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Sissinghurst Castle Gardens

Post Code : TN17 2AB
Telephone : 01580 710700
Admission Cost Admission Charge

Sissinghurst Castle was once a splendid mansion built for Sir Richard Baker in the mid-16th century. The moated Tudor house, set high on a ridge above the Vale of Kent, was one of the first buildings in England to be constructed of brick.

By 1800, however, the house was neglected and decayed. At this time the building was partially demolished leaving substantial fragments for use as barns, stables and cottages for labourers.

Over the next hundred years Sissinghurst slowly degenerated and would probably be a ruin today if it had not been rescued in 1930 by Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson.

The couple were both writers, she a poet and novelist and he an historian, biographer and diarist. They bought the romantic remains, repaired the brick structures and then gradually began to create a garden between the old walls and buildings.

Harold Nicolson planned the garden but it was Vita Sackville-West who devised the inspired planting schemes and carried out the work. She had an abhorrence of regimented rows of flowers and carefully grouped the plants according to colour, texture and season.

The brick structures and walls imposed the basic shape of the 6 acre garden and Harold Nicolson used these, together with hedges of rose, yew and hornbeam, to create a series of 'outdoor rooms' with long linking walks.

The succession of intimate enclosures makes Sissinghurst seem much larger than it really is.

Carefully contrived vistas criss-cross the garden terminating at a statue, a poplar or a distant view of the Weald. On either side of the walks and vistas smaller gardens open unexpectedly.

Sissinghurst is a sophisticated garden where rare plants are neighbours to traditional cottage garden flowers. The scale of planting is also deliberately varied from one part to another.

Here the formal herb garden with its medicinal and aromatic plants contrasts with a rough orchard, the paved lime walk bright with spring bulbs and a cottage garden with its assortment red, orange and yellow flowers. Two long lawns provide restful centres amongst the separate rooms.

The charm of the garden owes much to the Tudor buildings which provide a romantic backdrop to the planting.

Against the slender brick buildings roses and honeysuckle climb to the eaves and vines, magnolia and clematis tumble over the walls.

The focal point of the garden is the four-storey Elizabethan prospect tower with its two octagonal turrets. On one side of the tower two arms of the ancient moat are still filled with water. A spiral staircase leads to the top of the tower past the cluttered room where Vita Sackville-West wrote. The view from the roof is one of the loveliest in southern England. From here the Weald sweeps upwards to the North Downs twelve miles away whilst closer at hand are the woods, lakes and oast-houses of the Sissinghurst estate.

Elizabeth I gazed out over this view when she visited Sir Richard Baker in 1573. This is also one of the best places to appreciate the garden.

The rose garden, for which Sissinghurst is best known, is richly planted with old-fashioned species and contrasts vividly with the White Garden on the other side of the tower.

The White Garden is the most original of all the separate gardens and here all the blossoms, including lavender, old roses, clematis and a double primrose are white and much of the foliage is grey.

Vita Sackville-West died in 1962 and Sissinghurst Castle, one of the most individual and beautiful gardens in Europe, is now cared for by the National Trust.

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Photos Of Sissinghurst Castle Gardens
Sissinghurst Castle Gardens
How to get to Sissinghurst Castle Gardens
Near Tenterden, 1 mile east of Sissinghurst village off A262, 2 miles north-east of Cranbrook
Garden Features
National Trust, small romantic outdoor rooms, woodland and lake walks, oast house exhibition.
Opening Times
Mar-Early Nov, check the website for exact times and days. The estate is open all year dawn to dusk.
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