History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
Brockhole is an ornamental terraced garden nestled on a sloping site overlooking Lake windermere, between Ambleside and Windermere village. A wildflower meadow and woodland belie the carefully planted schemes of roses, borders, shrubbery, and rock plants.
Good planning means there is always something in bloom. Brockhole was planted in the early 20th century by Thomas Mawson, and it is listed by English Heritage as being of special historic importance. The Brockhole grounds run down to the lakeshore, where there are boats for hire.
The grounds cover 30 acres, with 10 acres of formal gardens below the house. The garden is owned by the Lake District National Park, and it sits beside the park visitor centre on the A591 just north of Windermere. Best in: anytime but winter.
In 1896 a wealthy Machester silk merchant named William Gaddum bought the Brockhole estate. In the following year, he called upon architect Dan Gibson to design a 'summer house' on a grand scale. Gaddum, like many rich late-Victorian industrialists, was drawn to the Lake District, which had become popular as a recreational and holiday destination.
And, like many of his neighbours, Gaddum created a second home, a bolthole where he and his family could retreat during the summer months and enjoy life along Lake Windermere.
Brockhole was finished in 1899 and Gaddum moved in with his wife Edith and their children Jim and Molly. Edith was a cousin of children's author Beatrix Potter, who lived at Near Sawry across the lake, and Potter was a frequent visitor to Brockhole.
The Gaddum family sold the house in 1946 and it was transformed into a convalescent home. Then in 1966 the Lake District National Park authority bought the estate and created the UK's very first National Park Visitor Centre.
Thomas Mawson (1861-1933) designed parks and gardens across Britain and is known for his impact on the Arts and Crafts Movement. He was not only a garden designer but an architect and town planner. Perhaps his most important design was the Peace Palace gardens in The Hague, Netherlands, but in Britain he is known for Belle Vue Park in Newport, Monmouthshire and Dyffryn Gardens near Cardiff. In the Lake District he designed the gardens at Greythwaite Hall, Holker Hall, and the public park at Barrow-in-Furness.
At Brockhole, Mawson worked closely with the house architect Dan Gibson. He used the sloping site to create a series of terraces facing south and east. He used the upper terraces to create formal arrangements, and the design became more and more informal as the terraces approach the lakeshore. The terraces were arranged to give excellent views over the lake to the Langdales and Bowfell.
The formal garden areas are bounded by woodland and meadow. Mawson cleverly designed a series of underground cisterns to collect rainwater and used this water to irrigate the flower beds. Think of it as a late-Victorian sprinkler system.
Mawson mixed specimen trees with box hedges and clipped yew trees mixed with magnolias, wisteria and rhododendrons. Scented plants abound, as do old fashioned roses and ornamenal shrubs. The gardens have such a mix of colours, shapes and varieties that they provide interest throughout most of the year.
Brockhole is signposted on the A591 between Ambleside and Windermere (look for 'National Park Visitor Centre' brown tourist signs). Visiting the gardens is free, but there is a charge for the car park.
Be aware that Brockhole is one of the most heavily visited attractions in the Lake District, with a large number of family activities in addition to the historic house and gardens. Because of its popularity the car park can fill up very quickly during the height of the summer season and during school holidays. I strongly advise visiting early or late in the day!
Or ... come by boat. Brockhole is served by Windermere Lake Cruises. Boats stop at the jetty below the house, where you can also buy tickets for excursions around Lake Windermere.
Address: The Lake District Visitor Centre, Windermere, Cumbria, England, LA23 1LJ
Attraction Type: Garden
Location: on the A591, between Windermere and Ambleside
OS: NY390 008
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Wray Castle - 0.9 miles (Historic House)
Holehird Gardens - 1.3 miles (Garden)
Townend - 1.3 miles (Historic House)
Skelghyll Wood - 1.3 miles (Countryside)
Stagshaw Garden - 1.4 miles (Garden)
Ambleside Roman Fort - 1.9 miles (Roman Site)
Stock Ghyll Force - 2.6 miles (Countryside)
Bridge House - 2.6 miles (Historic Building)
Nearest Accommodation to Brockhole: