A peaceful, timeless sanctuary

Lacock in the spring

There have been gardens at Lacock Abbey for nearly 900 years. Each new owner has refashioned the grounds, from the herb and vegetable gardens that supplied medieval nuns to the pleasure grounds of a fashionable 18th century gentleman. Now, we look after the grounds as a place for visitors to relax and be immersed in the scents, sounds and colours of nature.

An adult and two children walk past a one-way sign. Lacock Abbey is visible across a field.

What to expect when you visit Lacock

Lacock Abbey is now open, in line with government guidance. Read on to find out what to expect, how to book and how to change your booking.

History of the garden

Little is known of the history of the gardens in the monastic period other than the existence of a kitchen garden and orchard. Those still exist today, although the kitchen garden is now village allotments.

John Ivory Talbot, who inherited Lacock in 1714, brought in landscape designer Stephen Switzer to remodel the grounds according to 19th century taste. Switzer, who also worked at Blenheim and Castle Howard, helped Talbot create tree-lined walks, build the haha and convert the mill stream and fish ponds into ornamental water features for his new pleasure grounds.

Though little of his garden now survives, we know he designed the sweeping carriage drive that provides enticing views of his new Great Hall as you approach the house.

In 1827 Lady Elisabeth Fielding, mother of William Henry Fox Talbot and a keen gardener, came to live at the Abbey. She was a busy and determined woman who planned many alterations. She wrote frequently to her son, telling him what she had done: trees planted in the shrubbery, a new curving path through the orchard, and filling in ponds to make the place 'dryer and wholesomer'.

William Henry Fox Talbot, a keen botanist who helped save Kew Gardens for the nation, brought home seeds and plants from his extensive travels, introducing exotics to Lacock’s garden. He planted many of the specimen trees you can still see today (much to his mother’s disgust, who wrote that 'the lawn will acquire the appearance of that most ugly thing, an Arboretum, because it is a kind of refuge for the destitute'.) Fox Talbot’s interest in the science of plants led to his election as a fellow of the Linnean Society, formed to study natural history, at the age of only 29.

A hand coloured map showing watercourses

Restoration of historic parkland

A new wildflower meadow is being created at Lacock Abbey to enable visitors to appreciate eighteenth century views of the Abbey.

The land, which has been agricultural since the 1960s, was once part of a fantastic watergarden created by John Ivory Talbot. He inherited Lacock in 1714 and set about creating fashionable pleasure grounds, with ponds, canals and a network of paths that opened up views of the Abbey, the village and the surrounding countryside to the strolling visitor. You can still see the ‘Rockworks’, an arched grotto over the Bide Brook created to mimic Greek or Roman ruins.

The watergardens were filled in in the 1840s as garden fashions changed, and to create what was considered a healthier environment. In the 1960s, fences were removed and the land merged into neighbouring fields for grazing.

New fencing has re-enclosed part of the field, which will now be managed as a wildflower meadow. Mown paths will encourage visitors to stroll through the meadow, which will be left to develop naturally over time.

A view of the greenhouse and Botanic Garden at Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire

Botanic Garden

The nuns of Lacock Abbey would have grown herbs for medicinal as well as culinary purposes. Centuries later, William Henry Fox Talbot built the greenhouses in the Botanic garden, which were fully restored in 2004-08.

A sea of purple under bare trees

Woodland Garden

The romantic Woodland Garden is at its best in the spring before the leaf canopy of the trees block out the light to the spring bulbs and flowers. You’ll find snowdrops, aconites, anemones, daffodils, snakeshead fritillaries and one of the best displays of Crocus vernus in the country.

Spring apple blossom in the orchard at Lacock Abbey

The Orchard

The apple trees were hard pruned in spring 2021 to reinvigorate these old specimens. The orchard is a haven for wild flowers. Choose your spot for a picnic, lie back and listen to the bees.

The Rose Garden - Alison Jane Hoare

The Rose Garden

Lady Elizabeth’s Rose garden is planted with varieties she would have known, such as the ramblers Alberic Barbier and Francoise Jurnville, and shrub roses 'Alba Maxima', 'Maiden's Blush', 'Penelope' and 'Jaques Cartier'

A man-made ruin beside Bide Brook

The Rockworks

Where the Woodland Walk meets the Bide Brook you’ll find the Rockworks – an 18th century conceit. The “ruin” was built to look like the ruin of a Roman or Greek building, faced with limestone intended to look like volcanic tufa.

The cloister walks at Lacock Abbey

Cloister and Abbey borders

The hot south-facing walls of the Abbey are the perfect home for plants from Mediterranean climates many of which have aromatic foliage, such as lavender, santolina, artemisia, rosemary, thyme, southernwood, Russian sage and myrtle. If you walk through to the cloister, on the damp north-facing wall you will find a collection of ferns with their fine foliage.

What's that plant?

If you spot a plant during your visit that you don't recognise, our garden team are happy to help. Why not send us an email saying where you saw it, what it looked like and include a photo if you can and we will let you know what it is.