Enjoy the gardens

Nestled within a hidden valley, the gardens at Ightham Mote occupy fourteen acres, with a narrow stream running through it supplying two lakes, the moat and tumbling down two cascades on its journey through the garden. Other natural springs have been tapped to supply the four small fountain pools and open channels which add to the atmosphere, charm, tranquillity and variety of the gardens, developed like the house, over 700 years with the ideas of each successive owner.

As you walk down the slope and turn the corner, you'll arrive at the North Lawn with its 18th century cascade and terraced walks on either side. Originally the site of a lake, it was drained in the 18th century to create the lawn, which features in the painting 'A Game of Bowls' by John Singer Sargent that we now have in the house.

Seasonal interest

Enclosed Garden

Wander around the house, and past the tower to discover the Enclosed Garden hidden behind ragstone walls. This secluded, paved garden with its 'secret garden' behind the hedge provides a charming place to spend some time. Sunlight dances off the cherub fountain in the centre, whilst the soft colours and foliage of the planting scheme reflect an American's idea of a traditional English garden.

Sunlight dances on the water in the enclosed garden
The cherub fountain dazzles in sunlight in the enclosed garden
Sunlight dances on the water in the enclosed garden

Stable courtyard

Coming out of the enclosed garden, the original garden and house entrance was from the driveway to your right (the gates were originally to your left). Imagine riding through the gates and dismounting your horse onto the mounting block to start your visit.
Today, as you walk into stable courtyard, there are formal lawns and bright herbaceous borders. In the 17th Century it was a working farm as well as a forecourt to the house with stables and farm buildings on three sides and a large oval cart/carriage ‘circle’. When the ‘new’ farmyard was built in the 18th Century the remaining buildings were converted to workers cottages and the courtyard made more ornamental with the lawns and borders.

Colour surrounds the old stone staircase
Daffodils surround the base and side of some old stone steps, with the dainty flowers of the chaenomeles on the shrub to the side
Colour surrounds the old stone staircase

Formal garden

The formal garden, with its saucer pond in the centre and four ‘symmetrical’ beds has been an Italianate garden, and a rose garden. Most recently it has formal bedding displays, changed twice each year, designed by a different member of the gardening team. It is interesting for us and for our visitors to have an area to try out and see different planting ideas.

A splash of colour in the formal garden
The formal garden with its symmetrical display of bedding plants surrounding a circular pool
A splash of colour in the formal garden

Cutting garden

Stepping through the high hedge, the cutting garden provides a fine display of flower and foliage shapes and colours throughout summer and beautiful cut flowers for the house. The scent from the cutting garden is especially good at the end of June and into July when the sweet peas and lavender are at their best.

The vibrant colours of the garden
The vibrant colours of the garden
The vibrant colours of the garden
A carpet of daffodils in the orchard
A carpet of daffodils beneath the apple trees in the orchard at Ightham Mote
A carpet of daffodils in the orchard

Long herbaceous border

On the other side of the orchard wall, the west terrace walk boasts fine herbaceous borders, with rustic wood archways across the grass pathway featuring climbing roses. Its long season of interest is provided by a variety of bulbs in spring, and the display of flowers and foliage from July to September and often into October.

Rustic archways and climbing roses line the pathway along the summer border at Ightham Mote
The summer herbacious border is blooming, and climbing roses adorn the rustic archways
Rustic archways and climbing roses line the pathway along the summer border at Ightham Mote

North Pleasure grounds

With a meandering stream, ornamental lake, informal lawns and specimen trees, the pleasure grounds at the north end of the garden probably have their origins in the 18th century and were extended again in the 19th century.
This was a period when many newly discovered ‘exotic’ trees and other plants were being collected and planted in wealthy gardens. Significant planting was carried out during the ownership of Victorian naturalist Prideaux John Selby who had a great interest in trees and sadly, a number of them were uprooted in the 1987 hurricane. However, a number of fine specimens have survived and other trees planted since. It is a lovely place to enjoy a gentle stroll, sit in the shade and have a picnic, take in the views or simply relax in a deckchair and listen to the sounds of birdsong and leaves rustling in the breeze.

Wander through the historic pleasure grounds
The north lake with trees in full leaf
Wander through the historic pleasure grounds

East Terrace

From the north pleasure grounds a sloping path and steps under a canopy of trees leads to the upper pathway running along a planted sunny bank towards visitor reception. lower path leads to the east grass terrace overlooking the north lawn running along a bank with cherry trees underplanted with snowdrops, primroses and daffodils, creating  a cheery display in spring followed by wildflowers in summer.

Spring blossom on the Eastern Terrace
Cherry blossom in bloom with daffodils in the grass below, on the Eastern Terrace at Ightham Mote
Spring blossom on the Eastern Terrace

The South Lake - A lost garden

This area provides a wonderful view to the manor across the lake with the house reflected in the water. The south lake pleasure grounds may also be of 18th century origin and further developed in 19th. Following its decline in the early 20th century, the area became overgrown by self-sown trees, laurel and invasive weeds. As with the conservation work done in parts of the north pleasure grounds, each year we are doing what work we can with the time and resources we have to bring this once lost area back under control so that when funding and resources are available, we can restore it as both an attractive pleasure grounds and a haven for wildlife.

The view of the house on a garden tour
Looking across the south lake to the house, with its reflection in the water
The view of the house on a garden tour

Please note:

For opening times, please click here. Some areas may have to close at short notice due to weather / ground conditions. Parts of the gardens are closed during the winter months.