The earliest record of a garden at Swinton Park is of one laid out in 1699 to a design by George London, with fountains added a few years later, which was probably situated to the east of the building. This was probably swept away by William danby during the 1760′s as part of his landscaping programme. A painting of c1815 only shows an informal garden with lawns and a shrubbery.
To the west of the castle there is a rockery, with a sunken path and rockwork steps, and the remains of an icehouse. From here the lawn rises to a Gothick orangery which is now in disrepair, although the boiler house at the rear and underfloor pipework is still in evidence. Below this, across the pebbled path, there is a game larder.
The path leads on towards Coffin Pond, past the lime and yew avenue and Spring Garden, which is ablaze with colour with bluebells, daffodils, cherry blossom, rhododendrons and azaleas during the months of April, May and June.
The lakes were designed and dug out during the 1760′s, when the Danby family were in residence at Swinton. During the early 1800′s, the stone bridge at Coffin Pond was built, and the stone coffins, which were dug up in a nearby quarry, were laid out beside the boathouse. It is thought that they date from the Saxon period, and that they were coffins for the nuns in the local nunnery.
The path follows the bank of Coffin Pond on both sides, and meets again above Lily Pond. It then continues to Top Lake, formerly Lake Superior, which features several druids seats, a large grotto, and a summer house in the middle of the island. Another folly, The Mount, is situated above Top Lake, looking over the parkland, which you can see as you pass through the field. The path then crosses back over a bridge at the tail end of the lake. From here there are several standing stones along the bank of the lake.
The foundations for Quarry Gill Bridge were laid in 1811, and took 11 years to complete at the immense cost of £11,000. This part of the walk is by far the most dramatic, with views down the ravine and through the bridge (which is more than 20m high), and a stream that cascades down into several pools, particularly after a recent shower. The walk also takes you past an old quarry, excavated during the 1880′s and used for dressed stone at the castle and outbuildings.
The parkland is divided from the castle by the serpentine stretch of water, Home Lake, designed to give the impression of a river. It supports a herd of approximately 100 fallow deer, including 10 stags. Some of these are very pale in colour – commonly mistaken for albino! The building in the middle of the park is a deerhouse, built in the mid 1880′s.
Guests are welcome to walk in the grounds throughout the year – it can take up to 2 1/2 hours to complete all of the routes. We ask that dogs are kept under control and that all gates are kept shut.
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Thank goodness the sun has now come out and we seem to have finally put winter behind us! The Parkland has burst into bloom with clouds of blossom and a colourful carpet of daffodils and bluebells around the trees.
The Walled Garden is also getting going, with bright tulips swaying in the breeze and home grown asparagus bursting forth. Asparagus is at its most delicious when eaten closest to home, so dishes featuring home-grown asparagus are now on all our menus, including the bar and lounge. The garden furniture is out and soon it will be time for afternoon teas on the lawn and evening drinks on the terrace at sunset. English summertime at it’s best.
Please click here if you are making plans for 2013 and want to see our Events and Activities Calendar to book a cookery course, themed lunch or family event. Our inspirational Themed Lunch and Dining Experiences page includes Wine Appreciation Lunches, with talks and tastings led by our new sommelier David Borwick, together with our Gardening Lunches, which include a talk and tour with garden designer Susan Cunliffe-Lister.