Of course it wouldn’t be a holiday for me without visiting a garden or two. And North Devon has several, including one in Clovelly itself – Clovelly Court Gardens (entrance is included in the price to the village). Unfortunately the gardens closed at 4 p.m. so we were too late this time as we were still in the village. We did drive over to Marwood Hill Garden just north of Barnstaple where you will find beautiful gardens and lakes and a wonderful café which serves great cakes – we had a clotted cream tea with ginger scones! This is a garden which is beautiful in springtime – all the blossoms and bulbs and new leaf growth and you can easily spend a few hours here. The view from the tea-room across the valley is spectacular and it is famous for its collection of camellias. It is a fabulous garden in which to relax and enjoy the variety of unusual plants as well as the more familiar.
Head south to the RHS Rosemoor Garden near Great Torrington which is a magnificent garden with formal and informal areas, woodland walks, water features and open spaces. There is a fully licensed restaurant near the entrance to the garden, but my favourite is the Wisteria Tea-Room in Lady Anne’s Garden where you can indulge in a cream tea, cakes, hot and cold drinks and ice-cream. You can also stay here in one of the three apartments within the former home of Lady Anne Palmer offering unique access to the garden outside of opening hours if you are an RHS member. This would have been my first choice, but the dates we wanted had already been booked.
And finally do not forget to visit Hartland Abbey in the centre of the peninsula where you will find not only a beautiful house to look around (we didn’t as it was closed), but lovely woodland walks, a secret walled garden, and a bluebell wood along the path down to Blackpool Mill Cove. Built in the 12th century as a monastery it survived the dissolution by Henry VIII gifting it to his Keeper of the Wine Cellar. Today it is still the family home of Sir Hugh Stucley. Gertrude Jekyll (my favourite garden designer) was instrumental in creating the small meandering paths and terraces of the Bog garden, the Fernery and the Camellia garden which lie either side of the abbey. The “Ladies Walk” leads through woodland carpeted with wildflowers in spring to the four 18th century secret walled gardens. In spring the grounds are full of camellias, azaleas, rhododendrons, magnolias and bulbs. The paths in the “Baronet’s Bog Garden” lead through plantings of camellias, Cornish Red rhododendrons, massive gunnera, hostas, primulas, astilbe, zantedeschia (arum lilies), hydrangeas and the Victorian Fernery.
On the way to Blackpool Mill Cove you can walk through the bluebell wood along a restored 19th century path to the Gazebo where you have stunning views of the Atlantic. Bluebells, primroses and foxgloves can be seen in the springtime.