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Things to do in the gardens at Cragside

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

Cragside House sits at the heart of the ultimate designer garden. With spectacular vision, William and Margaret Armstrong transformed the grounds from a bare moorside into a fantasy mountain landscape. They filled the grounds with millions of trees and covered the hillsides in rhododendron.

Created for beauty and function you’ll discover towering trees, overflowing flower beds, trickling burns, dramatic water cascades as well as engineered lakes that were created to harness the power of water.

Cragside's Formal Garden in flower during the summer months.
Discover how technology was used in the Formal Garden. | © National Trust Images / Andrew Butler

Formal Garden

It’s well worth taking a short hike up the stone steps from the Iron Bridge to the Formal Garden. Once at the top you will be welcomed by colourful flower beds and lots of benches to rest your legs. The gardeners have brought back the fashionable Victorian displays. Every plant and flower has been carefully selected for its bright, bold colour and meticulously planted in straight lines and geometric patterns to bring uniformity to the beds.

Delight your senses at the small sensory garden where you can touch, smell and shake some of the plants. Find the ferneries, with its petit doorway and pond on the top tier of the garden.

Rock Garden

The Rock Garden surrounds Cragside House. Follow the stone steps and paths and explore the nooks and crannies. There’s a spectacular view of the Debdon Valley and the Iron Bridge from the top.

From the end of the May and into June, the Rock Garden puts on a colourful rhododendron show, flowering a week or so before the rest of the 1000-acre grounds burst into bloom. During the summer months the mechanical cascades are turned on and you can experience the peaceful sound of the water trickling between the rock.


If you’re looking for a peaceful stroll where you feel surrounded by nature, head for the Pinetum. As you wander across the timber bridge, you will feel like you are stepping into another world, as towering giant tree reach up to the sky in front of you. Follow the weaving path alongside the babbling burn, where you may spot birds swooping and diving across the top of the water. At this time of year, the sun can stream between the branches of some of the tallest trees of their kind in the country creating a cathedral-like affect across the woodland floor. Don’t forget to look out for ‘Douglas’, our friendly green giant nestled in the trees.

The Gorge

The Gorge is open between April and October each year. This scenic but rugged chasm takes you from the Pinetum to the Powerhouse, where you can find out more about how Armstrong turned water into light. Sturdy footwear is essential as you climb down the steps that have been carved into the rock and cross a timber bridge. From here you will witness the sound of rushing water tumbling into the river below. This impressive noise abruptly stops as you follow the wooden walkway around the cliff.

A view of Tumbleton Lake at Cragside on a sunny day during the summer.
Tumbleton Lake powered hydraulics in the Pump House. | © National Trust Images / Chris Lacey

Engineered Lakes

There are three engineered lakes which were created to harness the power of water.

Tumbleton Lakes

Tumbleton Lake is next to the visitor centre. At a little over a mile round, it’s a perfect walk for stretching your legs if you’ve been in the car for a while. At the top of the lake, you will see a view of the water and the towering trees in the distance, giving you a sense of the size and scale of the grounds. If you would like to walk a little further, Tumbleton Lake is also part of the waymarked Armstrong Trail which takes you on a tour of the lower estate.

Nelly’s Moss

High up on the grounds, is Nelly’s Moss Lakes. This popular part of the grounds is a haven for wildlife. The Greylag Geese and Swans make a return in the spring, and it’s one of the best places to spot emerging frogs and toads. You can follow the Nelly’s Moss walk around the lakes – look out for blue waymarkers to help you find you way.

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.

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