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Things to do in the garden at Godolphin

Herbaceous borders in summer at Godolphin,
Herbaceous borders in summer at Godolphin, | © National Trust Images/Hilary Daniel

Visit the large garden at Godolphin and discover how the original 16th-century layout is still visible today. Uncover the hidden parts of the garden and learn how everything is planted with wildlife in mind. Godolphin's garden also provides a special home to insects, such as the native Cornish black bee.

Seasonal Garden highlights

Sir Francis Godolphin was one of the most important and influential inhabitants of Cornwall when he built his garden here in the 16th century. Five centuries later, much of the original layout of his ambitious scheme survives, making the garden at Godolphin of national importance.

This summer, wander through the King’s Garden and enjoy the scent of the roses which bloom in the herbaceous borders as well as the array of colour from blooming with bearded iris, sedums, lupins, arum lilies, wild valerian, and lavender which comes alive with bees.

Enjoy the popping up of wild orchids in the side garden, which are more numerous than ever thanks to "No Mow May".

Volunteer gardener at work in the flower border in June at Godolphin, Cornwall
Volunteer gardener working in the flower border at Godolphin, Cornwall | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

The King's Garden

Step into the King's Garden from the folly passage way and explore the 16th-century privy garden belonging to the King's Room. The term ‘privy’ means that the garden was private to the occupants of that room.

The King's Garden had many uses over the years, from being a private formal garden in Tudor times to a vegtable garden.

Today, everyone can enjoy this walled garden with cloud-like box hedges following neat paths. When the sun shines it becomes a suntrap where you can breathe in the perfume of highly scented roses and lavender when they bloom.

The King's Room

From the King's Garden, venture into the King's Room, which is Godolphin’s stateroom, where Charles II reputedly stayed whilst fleeing Parliamentarian forces in 1646.

See the large carved oak chimneypiece overmantel which commemorates the marriage of William Godolphin and Thomasine Sidney in 1604. Paint has been removed from the surface of the chimneypiece, revealing the carving in greater detail. It’s supported by four ornately carved columns. Take a closer look at the top of the columns to see shapes that resemble two hearts, symbolising love in the marriage.

House Opening House

The King's Room is open daily. Godolphin House provides a unique place for guests to stay and is open to members of the public for the first week of every month from the first Saturday to Thursday (except January).Check opening hours to find out more.

Close up of a blue tit feeding off one of the bird feeders in the garden at Godolphin, Cornwall.
Blue tit on the bird feeder in the garden at Godolphin, Cornwall | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

The Side Garden

Of the original nine-compartment Tudor design, three remain in the Side Garden. They provide a wealth of traditional, seasonal planting and in the summer the herbaceous borders are full of height, colour and scent.

Plants like aquilegia, white foxgloves, lupin and ox-eye daisy provide a food source for bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. Take a seat on one of the bespoke benches under the trees and enjoy the varied insect life.

The dry ponds

Head up to the dry ponds, which would have included a breeding pond for fish when they were full of water, which were once filled by streams from Godolphin Hill. Water management was very popular in the 16th century so having your own pond was the height of fashion.

The original steps can be used to reach the former pond from the Side Garden.

The Paddock

This area is home to the first native bee haven on a National Trust site in the UK. We’re supporting a project to save the Cornish remnants of the native black honey bee. You might see the bee keepers inspecting the hives during your visit.

The Orchard

The Orchard has been replanted with Cornish varieties of apples, alongside pears, a medlar, crab apples, white mulberries and cherries.

If you visit in spring, the trees will be filled with blossom and the sound of buzzing bees. Then, from September to October, they’ll be laden with juicy fruit. Fallen apples are placed at the back of the borders to provide food for birds and other wildlife.

Potting shed

Visit the potting shed to read more information about the garden, and take shelter from any unexpected showers. Cuttings and floral blooms can be found here with named labels to help identify the more unusual plant specimens.

The exterior of the Victorian Farm Buildings at Godolphin, Cornwall
Victorian Farm Buildings on Godolphin estate | © National Trust Images / Chris Lacey

Visit the Outbuildings

The stables

The former stable block would have stored cut hay, animal feed and tack for the horses. A few farm wagons and wain carts can be found at Godolphin today and these would have been pulled by horses as part of daily farm life.

Look out for the cut stone sections placed within one of the window openings. Other worked stone pieces lean against the dry stone wall. These are possibly left over from a fire at the property in the 17th century, they appear to be from mullion windows and other building masonry.

The Shippons

Shippon is a traditonal word for cattle shed, and here at Godolphin you can explore the history of farming here at Godolphin. You can even have a go at milking Polly the resident milkable cow!

The Piggery

The former piggery now houses the tea-room here at Godolphin. The original slate-lined walls can still be seen, which would have been easy to clean when the piggery was in use.

Stop here for a variety of cakes, sandwiches and hot drinks. Cream teas and Cornish ice creams are also served here when available. It’s the ideal place to refuel after looking around the buildings.

Two adults walk through the garden in the sunshine at Godolphin, Cornwall

Discover more at Godolphin

Find out when Godolphin is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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