Tregothnan is not the kind of garden where you’ll see coachloads of people queuing at the entrance. It’s not usually open to the public, so if you want to see this utterly magical place, you’ll need to book a private tour – but if you love the idea of sneaking into one of Cornwall’s most off-the-beaten-track gems, then put Tregothnan on your must-see list.
The Tregothnan Tea Plantation and Botanical Gardens is at the head of one of the Fal River creeks; the steep valleys tumbling towards the water provide a stunning backdrop to the gardens. Arriving by motor launch (all part of the tour) is a suitably intriguing way to begin your exploration. It’s a corner of Cornwall that’s positively awash with history; the current house was built in 1652, although the estate was there long before, having belonged to the same family since 1335. The entrance to the kitchen garden dates back to Plantagenet times, making it at least 600 years old.
The first ever English plantation and the only English tea producer in existence, Tregothnan produces world-class tea, a combination of near-perfect growing conditions in a unique microclimate and the estate team’s obsessive attention to detail. It’s not just fields of tea plants you’ll see, though – Tregothnan is also home to botanical gardens that are designated a ‘safe site’ for the protection of extremely rare and endangered plants and trees from all over the world, including the Dinosaur tree, which was, until fairly recently, thought to be extinct. Some of the plants here are so rare that Tregothnan has more of them than are thought to be growing in the wild.
Once the head gardener or one of his team has led you through the estate – 40 hectares of flora, foliage and history the like of which you’ll never have seen before – it’s off to the Edwardian summer house for an indulgent cream tea starring, of course, a variety of Tregothnan teas. As you would expect, the price of a private tour at Tregothnan is somewhat higher than the average garden entrance fee; this is one for special occasions. The estate limits numbers for private tours, so booking ahead is a must.
Tresillian, Truro, Cornwall, TR2 4AN, Tel. 01872 520000