is perfect for a stroll and a spot of photography, while the ‘wilderness’ offers an incredible view of the house and gardens from afar.
Powis Castle and Garden is open. Check their website for more details and to book.
- West Yorkshire
Sunshine-yellow daffodils and purple hyacinths dominate the flower beds at Nostell's grand house in spring. If you’re looking for a burst of colour, you won't be disappointed as different blooms and scents evolve year-round with the seasons. The spectacular parkland and gardens also boast wildflower meadows and peaceful lakes – plenty of spots to set up for a picnic or dive into a spring read.
Nostell Priory is open. Check their website for more details and to book.
The seemingly effortless landscape of Compton Verney is a product of leading 18th-century landscape artist Capability Brown, who replaced the house’s formal gardens with expansive grassland and an array of trees in the mid-1700s. The result today is a glorious countryside woodland with unbeatable views, lakes, deer and huge areas for exploring. Several points around the gardens provide an optimal view of the house itself, and outdoor artwork will often pop up in various nooks and crannies.
Compton Verney is open. Check their website for more details and to book.
The Italianate gardens at Ickworth are unique in the UK, combining the English rose with classic Italian charm. Sculpted trees, evergreen planting and unusual shrubs are all highlights. A colourful spectrum of flowers pops up around the rotunda in spring, while snowdrops scatter the ground in winter, and there's even an all-weather trail to explore year-round plus adorable farm animals onsite.
Ickworth House, Park and Gardens is open. Check their website for more details and to book.
The grounds at Audley End House are home to a stable full of horses you can visit, large lakes and spacious parks. Special highlights here include a memorial garden dedicated to the Polish resistance soldiers of the Second World War and a symmetrical patterned garden (or ‘parterre’) restored by Capability Brown. There’s an endless selection of secluded, tree-covered spots to take in the beauty of the gardens or set up camp for a picnic.
Audley End House and Gardens is open. Check their website for more details and to book.
Explore serpentine paths and botanical delights in the Woodland Garden, ornamental water features, statues, temples, follies and an abundance of wildlife, all in Castle Howard's impressive grounds. The castle’s exterior was even used in the previously mentioned Bridgerton – so you can feel like a duke or duchess for a day, in the gardens of this stunning family home.
Castle Howard is open. Check their website for more details and to book.
- Greater Manchester
Ever wondered where Elizabeth Bennet met Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice? The reflecting lake at Lyme Park of course! Surrounded by rolling countryside, the dazzling Italianate palace at Lyme Park has an English rose garden, deer park and moorlands perfect for fantastic walks and views. Perhaps your one true love is waiting at the water’s edge...
Lyme Park is open. Check their website for more details and to book.
Possibly England’s most spectacular ‘lake house’, Brantwood is the former home of prolific writer John Ruskin. The historical Lakeland estate includes eight gardens lovingly designed in different horticultural styles and offers stunning views across Coniston Water. This dream writer’s home will fill you with creative ideas, while the experimental gardens might inspire you to try your hand at planting something of your own.
Brantwood is open. Check their website for more details and to book.
- West Yorkshire
With its own farm, home to over 400 animals including a large collection of rare breeds, the historic Temple Newsam House is surrounded by scenic parkland. There are nature trails, cycle paths and even horse riding on offer here, with lakes dotted all over a rolling park perfect for picturesque walks.
Temple Newsom House is open. Check their website for more details.