The Rose Garden at Blenheim Palace,  ©VisitEngland/Blenheim Palace/Experience Oxfordshire

With 2016 officially designated the Year of The English Garden there’s never been a better time to visit the UK and see some of the gardens of its most famous landscape designer: Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. Born 300 years ago, the Shakespeare of English garden design was responsible for using a more ‘natural’ style, transforming stately home gardens and landscapes throughout England. Here are 10 of his greatest works.


‘Capability’ Brown Kirkharle Lake & Courtyard, Northumberland

VE25152 Kirkharle Lake and Garden, ©VisitEngland/Kirkharle/Kirkharle Coffee House

‘Capability’ Brown was baptised in 1716 in the tiny Northumbrian village of Kirkharle and in 1732 he was appointed apprentice gardener at Kirkharle Hall. Today Kirkharle estate, including a lake and courtyard, has an exhibition where you can learn all about ‘Capability’ Brown’s achievements and detailed information with which to take time to wander around Kirkharle’s historic grounds. Brown’s original plan for the grounds was discovered hidden away in Kirkharle Hall and has recently been used to shape the gardens and build a lake. Follow the 900m lakeside pathway to discover his emerging 18th century landscape and experience a garden design in the making. Pop into one of the many boutique shops, where you’ll find individual art, jewellery and gifts. You can even take home some ‘Back to Nature’ ‘Capability’ Brown soap!


Stowe, Buckinghamshire

The Temple of Ancient Virtue in the autumn at Stowe, Buckinghamshire.The Temple of Ancient Virtue at Stowe, ©National Trust Images/John Miller

Stowe was ‘Capability’ Brown’s first major commission and today is one of the most magnificent landscape gardens in England. He started his career as head gardener here at the age of 26 in 1741, was married and lived at Stowe for 10 years. A picture-perfect English garden now managed by National Trust, attracting visitors for over 300 years. Stowe has fabulous views, lakes and temples all joined up with winding paths and a timeless landscape. In the 18th century, Stowe rivalled many of the royal gardens and was loved by all who visited, including Catherine the Great of Russia, who copied many aspects at her own gardens near St Petersburg.     


Croome, Worcestershire

Croome, Worcestershire.Croome, `Capability’ Brown’s masterful first commission, ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

‘Capability ’Brown’s first commission for a house and parkland is a masterpiece. An incredible restoration project started over 17 years ago and continues today and what was then a lost and overgrown 18th century parkland has been restored to ‘Capability’ Brown’s very first landscape design. Croome Court’s restoration encourages visitors to see the transformation from inside and out. Climb the scaffolding for a stunning view! This grand house will emerge in all its glory during 2016.


Burghley, Lincolnshire

LionBridge_IMG_4073The Lion Bridge at Burghley

This is probably the most important commission in ‘Capability’ Brown’s career and was certainly his longest. It took him 25 years to complete and he described it as “25 years of pleasure”. Burghley is one of England’s greatest Elizabethan houses and gardens dating back to the 16th century. Explore the stunning 300-acre deer park and gardens, where you can see his signature lake and avenues of mature trees. Take a stroll around the Historical Garden of Surprises, hidden from the outside it features obelisks, statues, flowing water and fountains. The Contemporary Sculpture Garden is dedicated to exhibiting innovative sculptures.


Trentham, Staffordshire

map 570A map of one of Brown’s lost landscapes to be restored at Trentham

Trentham is one of Brown’s most celebrated successes and his work continues today with a restoration of one of his lost landscapes. This is a must-see award-winning English garden with a mile long ‘Capability’ Brown designed lake, Italian Garden, woodland and maze. Enjoy his impressive lake on foot or on water – walk around the lake path (it’s 2 miles!) or hop aboard the Miss Elizabeth boat. Don’t forget to bring your camera as this garden is a photographer’s dream throughout the year, with picture-perfect views at every turn. Look carefully and you may even see some fairies. There’s plenty more to entertain you at Trentham, you’ll find a shopping village and garden centre and for the more adventurous the Monkey Forest and Aerial Extreme, a tree-based high ropes adventure course.


Chatsworth, Derbyshire

VE24730smallThe stunning Chatsworth House, ©VisitEngland/Chatsworth House/Matthew Bullen/Chatsworth House

By the mid 18th century ‘Capability’ Brown had now become the ‘celebrity’ landscape gardener and his work at Chatsworth transformed the gardens to mirror the magnificence of the house. Loved by all who visit, Chatsworth is one of England’s greatest treasure houses and gardens. This 18th century ‘Capability’ Brown garden with over 105 acres is full of surprises. It’s most famous for its 200ft (61m) fountain, rock garden and surviving Joseph Paxton glasshouses and contemporary sculptures. Join a free one hour garden tour where you’ll learn all about its history, including ‘Capability’ Brown’s landscape designs. Take time to explore this dramatic house, home of the Cavendish family since the 1550s. Full of works of art spanning over 4,000 years, there’s something to delight every visitor from Roman and Egyptian sculptures to masterpieces from Rembrandt, Reynolds and Veronese.


Wrest Park, Bedfordshire

VE24859smallThe magical Wrest Park, ©VisitEngland/English Heritage/Jim Holden/Wrest Park/English Heritage

One of the most magnificent and enchanting gardens in England. ‘Capability’ Brown was responsible for softening the gardens with a series of elaborate serpentine lakes. English Heritage took over Wrest Park in 2006 and has restored it to its former glory. Explore the 90 acres of grounds where you can see French, Dutch, Italian and English styles sitting side by side and spanning across three centuries of design. There’s plenty to see at Wrest Park including a number of hidden gems – the Bath house with cobbled floor inlaid with a pattern of deer bones, a Chinese temple and bridge and over 40 statues.


Harewood, Yorkshire

VE24934smallPart of the garden at Harewood House, ©VisitEngland/Harewood House/Harewood House

‘Capability’ Brown’s vision for Harewood was to ensure the gardens were as imposing as the house. He did this by building an enormous lake (32 acres), which can still be seen today. Harewood House is a grade I listed building full of art, including an early collection of watercolours by Turner. Take time to enjoy this magnificent 100 acre garden where you can see the Terrace, Lakeside Garden, Himalayan Garden and Walled Garden. Admire the grand sweep of the 1,000 acre park and Harewood estate as you stroll around the ‘Capability’ Brown lake. But don’t leave without a visit to the Bird Garden, home to penguins, owls, flamingos and parrots.


Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

VE24613smallThe Hedge Maze at Blenheim Palace, ©VisitEngland/Blenheim Palace/Experience Oxfordshire

Blenheim Palace is possibly ‘Capability’ Brown’s masterpiece for scale with over 2,000 acres of landscaped parkland. Noted as “the most beautiful view in England”; the Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The award-winning formal gardens, commissioned by the 9th Duke of Marlborough, include a secret garden, the majestic water terraces, a fragrant rose garden and the grand cascade and lake. Take time to enjoy The Pleasure Gardens, where you can hop aboard the miniature train, get lost in the giant maze or visit the tropical butterfly house.


Hampton Court, London

VE25216Exterior view of the 17th century South Front of Hampton Court Palace, ©VisitEngland/Historic Royal Palaces/Historic Royal Palaces

‘Capability’ Brown was appointed by King George III to look after the gardens and lived there with his family. This was an important appointment as it raised his status amongst the nobility. He is thought to have planted the great vine in 1768, which is still producing a crop of sweet grapes today (you can buy them from the shop in early September). Hampton Court Palace is of unique, historical and horticultural importance. The park covers 750 acres of land, set by the River Thames. Stroll around the 60 acres of beautiful formal gardens where you’ll see The Privy Garden, Tiltyard Walls, Rose Garden and The Great Fountain Garden. But don’t get lost in the maze!



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