The Garden at Scotney Castle

Scotney Old Castle reflected in the moat during summer

Scotney Castle’s garden is like a landscape painting with drama, romance and nature combined in perfect harmony - whether it's the old castle glimpsed through a swathe of rhododendrons and azaleas in spring, or colourful reflections in the moat in autumn.

A landscape with drama and romance

Since the early 1700s, British landscape gardeners had been creating gardens inspired by pictures, but by 1800 a backlash had set in and critics considered the calm grassy vistas designed by Capability Brown too smooth and tidy. Scotney's Picturesque garden is a last fling in this style of gardening.

A fairytale feel

The garden has naturalistic planting which is seemingly untouched by human hand and its cloud-like planting of rhododendrons and azaleas creates a fairytale feel, with the ruins of the Old Castle at its centre. Wisteria and old English roses adorn its sandstone walls, whilst the surrounding herbaceous beds are throw out new colours throughout the seasons.

The castle is clothed in climbing wisteria, roses and clematis, and herbaceous beds give colour and interest during the summer months. The terraces around the house are managed for the rare green-winged orchids, a plant that was in decline after WWII but now thrives in the lawns around the house. Further away from the castle you will discover the Ice House thatched with heather, acres of wild meadows alive with butterflies and insects, and the stream that feeds water to the moat.

The old boathouse at Scotney Castle
The boathouse on a water-lily covered moat at Scotney Castle
The old boathouse at Scotney Castle

Picturesque landscape

The present appearance of Scotney Castle and its gardens are the result of the work undertaken from 1834 to 1843 for its then owner, Edward Hussey III, by the architect, Anthony Salvin and the gardener, William Sawrey Gilpin. Gilpin’s Picturesque garden design integrated the ‘new’ mansion house and the ruined, original medieval castle with the surrounding landscape. The vistas across the quarry towards the ruined castle and out into the estate, framed by large specimen trees and clumps of rhododendron, give a wild feel to the garden - a key feature of a Picturesque landscape.

The garden continued to be developed along Picturesques lines by subsequent owners, Edward Windsor Hussey (known as Edwy) and Christopher Hussey. Christopher was the final owner of Scotney and became a renowned expert on the Picturesque, publishing many books and articles.

Walled Garden

The one-acre Walled Garden was built around 1840 to provide the family and its household with fresh fruit and vegetables. Its octagonal shape maximises the amount of sheltered sunny growing space for the esapliered and cordon fruit trees trained up the walls. In 2007 the garden team restored the Walled Garden to its former glory, and today you can see a wide selection of fruit and vegetables and an assortment of cut flowers that are used for displays in the house. 


Flower beds in the Walled Garden at Scotney Castle
Flower beds in the Walled Garden at Scotney Castle
Flower beds in the Walled Garden at Scotney Castle


Guided Garden Walks

Between early March and the end of October, the Scotney gardeners run free guided walks sharing the season's garden highlights, and talking about the history of the planting and the Picturesque movement. Lasting around 45 minutes, the walks run on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11am and 2.30pm. This year's programme starts with 'Signs of Spring' and ends with 'Autumn Colour'. There is no need to book for these walks - just meet your garden guide at the front of the mansion house a few minutes before the walk is due to start.


Picnic blankets are welcome in the garden, however chairs and tables can only be used on the wider estate. If you picnic on the estate please be aware livestock may be present and take all your litter home with you.