Things to do in the gardens at Cragside
- 27 May 2023
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
From 18th-century water gardens and Arts and Crafts landscapes to intimate woodland gardens, there are so many places to discover.