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Iford Manor Estate – It’s your passport to Italy – bella bella!

Discover this Italianate garden that's a little slice of heaven on the Wiltshire-Somerset border. The recent addition of a gorgeous cafe equals hard-to-beat day out, now with on-site holiday cottage!

WHAT? WHERE?

photo: Marianne Cartwright-Hignett

This romantic, award-winning Grade 1 listed garden is set in 2.5 acres of terraced hillside overlooking an unspoilt valley. Designed by Edwardian architect-designer Harold Peto when it was his home in 1899-1933, this magical little corner on the Wiltshire-Somerset border will, we swear, transport you to another world. For once we’re making no apology for the flowery superlatives, as this place really is something special.

photo: Marianne Cartwright-Hignett

Totally insta-tastic, you’ll wander past colonnades and pools with stunning views in every direction. Antiquities are framed with an expert eye, and Peto’s love for beauty and history is palpable. It’s a dreamy mix of Roman ruin and English country garden with a dose of Japanese zen that left us relaxed and inspired.

photo: Marianne Cartwright-HIgnett

This is not a massive garden for a hearty walk, a picnic or a game of football. This is somewhere intimate to take your time and appreciate the peace and the detail. Take your date, your partner, your mates, your Mum; even go on your own (we’re considering a sole season ticket!), but don’t take the kids (except to the cafe). If you must, then take them to Butterfly Day in the orchard on 18 July.

There is an amazing sense of place here; the garden is full of unexpected treats and surprises, and is fascinating as much for those with (erm) no knowledge of or particular interest in gardens. Even if this is as far as you get from home this year, you’ll feel like you’ve been away.

photo: Simon Knight

WHEN?

In the summer the gardens are open to the public 11am-4pm Weds – Sunday and BH Mondays. Booking advisable. No under-tens admitted.

ARRIVAL

You’ll know you’ve arrived in this secret spot when you descend a steep stone-walled lane and see Britannia looking down on you from the ancient bridge. Alternatively get the train to Freshford Station (one stop from Bath) for a picturesque half-hour walk to the estate, or take a ten-minute cab ride from Bradford-on-avon train station.

SCOFF & QUAFF

New for this year is Jaq at Iford Restaurant & Cafe – already getting a top word-of-mouth reputation locally, especially for Jaq’s more-ish frangipane tarts. Try a platter of charcuterie or local cheeses at lunchtime or tea & cake on the cafe terrace after visiting the garden. Their Friday night supper clubs sell out fast.

The lovely Jaq, Head Chef

STAY OVER

New for summer 2021, we are thrilled to announce, is gorgeous Iford holiday rental Rowley Cottage. This historic house, adjacent to the manor, is a dream come true for anyone interested in architecture or gardens (or just luxuriously lazy holidays) – check out that wood panelling; the thickness of the walls! Parts date back to the twelfth century.

The sympathetic refurb is spot-on, and echoes the gorgeous design of the restaurant (same designers). Somehow the stylish update manages to shine a light on Iford, rather than overshadow it with fashion.

There are three double bedrooms, some with roll top baths, French beds with luxury mattresses, waterfall showers – we say yes please, when can we check in? It’s a peaceful spot, perfect for a retreat or civilised get-together; possibly not the best choice for kids. The location (deceptively near the A30) is a really handy base for exploring the south west, a short drive to Bath, Avebury, Frome and Longleat. There’s privileged access to those exquisite gardens – first thing before visitors arrive. Book ahead and you could combine with Jaq’s Friday night supper club next door – what a weekend that would be. We just know booking is going to be competitive when word gets out, so get in there while you can.

Champagne Garden Tours

photo: Marianne Cartwright-Hignett

These are led by resident William Cartwright-Hignett – both he and Marianne are incredibly knowledgable and have a totally infectious enthusiasm for the place. The tours sell-out super-fast, so fingers on the button.

photo: Marianne Cartwright-Hignett

Bounce Back Festival

photo: William Cartright-Hignett

The mini festivals of summer 2020 and 2021 have been successful, so look out for details of next year’s event. Residents Marianne and William Cartwright-Hignett combine their belief in Iford as restorative and healing (especially post-covid), their passion for live music and their support for artists by bringing us world-class classical and jazz musicians.

DID WE MENTION?

That this place is a slice of heaven? We just know you’re going to love it and are anticipating lots of Muddy stories of romantic moments and bonding with old mates, so do share. Tag us with your pictures on insta @muddywilts, and enjoy!

Iford Manor Estate, Nr Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire BA15 2BA

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