Sudeley Castle, just north of Cheltenham is nestled in amongst the Cotswold Hills and offers an experience of 1000 years of history with the old ruins of the castle and the ruins of an old tithe barn set in magnificent gardens. Old roses and clematis climb the ancient walls and the various themed gardens show the vision of Emma Dent who restored and redesigned them in the 19th century as well as by Lady Ashcombe during the 20th century. You can follow in the footsteps of Katherine Parr as she had done when accompanying Lady Jane Grey on her walks. As well as the Tudor era the more modern contemporary gardens are also celebrated with an installation in 2005 of 'The Happily Every After Garden' which has tall wrought iron letters clad in climbing roses and honeysuckle, spelling out the phrase.
For two centuries the ruins were neglected and changed hands many times, until in 1837 when it was bought by John and William Dent, wealthy glove makers from Worcester. They set about restoring some of the surviving parts, making it habitable again and over the next half century the Dent family improved and added to both the house, gardens, estate and also neighbouring Winchcombe. It is still part of the Dent-Brocklehurst family today and is a private home for the current family. However like many large stately houses it has been affected by the ravages of death duties, but has managed to stay in the family by the fact that in 1969 the decision was made to open the Castle to the public. It opened two years later and since then tourists from around the world have been able to enjoy the gardens and ruins.
So as a visitor what can you see at Sudeley today. Well you can explore the 14 acres of gardens with topiary, water features and ruins, which include:-
The White Garden - a garden of white flowers to be found around the chapel.
The Secret Garden - A walled garden on three sides with the fourth wall made of hedge. Originally designed in 1979 to celebrate the marriage of Lady and Lord Ashcombe, raised beds were used to display the flowers. In 1998 it was further invigorated to commemorate the marriage of their son. In spring it is festooned with colours of purple, lavender, white and pink from over 1,000 tulips.
The Victorian Kitchen Garden - this garden sites next to the main stone arched gatehouse. This is now more of an exhibition garden with the produce planted in raised beds, rather than a practical garden which supplies the house.
The Happily Ever After Garden is a structural installation of tall wrought iron letters spelling the name of the garden and they are clad in climbing roses and honeysuckle, very fragrant.
The Tithe Barn Garden - across the lawns from the main house there is the ruined remains of a medieval Tithe Barn, alongside which runs a canal of water which is home to Koi Carp. A good site for reflections of the ruins. Wild roses meander around the archways of the ruins, hydrangeas, wisteria and wild clematis can also be found here.
The Wildflower Walk and Meadow - The wildflower walks takes you from the Tithe Barn past the Victorian Kitchen garden and on to the Pheasantry. The path meanders under a canopy of tress and wildflowers of Oxeye daisies, sweet rocket, cranebills amongst others carpet the floor below.
The Castle Ruins - the only remaining part of the old castle is a wall of gothic windows and an old fireplace with a an old stone chair, the garden here has been created in what would have been the Tudor Banqueting Hall.
There is also The Pheasantry and Wildfowl area which houses 15 of the rare and endangered species of birds from around the world.
Exhibitions - various exhibitions which illustrate the history of the castle are housed in the Long Room and adjoining galleries.
Plant Centre - specialising in old-fashioned roses, herbs and bedding plants which you can purchase and take home for your own garden.
Guided Tours of the private apartments also take place on some days of the week during their opening season. Take a look at their website for details on when they operate, at what times, what you get to see and prices.
As well as these attractions there are also other events taking place throughout the year from Jousting Battles, ballooning grand prix, Garden and Country festivals, NGS open days and more. Their website will keep you up to date.
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