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Lost Gardens of Heligan

A real-life secret garden, the Lost Gardens of Heligan were left forgotten and untouched for nearly seven decades.

One of the most mysterious and magical estates in the UK, Frances Hodgson Burnett would have been left wide-eyed betwixt the luscious sprawl of the Lost Gardens of Heligan. A real-life secret garden, this beautiful oasis was abandoned after the outbreak of World War One and left untouched for 70 years.

Seat of the Tremayne family for nearly 400 years, this beautiful pocket of Cornwall was extensively developed between 1766 and 1914 and carefully nourished and maintained. Home to all manner of wonderful plant-life both local and exotic, the gardens thrived with towering pines, foreign species and buxom rhododendrons bursting with colour. From the sun-kissed corners of Italy to the wind-scoured heights of the Himalayas, the gardens were a gateway into extraordinary worlds.

With a Japanese Garden, Italian Garden, Flower Garden and Sundial Garden (that in 1896 was described as having “the finest herbaceous border in England”) and more, Heligan’s expansive grounds were a hub of activity. Beautifully wild and wildly beautiful, they continued to flourish until a sudden and tragic derailment came in the form of World War One. With the gardens’ Shelterbelt trees cut for the war effort and much of its workforce enlisted, the gardens were eventually abandoned.

All but forgotten, the Lost Gardens of Heligan were left to the tangled hands of time for decades. Held hostage by seas of brambles and ivy, it remained in a subdued state of slumber until 1990, when this regal Sleeping Beauty was rediscovered by Tim Smit and John Willis, a descendant of the Tremayne family. Becoming Europe’s largest garden restoration project and an extreme labour of love, the gardens were opened to the public in 1992 and have, bit by bit, been restored to their former glory.

30 years after it was rediscovered, these days the Lost Gardens of Heligan are one of the most famous visitor attractions in England. Only 14 miles from Merchant House Hotel in Truro, the gardens are recognised around the globe for their stunning collection of Camellias and Rhododendrons, as well as the numerous sub-gardens and pathways. From the restored Kitchen Garden, walled Flower Garden and Melon Yard to the Pleasure Grounds and Jungle, there is more than enough to see to keep you visiting year after year.