Exploring Paradise: We Unmask West Cornwall’s Top 5 Gardens

The snowdrops are blooming and the daffodils are pushing their way through the frozen soil, these bursts of vibrant colour in the dark months of January and February exude a sense of optimism.  I don’t know about you, but as soon as I spot these bursts of much needed colour, my mind turns to the abundance of Spring, with warmer days and longer nights.  Immediately I am inspired to get the gardening tools out and get my hands in the soil once again.  One of my favourite things to do when not in my own garden is to visit some of the magnificent gardens this part of West Cornwall has to offer, so I thought I would pop down five of my favourite in this latest journal.

Cornwall is renowned for its mild climate, plentiful rainfall, and fertile soil, all of which contribute to the flourishing of its gardens.  The county experiences a unique microclimate, influenced by the Gulf Stream, which brings warm air from the Atlantic Ocean, creating an ideal environment for a wide variety of plants to thrive. Cornwall’s gardens are a testament to the county’s rich horticultural history, dating back to the great Victorian plant-hunting expeditions. The seeds they brought back came from all over the World and helped create some truly magnificent examples of living theatre, the Great Gardens of Cornwall. These gardens showcase a diverse range of plant species, including exotic and rare varieties, as well as traditional English garden flowers.  As a dog owner, who likes to include my furry friends in all my favourite activities, I have only included dog friendly options.

1. Trebah

A stunning sub-tropical paradise with a coastal backdrop. Located on the edge of the Helford River in Mawnan Smith, near Falmouth, Trebah is a beautiful 26-acre Cornish valley garden with over 4 miles of footpaths, vibrant tunnels of colour leading down to the coast and its own secluded beach on the Helford River.  This incredible garden is steeped in history, spanning from Victorian plant hunters to ownership post war by racing driver and car designer Donald Healey. Probably best know for its D-day connections; on 1st June 1944 a regiment of 7,500 men along with tanks, guns and transport embarked from Trebah beach in 10 flat bottomed landing craft, they battled through enormous seas to the Isle of Wight and on to the D-Day assault, landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy and suffering terrible loses. A memorial at the bottom of the garden commemorates the courage of these brave young American soldiers.

Whilst Trebah offers visitors a year-round experience (Here for Opening Hours and Admission Prices) it is truly glorious in Spring when it comes alive with a colourful array of 100-year-old rhododendrons, magnolias and camellias. It is truly breath-taking and as a dog owner it is absolutely glorious to share the picturesque footpaths with my two rescue dogs, who love it there as much as I do.

It’s more than just a garden though, with a unique outdoor theatre, adventure play areas for children and education trails with prizes at the end and the fabulous Trebah kitchen, for a warming cuppa or a full-blown Sunday roast.

If Trebah leaves you wanting more then just next door is the magnificent National Trust garden of Glendurgan.  Another stunning Cornish garden but its not dog-friendly so it hasn’t made my list!

Spring Garden with red rhodendron in foreground and sea in background

 

2. Trewidden

This 15-acre garden, located on the beautiful Lands’ End peninsula, just West of Penzance, is one of the few old historic gardens in Cornwall still wholly owned and run by the same family that created it hundreds of years ago.  Originally planted by Edward Bolitho, who was the owner of Trewidden House, in the 1840’s, Edward started by firstly planting woodland cover before filling it with plants newly introduced from Asia and the Southern Hemisphere, it has passed down through the Bolitho family over they years and is currently owned by Alverne Bolitho.  The garden not only has a rich horticultural heritage but also an industrial one, once the site of an ancient tin mine, the old opencast mine may have been one of the earliest in the Duchy, dating back to Roman times or even before.

Set within the open cast mine is a stand of Tree Ferns, planted in 1902 having been collected in Australia in 1898, now said to be the finest collection of Tree Ferns in the Northern Hemisphere.  Indeed, all the small Tree Ferns that now grow at Trewidden are juveniles from these original mother plants, some of which could be up to 150 years old. The garden is particularly beautiful in Spring, from March to June you will find a fabulous collection of Magnolias, Rhododendrons and Azeleas providing a riot of colour, all set within a mature woodland setting.

Trewidden is dog friendly and provides a stunning backdrop for you and your four-legged friend-to enjoy; it’s a large site but intimate with well-laid footpaths to explore.  There is a beautiful walled garden to investigate, plants for sale and a lovely café providing refreshments and great food from 9.30 – 4.30 each day.  For more information on opening hours, prices and accessibility click here.

3. Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens 

Found in a beautiful sheltered valley, just outside Penzance, Tremenheere combines large-scale exotic and sub-tropical planting interwoven with an evolving programme of contemporary artworks from internationally renowned artists; all set within woodland overlooking St Michael’s Mount and the sparkling beauty of Mounts Bay. The land at the sculpture gardens in West Cornwall was once owned by the monks of St Michael’s Mount until 1295 when it was bought by Michael De Tremenheere, an established tenant farmer, the land remained in the Tremenheere name for 600 years; the land continued to be farmed until 1997 when Dr Neil Armstrong acquired the valley and began the development of the sculpture garden as we see it today.

The warmer winter temperatures and sheltered valley location create a favourable microclimate allowing exotic and half-hardy plants to flourish.  The plants, particularly the notable collection of palm trees, tree ferns, succulents and bamboos create a restful verdancy, with each individual habitat carrying a unifying theme of sculptural forms, textures and colours. The strongly structural planting scheme with a sub-tropical emphasis, means the gardens do not follow a traditional spring flourish but have all-season interest.

The dramatic landscape and planting provide the backdrop to contemplative and inspiring artworks.  Renowned artists, including five members of the Royal Academy of Arts, have interacted with the landscape to create site specific permanent sculptures, whilst the gardens also provide a forum for ever-changing temporary artworks.

In addition to the gardens, Tremenheere gallery is a beautiful oak framed building, with two exhibition spaces, one of the largest purpose-built gallery spaces in Cornwall. Also on site is the Tremenheere Kitchen, a wonderful restaurant for refreshments and beautiful locally sourced food, serving breakfast and lunches all year round, the restaurant and take-away hut are worth a visit in their own right; I can particularly recommend Sunday lunch here!

The gardens are dog friendly, if you wish to stop at the restaurant dogs are welcome outside but not inside.

4. Minack Theatre Garden

The Minack Theatre, located in the far west of Cornwall needs no introduction.  The Minack is a living theatre in every sense, its dramatic setting, perched on the rugged cliffs above Porthcurno and the remarkable woman who built it are equally inspiring.  Rowena Cade, the Minack’s creator, brought up in a genteel Edwardian family was inspired to transform a Cornish cliff-face into an open-air arena, much of it literally built with her own hands. Minack means rocky place, “meynek” in Cornish.  If you had been standing where the stage is now in 1931 you’d have been clinging to sloping cliff, knee deep in gorse, with a ninety-foot drop to the sea behind you!  Now the world-famous theatre welcomes over a quarter of a million people each year to enjoy the fabulous views and experience the magic of live performances in this iconic space.

Lesser known is the exotic garden planted around the site, small in scale compared to the other gardens discussed here but packed full of exotic plants that are rarely seen outdoors on mainland Britain.  The garden is made up of a series of raised beds, each one named after a Shakesperean character.  Winding paths and flights of steps weave through the upper areas of the theatre among a patchwork of exquisite sub-tropical specimens and carpets of pink and purple succulents clothe the rocks in summer.  Usually native to the Canary Islands, Maderia and Morocco, Aeoniums thrive at the Minack, the garden being home to one of the largest collections in the country.

Writing in County Life Magazine in 2023, renown gardener Alan Titchmarsh said “Of all the gardens I have visited in my long gardening life, none has left me more impressed with the level of cultivation or elevated by the sheer joy it imparts.  The impact is emphasised by the backdrop of the turquoise-blue sea, frequently populated by dolphins, whose leaps into the air seem to celebrate the spectacle.”

The garden holds appeal all year round, but June would be my favourite. The garden is a riot of colour and you are greeted with the abundant, towering and seemingly pre-historic blue spires of Echiums. Whilst dogs are not permitted during live performances, they are welcome on short leads if simply visiting the gardens and theatre.  Visiting hours and more details can be found Here.

Minack Theatre with abundant garden succulents in foreground, ocean in background

5. Tresco 

OK, so a little further afield but these gardens just cannot be ignored.  If you are staying in West Cornwall and plan a day-trip to the Scillies or you are holidaying in the Scillies then a visit to Tresco Abbey Gardens is an absolute must.  The garden is home to thousands of plants from across the globe, flourishing in the sub-tropical climate of the Isles of Scilly.

Founded by Augustus Smith in 1834 around the ruins of a Benedictine Abbey on the Island of Tresco, which is a short boat ride away from the larger island of St Mary’s. There are over 4,000 different specimens made possible by the exceptional hours of sunshine and the warmth of the Gulf Steam. The plants are laid out geographically, with the hotter, drier terraces at the top of the garden housing South African and Australian species, and those lower down providing humidity for those from New Zealand and South America.  You will find an abundance of Palms, Bamboo, Cacti, Echium, Agapanthus, Flame-Trees and King Proteas.  Even the non-gardeners cannot fail to be impressed by the array of scents, sights and sounds everywhere in the abundant gardens. The gardens are also  home to golden pheasants and a small population of red squirrels.

Although Spring is a magical time to visit the Tresco Abbey Gardens, where spring flowers bloom weeks ahead of those on the mainland, you really can visit at any time of the year.  In autumn the red, gold and amber of seasonal foliage contrasts with the proteas, aloes and camellias and you will even find more than 300 species of plant in flower as late as the winter solstice.

It is worth visiting the Valhalla Museum during your visit. Here you will find a collection of figureheads and relics from the shipwrecks that have taken place around the islands.  Most of the figureheads date from the middle to the end of the 19thcentury, from merchant sailing vessels or early steamships.  Dogs are welcome in the gardens on leads; but please note there is no dog-friendly accommodation on Tresco.

This list captures just a glimpse of the magnificent gardens scattered across West Cornwall. These selections, each a personal favourite, offer a diverse experience, offering inspiration and tranquility on days spent strolling with my dogs. While Tresco remains an occasional treat due to its location, the others are cherished regular haunts. Of course, West Cornwall boasts numerous other horticultural wonders, including The Eden Project, Lost Gardens of Heligan, Trelissick, and Lanhydrock, to name a few. If your visit doesn’t allow for exploring these gardens in person, our independent garden centres offer a delightful alternative. Surround yourself with the incredible variety of plants they showcase – a perfect way to bring a piece of Cornwall’s natural beauty home with you.

Discover Our Beautiful Homestays

The Summer House

Stunning detached property set above the beautiful village of Mousehole, spacious and stylish interior with room for all the family, private garden to relax and unwind and safe off road parking for two cars, to make life super easy.  Two master suites with en-suite bathrooms, one on the ground floor so easy access for any mobility issues. Use of shared infinity style pool with beautiful sea views over Mounts Bay. It sleeps 6 (max 4 adults) and is dog friendly, the perfect choice for a family to relax, unwind and reconnect. Special Offer running over February Half Term.

The Barn, Ashton

Fabulous converted Barn with plenty of space for all the family, a perfect base for families with the added benefit of a large, flat and fully enclosed garden for the children and pets to enjoy.  Sleeps 6 and dog friendly, located close to the foodie haven of Porthleven so no need to cook every night.  The perfect choice for a family wanting a comfortable and relaxing holiday.

Mousehole Cottage

A beautiful detached granite cottage located close to the centre of Mousehole harbour.  The perfect choice for your family if you want a great base to explore the whole area, close to many of the gardens in this journal.  Lovely sea views from the cottage, private parking to make life simple and a private dog proof garden for alfresco dining after a days exploring. Sleeps 6 and dog friendly. Mid winter offers currently running.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embrace Autumn’s Splendour: 5 Must-Do Activities in Cornwall

As the leaves turn golden and the air takes on a crisp chill, autumn in Cornwall is a magical time of year. Whilst still in denial that Summer (did it really happen?) is over, thoughts have started to turn to wellies, Sunday roasts and woolly jumpers, so it seemed a good time to share our favourite Autumn activities. With its stunning coastline, charming villages and fabulous local produce, West Cornwall offers the perfect destination for your autumn or October half-term getaway. Here we’ll guide you through a few of our favourite things to do, whatever the weather.

Wrap up warm and head out for a walk

Take advantage of Cornwall’s breathtaking coastal paths and woodland trails. It’s the ideal time of year for wrapping up warm and getting out for a walk. Explore the rugged beauty of the North Coast between Sennen and St Ives, a dramatic section of coastline with a number of great pubs on the way and taking in the section around Botallack Mine, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Alternatively take a gentler option and walk from the historic town of Penzance to the beautiful harbour village of Mousehole; passing Newlyn enroute, one of the largest fishing ports in the UK and central to the fishing industry in Cornwall. You can stock up on some wonderful fresh fish, beautiful cheeses, visit Jelberts the famous and super simple ice cream parlour and even visit the Fermentary, a small business that produces fermented foods and drinks using traditional methods, try their Zinger Water Kefir for instance! I definitely recommend heading out for a walk before dusk, if you are lucky you might witness one of Cornwall’s magnificent sunsets. For more inspiration and some guided circular walks all around the area, download the iwalkcornwall app.

Tin Mines at Botallack-North Coast Cornwall UNESCO Heritage Site

Pick your own Pumpkins!

Embrace the essence of autumn with a delightful trip to one of West Cornwall’s picturesque farms. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to handpick your very own pumpkins, it’s an adventure for all the family, and you can even involve your dog in the fun. Then get your pumpkins back to your cottage and let the creativity flow by carving these beautiful gourds into spooktacular masterpieces!” Make sure to capture those Instagram-worthy pictures from field to finished article!  Our favourite farm is Trevaskis, Connor Downs, near Hayle. Set among 28 acres of beautiful countryside, Trevaskis Farm is a great day out, pumpkins will be picking soon but you can also wander the orchards, visit the farm park, eat at the restaurant (don’t miss the incredible array of cakes!) and then stock up on all your essentials, and plenty of treats from the fabulous farm shop, don’t miss the award-winning home-reared British Lop pork. Dogs are welcome on leads, but not inside the restaurant or farm-shop, as it’s a working farm and prone to mud in the wetter months, wellies are advised!

Wild Swimming followed by Hot Chocolate

Be Brave; the sea is at its warmest in the Autumn so why not get in that beautiful crystal-clear water for a quick dip and rejuvenate body and soul in the process.  Make sure you check the sea conditions before venturing in, and if you don’t think sea swimming is for you, then get all the same benefits with a visit to Cornwall’s celebrated Art Deco Sea water lido on Penzance’s Promenade.  If visiting the Lido, you can cheat and book yourself a session in the geo-thermally heated pool – after an invigorating swim in the main pool of course! What could be better after your swim than treating yourself to a warming cup of hot chocolate, at a nearby café, complete with marshmallows and whipped cream – you have earnt it after all!  After much research, Stones Reef at Praa Sands gets my daughter, Poppy’s vote for favourite hot chocolate in the area!

Wild Sea Swimming West Cornwall

Sunday roast followed by board games by the fire

Picture your perfect Sunday, a lazy morning reading papers, a brisk, revitalising walk along the coast to a wonderful local pub for a traditional Sunday lunch and then cosy up back in the cottage, light the wood-burner and gather around the table for an afternoon of board games.  There are so many fabulous places to find a great Sunday lunch, but our favourite would have to be The Gurnards Head. Set off the road between St Just and St Ives (B3306, near Zennor, probably one of the most beautiful roads in the UK so maybe have a drive before your walk!) Walks from the Gurnards Head are plentiful, just a 5 minute stroll from the pub and you find yourself on the cliffs and coastal path, there is a relatively short loop you can do which takes about 30 minutes or a longer walk towards Zennor and back through the fields.  The food at the Gurnards Head is kept simple, the menus are short, fresh and seasonal and can change daily depending on what is brought to the back door. After a long, relaxing lunch you can either retire to the bar area, get a table by the fire and crack out the cards or return home and let the competition start, the perfect way to spend quality time together.  Many of our beautiful properties have a good supply of board games but remember if there is a family favourite best bring it along with you!

Cosy Bar Gurnards Head near Zennor, St Ives

Halloween Fun in Cornwall

If you’re visiting during late October, don’t miss the spooky Halloween festivities. Many Cornish villages really go to town with front gardens and houses decorated to the max.  Many of the big attractions also host Halloween-themed events, from haunted house tours to pumpkin carving contests. Dress up the kids, yourself and of course the dog, and join in the Halloween spirit for an unforgettable autumn experience.  Our favourite for Halloween trick or treating is Mousehole; it seems the whole village enter into the spirit and competition is high for the best decorated and spookiest garden/ house.  Without a doubt down one of the small, unsuspecting side streets you will find the answer – I will say no more, you will know when you’ve found it!! For those with young kids who want to trick or treat, make sure you only knock on doors which have a lit pumpkin outside.  The fun starts early for the younger children, usually at dusk; the scarier costumes tend to come out a little later! Once you have filled your baskets with sweets, stop in at The Old Coastguard Hotel for a much-needed glass of something!

West Cornwall offers a treasure trove of autumn delights, whether it’s picking pumpkins, exploring scenic trails, enjoying wild swims and hot chocolate, relishing Sunday roasts and board games, or embracing the Halloween spirit, this corner of England has something special for everyone. So, why wait? Book your autumn or October half-term holiday in West Cornwall now. I list below a small selection of our Cornish cottages with availability this autumn, all of which are ready to welcome you, your family and your furry friends to experience an unforgettable autumn getaway.

Discover Our Beautiful Homestays
Mousehole Cottage

Lovely detached Cornish Cottage close to the heart of beautiful Mousehole Harbour, with private parking, a garden, wood burner for the chillier evenings and a great selection of board games!  Sleeps 6, dog friendly.  Check out our October Half Term Special Offers.

The Summer House

Stunning detached property set above the beautiful village of Mousehole, spacious and stylish interior, private garden, parking for two cars.  With two beautiful bathrooms and plenty of hot water for your post-swim warm up! Sleeps 6 (max 4 adults), dog friendly.  Special offers running from September through to 19 October.

Porth Nanven Cottage

Beautiful detached Cornish cottage set at the end of a magical valley near St Just, with two comfortable bedrooms, two bathrooms and a spacious sitting / dining room.  With footpaths from the doorstep leading in every direction, a short walk down to the sea at Porth Nanven Cove, an exhilarating walk along the South West Coastal Path to Sennen Cove or a stroll up to the local market town of St Just.  Special offers running from September to 19 October.

Brook Cottage 

Magical Cottage set in Cot Valley, near St Just, set in beautiful surroundings with sub-tropical garden and brook running through it.  Reverse level property with beautiful views down the valley towards The Brisons which sit approximately a mile out to sea.  Large sitting room and well equipped kitchen both leading onto large decked balcony.  Three bedrooms, sleeping 5.  Parking and dog friendly.