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Things to see in Compton Castle garden

Blue flowers bloom next to a gravel path with an apple tree in the background.
Bluebells bloom during the late spring months | © National Trust / Chris Pope

The garden at Compton Castle is small but perfectly formed, its character and appearance changing with the seasons. Among the highlights are a medieval-style knot garden, a rose garden and an orchard, and its different areas reflect the many lives of the building set in the middle of it. Take your time wandering around and enjoy the variety of plants, sights and smells.

Lawns and orchards

As you arrive at Compton Castle the tidy lawns either side of the central path, bordered with lavender, are the first thing you see. This sunny spot is home to traditional games such as croquet and quoits if you fancy a game, or you're welcome to just relax on the lawn. Through a gateway at the bottom left of the lawn is an orchard where apple trees blossom in spring and grow fruitful with apples in autumn.

Metal squirrel statue on a plinth, with green stalks and purple flower heads around it.
How many squirrels can you spot? | © National Trust / Chris Pope

Spot the squirrels

The squirrel is significant to Compton Castle as it was the name of the ship Sir Humphrey Gilbert sailed on to found the first English colony in Newfoundland in 1583 in the name of Queen Elizabeth I.

As you explore this treasured family home, can you spot any squirrels?

Rose garden

Steps at the top left of the lawns lead you to the rose garden. In the summer months the heady smell of roses and scented wisteria hits you before you finish climbing the steps, and then the sight of many roses climbing the pergola and lining the paths takes your breath away.

Look out for the Armillary Sphere in the rose garden which was forged in 1983 to mark the 400th anniversary of Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s colonisation of Newfoundland, and take a seat on the bench by the pond for a quiet moment to take it all in. The knot garden also commemorates this as at its heart is a squirrel statue, inspired by Sir Humphrey's ship The Squirrel.

Knot garden

Designed by the Gilbert family and planted in 2003 with the aid of generous donations, the Knot garden is currently under restoration to make it more resilient to the changing and challenging climate conditions at Compton. The box plants used in the original design struggled with the wet clay soil of the valley and had to be removed.

A small leaved holly was used as a more alternative substitute but this struggled with the sunny aspect. We’re currently working the National Trust’s specialist plant propagation centre to grow a small leaved euonymus plant that should better tolerate the conditions. Planting is currently planned for autumn 2024.

Wooden bench sits on a grassy lawn with a stone wall behind and framed by apple trees with apples in fruit
Compton's orchard is the perfect spot for a picnic | © National Trust / Laura Rugg

Picnic in the orchard

Whatever the time of year, a picnic in the orchard is a must-do when visiting Compton Castle. In the spring you can lunch under the blossom of the apple trees, in the summer soak up the sunshine and race around the trails mown into the long grass, and in the autumn look for apples ripening on the trees.

Thank you

The garden, planned by the Gilbert family and now cared for by a National Trust gardener and a team of volunteers, has grown through public donations and events.

Additions such as the pergola in 2001 and the planting of the medieval-style Knot Garden in 2003 wouldn't have been possible without public support, and that is true to this day.

Funds raised through admissions income and donations go directly towards the care and upkeep of the Castle and garden. In 2022 we installed new oak benches carved locally with the Gilbert Coat of Arms thanks to funds raised at Compton Castle.

A distant view of the north front side of Compton Castle, Devon with fields behind

Discover more at Compton Castle

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

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