As part of my South-West solo tour this summer I visited Taunton in Somerset. It was here I had the pleasure of wandering around the exquisite gardens at Hestercombe Gardens and enjoyed a delicious traditional afternoon tea at The Column Room Restaurant.
Welcome to a Gardener’s Paradise
Hestercombe encompasses fifty acres of glorious gardens which have a 300-year gardening and design history attached to them. You can explore a mix of Edwardian formal gardens, Georgian landscaped gardens and enjoy gorgeous views from the Victorian Terrace. Not only are there acres of luscious gardens to explore and delightful food and afternoon teas to be enjoyed at The Column Room Restaurant, Hestercombe boasts a very grand house which is home to the Hestercombe Gallery. Read on to learn about my adventures at Hestercombe and discover what I thought about the gardens and the afternoon tea!
Finding Hestercombe is pretty easy and there’s plenty of car parking on arrival. I was warmly greeted by the staff at the entrance and provided with a leaflet and map. The staff members gave me a quick run-down of the gardens and the best spots to visit which I appreciated. It was a lovely sunny September day and so I was keen to get out to the gardens and wander around.
Relaxing in the Formal Gardens
I decided to first explore the Edwardian Formal Garden. Here, I was able to walk around in the late summer sunshine and enjoy the Great Plat, Orchard Garden of Remembrance and immerse myself in the gorgeous views of the Somerset countryside beyond. There is a lot of history attached to the Edwardian Gardens, which were apparently one of the finest examples of famous gardener’s Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyen’s work.
I absolutely loved wandering along the Pergola section; the colours of the leaves were just starting to change and some beautiful red and crimson colours were creeping through making me look forward to Autumn’s arrival.
I enjoyed trying to take arty photos using the holes in the walls and framed them so I could see the cows happily grazing on the grass.
I sat on a bench near the pergolas, overlooking the Edwardian inspired gardens for quite some time – there were some beautiful shots of the side of Hestercombe House and it’s beautiful architecture. I loved how the pictures I took captured the brightly coloured orange flowers (I can’t remember what they are called!) with the house in the background.
Next, I explored the Victorian Terrace where I was greeted with careful bordered plants and some stunning rose bushes. The views from the terrace were far reaching and sumptuously green – I could have stood there for ages admiring that view!
Time for Some Art
I moved on entering Hestercombe House and found myself drawn to the grandiose building. I loved the huge staircase, high ceiolings and marble columns.
The gallery’s current art exhibition is entitled “prospect refuge hazard 2” and displays the work of internationally recognised artist Helen Sear. I personally hadn’t heard of Helen or seen her work before but it was lovely to walk around and admire her interesting and thought-provoking work.
Afternoon Tea Delight
After exploring the gallery it was time for my pre-booked afternoon tea at The Column Room Restaurant which is situated in Hestercombe House next to the gallery. The restaurant is opulent and elegant, decorated simply yet beautifully; there was even a piano in there too to help set the scene!
The restaurant wasn’t too busy when I arrived with a couple of tables occupied. I was led by a friendly staff member to a table by one of the tall, big windows facing out over the gardens. This was the perfect setting for an afternoon tea as I could sit and admire the Victorian Terrace and rest of the formal gardens from my seat.
Hestercombe hosts wedding receptions and on the day I visited there was a couple who were having some of their wedding photographs on the terrace and within the gardens – it was such a beautiful and happy sight to witness and I couldn’t help but think what a wonderful place this would be for a wedding reception! I bet the photos would be just epic!
I was booked to sample the traditional afternoon tea, however, on the menu, there were also smaller, lighter options of cream teas and selections of sandwiches. There’s even the option of having a sparkling afternoon tea which includes champagne – this would make any special occasion extra indulgent. There was a menu full of speciality loose leaf tea options, so it seemed only right I didn’t go with the normal English breakfast tea and decided to go with something a bit different that I hadn’t had before. I chose the ‘almond dreams’ tea which was a vibrant pink, fruity tasting tea – a little like cherry bakewells! It was really nice, and I was pleased I went for something a bit different.
The afternoon tea arrived on a three tiered stand and looked mighty impressive indeed! Even for one person there looked like a lot of food and I was slightly concerned about how I was going to eat it all!
There was a selection of sandwiches which consisted of coronation chicken, smoked mackerel pate and brie with cranberry sauce. They were all very tasty and accompanied with a small warm pastry which I am not sure what was in it, but it was really yummy!
Next, I tucked into the second tier on the cake stand which included a range of miniature cakes including chocolate cake, strawberry mousse, shortbread and other little tasty bites.
To finish off the afternoon tea I enjoyed an indulgent scone with jam and cream – so tasty, so naughty but sooooo good! I cannot think of a better way to spend a relaxing afternoon than eating a delicious afternoon tea whilst admiring stunning gardens and beautiful landscapes.
The restaurant is open Wednesday to Sundays and really is a lovely setting for an afternoon treat or light lunch of posh sandwiches. I think the restaurant had a stylish yet romantic feel for it and would be perfect for treating someone special.
Exploring the Gorgeous Georgian Gardens
Feeling very full having devoured the plentiful afternoon tea I wanted (and needed!) to explore the gardens some more. Given how vast the gardens were I wasn’t sure if I would get around them all so the map really helped with picking out the top spots. I took a stroll through the Victorian shrubbery area and past the octagonal summerhouse which I think would be so lovely to have in my garden!
If you have time there’s a visitor information area where you can enjoy a film about Hestercombe Gardens and their creation which I recommend. I continued my walk through the gardens and took stopped off at the Chinese seat where I sat and took stock of life for a while – I loved how quiet the gardens were and how I was able to spot lots of birds and squirrels roaming around beside me.
From here there were some very pretty views over the pear pond and gardens beyond. Given the hot summer, we have experienced I was impressed at how lush and green all the trees were and how well maintained the gardens and walkways were.
I continued my walk past the amazing great cascade and rustic seat. Annoyingly, I must have been so absorbed by the tranquillity of the cascading water that I forgot to take any photos! There’s often lots posted on the Hestercombe Gardens Instagram page, so you can check them out there instead! As I was running out of time and afternoon sun I didn’t have a chance to head further into north into the gardens, but instead made my way down past the pear pond, admiring the friendship urn and mausoleum on the way.
I loved how there were not only lovely gardens to admire but also lots of interesting buildings and features to the gardens. This made it feel like there was so much to see and lots of nice additional elements to photograph too!
I spent some time watching the ducks down at the mill pond before heading to have a look at the impressive watermill.
Here, you can take a look inside and see all the inner workings of the watermill and its machinery. The displays are accompanied by some interesting information to read too.
Making my way back towards Hestercombe House, I passed through the Dutch garden before stumbling across a beautiful sunny coloured building – the Orangery.
Apparently, the Orangery is available for weddings – yes please! I loved its big windows and summer feel.
The gardens were really quiet by this time and it was so nice wandering around being able to enjoy the gardens and take lots of pictures without other people getting in your way! There are certain areas of the gardens in which dogs are allowed too so if you live locally and have a dog then this could be the perfect place for dog walks!
Before leaving Hestercombe I visited the Garden Shop and Plant Centre which was stocked full of lovely ornaments, gardening related gifts and the usual stationary and postcard souvenirs for me!
I fancied a drink after all that walking and so popped to the Stables Café for a quick cold drink before leaving. The Stables Café is free to visit for those not visiting the gardens and looked like it had some really tasty looking food and some very naughty looking cakes! Find out more about what they offer here.
Entry to Hestercombe Gardens costs £11.80 for adults, £5.90 for children aged 5-15 years and there are family ticket prices staring at £17.70 too. Wheelchair users get half price entry and visitors can save 10% by booking tickets online. I think these prices are very reasonable for such large and delightful gardens, plus you are able to check out the gallery, watermill and second hand book shop too! I spent a whole afternoon here so think it’s good value for money should you want to go for a lovely walk with lots of unique and interesting things to see along the way.
Traditional afternoon tea costs £18.95 per person which, whilst might seem a little expensive at first, isn’t when you think about the amount of food you get per person, the stunning setting in which the restaurant is situated and how special of an occasion afternoon tea can be.
I had a lovely afternoon wandering around the gardens and enjoyed the mix of getting lost in the Georgian landscapes gardens and relaxing in the peaceful formal Edwardian gardens. There is a lot of history to the gardens and lots to see – the added bonus of exploring the gallery and watermill appealed to me too. A highlight of the trip was also the afternoon tea at The Column Room Restaurant – this felt like a really luxurious treat and I loved the views from my table. The food was really tasty too and I was pleased I opted to try a new flavour of loose leaf tea! Afternoon tea is such a treat and can be a really lovely romantic date or special gift to a friend. Going for an afternoon tea is definitely a favourite pastime of mine and so I would love to come back to the gardens and restaurant and bring Nathan along next time!
I really recommend a visit to Hestercombe Gardens for those visiting the Taunton and Somerset area and think the idea of Hestercombe Gardens membership sound great with all the additional benefits you get included. This could be a really great idea for those who live locally and enjoy peaceful walks or have doggy friends! I had a really lovely and relaxing time and would love to visit the gardens again in a different season to see the differences in colours and flowers.
***Entry to Hestercombe Gardens and the traditional afternoon tea was given to me on a complimentary basis in return for this review. All thoughts, pictures and opinions are entirely my own***