Caravan touring: Visit Highgrove Gardens
This Royal residence is totally enchanting, without even stepping inside!
Words by Susie Kearley
For a touch of luxury in the heart of Gloucestershire, look no further than the Prince of Wales’ residence, Highgrove House. You can book a garden tour and if you're feeling flush, stay for supper or champagne tea!
There are floral beds, topiary, fountains and water meadows to see. It’s an enchanting experience and you'll hear tales of joy and inspiration as you peruse the exquisite gardens.
We arrived on a sunny day and watched the short welcome film delivered by Prince Charles.
Then, as a group of about 20, we were led into the garden by an entertaining guide, who told us all about the history and design of the different garden schemes.
A garden which displays a sense of humour
Photo above: Some of the more quirky touches celebrate the lives of Royals including the late Queen Mother
The garden reflects Prince Charles' passion for plants, organic growing, and sustainability. It’s 100% organic, with experts widely consulted. The final designs, however, were created by Prince Charles. The gardens have a personal feel.
There’s a sense of humour reflected in some quirky features and the influence of the late Queen Mother can be seen. The guide provides little anecdotes that keep the tour upbeat and light-hearted.
There’s a recycling theme, with old wood turned into artistic structures, and old tree stumps being used to create a Victorian stumpery. These rustic features were popular in Victorian gardens and were designed to give the garden a haunting Gothic feel. Stumperies had the added benefit of being beneficial to wildlife, and they provide homes to hundreds of insects.
The Prince likes to allow the weeds to grow in some places to encourage wildlife and diversity. It’s also reassuring to hear that Highgrove’s professional gardeners experience similar gardening problems to those we encounter at home. Highgrove is a practical lived-in garden, and not just a showpiece.
The Prince’s unconventional ideas provide a novel approach to gardening that makes our own garden at home look more like a deliberate wildlife-friendly garden than a weed-infested plot which needs work! Not that there’s any real comparison — Prince Charles’ garden and parkland extends to 900 acres of land, and employs several gardeners.
Family history on display
There’s a walled kitchen garden at Highgrove, abundant with glorious organic fruits and vegetables that the Prince and Camilla enjoy when they're staying in the house. There’s also a magnificent bronze statue, created by Frederick Hart, entitled 'The Four Daughters of Odessa'. It’s a tribute to Czar Nicolas’ four daughters, who were killed as martyrs during the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, in 1917.
Presents from dignitaries are displayed in the garden and there's a tree house that Princes William and Harry used to enjoy as children.
The scenery changes with the seasons and some people who visit in the late summer or autumn months, like to return in the spring to see the wildflower meadows in full bloom. The garden tour entails a gentle two-mile walk and takes about two hours.
Time for tea
The Orchard Restaurant offers a selection of light lunches or afternoon teas and there’s also a little shop so you can stock up on souvenirs. The downside is photography is forbidden, so if you want photographs as a memoir of your visit then you’ll need to buy a guide book or postcards from the shop.
- Advance booking is required online at highgrovegardens.com
Where to stay
Prices couple, electric hook-up, per night
The Holford Arms
Knockdown, Sherston, Tetbury GL8 8QY
T 01454 238669
OPEN 1 May to 1 OctoberPRICE £35 all season (couple, EHU)
This is the closest campsite to Highgrove, set in seven beautiful acres of Cotswold countryside. They've planted over 1,000 fruit trees and shrubs, and offer orchard camping within the trees or dedicated caravan pitches. The new shower block also offers seven showers.
Tudor Caravan Park
Shepherds Patch, Slimbridge, Gloucester GL2 7BP
T 01453 890483
OPEN All year
PRICE From £21 (couple, EHU)
This tidy caravan park is just over 13 miles from Highgrove, in a nice part of the country, beside a canal. The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Centre at Slimbridge is just a five-minute walk away.
Facilities on site include a modern toilet and shower block, Wi-Fi, laundry and washing-up facilities, and use of a communal freezer. The Tudor Arms pub and restaurant, located next door to the caravan park, has a reputation for excellent freshly cooked food. It also serves local real ales.
Briarfields Motel and Touring Park
Gloucester Road, Cheltenham, GL51 0SS
T 01242 235324
OPEN All year
PRICE From £19 (couple, EHU)
This caravan park is about 45-minutes drive from Highgrove Gardens and is open all year round. It’s a landscaped park with hardstanding pitches, electric hook-up, free Wi-Fi, washrooms and laundry facilities. It has a separate disabled washroom, and dogs are welcome.
Other attractions nearby
Wetlands Trust Centre at Slimbridge
This nature reserve contains 325 hectares of wetlands, beside the Severn Estuary. It’s home to over 200 species of birds and other wildlife including the famous Bewick’s swans, European white-fronted geese and herons.
The architecture and artwork at Gloucester Cathedral is worth a peek if you’re in the area. It’s in the centre of town where you can do a spot of shopping, too.
Gloucester city centre has dozens of museums with modern artworks and changing exhibitions. Check the website to see what’s on.
29 miles from Highgrove House is Bourton-on-the-Water, probably the Cotswolds’ most loved and visited village. Visitors are drawn to its quaint buildings, idyllic stream, and multitude of attractions, which include Birdland, a model village, a maze, and a motor museum.