Gardens & Manor Houses
Athelhampton House & Gardens, Dorset
Athelhampton’s history and that of its inter-related families covers more than a thousand years. Much of the present house has stood for over five centuries.
Sir William Martyn built the Hall at Athelhampton in about the year of 1485 and received a license to enclose 160 acres of deer park and fortify his manor. The house remained in the Martyn family for the next 4 generations when the house was then passed to four daughters, the shares of the house were not re-united until 1848 and through successive owners the house was eventually purchased by Alfred Cart de Lafontaine in 1891, who set about restoring the house and creating the formal gardens we see today.
In 1957, Robert Victor Cooke purchased the house, and in 1966 he gave Athelhampton to his son Sir Robert Cooke MP. Today Sir Robert’s son Patrick and his wife Andrea run Athelhampton and continue to improve and renovate the House and Gardens to protect it for generations to come.
Tel: 01305 848363 Website: Athelhampton House & Gardens.
Sculpture By The Lakes
Pallington Lakes, Dorchester, Dorset DT2 8Q Described as one of the most beautiful and unique sculpture parks in the United Kingdom, Sculpture by the Lakes marries the soft beauty of nature’s wild river landscape with the more formal presentation of monumental outdoor sculpture. It is that combination of art and landscape that inspires Sculpture by the Lakes. Whether it is work on a monumental scale that relates to its environment, or smaller works, the sculptures of Simon Gudgeon are perfectly placed in the delicately nurtured natural landscape to visually enhance their surroundings. The effect is a balance, a harmony of form and context where the experience is central. Without walls, without interpretation, each person can engage with the art and the ever-changing environment. Online booking essential Website: Sculpture By The Lakes
Kingston Lacy, Dorset
Home of the Bankes family for more than 300 years, this striking 17th-century house is noted for its lavish interiors. The outstanding art collection includes paintings by Rubens, Van Dyck, Titian and Brueghel, with the largest private collection of Egyptian artefacts in the UK. Outside, stroll across the beautiful lawns towards the restored Japanese tea garden. There are several waymarked walks through the surrounding parkland, with its fine herd of North Devon cattle, and the 3,443-hectare (8,500-acre) estate is dominated by the Iron Age hill fort of Badbury Rings, home to fourteen varieties of orchid.
- Outstanding art collection, including works by Rubens and Titian.
- View the restored Guido Reni fresco in Library.
- Explore the Edwardian Japanese Gardens.
'Putting the House to Bed' tours in November, bookings only. Throughout the year: farmers' markets, open-air theatre, tractor trailer tours, children's Victorian craft and 'Above and Below Stairs'. Tel: 01202 883402 Website: Kingston Lacy.
Abbotsbury Sub tropical Gardens & Tea Room
After the great storm of 1990, a major restoration project has been underway. Many new exotic and unusual flowers have been introduced to this fabulous Dorset Garden.
The Garden is a mixture of formal and informal flowers, world famous for it's Camellia groves and magnolias. Noted in Dorset for its Rhododendron and Hydrangea collections and the charming Victorian Garden.
Facilities include the Colonial Restaurant, a quality gift shop and a superb plant centre where many of the flowers grown in the Garden can be purchased.
Tel:01305 871387 Website: Abbotsbury Gardens
Forde Abbey & Gardens Grade II*, near Chard
30 acres of gardens with a cascade of ponds, including the highest powered fountain in England, surround this 12th Century former monastery. Herbaceous borders, Bog Garden, Rockery, mature Arboretum and working walled kitchen garden. Plantings and landscaping date from early 18th Century.
Gardens open daily.
Tel: 01460 220231 Website: Forde Abbey.
The Blue Pool, near Corfe Castle
The Blue Pool constantly varies in colour. Very fine clay in suspension in the water diffracts light in different ways, producing a spectrum of colour sometimes green sometimes turquoise.
The Pool is surrounded by 25 acres of heath, woodland and gorse interlaced with sandy paths that seem to take you to another world. There are steps down to the edge of the Pool, and on some paths around the Pool. But there is also a flat route around the Pool for the less energetic. It is a place of peace and tranquillity, and the lush vegetation around the Pool is inhabited by squirrels, rabbits, badgers and deer. A visitor may also be lucky to spot a Dartford Warbler, Dragonflies or a Green Sand Lizard. There are benches all around the pool at strategic points, for people to just sit and rest, or to contemplate the ever-changing colour of the water in the pool.
Tel:01929 551 408 Website: The Blue Pool
Kingston Maurward Gardens, Dorchester Grade II*
C18 Mansion with contemporary parkland and pleasure gardens. Estate purchased 1914 by Sir Cecil Hanbury, whose father created La Mortola in Italy. The formal gardens consist of a matrix of small gardens, each with its own theme. Lakeside walks and a delightful walled garden. National Collections of Penstemon and Salvia.
Garden and Animal Park open daily 10am-5.30pm Jan 5th to Dec 21st.
Tel: 01305 215000 Website: Kingston Maurward Gardens
RSPB Arne Nature Reserve
This is an unusual and special landscape where you can enjoy a vast expanse of open heathland and old oak woodland. Arne is a fantastic place for nature walks at any time of year.
There is a variety of special wildlife to see. In summer look out for Dartford warblers nesting in the heather, nightjars flying at dusk and as many as 22 species of colourful dragonflies. The reserve overlooks Poole Harbour where you can watch thousands of wading birds, ducks and geese including avocets, black-tailed godwits and brent geese in winter. Ospreys are regularly seen on migration in late summer and in autumn.
In April 2009 a new eco-friendly information centre was constructed. Complete with seasonal nest cameras, a ‘nature table’ where visitors can find out more about the wildlife at Arne, a wood burner, information about the reserve, and a hot drinks machine where visitors can purchase drinks with all profits going back into our conservation work. RSPB staff organise a range of guided walks and events to help you see some of our most exciting species.
Tel: 01929 553360 Website: RSPB Arne
Durlston Country Park, Swanage
Situated in the south-east corner of the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, a mile south of Swanage, lies Durlston Country Park. 280 acres of very special countryside.
The Country Park was established in the 1970s by Dorset County Council, and 30 years of careful management by the Ranger team have resulted in a superb site that everyone can enjoy. Durlston Castle was restored in 2011 to become a spectacular new facility for visitors to Durlston and the Jurassic Coast.
Few places in Britain equal Durlston: The bare statistics merely hint at the amazing diversity of wildlife: 33 species of breeding butterfly, over 250 species of bird recorded, 500 wildflowers, 500 moths and thousands of other invertebrates. Durlston's special qualities stem from a combination of geography, geology, history and careful management which has created a mosaic of nationally important wildlife habitats: sea-cliffs, downs, ancient meadows, hedgerows, woodland, and dry-stone walls, each with their characteristic plants and animals.
Tel: 01929 424 443 Website: Durlston Country Park
Minterne Gardens, Dorchester
We are delighted to welcome you to Minterne House, home of the Churchill and Digby families since 1620. It is our pleasure to share with you this magnificent house, its history and unique gardens that lie in this tranquil valley setting in the heart of Dorset.
The Minterne Valley was landscaped in the manner of Capability Brown in the 18th Century. The gardens are laid out in a horseshoe below Minterne House, with a chain of small lakes, waterfalls and streams. They contain an unique collection of Himalayan Rhododendrons and Azaleas, with Spring bulbs, Cherries, Maples and many fine and rare trees; the garden is noted for its Autumn colouring.
Tel: 01300 341370 Website: Minterne Gardens