Discover the Formal Garden at Cragside

The flowers in bloom in the Formal Garden with the Clock Tower in the distance

The Formal Garden covers a three-acre area of the estate facing south, overlooking the Coquet Valley. This impressive garden is arranged over three levels and have been sympathetically re-created to reflect the original layout of Lord and Lady Armstrong’s vision.

There are places to sit dotted around the gardens so when the sun is shining, we recommend stopping to enjoy views of the rolling landscape surrounding the village of Rothbury and the distinctive, stepped ridge of the Simonside hills, dominating the horizon. 

The Clock Tower overlooking the beds in the Formal Garden

Clock Tower

Nestled amongst the trees near the Formal Garden in the Clock Tower – an impressive Gothic Revival structure, built in 1864 as the estate’s timepiece. The Clock Tower was not just for decoration, or to chime the time during the day on the hour. The clock had two mechanisms, one for the clock as you’d expect, and another set of chimes for the estate workers. During the day it sounded a total of 24 times, with chimes for lunch and the start and end of the working day.

Orchard House at Cragside

Orchard House

One of the largest surviving glasshouses dating from the 1870s, the building has three sections and was built with an elaborate heating system to allow the cultivation of hardy and tender fruits. The glass and wooden structure also helped shelter trees from the Northumberland climate. Today there are pear, fig and plum trees in Armstrong's original earthenware pots. These pots were designed to rotate so every side of the plant could catch some sun. Look up to the corners of the glass panels, where you will spot a small hatch, which aided ventilation and helped bees to gain access to the Orchard House and pollinate the trees.

Historic photo of carpet bedding at Cragside

Former Carpet Beds

Next to the Orchard House are two stone-framed sloping beds. The beds have taken many forms over the years; most recently, carpet bedding – a traditional garden display that uses foliage plants to create patterns. This year, we will be planting scatter-mix flowers which will bring height and colour to the inclined beds, and attract and support local butterflies, bees and insects in the garden over the summer. During the winter months, the gardeners fill the beds with daffodil and tulip bulbs which flower in the spring. Their arrival signals that lighter nights and warmer days are ahead.

A pond of water inside the Ferneries at Cragside


Sometimes missed by visitors, the Ferneries are located at the top of the gardens, adjacent to the Orchard House. Stoop through the unassuming sandstone doorway, explore the nooks and crannies of this maze of ferns and discover the tropical Lilypad pond with fish and newts.

The Loggia on the Italian Terrace

Italian Terrace

The centrepiece of the lowest level of the gardens is the Italian Terrace, whose bed of tender plants were originally sheltered by glass walls, but without a roof. These glass walled structures had been removed to make way for a tennis court. Look closely on the pillars of the open-fronted Loggia where you'll spot the hook for the tennis net. The Loggia would have been full of vines and fruit – very fashionable for its day – as would have had glass panels to protect these from the south-westerly prevailing winds.

Visitors looking into the quatrefoil pool in the Formal Garden

Quatrefoil Pool

If you are familiar with the Formal Garden, you may have sat and gazed into the quatrefoil pool, on the Italian terrace. This traditional shaped pool was part of the Armstrong’s original design of the Formal Garden, but it was removed in the 1920s to make space for the tennis court. Back in 2000, the quatrefoil structure was discovered in a neighbouring field – which was formerly part of Armstrong’s land - and re-acquired by Cragside to be put back its rightful place as the centrepiece of the terrace.