If, like me, your heart skips a beat when you hear the words ‘walled garden’, or you get a little excited at the thought of a greenhouse, then you will want to know a little more about Benvarden.
Benvarden is an historic estate which has been in existence since 1798 and home to the Montgomery family since then. Located a mile or so from the village of Ballybogey (about an hour’s drive from Belfast), the grounds of the Benvarden estate are home to a twelve foot high walled garden spread over two acres. Instantly, when I hear the words ‘walled garden’, I think of Mary in The Secret Garden when she discovers the key and unlocks the door to the hidden treasure beyond. That’s how I felt when I visited Benvarden for the first time, full of anticipation as to what I might find. Benvarden, it has to be said, surpassed all my expectations.
We arrived early on a Saturday morning and after making our way down the long driveway, we found ourselves to be the first visitors of the day. After paying the entrance fee, we walked through a well stocked and beautifully planted kitchen garden to reach the entrance to the walled garden itself. It was sunny and the humming of bees was heavy in the air as we caught the first glimpses of the garden beyond.
The garden consists of herbaceous and mixed borders and a fish pond with a fountain surrounded by rose beds. A series of gravel paths allow you to wander round the garden at your leisure. And that’s exactly what we did for well over an hour…stopping every few seconds to admire the beautiful flowers and colour combinations and take in the beauty of a much cared for garden that has been in existence for over 200 years.
As, for a while at least, we were the only visitors there, it felt to me like we had the whole place to ourselves and I honestly couldn’t think of a lovelier place to be.
My husband decided to sit in the shade for a while as the day was warming up quite quickly. I, on the other hand, could scarcely pull myself away – the place was just so enchanting and if I took a few photographs, I must have taken a hundred more as I spotted a haze of lilac and purple at the far wall of the garden, lit up by the morning sunshine.
As I made my way over to the greenhouse, I came across this little beauty – to me, it seemed like strawberries and cream in a flower. If you know what it is, please tell me 🙂
I peaked through the door of the greenhouse, imagining how nice it might be to potter about in there, surrounded by a beautiful garden, looking out at the bright red poppies and the first of the roses coming into bloom.
I walked round to the other side of the greenhouse, where I found my husband still sitting in the shade, in a quiet and sheltered corner of the garden. Possibly one of my favourite spots and it’s easy to see why…
No trip to a garden like this is complete without a cup of tea (and cake !) and I walked through to a cobbled central courtyard where I found the tea room. I sat for a while in a small patio area drinking my tea and enjoying the sunshine before heading off round the courtyard again, which is home to stables and coach houses. More Instagrammable scenes awaited me there.
I returned back for a final wander round the garden, eager to take it all in one last time. It’s truly a beautiful place, timeless and classic and inspirational and I hope my photographs convey a little of the inspiration to you. It’s a treasure off the beaten path. A true secret garden waiting to be discovered.
Have a lovely Wednesday x
ps The garden is open for three months of year from June to August. As I mentioned, you can park on site. There are also toilets and a tea room where I bought a cup of tea and a fairy cake for £2. From Belfast, head to Ballymoney and follow the main Portrush road to Ballybogy. Turn right at the main junction in the village and from there, it’s about a mile on the right. The entrance fee is £5.