About the Gardens

At the heart of 1,200-acre estate sit our Grade 2* listed gardens, open year round from dawn till dusk and freely accessible for all.

With a rich sense of history and a host of features to explore – from a Henry Moore sculpture to a yew tree at least 1,500 years old – the gardens at Dartington are often featured in best gardens lists. They are at their best in the spring and summer but have something to offer all year round.

If you do decide to visit Dartington, make sure you head to our Visitor Centre first, where you can pick up a beautiful and informative illustrated Gardens map to help you make the most of your visit. You can also hire an all-terrain mobility scooter to navigate our network of fully-accessible paths.

Gardens opening times: dawn ’till dusk, Mon-Sun
Entry cost: Free to enter

Your donations help our Gardens team keep this special place beautifully maintained and accessible for all to discover and enjoy, all year round. Donate now ⇒

History of the Gardens

The Gardens at Dartington are steeped in history; a monument to the vision and enterprise of the great families who have owned it. Dartington originated in the 1390s when John Holand, the half brother to King Richard II, created a medieval manor house on the hillside overlooking the river Dart.

Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst, an American heiress and her English husband, took over Dartington with the aim of creating both a home and a unique experiment in rural regeneration, education and the arts.

They repaired and reconstructed the dilapidated historical buildings, built new properties on the estate and worked with a series of landscape designers – clearing the tangle of overgrowth and moving away from rigid Victorian design to reveal the great trees, shapes and curves of the landscape.

Avray Tipping acted as garden advisor from 1925-1930, a time when the hall itself was restored from ruin. During the 1930s and up until war broke out, Beatrix Farrand, a noted American designer, acted as consultant advisor.

She was responsible for the courtyard, which is the only example of her work outside the USA. After WWII Percy Cane became advisor and he went on to ‘open up’ the outer reaches of the garden.

Find out more about Dartington’s rich and fascinating history
19thC drawings revealed that the Tiltyard had been a lily pond making full use of the nearby water springs. (source: Dartington archive)
19thC drawings revealed that the Tiltyard had been a lily pond making full use of the nearby water springs. (source: Dartington archive)

A closer look: The history behind our Gardens sculptures and features

Dartington Hall's Tiltyard as Dutch Garden, date unknown

Behind the scenes: Researching our ever-changing Gardens

Dartington's Gardens are often seen as a 'timeless' feature that has hardly changed in centuries. In fact, the opposite is true - as Gardener Katherine found as part of a historical research project. Read More >>

The old yew tree

Gardens blog: Connecting Dartington gardens to the landscape beyond

As a 50-page research project mapping the history of Dartington’s Gardens is completed, Gardener Katherine reflects that ‘in order to move forward we need to understand what went before'. Read More >>

Leaves of liquidambar styraciflua (sweetgum or hazel pine) , found on the Great Lawn and Valley Field

Gardens blog: Autumn highlights to look out for

With the weather changing, Dartington gardener Katherine has used her latest blog to help you enjoy some of the seasonal highlights coming up in the Gardens. Read More >>

Virtual Gardens companion

An app using 3D sound effects to bring a slice of history from Dartington’s Gardens to life is available for download (Apple users only). The app dramatises transcripts of a 1925 collection of travel correspondence taken from the Dartington archives. It was developed and created by Emma Whittaker and Plymouth University.

Find out more (Apple store)