In a nutshell
Originally home to a wealthy Quaker family (the Foxes), these subtropical gardens sweep down through three valleys to a sheltered beach on the River Helford. Nature trails run through wild flowers and tree ferns, a miniature art gallery is tucked into an upturned boat and a tiny thatched schoolroom is still complete with blackboard tablets. In May the bluebell displays are a highlight. At every turn there is something unexpected to discover.
The Fox family (who ran a shipping business) was very large and during school holidays the gardens would be overrun with children. Lost wanderers of the maze used to be fined a shilling by Grandpapa Fox if they broke through the hedges to escape.
A bamboo bridge in the Lower Valley at Glendurgan Garden. Photograph: Alamy
Best things about it
The gardens were created in the 19th century with the family’s 12 children in mind; nearly 200 years later there are still plenty of outdoor games. On a recent visit, the shrieks of delight coming from the Giant’s Stride – a rotating rope swing – could be heard across the valley, and we loved getting lost in the 185-year-old cherry laurel maze. There was happiness all round when we made it to the summer house at the centre, and again when we found our way out. On a warm day, paddling and skimming stones at Durgan beach is blissful. Even on a drizzly day it’s enormous fun.
What about lunch?
There are many lovely picnic spots across the estate. The Tea House (lunch midday-3pm) beside the entrance serves drinks, snacks and hot meals using local organic produce, such as soup (£4.95) or beef chilli with garlic bread and salad (£8.50). Kids’ sandwiches are £3.25; pizza £4.95; clotted cream tea £5.95. It’s worth taking drinks and snacks with you into the gardens. Ice-creams are on sale at Durgan village but if you’re hungry it’s a steep hike back up to the Tea House.
A family plays on the Giant’s Stride rope swing. Photograph: Alamy
Exit through the gift shop?
The ticket office, entrance and exit are via the shop but with just a small selection of toys, plants and gifts on offer it isn’t too painful.
Glendurgan is just outside Mawnan Smith, near Falmouth. By car, take the A39 as far as the junction with A394 at Treliever Cross roundabout and then follow the brown-and-white tourist signs. The 35 bus runs from Falmouth (about 30 mins) or Helston (about 55 mins). Alternatively, walk 4.8 scenic miles of the South West Coast Path from Falmouth (starting at Gyllyngvase beach) to Durgan village. A £1 shopping voucher is available for visitors arriving by public transport or on foot.
Value for money?
It would be easy to spend a full day here in fine weather. It’s free for members of the National Trust, otherwise it’s £9.50 for adults, £4.75 children, and £23.75 for families (2 + 2). Parking is £2 per vehicle for non-NT members.
Open from 10.30am-5.30pm from 10 February to 28 October; closed on Mondays, except bank holidays and all Mondays in August.
9/10, we keep coming back.