Amongst the great glories of England are its gardens, and English hotels are no less blessed. One enormous change over the past decade or so has been the advent – in response to the increasing demand for local produce – of the kitchen garden in every kind of hotel from luxury establishment to humble pub or bed and breakfast. All the hotels described here have fine examples, not least Gravetye Manor whose huge walled garden is a marvel in itself, but they also have flowers, shrubs and trees that stand out from the crowd, whether tropical as in Meudon Hotel, Cornwall, or encyclopedic as in the Herb Garden at Congham Hall, Norfolk. When hotels boast their facilities, they rarely trumpet a beautiful, flower-filled landscape in which to stroll and relax, but as they say at Hotel Endsleigh, with its wonderful Repton-designed grounds: “no, we don’t have a spa; a cup of tea in the garden is our spa”.
Gravetye Manor, West Hoathly, West Sussex
William Robinson, pioneer of natural planting, created the surpassingly beautiful gardens at Gravetye Manor in the late 19th century. Now under new ownership, they have been comprehensively revived and, thanks to head gardener Tom Coward and his team, are glorious once more. Most recently the Victorian peach house has been restored and replanted, while the magnificent kitchen garden is a model of its kind. The hotel is a haven of traditional comfort, good food and good taste, but it’s outside that you will want to be.
Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Great Milton, Oxfordshire
It’s not just a hotel and restaurant: it’s another country, a land of magnificent inter-connecting gardens, orchards, ponds and sculptures: the accomplished, munificent realm of one impassioned Frenchman, Raymond Blanc. His passion for cooking spills over into his passion for growing fruits and vegetables and the estate is as productive as it is lavish. Blanc’s refusal to follow fashion but to create instead an ‘eclectic classic’ has resulted in a truly individual hotel. ‘Everyone aspires to one moment of luxury: here is the place to have it,
Meudon Hotel, Mawnan Smith, Cornwall
A gentle, traditional, family-run hotel near Falmouth with an atmosphere of benign content and one very special asset: the most beautiful sub-tropical garden snaking from the house down a narrow valley and spilling on to its own divine private beach. Laid out in the 19th century, and restored after the Second World War by then owner Edith Lady Worley, the lush gardens are enough to keep one occupied all day, or you can stroll along the coast path to Helford.
Barnsley House, Barnsley, Gloucestershire
Until 2003 when it became a hotel, Barnsley House was the home of renowned horticulturalist Rosemary Verey. Nowadays, instead of paying to visit her celebrated four-acre garden for an hour or two, you can stay in her former home, now chic and luxurious, and enjoy the richly complex yet natural and abundant garden that she created during her lifetime at leisure. There are knot gardens, ornamental fruit and vegetables and much more, all melting into the surrounding Cotswold landscape. The all-white Potager restaurant takes in the view.
The Goring, Victoria, London
It’s not so much the quality of the Goring’s garden (though it is certainly lovely and beautifully kept) as the fact that it exists at all – a huge and unexpected private space in the centre of the city, never more welcome than in summer when guests arm themselves with mallets and do battle amongst the croquet hoops. Run by the same family for more than 100 years, the Goring is a bastion of Britishness and after a recent top-to-toe refurbishment including a glamourous new lobby, has never looked finer.
Howard’s House, Teffont Evias, Wiltshire
What better than to hunker down than in a charming house, surrounded by the prettiest of gardens set in the heart of an idyllic but little known village far from main roads? Sitting on the lovely wide terrace at Howard’s House, in a garden protected by an undulating topiary hedge and containing a magnificent ornamental crabapple amongst other trees, the only sounds you are likely to hear are of birdsong and the knock of croquet mallet on ball. Bedrooms are comfortable and the food is excellent.
Pen-y-Dyffryn, Rhydycroesau, Shropshire
If you prefer an informal, cottage-style garden rather than one on a grand scale, then head for this delightful, benign hotel in the lush, topsy-turvy landscape of the Shropshire borders with its steep hills and hidden valleys. Aubretia tumbles from stone walls, a pair of green wellies filled with primroses stands by the front door and a charming flower-filled garden, dotted with deck chairs, surrounds the Georgian former rectory. The view is entrancing and peace descends like a thick blanket.
Hotel Endsleigh, Milton Abbot, Devon
Endsleigh stands at the end of a mile-long drive in what feels like a secret valley. Jeffrey Wyatville built the cottage orné as a shooting lodge for the 6th Duke of Bedford in 1812, with gardens designed by Sir Humphrey Repton. When Olga Polizzi bought the property in 2004, the wonderful herbaceous and woodland gardens were in danger of being lost. Today they are as compelling, lovely and little changed as when they were first created, and the view from the terrace to the Tamar river below is unforgettable.
Congham Hall, Grimston, Norfolk
Anyone interested in culinary plants should make a beeline for Congham Hall, where the hotel’s renowned Herb Garden contains a collection of almost 400 varieties, including rare medicinal ones and many that can be used in cooking, including by the hotel’s chefs. Stroll around the Herb Garden (open to the public during the day) at dusk, when heady aromas scent the air. The hotel itself is a calm Georgian house with stylish interiors.
Millgate House, Richmond, Yorkshire
“Guests “, say Tim Culkin and Austin Lynch, proprietors of this exceptional guesthouse “are like cushions. They arrive a bit pummeled but we try to send them off plumped up again”. They also leave delighted by the beauty of the small but sensational garden, recently featured on Alan Tichmarsh’s Britain’s Best Gardens. In spring, many species of hellebore, snowdrop, aconite, crocus and narcissus carpet the ground and the garden’s all-important structure, including topiary holly and box, is plain to see. In summer, it’s awash with harmonious colour, including many varieties of rose. Inside the house, all is cosy, polished and welcoming.