Kilver Court is one of those rare destinations that really does offer something for everyone. For those who love to shop, there’s a designer outlet with clothing, homewares and gifts. Foodies will be impressed with the selection of quality light bites dishes at the Shoreham Pantry restaurant and the yummy cakes at the Harlequin Cafe. And then there’s the garden…
I visited on a sunny summer day with my mum and my seven month old twins, making the picturesque journey from central Bristol in less than an hour. Mum had seen the garden on the BBC’s Gardener’s World once, but I had no idea of the treat that was in store for us.
It’s hard to imagine, as you pull off the busy A37 running through Shepton Mallet, that you’re only a few steps away from a magical oasis of green and calm. But as you enter through the embellished wooden gates of the Secret Garden, you’ll find yourself in a sort of wonderland full of the most beautiful flowers, lofty trees and rolling lawns.
Originally created by industrialist Ernest Jardine over 100 years ago – and tended for the last 30 years by the same two talented gardeners – this small but perfectly formed garden draws the eye from one delight to another. There’s the millpond with its bird houses and flamingo enclosure (yes, they have flamingos!), the formal parterre and romantic folly, and the majestic Charlton Viaduct that forms a sweeping backdrop to it all.
Though not a big garden (the site is 3.5 acres in total), it will take you a little while to walk around because you’ll be stopping every few moments to smell the deliciously scented Gertrude Jekyll roses or take yet another a photo. Access is excellent and I managed to get round the entire space with a double buggy, though there are a few spots where you’d need to hold on tight to a toddler or they might end up in the water.
Thoroughly relaxed after our leisurely wander, we headed to the Shoreham Pantry for lunch. The menu isn’t huge but every one of the options sounded delicious. In the end we shared a decadent baked camembert with rosemary and fingers of crispy toast, followed by flatbread topped with hard boiled eggs and asparagus. Both were cooked to perfection.
Then it was time for a bit of shopping. There are some great brands at Kilver Court, ranging from Toast and Jack Wills to LK Bennett, Joseph and Orla Kieley, with impressive discounts on recommended prices. The Great House was my favourite bit – a warren of little rooms, each filled with a tempting selection of artisan food, homewares and gifts. I won’t tell you how much I spent!
After a cup of tea and a slice of excellent coffee and walnut cake at the Harlequin Cafe, it was time to head back to the garden side of the site, where we had a browse around the small nursery. I was pleased and not at all surprised to see that the plants on offer were well cared for and of a good quality, and I may have made a couple of purchases here too. Well, who could resist the intoxicating scent of the Gertrude Jekyll rose?
The staff in the nursery shop were so friendly and helpful, giving us advice and helping us make the right choices – not to mention cooing over the babies, which is the way to any new mum’s heart. They even helped us carry the spoils of our day back to the car as we reluctantly headed home around 5pm.
I can’t recommend Kilver Court highly enough. Whether you’re looking for a new outfit or something for the garden, an hour in the sunshine or a full day out, you’ll find it here. I’ll definitely be back soon.
Practical details about Kilver Court
Child friendly? Yes and for children under six years old, entrance is free
Dog friendly? No dogs, except guide dogs.
Accessible? Due to the historic nature of the site, disabled access is limited. Please phone the Duty Manager (07841 871 473) before you visit and they can help you plan your day and the best route for exploring Kilver Court and accessing the areas you wish.
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