Not to be missed on your holiday in Cornwall, the Lost Gardens of Heligan has just been voted best heritage site by readers of the BBC’s Countryfile magazine.
Thanks to a previous Channel 4 TV series about the restoration of the gardens in 1996, it has long been a favourite garden of many people visiting Cornwall.
Luckily for anyone staying at Bosinver, Heligan is right on our doorstep. In fact, it’s so close you can actually walk there. This is one of the days out we suggest in our ‘50 things to do without a car’ e-book (there’s always the option to take the bus back).
Like most gardens in Cornwall, Heligan is arguably at its best May and June, but it’s well worth a visit at any time of year. With over 200 acres to explore, there’s probably more than you can do in a day.
If you remember reading The Secret Garden as a child, then visiting Heligan is a bit like stepping in to the novel. There are lots of intriguing doorways to walk through, and you never know quite what you’re going to stumble upon next. Almost everything has a story attached to it. One of our favourites involves growing pineapples.
In today’s world, pineapples are cheap and easily available at the supermarket. But in Victorian times, a pineapple was a symbol of wealth and high status. Back then, pineapples were exotic and notoriously hard to grow, particularly in the UK, so they came with a high price tag. If you could afford to serve pineapple to your guests for dinner then you could count yourself amongst the ranks of the elite.
Heligan was the first place to grow pineapples successfully in specially constructed ‘pineapple pits’ first built in the 18th century. To recreate the tropical environment the pineapples need to grow, the pits were heated by fresh horse manure! Staff at Heligan have started growing the fruit successfully again, so look out for the pineapple pits when you visit.
Other highlights at Heligan include the Lost Valley and Ancient Woodlands. In spring, the woods are covered with a glorious carpet of bluebells. It’s a peaceful place to wander, offering shelter when it’s cooler and shade in the height of the summer. As you stroll through the woods, you’ll come across three natural sculptures nestled in amongst the trees – the Giant’s Head, the Mudmaid and the Grey Lady.
The Heligan Wild team aim to encourage local wildlife throughout the estate. The habitat at is incredibly varied and includes ancient woodland, hay meadows, grazed pasture and wetlands. Horsemoor Hide, at the heart of the estate, is one of the best places to appreciate Heligan’s wildlife. There’s a wildlife viewing area interactive displays, photographs and information. You can also see live and recorded footage of some of Heligan’s wild residents. This year their barn owls have hatched three chicks, and you can watch their progress on the webcam.
Heligan welcomes dogs all year round – and your four-legged friends will certainly enjoy a visit!
The Lost Gardens of Heligan are open from 10am all year round (except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). For more information on what you can see and do at Heligan, take a look at their website.
Adults £11, Seniors £10, Children 5-6 £6, Under 5s – free, Family £29
How to get there
The Lost Gardens of Heligan is only a short drive from Bosinver (postcode for SatNavs PL26 6EN)
Alternatively, you could walk (approx. 1 hour 30 mins), cycle or take the bus.
Turn left out of the driveway and towards the village of Sticker (Rose Hill). When you reach Sticker, turn left at Chapel Hill onto Nunnery Hill. Continue to the end of Nunnery Hill, then turn right to reach the Lost Gardens of Heligan.
If you’d rather travel by bus, catch First Bus 26 from Polgooth towards Mevagissey. Turn left out of the drive and left again into the village of Polgooth. The bus stop is on the left hand side.