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The Lost Gardens of Heligan is one of those places whose reputation precedes it. We recently spent a few days at the beautiful Heligan campsite in Cornwall. The campsite is right next door to Heligan Gardens and anyone staying at the campsite is entitled to a 20% discount on their entry to the Lost Gardens. As it’s a place I’d heard so much about, I was really keen to visit whilst we were nearby. Our trip fell in half term so we were able to check out the fantastic school holiday activities. Better still, The Lost Gardens of Heligan is dog friendly too.
Lost Gardens of Heligan history
The history of The Lost Gardens of Heligan is absolutely fascinating. Until the First World War, a team of staff working for the Tremayne family developed and maintained the gardens. When the war hit, staff were drafted into the armed forces. Trees on the estate were felled for the war effort. Over the next 75 years, the gardens fell into total disrepair. The house was a hospital for convalescing officers from 1916 to 1919. It was rented out in the 1920s and 30s, then used as a base for American troops during the Second World War. Having been rented out again during the 50s and 60s, the house was then changed to flats and sold in the early 1970s.
It wasn’t until 1990 that the derelict gardens were rediscovered by Tremayne descendant John Willis and Tim Smit. Restoration soon commenced with the aim of rebuilding the gardens in memory of those who had made them great before leaving for the trenches. For a full timeline of Heligan’s history, head over to their website.
Visiting with children
If you think The Lost Gardens of Heligan is only for diehard gardening fans, it’s time for a rethink. Set in 200 acres, there’s something for everyone including children. Children can learn about the fascinating rare breed farm animals and the Heligan estate. The jungle area is home to exotic plants and the famous Burma rope bridge, the longest in Britain. it’s a real treat to walk across. My girls were delighted to find a little cave to explore too.
Children and adults can learn about birds and watch live images of nesting barn owls in the hide. An insect hotel has a variety of resident bugs that young visitors can see close up. Everyone delights in saying hello to the Heligan Giant, my two loved it so much that we bought them the book about him from the gift shop. Children will also enjoy the fantastic playgrounds and open spaces dotted around The Lost Gardens of Heligan.
A natural playground of logs to balance on, jump over and play on delights children moments after entering the gardens and passing the giant. Then, stroll through the woodland walk past the mud maid and grey lady before choosing which path to take next on your journey around Heligan. Head to the East Lawn for a wide open space and a lovely wooden play structure.
School holiday activities at The Lost Gardens of Heligan
The Lost Gardens of Heligan would be a great place to go with children at any time. However, they really go the extra mile during school holidays for no extra charge beyond the admission price. On arrival, staff gave us a map and directed us to the East Lawn for Heligan Wild Week. The adventure begins in the Wild Tribe Yurt, where children pick a tribe. Frogs, owls, foxes and butterflies were on offer. I ended up with an owl and a butterfly. Children could paint their faces to match their tribe, then make their own headdresses. We got off to a shaky start with their dad applying the face paints. He’s not an artist and there were tears. Luckily, water and cloths were on hand and they soon became a butterfly and an owl.
Next, we were off to test their skills at the games designed around the different tribes. They had a go at all the games before heading to the obstacle course. Scrambling under nets and through tyres, running, jumping and climbing took place. At the end, they ran onto the East Lawn play equipment, finishing by whizzing down the slide.
Musical workshops took place in another yurt on the lawn. Both the leaders were great fun and took the time to chat to us afterwards and recommend other places in the area to visit during our stay. Bushcraft skills were next, with both girls lighting a small fire and making a friendship bracelet. Lia toasted a marsh mallow and both girls learnt a little more about owls, foxes, butterflies and frogs before relaxing on a hammock in the shade.
Dog Friendly Lost Gardens of Heligan
With miles of paths to explore, The Lost Gardens of Heligan is an ideal place to visit with a dog. Due to rare breed animals and poultry around the park, dogs do need to be kept on leads. Dog waste bins are available at various points around Heligan. Dogs can’t go inside the tearoom, but there’s a lovely conservatory area just outside it so you can still sit in the dry with them for a drink. They also can’t go in the Stewardry or cross the Burma rope bridge. For further information about dogs at Heligan, head to their dog information page. I’d strongly advise watching their dog’s eye view video on there too, preferably with the sound up.
Food and drink
Near to the main entrance and gift shop is a large, spacious cafe with a conservatory area. They serve hot and cold food and drinks throughout the day. There’s also the Steward’s House Cafe, and two outdoor huts. One serves savoury food and the other serves ice creams. We had some delicious meals from one of the huts and a rather fabulous ice cream from the other. The ice cream queue was huge, but worth waiting for. Near to the entrance to Heligan is Lobb’s Farm shop. If you decide to either stock up there or bring a picnic to Heligan, you can grab a picnic blanket and sit on the lawn. I thought this was a lovely touch, and there are also picnic benches available.
Further information about the Lost Gardens of Heligan
- The Lost Gardens of Heligan events: Details of upcoming events at Heligan are available here.
- The Lost Gardens of Heligan Prices: Adult entry is £15, students £9, children £7 and under 5s go free. A family ticket is £40 for two adults and up to three children. Anyone visiting to assist a disabled companion is free. This is correct at the time of writing but do check their website for up to date pricing information, and information about joint tickets for both Heligan and the Eden project.
- Is The Lost Gardens of Heligan National Trust? No, but it is a member of the Great Gardens of Cornwall. There are discount offers associated with that if you intend to visit more than one of the gardens. It is also an RHS partner garden, so RHS membership will admit visitors to Heligan between 1st November and 31st March.
- The Lost Gardens of Heligan locals pass: Residents of Cornwall and Devon are entitled to a locals pass to visit Heligan all year for the price of one admission. Details are here.
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