Skip to content

Things to do in the gardens at Cragside

The 19th-century Clock Tower in the Formal Garden at Cragside, Northumberland.
The Clock Tower at Cragside | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Cragside House sits at the heart of the ultimate designer garden. Everything you see at Cragside was sculpted, dynamited and planted to transform the bare moorside into a vast fantasy mountain landscape. This engineered paradise includes a Formal Garden, Rock Garden and Pinetum. Discover towering trees, exotic plants and tumbling cascades as you explore the grounds.

Rock Garden

The Rock Garden was engineered by the Armstrongs to create a fantasy mountain landscape complete with artificial water cascades that tumble into the burn below.

The sandstone that makes the Rock Garden paths and borders was mined from quarries dotted around the estate, along with the stone that built the House. If you look closely at some of the stone, you can still see evidence of where the straps were attached to haul the giant pieces into place.

Visitors going down steps amidst the dense planting as they explore the Rock Garden at Cragside, Northumberland
Visitors explore the Rock Garden at Cragside | © National Trust Images/John Millar

Formal Garden

The Formal Garden covers three acres of the estate and faces south, overlooking the Coquet Valley. This impressive garden is arranged over three levels and has been re-created to reflect the original layout of Lord and Lady Armstrong’s vision.

Places to sit are dotted around the garden. So, when the sun is shining, you can enjoy views of the rolling landscape surrounding the village of Rothbury and the distinctive, stepped ridge of the Simonside hills dominating the horizon.

The Clock Tower

The Clock Tower overlooks the Formal Garden. This decorative, Gothic Revival building was built to house the estate's timepiece in 1864.

The special clock had two mechanisms: one for the clock and another set of chimes for the estate workers. It sounded 24 times during the day, including chimes for lunch and the start and end of the working day.

Orchard House

One of the main features of the Formal Garden is the Orchard House. The only surving part of a grand suite of glasshouses that dated from the 1870s. The Armstrong's introduced technologies across many areas of the estate and the Formal Garden was no exception. A central heating system was built with an elaborate eating system to allow the cultivation of hardy and tender fruits. The fruit trees were also planted earthenware pots, designed rotate so every part of the tree could catch the sun.

Look out for the ferneries, with its petit doorway and pond which was once heated using water to create temperate and tropical climates to help the Armstrong's plant collection thrive in the cooler Northumberland hills.

Italian Terrace

The centrepiece of the garden's lowest level is the Italian Terrace. Its bed of tender plants was originally sheltered by glass walls but no roof.

However, the glass-walled structures were removed to make way for a tennis court. Look closely on the pillars of the open-fronted Loggia and you'll spot the hook for the tennis net.

Quatrefoil pool

This traditional-shaped pool was part of the Armstrongs’ original design for the Formal Garden. However, it was removed in the 1920s to make space for the tennis court.

The quatrefoil structure was discovered in a neighbouring field in 2000. Reaquired by Cragside, it was put back as the focal point of the terrace.


The grandest example of how the Armstrongs collected, with an aim to bring the world to Cragside, can be found in the Pinetum. A Pinetum is a towering collection of non-native trees.

The land where the Pinetum sits started life as a damp and marshy part of the estate, which was the perfect growing conditions for an ornamental coniferous forest.

The Pinetum shows the Armstrongs’ interest in non-native horticulture, bringing prime examples of species from North America this corner of the North East in the UK.

The original trees still stand today. They were planted around 160 years ago and include a mix of species, including Douglas Fir, Caucasian Fir, Noble Fir and Western Hemlock.

Covering one hectare, the area is home to five of the top 10 champion trees – the tallest of their kind in the country.

Two visitors walking along a footpath through the Pinetum at Cragside surrounded by trees on a sunny day
The Pinetum at Cragside | © National Trust Images/John Millar
The Drawing Room at Cragside with its intricately carved fireplace surround, curved ceiling and dining room furniture, including tables, chairs and couches

Discover more at Cragside

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

You might also be interested in

A golden-coloured labrador is looking at the camera. It has a cheery face and its tongue is out. He is stood on the Rock Garden steps at Cragside.

Visiting Cragside with your dog 

Cragside is a two pawprint rated place. With over 40 miles of footpaths, Cragside is great place to stretch your legs with your dog. Read our top tips to help make the most of your visit.

A woman and two young children gaze up to look at artworks on the umber-painted walls of the Gallery at Cragside, Northumberland

Things to do in the house at Cragside 

Cragside House was Britain's original 'smart home'. The Victorian mansion illuminated by hydroelectricity and powered hydraulics.

The Blackburn Boathouse, a small stone building with a thatched roof standing amongst trees with autumn leaves at Cragside, Northumberland

Things to do on the estate at Cragside 

Cragside is a treasure trove of undiscovered secrets. Find carved critters and the driest boathouse in Britain, as well as the wildlife that calls Cragside their home.

An elevated view of the decorative exterior of the house at Cragside

History of Cragside 

Cragside is often considered to be Britain’s original smart home. Discover more about the creation of Cragside and the people who made the remarkable place we know today.

A small felt mouse decoration surrounded by colourful paper Christmas tree decorations

Shopping and eating at Cragside 

Break up your day by visiting one of the eateries at Cragside, and pop into the shop, set in the old stable block near the tranquil Tumbleton Lake.

A garden volunteer working in the flower borders at Mottistone Gardens, Isle of Wight.

Volunteer opportunities at Cragside 

Want to help keep the garden and estate at Cragside looking its very best for every season? Find out the volunteer roles available and how you can apply to join the team.

Sunrise over Croome, Worcestershire

Gardens and parks 

From 18th-century water gardens and Arts and Crafts landscapes to intimate woodland gardens, there are so many places to discover.

A gardener tending to the borders at Kingston Lacy, Dorset

Gardening tips 

Discover our gardeners’ top tips so you can make the most of your garden, plot or window box.