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Lost Gardens of Heligan

lost gardens of heligan mud maid

Explore Global Plantlife at the Lost Gardens of Heligan

Near Mevagissey, a mysterious lost gardens of Heligan slumbered beneath brambles for decades before gardeners unearthed 30 incredible acres that now form the revitalised Heligan estate. This verdant paradise transports families to exotic corners spanning Italianate terraces, fragrant fruit orchards from Tasmania to Tahiti and historic farming hives humming with honeybees producing the estate’s own sticky nectar.

Alongside nurturing endangered plants from all latitudes of the globe, Heligan’s jungle playgrounds promise mud pie kitchens, secret rope bridges and fairy grottos for revitalising family days out enjoying wholesome adventures pottering amidst Cornwall’s rediscovered horticulture gem.

Here’s everything required to plan a family visit to the magnificent Lost Gardens of Heligan.

lost gardens of heligan ropebridge

Getting There

By Car

The Heligan estate sprawls near Pentewan village 4 miles from St Austell. Accessed from the B3273 then the A391 before Brown Signs direct drivers the final mile to designated parking zones.

By public transport

Hourly bus 526 connects St Austell with Heligan’s entrance gates. Check Mevagissey buses too for car-free options.

By bicycle

The Lost Gardens are directly linked to National Cycle Network Route Number 3, providing a safe, virtually traffic-free link to Mevagissey, Pentewan and St Austell.

You can hire bikes from Pentewan Cycle Hire, which is nearby in Pentewan and is part of the national cycle route. Helpfully, threre is a cycle park at the main car park.

Opening Times

The gardens open daily from 10am-6pm over summer then 10am-4pm between November-February:

Last entry 90 minutes before closing time. Book some events online beforehand like guided garden tours or horse-drawn carriage rides exploring wider estate grounds.

pond at heligan

Entry Price and Tickets

Entry prices to uncover the gardens are:

  • Adult £18.50
  • Ages 5-17 £8.50
  • Under 5 Free
  • Family £48
  • Student Free

Annual membership works out good value for multi-visits with each child accompanied by an adult member entering free on all trips.

History of the Lost Gardens of Heligan

Once a hidden treasure, these captivating gardens have emerged from a state of neglect to become a popular tourist attraction and a testament to the power of human endeavor.

The story of Heligan begins in the 16th century when the Tremayne family acquired the estate, transforming it into a thriving agricultural and horticultural landscape. Over the centuries, the gardens evolved, reflecting the changing tastes and interests of the Tremaynes. The Elizabethan knot garden, the Victorian glasshouses, and the Edwardian kitchen garden all bear witness to the family’s passion for creating a harmonious blend of beauty and practicality.

heligan gardens

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 brought an abrupt halt to the gardens’ active maintenance. As the war raged on and the Tremayne family’s fortunes dwindled, the gardens fell into a state of neglect, gradually succumbing to the encroaching wilderness. For decades, the Lost Gardens of Heligan remained hidden from the world, their secrets concealed beneath a thick cloak of vegetation.

In 1990, a group of local gardeners, inspired by a shared love of horticulture and the beauty of the landscape, embarked on a remarkable restoration project. With dedication and perseverance, they began to clear the overgrown paths, identify the dormant plants, and revive the once-magnificent gardens. Their efforts gradually transformed Heligan from a forgotten relic into a thriving oasis of horticultural splendor.

Today, the Lost Gardens of Heligan stand as a testament to the power of human imagination and the resilience of nature. Visitors can wander through the enchanting Edwardian rock garden, marvel at the towering palms in the subtropical Jungle, and admire the intricate knot garden patterns. The gardens also serve as a haven for wildlife, with butterflies fluttering among the blooms and birdsong filling the air.

The Gardens

The Productive Garden

Stepping into the Productive Garden, a sense of abundance and vitality fills the air. Here, the kitchen garden, walled flower garden, and melon yard come alive with a medley of traditional crops and growing methods. The kitchen garden, a vibrant tapestry of vegetables and herbs, boasts towering kales, delicate lettuces, and aromatic herbs that perfume the air. The walled flower garden, a sanctuary of color and fragrance, showcases a riot of blooms, from the delicate petals of roses to the vibrant hues of dahlias. And in the melon yard, sun-drenched melons bask in their makeshift greenhouses, their sweet promise adding a touch of anticipation to the garden experience.

productive garden

Pleasure Grounds

Venturing into the Pleasure Grounds, a world of whimsy and enchantment awaits. The Witches’ Broom, a gnarled and twisted elder tree, stands as a testament to time, its branches adorned with vibrant ferns and mossy growth. The Northern Summerhouse, a graceful structure nestled amidst the tranquil greenery, offers a quiet respite from the garden’s vibrant energy. And the Sundial Garden, a picturesque haven of symmetrical plantings and sundials, invites visitors to contemplate the passage of time amidst nature’s beauty.

pleasure garden

The Jungle

Embark on a journey into the subtropical haven of the Jungle, where towering palms, exotic ferns, and vibrant orchids create an immersive tropical experience. The air hums with the sounds of exotic birdsong, while the verdant canopy casts dappled shadows on the winding paths. Explore hidden nooks and crannies, discovering hidden waterfalls and cascading streams, all adding to the sense of mystery and intrigue that permeates this enchanting realm.

jungle heligan

Global Gardens Trail

Venture through jungles finding fascinating flora from distant continents flourishing throughout this revitalised Victorian estate:

See exotic towering tree ferns and vibrant camellias blooming beneath New Zealand forest canopies beside Chinese Symbols of Good Luck and Cornish palms.

Spot endangered banana trees in the Tahitian garden then appreciate old Devon apple varieties ripening nearby in the historic walled kitchen gardens.

Marvel at the meticulous 230 metre long Doubloon Topiary arbour requiring constant clipping to maintain more than a thousand cloud-sculpted box bushes gracing an Italianate terrace.

Giant Sculptures

Nestled amidst the verdant depths of the Lost Gardens of Heligan, two extraordinary sculptures stand as testaments to human creativity and nature’s embrace. The Mud Maid and the Giant’s Head, crafted entirely from locally sourced earth, are captivating works of art that seamlessly blend into the surrounding woodland landscape.

The Mud Maid, a serene figure emerging from the undergrowth, embodies a sense of timeless beauty and tranquility. Her gentle form, reminiscent of a mythical woodland nymph, evokes a sense of wonder and enchantment.

Towering over the woodland path, the Giant’s Head commands attention with its enigmatic gaze and weathered features. Its presence adds an air of mystery and intrigue to the surroundings, inviting visitors to ponder its origins and significance.

Created by renowned Cornish artists Pete and Sue Hill, these sculptures embody the spirit of the Lost Gardens of Heligan – a place where nature and art intertwine to create an unforgettable experience. Their presence adds a touch of whimsy and enchantment to the gardens, inviting visitors to engage their imaginations and connect with the natural world on a deeper level.


Kids’ Activities

Interactive adventures inspire younger minds including:

  • Fairy grottos with wishing wells and elf doors hidden along woodland walkways lined by blooming bluebells in spring.
  • The quirky ‘Mud Pie Kitchen’ for creating forest feasts from natural offerings discovered across 27 acres.
  • Treetop canopy scramble trails sending intrepid explorers crossing the dizzying Treetop Walkway suspension bridge at a lofty 25 metres.

The Sleeping Garden – The Story of Heligan

sleeping garden

The Sleeping Garden unveils the true tale of The Lost Gardens of Heligan Rediscovered in 1990, author and illustrator Sarah Hewitt artfully recounts its revival, blending human narratives with Heligan’s timeless beauty.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How long do we need to visit the Lost Gardens of Heligan? – To get the best out of your visit, you need to allow for 3-4 hours at least, but you can easily enjoy longer too.

Are dogs allowed? – Yes, well behaved dogs on leads are allowed.

Who owns the Lost Gardens of Heligan? They remain under the ownership of the Treymone family, who have owned the gardens for 400 years.

lost gardens of heligan bridge

Other nearby attractions

Whgen you are at Heligan, you should explore some of these other places too:

  • Eden Project – Massive biomes housing interactive exhibitions and diverse ecosystems with over a million plants from rainforests to deserts. Also outdoor gardens and trails through former china clay mine.
  • Mevagissey – A quaint seaside fishing town with winding streets and a traditional harbor dotted with colorfully painted buildings, fresh seafood restaurants, and boat trips.
  • Charlestown – Historic Grade II listed harbour used in filming Poldark. Features fascinating tall ships and Museum of Shipwreck and Heritage Centre. Great pubs and seafood as well.
  • The Wheal Martyn Museum – Museum on the ancestral home of china clay mining featuring an authentic clay works, trails past historical buildings, and activities.
  • Pentewan Valley Trail – Flat, accessible trail following a disused railway line past sheltered woodlands abundant with wildlife. Connects Pentewan village to Mevagissey and the sea.
  • Colliford Lake – Scenic inland lake popular for watersports like paddleboarding, sailing, trout fishing, or relaxing lakeside walks to admire the abundant nature and surrounding greenery.
  • St Austell Brewery Visitor Centre – Take a guided tour learning about brewing methods before sampling some of the famous ales and lagers made at this historical Cornish brewery.

For horticultural heaven blending conservation with kids’ enchantment, the forgotten Victorian grounds of the Lost Gardens of Heligan deliver a veritable Cornish paradise waiting to be hand-plucked by green-fingered families.

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