Garden heaven at Holker Hall, Cark-in-Cartmel

The Summer Garden at Holker Hall
In the Summer Garden at Holker Hall

If you visit the blog on a regular basis, you’ll know that I love to visit gardens, but despite having been to Holker Hall and the annual Holker Garden Festival on several occasions, I’d never actually visited the gardens until last weekend.

I expected the gardens to be good, but didn’t realise just how much there would be to look at – set aside a good afternoon if you want to enjoy everything there is to see, as well as spend some quality time taking in your surroundings from one of the many benches placed around the grounds.

Woodland walks at Holker HallHolker Hall is a stately home near to Grange-over-Sands on the edge of Morecambe Bay, and is home to the Cavendish family. The house itself dates back to the 1600s, and the gardens, which cover 25 acres in total, are surrounded by a further 200 acres of parkland – you’ll often see the estate’s fallow deer roaming in the distance.

The Labyrinth at Holker Hall
The Labyrinth, which uses slate and stone from the Holker Estate’s Burlington quarry, and is surrounded by wild meadow

Spring has to be one of the very best times to visit Holker, due to the sheer number of rhododendrons, azaleas and trees laden with blossom. Apparently, it is wonderful to visit at any time of year though, with roses later in the season, autumn colours to look forward to, and the topiary taking centre stage in the winter months. I took a delightful walk under a long curved pergola which is clearly going to make a stunning display when its climbers and wisteria come out very shortly. It isn’t surprising that Holker Hall was crowned BBC Countryfile Magazine’s Garden of the Year for 2015/16!

Topiary at Holker Hall
Topiary in the Elliptical Garden

As with many large gardens, Holker’s is divided into many distinct areas or ‘rooms’, the formal ones including the Elliptical Garden, Summer garden, Neptune Cascade and Sunken Garden. Other areas are more informal and make up semi-natural woodland walks, their planting merging beautifully with the parkland beyond.

Depending on the time of year you choose to visit, here are some more of the many wonderful things you may come across on a walk around the gardens (grab yourself a cup of tea – there are quite a few! 🙂 ):

The Elliptical Garden at Holker Hall
The Elliptical Garden in front of the house
The Portuguese Laurel arches in the Summer Garden
The Portuguese Laurel arches in the Summer Garden
Tulips in the Summer Garden at Holker Hall
The stunning Summer Garden, with its symmetrically shaped and colourful planting surrounded by low box hedges
The Great Holker Lime
Looking for the Great Holker Lime, whose girth measures 7.9 metres!
The Great Holker Lime
Here it is!
Rhododendron on the Beech Walk
Rhododendrons tower over you on the Beech Walk
Walking through less formal areas of the garden
Walking through less formal areas of the garden…

Woodland walk at Holker HallTree fern at Holker Hall

The Grotto at Holker Hall
There are surprises everywhere – just look at this lovely limestone tunnel, which goes under the road and is known as ‘The Grotto’
Monkey Puzzle trees at Holker Hall
The Monkey Puzzle trees
Rhododendrons at Holker Hall
Spring must be one of the best times to visit Holker Hall, when all the rhododendrons are in flower
Seat feature made from a stump at Holker Hall
I love the seat feature that has been carefully crafted from this tree stump!
The Sunken Garden at Holker Hall
Back to another formal part of the gardens, the Sunken Garden

Trees in flower at Holker Hall

The Pagan Grove at Holker Hall
The Pagan Grove, a turf oval amphitheatre planted with spring bulbs
The East India Ducks running around near the Cascade
“Hello!” The East India Ducks running around near the Cascade
The Cascade at Holker Hall
The Neptune Cascade surrounded by pink rhododendrons (you can just see the marble statue of Neptune in the distance)

Another reason to allow yourself plenty of time, is to visit the house itself (I haven’t done this, but maybe I’ll pay a visit in another blog post!) and the Courtyard Café – the courtyard is a lovely place to sit out and eat when the weather is good.

There are also lots of picnic benches in the large grassed areas to the centre of the car park, and apparently there is an undercover picnic area and children’s adventure playground too. You should also make time to visit the gift shop and, in particular, the Food Hall, which has some really interesting local and speciality foods that you won’t find in many other places.

The Courtyard at Holker Hall
The Courtyard at Holker Hall
Inside the Food Hall at Holker Hall
Inside the Food Hall
The car park at Holker Hall
The centre of the car park, which has to be one of the most visually pleasing car parks in the Lake District!

New to Holker Hall for 2016 is the Ilex, a brasserie which serves food in the evenings on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, as well as Sunday lunch. Of course, I couldn’t leave without a quick peek…

The new Brasserie at Holker Hall, The Ilex
Inside the new Brasserie

Have you visited the gardens at Holker Hall? Which was your favourite area and why? I’d love to hear your thoughts – please do leave a comment below.


  1. The next annual Holker Garden Festival is coming up shortly on 3rd-5th June 2016 – for more information, take a look at the show website:

  2. Janine, you take such stunning pictures, I’d love know what camera you use and if you just point and click, or spend time carefully composing the shots – it certainly looks like it. Please share some of your secrets with your more photographically challenged followers.

    • Thank you for your lovely comment Jane! I use a Sony A57 SLR, which was a good choice for me because it allows me to change lenses for different types of shot, but isn’t too heavy to carry around – when I bought it, which was some time ago now, a lot of the similar and higher-spec models were very heavy for carrying around!

      I take most of my shots on the ‘manual’ setting, as I have a good idea now of which camera settings will achieve what I want, and I shoot in RAW mode so that I can work on the photos later in Adobe Lightroom (usually to alter light levels and bring back detail that has been lost in shadow or bright light – especially valuable when photographing dark historic houses where flash isn’t allowed and I can’t use a tripod!). The technical side of photography I learnt through books and then taking a BTEC Level 3 course at our local college.

      I did a lot of photography before the course and starting the blog, and even before having the SLR (previously I had a basic point-and-shoot digital camera). Composing the image has always come down to what ‘feels’ right – though for every good photo there’ll be half a dozen that don’t work so well, and I pick out what I like best! Part of the attraction of photography, I think, is that you never stop learning – in particular I need to work on taking shots of people, which I find a lot harder than rooms and landscapes! I hope this goes some way towards answering your questions – perhaps I could turn this comment into a blog post in the near future!! All the best, Janine

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