Sissinghurst Castle Garden
Kent TN17 2AB
In 1930 the Elizabethan manor house of Sissinghurst Castle in south-east England was chosen by the authors Harold Nicholson and Vita Sackville-West to be their home. They had been looking for an old house where they could establish a unique garden.
Harold was a diplomat and spent long periods apart from his wife Vita. They had an unusual ‘open’ marriage but were totally devoted to each other and Vita was put in charge of finding them a permanent home. The Sissinghurst estate with its home farm and 400 acres (162 ha) of farmland was exactly what they wanted.
Harold designed the garden as a series of ‘rooms’ separated by box hedges and left the plantings to Vita with the only instructions being that each ‘room’ should have plants of a similar colour. Harold was a neat and orderly classicist and Vita was a romantic who favoured profusion and surprises. The garden reflects their different personalities.
In the early middle ages Sissinghurst was a stone manor house surrounded by a moat, two arms of which remain and have been incorporated into the garden. During 1560-70 Sir Richard Baker built the current Elizabethan red brick mansion. In 1756, after a change in the families' fortune, the house was let to the government and used as a prison camp for French prisoners of war.
Over 3,000 inmates were held at Sissinghurst over a period of seven years. They were used to work the estate. The Three Chimneys pub at Biddenden marks the boundary of the 18th century prison farm. The buildings fell in to such a dilapidated state that two thirds of them were demolished and the farmhouse was built in 1855.
The garden has been designed around the remaining Elizabethan ranges and it is worth climbing the stairs of the Tudor gatehouse to look down into the garden to see the overall design and how it fits into the surrounding landscape.
Plan Your Visit
Accommodation - Search & Book through Hotels.com here: External Link
A Tip: The garden is very popular with visitors and during summer months it might be worth considering visiting after 16:00 hours when it is more peaceful.
The Garden is open from 13 March to 31 October. 11:00 – 18:00 hours.
Last admission is 30 minutes before closing. Please check the National Trust website for up to date opening days and times.
The Estate is open all year.
National Trust members free
Please check the official website (below) for up to date entry costs for other visitors.
There is a Drop Off point but vehicles must be parked in main car park (315 yads, 288 m).
Toilets are on level ground at ticket office and via ramp at restaurant
Buildings: Level entrance. 5 wheelchairs. Step to library. 78 steps in tower
Grounds: Partly accessible, some steps, uneven and narrow paths. Map of accessible route.
The Oast House Exhibition details the historical, personal and horticultural history of the estate and garden
The Granary self service restaurant uses locally grown farm and garden produce.
There is a NT Gift Shop.
Check official website for further details. PDF brochure available for download.
Contact & Further Information
+44 (0)1580 710 701 (Infoline) or
+44 (0)1580 710 700
National Trust/ Sissinghurst Castle Garden External Link
Sissinghurst is about 5 miles (8 km) west of Biddenden on the A262. Please refer to the detailed instructions on getting to Biddenden in this website.
Google Maps - Sissinghurst Castle Garden