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Glendurgan Gardens

glendurgan gardens maze

Escape to Enchanting Glendurgan Gardens

Nestled in a sheltered valley running down to Cornwall’s surf-fringed north coast lies the National Trust’s magical Glendurgan Garden. Overlooking the glittering Helford River, these sub-tropical gardens let families happily meander through mighty palms and bamboo groves down to intriguing historic sites like a giant maze, secluded beach and Gold Rush-era mine – plus cute resident donkeys!

Our guide describes everything you need to plan a full family day out discovering these majestic gardens near Falmouth plus where to stop for tasty lunches alfresco-style nearby.

glendurgan maze

Getting to Glendurgan Gardens

Found close to Falmouth and Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula, use postcode TR11 5JZ then follow National Trust signs from Mawnan Smith on the B3291 Helston road.

By Car: On-street parking available in village and nearby hamlets plus 32 space car park at the garden. The car park is locked at 5pm every day. All-day parking is £4 per vehicle or £2 for two hours. Parking free for National Trust members

By Bus: Limited routes e.g 500 stops at Maenporth then 30 mins downhill walk through valley or easier bus/walk combos exist.

By Ferry: There are no ferry services from Falmouth to Glendurgan. Access from the Lizard Peninsula by ferry from Helford village to Helford Passage. Take the Southwest coastal footpath from Helford Passage to Durgan village. You can enter the bottom of the garden from the village. Total Distance is about 0.8 miles and takes about 20 minutes to walk

Opening Times and Entry Fees

Open daily 10am-5pm mid February-October then 11am-4pm weekends only off season. Check website for seasonal closures.

Entry Fees:

Adult £12.10 | Child £6.10 | Family £30.30 One adult, up to 3 children (aged 5-17) £18.20 |Entry free for National Trust members

Top Things To Do For Families

This National Trust property is a paradise for plant lovers, with three valleys filled with exotic plants from around the world. But Glendurgan is more than just a pretty garden; it’s a place where families can explore, play, and learn.

glendurgan gardens

Explore the Three Valleys

The lower valley has a subtropical climate, thanks to its sheltered position. Here you’ll find bamboo forests, banana palms, and tree ferns that wouldn’t look out of place in a rainforest. The middle valley is more traditional, with an orchard, a working watermill, and a charming restored Victorian kitchen garden. The upper valley is home to a maze, a giant swing, and a recreated schoolhouse, perfect for letting your imagination run wild.

Get Lost in the Maze

The Glendurgan maze is a must-do for all ages. With its winding paths and hidden corners, it’s a guaranteed giggle-fest. And if you do get lost, don’t worry, there’s no escape – you’ll eventually pop out into the sunshine with a big smile on your face.

Take a Giant Stride on the Rope Swing

If you’re feeling brave, why not take a giant stride on the rope swing? Soar through the air and enjoy the breathtaking views of the gardens and the sea beyond.

Relax and Enjoy the Scenery

There are plenty of places to relax and enjoy the scenery at Glendurgan. Find a quiet spot by the river, have a picnic on the lawn, or simply soak up the sun in one of the many hidden glades.

glendurgan maze

Visit the Apple Shed

The apple shed is a great place to learn about the history of apple growing in Cornwall. You can also sample some of the delicious local apples, or even buy some to take home with you.

Build Sandcastles on the Beach

Glendurgan has its own private beach, perfect for paddling, rock pooling, and building sandcastles. The beach is also a great place to relax and enjoy the sound of the waves. After the formal garden, a scenic 20 minute woodland walk leads down through the steep valley opening suddenly onto secluded Durgan Beach on the Helford Estuary. Paddle in rock pools revealed at low tide then attempt more fossil hunting from the sand or simply relax with a picnic on this peaceful natural beach seldom crowded even in peak season.

A Day Out for All Ages

Glendurgan Garden is a great day out for all ages. There’s something for everyone to enjoy, from exploring the gardens to playing in the maze to relaxing on the beach. So why not pack a picnic and make a day of it?

glendurgan gardens maze from above

The History of Glendurgan Gardens

Tucked beside the Fal River, Glendurgan Gardens wasn’t always a subtropical paradise. In the 1820s, it was a humble orchard under the watchful eye of Alfred Fox, a Quaker shipbuilder from Falmouth. Drawn by the sheltered valleys and microclimate, Alfred dreamt of a “small piece of heaven on earth.” He cleared the land, planted apples, pears, and plums, and built a cozy thatched cottage for his growing family.

His love for plants blossomed, and soon, exotic seeds from faraway lands began arriving. Palms and ferns unfurled in the sheltered coves, creating a miniature jungle. In 1833, a maze sprouted, a playful haven for Alfred’s 12 children. Over the decades, the maze would become a beloved Glendurgan tradition, whispering secrets to generations of explorers.

By the mid-1800s, Glendurgan was a flourishing garden paradise. George Henry Fox, Alfred’s son, added his touch with new terraces, water features, and a walled kitchen garden bursting with fragrant herbs. The lower valley, sheltered from the sea winds, became a haven for rare and tender plants, a miniature Eden tucked away in the Cornish countryside.

Glendurgan remained in the Fox family for over a century, each generation shaping the landscape and nurturing its spirit. They hosted garden parties, built a schoolhouse for local children, and ensured the legacy of Alfred’s “heaven on earth” flourished. Today, under the care of the National Trust, Glendurgan continues to enchant visitors with its hidden valleys, exotic treasures, and echoes of a family’s love for nature.

glendurgan

Glendurgan Gardens Cafe

Tuck into tasty lunches at the charming cafe set inside the gardener’s stone bothy using seasonal produce and flavours from Glendurgan’s orchard and vegetable plots. Sculpted sweet treats like their signature leaf and blossom shortbread cookies make perfect edible souvenirs. Younger kids can refuel over colouring or books from the play area corner indoors.

cafe at glendurgan gardens

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Glendurgan Gardens accessible for wheelchair users? – There are some steep slopes with steps, cobbled sections, and loose gravel throughout the gardens. There is an accessible route available through the lower valley via the main drive and footpaths.

When is the best time to visit? – There is always something lovely to see in the gardens –

  • Spring (March-May) offers vibrant blooms and milder temperatures.
  • Summer (June-August) brings sunshine and longer days, perfect for exploring.
  • Autumn (September-November) showcases stunning foliage and fewer crowds.
  • Winter (December-February) provides a peaceful atmosphere and unique seasonal beauty.

How long does it take to explore? – It all depends on how long you walk for, but ideally allow 2 hours or so to get a good feel of the gardens.

Are dogs allowed? – Well-behaved dogs are welcome on leads in the lower valley only.

Gardens of the National Trust is an inspiring guide to the Trust’s remarkable gardens, offering illumination into hundreds of captivating landscapes under its stewardship.

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gardens of the national trust

Nearby Attractions to Pair With Glendurgan

Combine enchanted days wandering Glendurgan’s verdant trails and family diversions with…

  • Pendennis Castle – This impressive Tudor fortress stands guard at the entrance to the Carrick Roads and Falmouth harbour with scenic views across the coast. Explore the fort, see exhibits about its history and take one of the castle walks.
  • Falmouth Town – This historic port town neighbours Falmouth Harbour with visitor attractions like boat trips, watersports, beachside dining, maritime museums and galleries clustered around Events Square and the bustling high street.
  • Gyllyngvase Beach – Easily accessible from Falmouth or Pendennis Castle, this Blue Flag sandy beach has a lively vibe with watersports, beachside cafés and views across the bay.
  • Swanpool Beach – Found on the way to Pendennis Castle, this sheltered sand and shingle cove offers safe bathing waters in a nature reserve abundant with wildlife.
  • National Maritime Museum – Located in Falmouth Docks, this museum celebrates Cornwall’s maritime heritage through hands-on exhibits about fishing, boat building, sailing and discovery voyages.
  • Trebah Gardens – Just 5 miles from Glendurgan, these 26 acres of magnificent sub-tropical gardens contain rare exotic plants with a stunning coastal backdrop and highlights like the beach garden.
  • St Mawes Castle – Take the ferry from Falmouth to this picturesque coastal village with brightly coloured houses rising up to a historic fortified castle with stunning views across the estuary entrance.
  • Minack Theatre – Watch an open-air performance at this uniquely constructed cliffside theatre near Porthcurno, built into the rocky cliffs with beautiful panoramic sea views.
  • St Michael’s Mount – Catch a ferry to explore this tidal island with a medieval church and castle, subtropical gardens and a tiny quaint harbour and village.

From fragrant rose gardens flourishing thanks to the Gulf Stream through to salty coastal strolls, Glendurgan’s magical grounds promise awakening adventures immersed in nature at every turn.

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