Top Ten Gardens in Cornwall

Posted on February 13, 2019

With the sunniest and mildest climate in the UK, Cornwall is a great place to spend bright days lounging on beaches and enjoying the warm (ish!) waters. However, this divine climate also gives Cornwall something else to offer – some of the finest subtropical gardens in the country, and indeed the world. The Forever Cornwall team spend days wandering around these gardens, letting the scent of exotic plants fill our nostrils and the array of blossom colours delight us – purely for research purposes so we can recommend them to guests! As a result of our research, we’ve collated a list of our favourite gardens to lose yourself in this spring and summer…

1. Trebah Garden

If you can drag yourself away from the delights served in the Trebah Restaurant, you’ll be greeted by what appears to be an exotic wonderland. With kids trails to follow, a water garden, a pond that is home to some of the biggest Koi Carp you’ve ever seen and a plethora of immaculately cultivated flora. Watch cormorants dive in the lake or take a trip through the gunnera passage – a natural tunnel to marvel at. Wander along the winding paths as the gardens gently tumble down to the beach at the bottom. Discover a place where D-Day tanks rolled onto ships – the paving of which you can still see today. Indulge in Cornish ice cream from the beach cafe, and keep your eyes peeled for bits of flint, washed down what is now the River Fal during the ice age. As you head back up through the ‘bamboozle’, watch out for the loch ness monster, and be sure to stop off at Tarzan’s Den – and make full use of the zip line! Trebah is such a wonderful place for a day out, in the sunshine or rain, it’s a must visit.

Nearby retreats: An Skiber, all Kestle Barton homes, Pentreath

Trebah Gardens, The Helford

© Matt Jessop

2. Caerhays Castle Gardens

A visit to these distinguished castle grounds in spring is a must. Take a stroll down towards the sea and look back at the impressive castle, framed with a backdrop of breathtaking rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias. The gardens are only open from mid-February to early-June, as things start to come to life – including the National Magnolia Collection that Caerhays is home to. Prebook a guided tour of the Grade II listed estate with one of the gardeners to discover the history of the grounds and thoroughly explore the pathways that ramble down to the sheltered beach and over the farmland. Amongst the magnolias, you can discover an array of other plants that have originated from China – including the hybrid Williamsii Camellia, named after the J C Williams who originally developed the well-manicured gardens back in the  19th Century.

Nearby retreats: On the edge of the Roseland, Caerhays is a bit of drive wherever you’re coming from. From any of our Newquay properties, it’s around a 45 minute drive.

Caerhays castle gardens

© Caerhays Estate

3. Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens

Tremenheere is a truly unique space, just outside of Penzance. The sculpture gardens, gallery, restaurant and shop are easy to spend a day at, whatever the weather. The gallery showcases the work of local and international artists, as do the subtropical gardens. Stroll through the exotic plants and marvel at the installations – from James Turell’s Sky Space to David Nash’s Black Mound. The sculptures sit perfectly amongst the fauna of the gardens, and you can feel yourself relax with the backdrop of trickling water features, views out to St. Michael’s Mount and the perfume of exotic plants. The gardens and gallery open from mid-February until late summer (visit their website for exact dates), and the restaurant is open all year round – this is a truly unique garden experience and one we thoroughly recommend.

Nearby retreats: Artist’s Retreat, St. Clement’s House, North Wing, Kiln Cottage, The View, plus all St. Ives homes.

Pagoda View Tremenheere

© Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens

4. Long Cross Gardens

These Victorian gardens, despite being the only public gardens on the North Coast, go largely under the radar of both visitors and residents. The North Coast is famous for its waves – thanks to the strong winds that often blow in off the Atlantic. This means that poor Longcross Gardens get battered with one hundredweight of salt, per acre, per year. The construction of the gardens has been developed to combat this, and you can stroll the narrow walkways lined with neat hedgerows or enjoy the water features amongst the rhododendrons and cherry blossom. The gardens are only small, but their original Victorian gardens, decking look out to the North Coast and restaurant that is ideal for lunch, make it well worth a visit. Both restaurant and gardens are open from March through to October.

Nearby retreats: All Port Gaverne homes.

Longcross victorian gardens port isaac

© Long Cross Garden

5. Hepworth Sculpture Gardens

Perhaps the smallest of the gardens on this list, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Gardens has more of a focus on the artwork of the famous artist than the plants themselves. The museum and gardens are actually in Hepworth’s old studio – Trewyn Studio. Her aesthetic sculptures are carefully complemented by flowering cherry blossom and rhododendron, and as the seasons change so does the tone of her artwork.  To explore the gardens fully will take you just 20 minutes – but this garden is hidden away in the heart of St. Ives so there’s plenty to do to make a full day of your visit. Discover how the Cornish landscape influenced Hepworth in the museum, and if you still haven’t had your fill of art then head across town to The Tate, overlooking Porthminster beach.

Nearby retreats: Artisan Cottage, Tregenna Cottage and all Gwithian homes.

Hepworth Sculpture Gardens St Ives

6. The Eden Project

This blog post wouldn’t be taken seriously if the internationally known Eden Project wasn’t on the list! The iconic biomes house a tropical rainforest and a Mediterranean microcosm, as well as plants that can thrive outdoors in the sheltered disused quarry that makes up the Eden Project’s location. With ice skating during the winter and much loved Eden Sessions (which see the likes of Elton John, Blondie and Ben Howard perform) during the summer, as well as different scientific and artistic exhibitions on throughout the year, a day is hardly enough to explore everything on offer at the Eden Project. Purchase recyclable mementoes or take a plant home with you from the shop, enjoy locally sourced world cuisine from one of the many restaurants and cafes or take to the skies on the fastest and longest zip wire in the UK – whatever you’re in the mood for, there’s something for everyone at this groundbreaking garden.

Nearby retreats: Our Newquay and Port Gaverne properties are all around equidistant from the Eden Project on the South Coast.

Eden Project

7. Potager Gardens

A visit to Potager is one of our favourite ways to spend a Sunday. A breath of fresh air, some wholesome food and a bit of light exertion in the form of badminton or table tennis! This little kitchen-come-subtropical garden near Falmouth has sprung up to become a social and environmental project, clearing away the brambles from an abandoned plant nursery and reinvigorating it back its former glory. With a small woodland, a large greenhouse, plenty of hammocks and lots of winding walkways to wander through, Potager quite often lies undiscovered. However, with their workshops, themed food nights and excellent chef, more and more are falling in love with this little gem. In the late spring, let the echiums tower over you whilst the heady fragrance of lavender surrounds you as you wind through pathways of nasturtiums and Mediterranean herbs before heading to the cafe – everything is made depending on what’s available in the garden, and it’s always utterly delicious. Potager is open year-round, Thursday through to Sunday.

Nearby retreats: An Skiber, all Kestle Barton homes, Pentreath

Potager Gardens

© Potager Gardens

8. The Japanese Garden

East meets west just outside Newquay at The Japanese Garden. Stroll under the shade of cherry blossoms, azaleas and Japanese Maples as the garden comes to life in March, and let yourself be transported to a tranquil Asian paradise! The pink, white and red shades are a beautiful backdrop for the trickling water features and picturesque bridges over koi ponds, and dragonflies will dance over the water and around the bamboo. Head to the shop to try and choose between the many varieties of Bonsai on sale, or, if you get the chance, chat with the owners of the gardens. They have inherited the garden from their parents who created the garden in 1991, and the story of how this Japanese oasis came to be is one worth finding out. The Japanese Garden is open from 1st March till 31st October, 7 days a week.

Nearby retreats: The Gem, The Pearl, Ultramarine, The Pebble, Sea Breeze, Samphire, Fourburrows

The Japanese Garden, Newquay
© The Japanese Garden, Newquay

9. Tanglewood Garden

Tanglewood is nestled inland, near Penzance, and is a homegrown project that still feels like a real secret. With quirky installations, abundant wildlife and beautiful fauna, Tanglewood is a great place for kids to explore – and the giant chess set is always a hit! It’s a relaxed setting, so bring a picnic, the dog and a camera – herons, swallows and even kingfishers can be spotted dipping and diving around the ponds, chasing dragonflies and damselflies. There is also a woodland area where woodpeckers and owls have been spotted, and where the ground becomes a carpet of bluebells. Walk bridges over ponds and marvel at the huge swathes of gunnera, or delicate lotus flowers floating of the waters’ surface – whatever the weather, Tanglewood is a great garden to support and is certain to surprise you. This 9-acre garden is open from Good Friday through to 31st October.

Nearby retreats: Artist’s Retreat, St. Clement’s House, North Wing, Kiln Cottage, The View, plus all St. Ives homes.

Sit & Reflect Tanglewood Gardens Penzance Cornwall

10. The Lost Gardens of Heligan

In the same vein as the Eden Project, this list wouldn’t be complete without the award-winning Heligan gardens on it. These gardens are well known for their history, hidden away on an estate on the south coast the gardens lay untouched for over 75 years. In 1990, the gardens we re-discovered, and the surrounding grounds were incorporated to offer visitors an enchanting experience through woodland, farmland and finally the immaculately groomed walled gardens of the Tremayne Estate. Walk the bridge over the jungle, visit the farm animals and wander through the kitchen gardens (they are even managing to grow pineapples there!). If you want to marvel at plants, then head to the Flower Garden and The Italian – or if wildlife is more your thing, then don’t miss the hide; here you can spot all manner of birds…keep your eyes peeled for spectacular colours the visit from the odd land mammal! Heligan is open all year round – just check their website for opening hours as they do vary slightly depending on the time of year.

Nearby retreats: Our Newquay and Port Gaverne properties are all around equidistant from the Eden Project on the South Coast.

Heligan Gardens, Cornwall
© Matt Jessop
Share this story