Caerhays Castle and Gardens
Nestled in a sheltered valley between Truro and St Austell, Caerhays castle and gardens really makes the most of the beautiful coast of South Cornwall.
With only a handful of gardeners to keep the lawns tidy, plants watered and flowers blooming, the gardens at Caerhays are an incredible feat of love and devotion to the Great Outdoors. This is the ideal place to let little ones run wild (safely) or take a romantic stroll along the quiet footpaths with your beau.
The Caerhays site has existed since 1370 but the estate as we know it now was created in the 20th century. The ‘castle’ was built in the early 19th century and then restored. It was always intended to be a family home and plays host to the Williams family who bought the estate almost 150 years ago. The gardens were created at the turn of the 20th century, flourishing from the adventures of Victorian Plant Hunters who brought back a number of exotic plants from their journeys abroad.
I had the pleasure of touring the house before exploring the gardens. The house is beautiful, featuring architecture from John Nash who also designed parts of Buckingham Palace. Every step of the way there’s a new story to be told with a different object to look at. The most impressive section of the tour is a museum filled with historical artefacts and geological specimens from Cornwall and around the world. The tour took approximately an hour and is a good introduction to the history of the Caerhays estate. As you walk out into the gardens, you can almost imagine what this might have looked like and how the land has changed over time.
Stepping out into the gardens was glorious. On a sunny day the plants, flowers and trees really come to life. The colours glow where the light hits them. As I was there in May, the gardens were fairly quiet. Once you enter there are four paths to follow, all of different lengths, meaning that people disperse along the pathways so you can take a private turn around the estate with your other half or with the kids in tow.
After exploring the gardens, head back to your car parked at the bottom of the estate to grab a swimsuit and go for a quick paddle on Porthluney beach. If you’ve come for the morning, you might want to pack a picnic for eating on the sand while the kids play in the waves.
Caerhays Castle and Gardens are open from February to the middle of June each year. House tours run at set times throughout the day, changing with the season.
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Caerhays Castle and Gardens is located in a sheltered valley overlooking Porthluney Cove on the south Cornish coast halfway between Truro and St. Austell. The gardens and castle are open to the public from mid Feburary to mid June.
Why you should visit:
- Take a guided tour of the Castle to delve further into its outstanding English Heritage
- 120 acres of beautiful woodland gardens
- Home to a National Magnolia Collection
- The gardens are a spring-time wonderland for visitors
- The Williams family have played an immense part in the introduction of new plants into their everyday gardens
- The support provided to the intrepid plant hunters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the care and attention lavished on the plants and seeds brought back, along with the hybridising program which still exists today,mean that Caerhays Castle Garden will continue to not only maintain and care for the older plants but will produce many new varieties in the future
- Beautiful Caerhays beach nearby
The surrounding parkland and woodland gardens were created in the main from the discoveries of the plant hunters in China shortly after the turn of the 20th century. Since then a great deal of hybridisation work and especially the creation of the first x williamsii camellias, has taken place at Caerhays to create the extensive woodland gardens which visitors can admire and enjoy today. Caerhays is very much a spring garden and is at its best in March, April and May. The castle, where the family still live is only open for more limited periods so please do check opening times carefully.
The historical gardens have been created around a grand castle built by John Nash in 1808. Since 1370 only two families have resided here, and when the Williams family took over 150 years ago it was little more than a dilapidated castle surrounded by a deer park.
It is the informal woodland garden that makes this an exciting horticultural hotspot. Created by J.C. Williams, who sponsored plant-hunting expeditions to China at the turn of the 19th Century, the gardens are the result of some of the first adventurous plant-hunting missions to Asia.
Williams was big fan of daffodil breeding, and much of his hybridisation technique derived from the pioneering methods being experimented with at the time. When Caerhays was chosen as one of the key places to test the survival of new varieties of rhododendrons coming over from China, Williams supported further plant-hunting missions that inspired the radiant blooms that can be found flourishing in the garden today.
The biggest cluster of rhododendrons now adorns a big quarry at the base of the hill, and the national magnolia collection is so prolific it now consists of over 450 types and is one of the most important collections in the British Isles.
Noted not only for boasting staggering plots of camellias, magnolias and rhododendrons, Caerhays is rich in all of the common Asiatic shrubs, and is considered a spectacular spot by the even the highest calibre of plantsman.
Follow one of four marked woodland trails for some fantastic walking.