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Things to do in the garden at Killerton

The Bear's Hut surrounded by daffodils in spring in the grounds of Killerton, Devon
The Bear's Hut at Killerton | © National Trust / Malcolm Jarvis

With far-reaching views, formal terraces, rolling lawns, ancient trees and even an extinct volcano, the different areas of the garden at Killerton are perfect for walks, escape and play. Whether you're visiting for a gentle stroll or to relax with the family, there’s room to explore at your own pace.

Spring has arrived!

The formal gardens are erupting with colour this spring. Keep an eye out for snowdrops, daffodils and crocusses dotting the grassy hillside. Did you know, there are over 40 different varieties of daffodil here at Killerton? Find them in their full glory half way up the formal gardens near the Dairy, or between the house and the stable block.

The Admiral’s Lawn and Terrace Garden

Head through the gate next to the house to explore the garden at Killerton. Opposite the old front door to the house is Admiral's Lawn, with a border of tender flowering perennials.

Stretching out behind the mansion house is the Terrace Garden. The herbaceous flowering bed is a canvas of colour in the summer and the four larger beds contain hazel and willow obelisks which support four different types of annual climbers.

An inscribed bench

Take a seat on the inscribed curved bench with expansive views over the front park. This was the place where former Prime Minister Lloyd George, made his speech to a huge crowd in 1925.

Historical planting

Neatly cut, sloping lawns and a variety of historic rhododendrons frame the more formal areas. Follow the path passing the large ornamental urns towards the larger lawn dotted with mature trees.

Wildflower meadows

The path weaves through areas dedicated to wildflower meadows. These wilder areas attract a wide variety of butterflies, bees and other pollinating insects.

A robin sings in a green leafy tree
Listen to birdsong in the garden at Killerton | © National Trust Images/Wayne Appleton

The Bear’s hut

This small, thatched building was originally built as a summerhouse in 1808. It still stands today and its position offers an opportunity to stop and look back across the garden and parkland with glimpses of the house beyond.

Step inside the hut to discover the deer knuckle bone floor, stained-glass window and ceiling alcoves decorated with pine cones.

The rock garden

The rock garden nestles at the rear of the Bear’s Hut. Rising rocky sides creates a climate for alpine plants and ferns, while a pathway of rocky steps leads up to the underground ice house. It can also be reached from the top path for easier access.

The ice house

The ice house is an underground structure built to contain ice. It's built into the back of the quarry, lined with brick, and the exterior was clad in earth and stone to create a natural-looking feature.

During the winter of 1809, 30 men worked for five days to fill it with 40 tons of ice from nearby ponds and the River Culm. The ice was used to chill bottles and make chilled desserts like ice cream for the Acland family. A special dessert cooler was used to ensure the food did not come in direct contact with the ice.

A roost for bats

The ice house has now become a winter roost for lesser horseshoe and greater horseshoe bats.

A memorial with views

Follow the main path from the rock garden and Bear’s Hut to the memorial for Sir Thomas Acland, 10th Baronet. The Grade II-listed memorial is in the form of a Celtic cross.

The cross was erected in 1873 to commemorate the 10th Baronet by 40 of his friends. It's clear to see why this was his favourite spot, looking out over the rolling Devon fields.

Memorial for St Thomas Dyke Acland, Killerton, Devon
The Memorial Cross | © National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

The Clump

Take in the views on the winding paths to reach the lofty heights of the upper garden. Head through the gate to the shady woodland of the Clump – an extinct volcano and site of a Roman hillfort.

Local legend says a dragon lives at the very top and frequently flies between Killerton clump and nearby Cadbury hillfort.

Champion trees

Many specimen and champion trees follow the natural contours of the garden. The seeds for these rare trees were collected by local plant collectors working for the Veitch nursery in nearby Exeter.

An avenue of trees

An avenue of beech trees leads to a giant sequoia redwood tree. Descend further to pass the handkerchief tree (Davidia involucrate) which grows near the top of the smaller sloping lawn.

The name derives from the pale leaves which drape in a way that resembles handkerchiefs.

The chapel

The grounds of the chapel are a quiet place to reflect and take in tranquil birdsong, while admiring the architecture of this Grade I-listed building.

The chapel was designed by architect C R Cockerell by Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, 7th Baronet, in the 1840s. Acland wanted a family chapel of his very own and, as agreed, Cockerell copied the Lady Chapel and Crypt of St Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury.

Inside the chapel

The interior of the chapel is unusual, as the pews face each other rather than the altar. This means the congregation could all see each other, from the Aclands and their guests to their servants and estate workers.

Two visitors admiring a laid table in the Dining Room at Killerton, Devon

Discover more at Killerton

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