Sissinghurst Castle

Biddenden Road near Cranbrook Kent TN17 2AB

Sissinghurst is not a castle in the literal sense of the word. The reason people flock to this National Trust site is to wander through and wonder at the stunning gardens, designed and planted by Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicolson, in the 1930s. It's a romantic story – Sackville-West and Nicolson came across an abandoned Tudor estate, fallen into rack and ruin, and fell in love with it immediately. Determined to save it, they bought the crumbling estate and set about creating the garden, using the echoey outlines of its long-gone rooms to create themed outdoor 'rooms' that eschewed formality in favour of wild abundance. The result, created over decades, is as romantic as the story, colourful and unexpected, with breathtakingly artless combinations and a sense of overblown abandon. Highlights change according to the season, of course, but favourites include the rose garden, ablaze with blooms and thick with scent in summer, the pretty cottage garden, whose reds and golds are most glorious in autumn, and the pièce de résistance white garden – who knew there were so many shades of white? – planted with anenomes, dahlias, irises and gladioli. Before leaving, take time to climb to the top of the red-brick Tudor tower that overlooks the garden. Here you can peep into, but not enter, Sackville-West's little study, full of books and pictures and a photo of the writer's friend and one-time lover, Virginia Woolf.

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