Athelhampton’s history and that of its inter-related families covers more than a thousand years. Much of the present house has stood for over five centuries.
Sir William Martyn built the Hall at Athelhampton in about the year of 1485 and received a license to enclose 160 acres of deer park and fortify his manor. The house remained in the Martyn family for the next 4 generations until the house was eventually purchased by Alfred Cart de Lafontaine in 1891, who set about restoring the house and creating the formal gardens we see today.
In 1957, Robert Victor Cooke purchased the house, and in 1966 he gave Athelhampton to his son Sir Robert Cooke MP. Today Sir Robert’s son Patrick and his wife Andrea run Athelhampton and continue to improve and renovate the House and Gardens to protect it for generations to come.
Home of the Bankes family for more than 300 years, this striking 17th-century house is noted for its lavish interiors. The outstanding art collection includes paintings by Rubens, Van Dyck, Titian and Brueghel, with the largest private collection of Egyptian artefacts in the UK. Outside, stroll across the beautiful lawns towards the restored Japanese tea garden. There are several waymarked walks through the surrounding parkland, with its fine herd of North Devon cattle, and the 3,443-hectare (8,500-acre) estate is dominated by the Iron Age hill fort of Badbury Rings, home to fourteen varieties of orchid.
Mapperton House & Gardens
Mapperton Gardens is a romantic valley garden deep into a lost Dorset combe among tumbling hills and unspoiled countryside. The gardens descend from the croquet lawn, through the formal topiary down to the wild garden. The manor house with its church, stable block, coach house, dovecote and courtyard is a glorious harmony of golden sandstone and stands on level ground looking across terraced gardens, grass banks and wooded hill which descend steeply to the south. Pevsner’s Dorset guide says “there can hardly be a more enchanting manorial group than Mapperton.”
The house, Elizabethan in origin, enlarged in the late 1660s, is a marvellous example of a West Country manor house in harmony with its surroundings and the rolling landscape around it.
Now the home of the Earl and Countess of Sandwich, Mapperton continues to be a family house and harks back to the restoration of Charles II when the first Earl of Sandwich brought the King back from Holland.
Sherborne Castle, Dorset has been the Wingfield Digby family home since 1617. Built by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1594, this historic house reflects a glorious variety of decorative styles from over 400 years of English History. Visit the Castle’s rich interiors with its splendid collections of art, furniture and porcelain, together with Raleigh’s original kitchen, family artefacts and archaeological ‘finds’ from the old medieval castle on view in the castle cellars.
Explore the 42 acres of beautiful gardens and grounds and soak up the beauty, peace and tranquility of this natural setting. Capability Brown in 1753 created the 50 acre lake and gave us the very latest in landscape gardening, with magnificent specimen trees, herbaceous borders and sweeping lawns.
Abbotsbury Sub tropical Gardens
After the great storm of 1990, a major restoration project has been underway. Many new exotic and unusual flowers have been introduced to this fabulous Dorset Garden.
The Garden is a mixture of formal and informal flowers, world famous for it’s Camellia groves and magnolias. Noted in Dorset for its Rhododendron and Hydrangea collections and the charming Victorian Garden.
Facilities include the Colonial Restaurant, a quality gift shop and a superb plant centre where many of the flowers grown in the Garden can be purchased.
Forde Abbey & Gardens
30 acres of gardens with a cascade of ponds, including the highest powered fountain in England, surround this 12th Century former monastery. Herbaceous borders, Bog Garden, Rockery, mature Arboretum and working walled kitchen garden. Plantings and landscaping date from early 18th Century. Gardens open daily.
Kingston Maurward Gardens
C18 Mansion with contemporary parkland and pleasure gardens. Estate purchased 1914 by Sir Cecil Hanbury, whose father created La Mortola in Italy. The formal gardens consist of a matrix of small gardens, each with its own theme. Lakeside walks and a delightful walled garden. National Collections of Penstemon and Salvia.
Garden and Animal Park open daily 10am-5.30pm Jan 5th to Dec 21st.