Castle Hill Gardens
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: A remarkable Palladian landscape dating to 1730
HistoryIn 1454 the Fortescue family established a manor at Filleigh, near South Molton. It was not the main family residence; that was at Weare Giffard, 12 miles distant. The medieval building was replaced with a Tudor house, which in turn was remodelled in 1684 by Arthur Fortescue.
In 1730 a new Palladian house was built by Hugh Fortescue, 14th Baron Clinton. Fortescue was inspired to build in the new Palladian fashion popularised by Lord Burlington, and indeed he consulted Lord Burlington on the design of his new mansion and hired Burlington's favourite mason, Roger Morris, to oversee the project.
What to SeeThough it is nominally called a 'garden', Castle Hill can perhaps more accurately be described as an artistically arranged landscape, with paths winding through plantations of trees, opening out to sudden vistas, and views of neo-classical follies, statues, and temples. The garden was not designed as a whole, but was added to over time, with new temples springing up over the following century.
On the same axis as the Sham Castle is a triumphal arch, 1/2 mile away on a hilltop site, facing the castle across the valley.
From the Satyr's Temple trails wind back and forth up a sloping hillside, through beautiful plantations, passing a statue of Pan, a roadside cross, and the Sunset Temple before reaching the Sham Castle on the hilltop.
In spring this area is lushly coloured with white, red, and pink camelias, as well as early rhododendrons and magnolias. Later in the year the woodlands are a riot of colour as snowdrops and primroses carpet the ground beneath stands of lofty beech trees. By May the air os full of scent from azaleas and later rhododendrons.
Nearer the mansion are lushly planted formal gardens centred on a peculiar water sculpture, and the walled garden; a mix of kitchen and ornamental garden with a fish pool populated by exotic, coloured fish.
VisitingI loved visiting Castle Hill, I came expecting a more traditional garden, but the landscaped woodland was a delight, and the neo-classical statues and follies created a fascinating historic atmosphere. The colourful formal gardens near the house make a lovely contrast to the landscape gardens, and the sumptuous mansion acts as a backdrop for the gardens from all angles.
A final touch of delight enhanced my visit. As I was walking along the terrace in front of the house an antique Rolls Royce car pulled up the drive and parked directly in front of the house. It was as if I'd steeped back 100 years in time to the age of the country house. It turned out the car was there for a photo shoot, and the owner just wanted to use the mansion as a background for his vintage automobile.
One final note:
I found Castle Hill through the Historic Houses Association handbook (I've been a member for years). I assumed that because it was listed in the HHA handbook that I'd get free entry to the gardens. Oops! No, I had to pay full price. The person at the service kiosk was apologetic - she'd obviously had the same confusion arise before - but it was a bit of an unexpected surprise that the garden was listed in the handbook, but not part of the free admission scheme. So, if you're an HHA member, take note and bring cash!
About Castle Hill Gardens
Address: Castle Hill Estate Office, Filleigh, Barnstaple, Devon, England, EX32 0RQ
Attraction Type: Garden
Location: Off the minor road between Filleigh and Stag's Head, 3 miles north west of South Molton.
Website: Castle Hill Gardens
Phone: 01598 760 336
Fax: 01598 760 457
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Chittlehampton, St Hieritha's Church - 2.8 miles (Historic Church)
South Molton, St Mary Magdalene Church - 3 miles (Historic Church)
Swimbridge, St James Church - 3.2 miles (Historic Church)
Satterleigh, St Peter's Church - 3.6 miles (Historic Church)
Cobbaton Combat Collection - 3.8 miles (Museum)
Warkleigh, St John the Evangelist Church - 3.9 miles (Historic Church)
Atherington, St Mary's Church - 6 miles (Historic Church)
Burrington, Holy Trinity Church - 7.6 miles (Historic Church)
Nearest Accommodation to Castle Hill Gardens:
Nearest Self Catering Cottages
Nearest Bed and Breakfasts
Tourist Information Centre
1 East Street
Tel: 01769 574 122
Fax: 01769 574 718