Hidden treasures: 6 ‘secret’ National Trust gardens to visit this weekend

From pretty wildflower meadows to enchanting woodland walks and an intriguing Chinese garden, we uncover six hidden National Trust treasures.

The National Trust is the country’s biggest private landowner with 620,000 acres – including 180 parks and gardens. We step off the beaten track to discover six hidden gems offering peace and quiet along with history and exquisite planting.

Visitors walking through the Graham Stuart Thomas Borders in the garden in July at Peckover House and Garden, CambridgeshireCredit: National Trust/James Dobson

1. Biddulph Grange Garden, Staffordshire

See the dahlia walk and oldest golden larch in Britain

Biddulph Grange Garden, StaffordshireCredit: National Trust/Saga Magazine

This Grade I-listed Victorian garden features plants from around the world, arranged across a series of garden ‘rooms’. Visitors journey from Italy to Egypt, by way of a Victorian vision of China.

“It was designed to show off,” says head gardener Paul Walton. “The Victorians were all about bragging rights.” The garden features collections of rhododendrons, summer bedding displays, a stunning dahlia walk (at its best in August) and the oldest surviving golden larch in Britain, brought from China in the 1850s.

Don’t miss the oldest stumpery in the country, which inspired copycat versions, most notably at Highgrove, King Charles III’s Gloucestershire estate. The large oak stumps planted with delicate ferns give an intriguing, almost prehistoric, look.

2. Llanerchaeron, Ceredigion

Home to 60 varieties of apple and a stunning lake

Llanerchaeron National Trust GardenCredit: National Trust/Saga Magazine
The walled garden within the Llanerchaeron estate is self-sustaining, and you can buy produce at their local shop

Llanerchaeron is part of a self-sustaining Welsh country estate that has remained unaltered for 200 years. It has a walled garden, and more than 60 varieties of apple are grown here. Produce from the working kitchen garden, such as garlic, beans and potatoes, is sold at reception. New rose plantings have been made in the parterre.

“In summer the lake is full of water lilies,” says head gardener Rhys Griffiths. “You’ll hear the buzz of bees and dragonflies, and you’ll see horses, chickens, geese and turkeys in the farmyard alongside our two staff cats.” 

Most of the property is dog friendly (apart from the farm). Enjoy the 3.6km stroll from the house into Aberaeron along an old railway track.

3. Ormesby Hall, North Yorkshire

A wildlife oasis with lots of summer coloor

View across the rear garden to the back of the mid-c18th Palladian house, Ormesby Hall, North YorkshireCredit: National Trust/Annapurna Mellor

The garden and 240 acres create a green oasis in the heart of Middlesbrough. “You don’t expect to find something so beautiful in such an industrial environment,” says head gardener Nick Fraser. “The delphiniums and the agapanthus are our summer showstoppers, as well as a great selection of modern dahlias.”

The new wildflower meadow is in full bloom for the first time this summer, and don’t miss the orchard, rose garden, fern mound and wonderful relics of 18th-century valley gardening. 

Colourful annuals in the garden in July at Ormesby Hall, North YorkshireCredit: National Trust/Annapurna Mellor

“We’re proud to have heritage apples in our two-year-old orchard,” says Nick. “There’s plenty of interesting varieties from the North East, including Hunthouse, which was reputedly taken by local lad Captain Cook on his travels to keep scurvy at bay.”

4. Peckover, Cambridgeshire

This Victorian urban garden has more than 70 rose varieties

Plant display in the glasshouse at Peckover House, CambridgeshireCredit: National Trust/Mike Selby

Peckover Garden is a rare example of a Victorian urban garden. “It has many of its original features, such as the glass houses, the winding paths, the bedding displays, and wilderness shrubbery,” says head gardener Louise Gardner. “They were developed by the Peckover family and maintained or restored over time. This is an intimate, quiet walled garden with hidden summerhouses and colour throughout the seasons. It’s a plant lovers’ paradise.”

Visitors walking through the Graham Stuart Thomas Borders in the garden in July at Peckover House and Garden, CambridgeshireCredit: National Trust/James Dobson

Peckover is renowned for its rose collection, trained on walls, arches and obelisks, as well as a gorgeous rambler in a tree. It’s therefore a great spot to pick up a few secrets to perfect roses.

“We have more than 70 varieties of roses, both historic and modern,” says Louise. “The peak of the rose display is June-July, and there is usually a second flush of blooms in late August-September. The Orangery has three orange trees thought to be at least 300 years old, and in July, they will be beginning to fruit.”

5. Acorn Bank, Cumbria

Visit for its sunken pond and herb garden

Lily pond and Sunken Garden in June at Acorn Bank, CumbriaCredit: National Trust/Melvin Jefferson

A Knight’s Templar site in the 1200s, the oldest part remaining is the Italianate sunken garden, which dates from the mid-1600s, and its ornamental pond is home to all three native newt species.

“Visitors often say it feels more relatable than the big, glamorous gardens,” says senior gardener Heather Birkett. “Each of our vegetable beds is achievable in its own way at home.”

Acorn Bank has the National Trust’s largest herb collection, containing more than 270 different plants, all enclosed by 17th-century walls.

“The herb garden is at its peak in mid to late June,” says Heather. “The fragrance in the summer is amazing because you’re surrounded by these aromatic herbs that come to life in the sun.”

The herbaceous borders are also at their best in July – take a notebook and pick your favourite low-maintenance border plants. “With a gentle colour scheme of pale yellow and pale blue, they are full of geraniums, inulas and lots of aruncus,” says Heather.

6. Stoneywell, Leicestershire

Right now, heather and eucryphia are in their prime

Stoneywell National Trust estate houseCredit: National Trust/Saga Magazine
Nestled in the countryside, Stoneywell will transport you into a fairytale world

“Stoneywell is a little jewel nestled in the countryside,” says head gardener Heloise Brooke. The four-acre garden boasts more than 150 varieties of rhododendrons, which look their best in June, though some bloom later. In July, the alstroemeria looks stunning, and in August, the heather provides a purple carpet and eucryphia puts on a great display. 

A walk in Stoneywell wood is enchanting, with its choral soundtrack of birds, clouds of butterflies, and common lizards that bask on dry-stone walls. “We also have a little dry-stone walled kitchen garden, with immense charm – you expect Peter Rabbit to pop out of a watering can,” says Heloise. 

Visits to Stoneywell must be booked in advance and numbers are capped at 120 per day.

For more National Trust gardens and parks, see nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/gardens-park

Rebecca Norris

Written by Rebecca Norris she/her

Published:

Rebecca Norris is Features Assistant at Saga Magazine. She trained in news and features writing at City, University of London, graduating with an MA in Magazine Journalism in 2022.

Previously, she studied English Literature at the University of Warwick, where she navigated the pandemic as Comment Editor of her student newspaper and became an expert in Leamington Spa’s takeaway offerings.

Now hopping between London and the Berkshire countryside, she can often be found plotting her next trip abroad, following (and constantly rewinding) crochet tutorials on YouTube, or listening to good singer-songwriters on shuffle.

  • Email