The South Cottage at Sissinghurst Castle Garden
Home to Vita Sackville-West's bedroom and Harold Nicolson's book room, this atmospheric house sits in the middle of the garden as a retreat away from the world.
Sissinghurst Castle Garden marked an important milestone this winter as we opened the South Cottage for the first time, with previously unseen objects and spaces to explore.
Rarely accessible to the public, the South Cottage was the intimate retreat of famous residents Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West. Visitors now have the chance to explore this little-known private space of one of the most influential couples in literary history, including their bedrooms and Harold’s book room where he carried out much of his writing.
The atmospheric cottage sits at the heart of the garden and has enjoyed the company of a variety of characters. If walls could talk, they’d tell of Harold designing the lime walk, the daily thoughts of its fascinating inhabitants and the tapping of typewriter keys crafting their next book.
The cottage was the place where Harold worked, writing in his book room overlooking the sunset colours of the Cottage Garden, and where Vita tended sick plants, in the flower room, before crossing the garden to her own writing room in the Tower. A seeming island amidst a sea of flowers, the cottage is in fact part of a wider, ‘village-house’, and the family lived between the cottage, the Priest’s House and the front range – with the garden knitting these buildings together.
The South Cottage was built from a fragment of the great Elizabethan mansion of the Bakers. Together with the Priest’s House and the Tower it was one of the first buildings at Sissinghurst to be addressed by Vita and Harold, who drew up plans for an extension to the north in 1932. Today, the cottage remains much as they would have known it and Harold’s description in 1933 reveals his affection for the building:
" The sitting-room is lovely except that the opening is too big. My bedroom, w.c. and bathroom are divine. The primroses are superb. Dine. Bed. Rebecca curled up beside me. Home. *"
* Rebecca was a wire-haired terrier.
The South Cottage has over the years been maintained as a writing haven by the Nicolson family, and much of the original décor remains. As visitors step through the low door-frame, they will find themselves immersed in a retreat away from the world.
Pick up a timed ticket from the cottage kitchen if you'd like a guided tour, normal admission to the garden applies. Please note that the cottage has a limited hourly and daily capacity so we cannot guarantee access.
You will need to navigate narrow paths to reach the South Cottage which may be slippery, please wear appropriate footwear.
Unfortunately the cottage is not accessible for disabled visitors.