by Janis on 14th June 2022 / 0 comments

Inspiration for your own home-grown garden

Sissinghurst Castle Garden has become one of my favourite National Trust sites to visit in Kent. Beautifully located between the rolling hills of the High Weald and the Kent Downs, both of which are ‘Areas of Outstanding National Beauty’.

We first visited Sissinghurst Castle Garden in September; shortly after becoming National Trust members, I was immediately won over by the magnificent gardens and meticulous planting. I couldn’t wait to revisit in the springtime and admire the spectacle of colour nurtured within the cottage garden beds.

You can tell that the National Trust gardening team gives a tremendous amount of effort, thought, and dedication as the gardens are breath-taking.

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If you fancy visiting Sissinghurst Gardens when the gates open, why not stay overnight at the Sissinghurst Castle Farmhouse B&B. That way, you can take your time and wake up to the captivating surroundings.

Where is Sissinghurst Castle Garden

How to get to Sissinghurst Castle Garden

- By Train
You can catch a direct train from London Bridge to Staplehurst Station, which is 5 miles from Sissinghurst Castle.

The journey time is around 50 minutes. A taxi rank serves this station.

- By Car
Sissinghurst Castle Garden in Kent is just 2 miles northeast of Cranbrook and 1 mile east of Sissinghurst village just off the A262.

There’s a free car park for National Trust members, or parking charges apply to non-members.

A little history of Sissinghurst Castle Garden

A spectacular transformation
Very little remains of Sissinghurst Castle; most of the ancient fortress walls have long since disappeared. However, the surviving redbrick 16th-century Tudor Towers, which were built as a gateway into the courtyard of Sissinghurst Manor, are captivating. They create a glorious backdrop to the enchanting walled gardens at their feet.
The top courtyard with its lush green lawns encased in the red-brick walls of the Sissinghurst Castle
Top Courtyard

Sissinghurst Castle endured through the mid-17th-century English Civil War only to become a victim in the Seven Years’ War. Although, it wasn’t through the rage of battle; it was at the hands of French prisoners of war. The French sailors were incarcerated in awful conditions and proceeded to demolish the newly named Château de Sissingherst.

Fast forward to the 1930s, and Sissinghurst Castle was purchased by the English author Vita Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicolson. The couple totally transformed the beautiful walled gardens, which were in a state of disarray and proceeded to renovate the few remaining historic buildings into their family home.

A mass of planting against the walls of the Sissinghurst Castle Gardens
Lost within the rose garden
The beautiful gardens that remain are a credit to Vita and Harold’s hard work. Vita died in 1962, and in 1967 Harold decided to hand over their beloved Sissinghurst into the caring hands of the National Trust.

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Arriving at Sissinghurst Castle Garden

Inspiration to us all
When you first arrive at Sissinghurst Castle Garden, you’re greeted with a sight so synonymous with Kent, the iconic oast houses; I love seeing these dotted throughout the county.
The white-topped red brick & tile oast houses under a blue sky at Sissinghurst Castle Gardens
Oast houses
Strolling a little further around, we head to the garden entrance where delicate rambling roses clamber over the ancient red brick façade. It is a beautiful sight, and I can’t wait to head through the wooden doorway to the enchanting gardens beyond.
The stone courtyard before the entrance into one of the National Trust's most beautiful gardens in Kent, Sissinghurst Castle Garden
Entrance to Sissinghurst Castle Garden
A small blackboard with chalk writing outlining the Head Gardener’s thoughts on the planting in the National Trust's Sissinghurst Castle Gardens
Head Gardener’s Thoughts
As we’ve recently started to revamp our own garden (which you can follow along with us on Our Garden for You), visiting the National Trust properties truly gives you inspiration for your own garden. I was constantly making notes of plants that caught my eye; it was incredibly obliging that the National Trust gardeners placed little labels to help out.
Climbing plants all over the walls of the Sissinghurst Castle
Clambering planting
Trained planting all over the walls of the red brick historic Sissinghurst Castle
Inspirational setting
I’ve also started to use the ‘PlantNet’ app to identify plants; you must download it if you haven’t already.

Where to stay near Sissinghurst Castle Garden

- Sissinghurst Castle Farmhouse – Yes, amazingly, you can stay within the grounds of Sissinghurst Castle Garden.

This beautiful farmhouse has been lovingly decorated throughout and offers a delicious variety of breakfasts.

- The Woolstore – This delightful holiday cottage is within a short distance of Sissinghurst.

The Woolstore makes a perfect place to stay while discovering the Garden of England. Wake up every morning amongst cherry orchards and sheep meadows.

Climbing Sissinghurst Castle Tower

Admiring the Wealden landscape

As we step through the ancient arches, the captivating towers appear before you; it really is a wow moment and brings so much character to the surrounding estate and the courtyards.

I urge you to climb the 78 steps to the top of the towers; you get an incredible view of the Wealden countryside beyond and a breath-taking viewpoint of the fairy-tale gardens below.

The twin turreted towers of Sissinghurst Castle set in beautifully manicured gardens
Sissinghurst Castle Towers
A densely populated bed within the rose garden in front of the gate that leads to the tower of Sissinghurst Castle
Exploring beyond the garden gates

Sissinghurst Castle really brought a beaming smile to my face, and I couldn’t wait to head off and discover the exquisite blooms in the rose garden and the cottage garden.

I love the old gates snuggled within the walls of the walled garden; they lure me through to the rustic courtyards and the striking flower borders beyond.

A view from Sissinghurst Castle tower to the rose garden and South Cottage in the estate grounds
View over Sissinghurst Castle rose garden and South Cottage

If you're intrigued by Kent's weird and wonderful history, or all unusual stories around the county, then take a peek at "Kent's Strangest Tales".

You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.

The captivating Rose Garden

So much more than roses
The inspiration that I gained from wending my way through the rose garden was endless. Bloom after magical bloom kept stopping me in my tracks, and the soothing colours of the purple alliums, foxgloves and the warming yellow tones of the majestic iris were a delight.
A densely populated bed within the rose garden of Sissinghurst Castle Garden filled with alliums, foxglove and iris.
Alliums, foxglove and iris
There was an incredible variety of plants lightly swaying shoulder to shoulder with each other, almost appearing hap-hazard; however, you know that the planting at Sissinghurst Castle has been meticulously thought out.
Several spires of pink and white lupins in a bed in Sissinghurst Castle Garden
Piercing lupins
One of the plants I adore is lupins, standing so proud with tiny individual blooms creeping up the sturdy spears. They beautifully enhance most gardens and add an element of height. Apparently, over recent years, lupins have gone out of favour; I don’t know why.
The pink flowers of Rosa Spinosissima ‘William III’ with their white centres in the Rose garden of Sissinghurst Castle Garden
Rosa Spinosissima ‘William III’
I could spend hours ambling around the rose garden; the bouquet from the flowers is hypnotising, especially from the roses. I brushed past a Rosa Spinosissima ‘William III’, which immediately caught my attention; the fragrance was excellent, but the simple blooms were too.

Hiking the Kent Countryside

Sissinghurst is located in Kent nearby Cranbrook and Tunbridge Wells. This region of Kent is ideal for hikes as it is close to the High Weald and North Downs (AONB), an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. To explore the trails in this region of Kent, the Ordnance Survey maps that will help you along the route is no. 136, ‘High Weald’.

Alternatively, why not purchase and download the OS Maps App, which covers all of Great Britain.

We effortlessly wander from one oasis to another. We pass through the lower courtyard and discover a tranquil little pond hidden away in the corner, and meander on past the eye-catching lush ferns. There truly is something for every gardener here.

The jewel of the South Cottage Garden

A picture-perfect setting
A small sunken pond with a lone water lily in the Lower Courtyard of Sissinghurst Castle Garden
Pond in the Lower Courtyard

If you relish in the thought of a delicate cottage garden, then like me, you’ll fall in love with the ‘South Cottage Garden’.

When we strolled into this cheerful garden, it blew me away.

The vibrant swathes of yellows, oranges and reds are stunning, especially with the quaint redbrick South Cottage as a tranquil haven of serenity.

The orange and red flower bed in front of the South Cottage of Sissinghurst Castle.
Picturesque South Cottage Garden

Find a quiet bench put your day to day worries to one side, and soak up the sights and sounds of an English country garden.

Bumblebees flitting from one blossom to another, butterflies twitching in the breeze and the sweet breath of spring flowers floating in the air.

The red brick, two-storey, South Cottage with its own garden at Sissinghurst Castle
South Cottage at Sissinghurst Castle
The orange and red flower flowers of a Hoary Stock plant in Sissinghurst Castle Garden
One for our garden

Escape for a few days

Are you looking for that ‘perfick’ holiday hideaway to relax in while you discover the Garden of England?

After a day exploring the Kent coast and its many historic castles enjoy one of the handpicked properties and unique retreats at Holiday Cottages.

Discovering Moat Walk and Lime Walk

A slice of Elizabethan history

The South Cottage Garden is bordered by the Rose Garden and two rectangular gardens, Moat Walk and Lime Walk, both of which exhibit lush avenues of outstanding planting.

As the name would imply, Moat Walk was once an open moat forming part of the original channel surrounding Sissinghurst Manor. Two other sections of the moat can still be admired within Sissinghurst Castle Garden.

Pure white weeping wisteria and bright yellow azaleas line the Moat Walk in Sissinghurst Castle Garden
Moat Walk
The superb display through Moat Walk is inspiring, and springtime was the perfect season to visit. The weeping white wisteria tumbling over the Elizabethan wall along one side and the other was shimmering bright yellow azaleas, planted in 1946 by Vita.
Pleached lime trees line the Moat Walk in Sissinghurst Castle Garden with a lone statue at the end
Lime Walk
Lime Walk was the garden which Harold loved to plant out. A few weeks ago, the beds and the huge terracotta pots were overflowing with tulips and hyacinth. Although we missed out on the early spring display, the symmetrical tree-lined avenue with verdant pleached lime trees was undoubtedly filling out.

From The Nuttery

To the Herb Garden
Strolling through the lush Nuttery full of ferns and Kentish cobnuts, we head towards the Herb Garden at the far corner of Sissinghurst Castle Garden.
A classical Greecco-Roman statue almost hidden in the foliage of The Nuttery at Sissinghurst Castle Garden in Kent
Statue hidden in The Nuttery
We’ve just created a herb garden for ourselves; however, it’s not quite a patch on Vita and Harold’s. We ambled around the beautifully symmetrical herb garden, and delicious aromas floated through the air and were an indulgence on the senses.
The formal square beds of the boxus lined herb garden at Sissinghurst Castle Garden
The Herb Garden
You would never believe that you could find so many herbs. The one that caught my eye was chamomile; it was grown within an old stone throne and designed to look like a cushion. Of course, it was for decoration only, I wasn’t going to take a seat.

Meandering around the moat

A visit to the White Garden
We wended our way along the side of the ancient moat, passing by the flourishing orchard and the meadow lawn coming alive with local wildlife. Nestled by the moat is a tranquil gazebo offering peace to inspire your thoughts and then a little further around is the old boathouse.
The mixed planing, all with pale flowers, in The White Garden with the tower of Sissinghurst Castle in the background
The White Garden

Our next inspiring sanctuary is the White Garden; yes, you guessed it, the theme here is white, with dashes of shimmering silver. Once again, the charming planting here is so synonymous with a bursting English country garden.

I love the proud alliums; the runaway rambling rose and the delicate grasses wafting in the warm breeze.

The captivating Delos Garden

A delicate touch of Greece
Another of my favourite sections of Sissinghurst Castle Garden is the Delos Garden. This gorgeous hideaway was inspired by Vita and Harold’s visit in 1935 to the Greek Island of Delos.
Drought tolerant planting amongst gravel beds in the Delos Garden at Sissinghurst Castle with the Priests Cottage in the background.
Greek-inspired Delos Garden

The incredible couple tried to emulate the Greek look and feel in their own garden; however, Vita and Harold weren’t wholly successful due to the original north-facing location and the uncertainty of the Kentish weather.

Fast forward to the spring of 2021, and the National Trust gardening team have transformed the area around the Priest’s House into a scene of Greek serenity.

Visiting the Delos Garden on a bright day with the sun beating down on the Mediterranean plants, nestled amongst ruined stone pillars and olive trees, you almost feel like you’ve been swept away to southern Europe.

A gravel path through the Greek-inspired Delos Garden at Sissinghurst Castle leads to the Priests Cottage.
The Priest's House in the Delos Garden
If you fancy treating yourself, you can stay overnight in the Priest’s House, and the gardens will be your own every evening. National Trust rent out their holiday cottages for you to enjoy.

Discovering more of Kent

If you love exploring intriguing historical castles, charming manor houses, and stately homes, then take a peek at our posts on Hever Castle, Ightham Mote, Knole, Chartwell and Smallhythe Place. These ancient homes are reasonably close and would make an excellent weekend mini-break.

Pick up the perfect plant

Don’t forget to visit the Vegetable Garden
All the gardens throughout Sissinghurst offer so much inspiration and give you creative ideas to take home with you. If you spotted a particular plant you fell in love with, stop by the National Trust shop. We picked up a selection of herbs; yes, of course, one was chamomile.
Plants to buy outside the National Trust shop at Sissinghurst Castle Garden
National Trust shop at Sissinghurst Castle Garden

We found the prices of the plants at The National Trust gardens fairly reasonable compared to other garden centres and nurseries.

Don’t miss the Vegetable Garden at the rear of the National Trust shop; it will elevate your allotment to another level.

If you loved visiting Sissinghurst Castle Garden, head a little further west in Kent and stop by Scotney Castle.

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