The Ergohacks Verdict

The Lost Gardens of Heligan was unexpected. I had seen the pictures on-line, but it isn’t anything like the pictures. I realised that the moment we bought tickets and the woman behind the counter turned to Cass and told her about the trail to the Lost Summer that’s taking place on the East Lawn. ‘There’s a lovely trail if you follow the blue ribbons that will get you there easily and quickly or if you like, there’s an adventure trail that’s steep and a bit slippery if you follow the orange ribbons.’  Cass chose adventure. It started with a play trail and not just for children either. Large enough for everyone to join in. She was thrilled.

The downhill walk through the woods were magical. It’s strange how it reminded me of a breadcrumb trail in a really good RPG. As soon as we reached an orange ribbon, we could spot another. The woods were filled with trees that had stuff in it. A cup cake tree. A tree filled with wedding dresses. Paintings hung up in the woods. It was gorgeous. We studied the Mud Maid – a big favourite – and we diverted to cross the rope bridge – another item on our list-  and then wind our way back onto the orange ribbon trail. It’s one of the best walks I’ve ever had. Cass agreed. She ran and sprinted, complained that we were stopping too often to take too many photographs. Come on. Come on!

The rest of our day was just as great as that first hour. Cass roasted marshmallows (and they gave us a carb count yay!) over an open fire for the first time in her life, we built a gigantic den, she sculpted a clay otter and painted a pebble. We walked and walked some more. It rained. It poured. But we didn’t care. In fact, I think it added to the ambience. Cass fell in love with small birds at the hide when she spotted a goldfinch and then many small birds joined us for lunch at the Stuart’s Cafè.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan delivers the unexpected. Its more Bohemian than I had realised and all the better for it. Around each corner something else caught our eye and every time it was delightful. It’s a smorgasbord of delights. Highly recommended.

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Tickets available at Entrance  

Price: ± £14.50 (Adults), £Seniors (65+)£6.50 Children (under 5s free), £37.50 Family (2 adults, up to 3 children)
£2 Discount for Seniors (65+), £6 off for Students, Free on-site parking, local visitors pass (Cornwall & Devon residents) available in March annually.
Annual membership: £35 (single), £64 (joint), £75 (family), £10 (children)
Membership discounts: RHS members can explore the gardens between 1 November and 31 March for free. 10% off entry here and at Eden when booking a joint ticket. 2-fo-1 entry with Gardener’s World Card.

About

The Heligan estate was originally bought by the Tremaynes in the 16th century. It was abandoned after World War I and rediscovered in 1990. It’s been excavated and restored over the last 27 years. The gardens are now leased by a company owned by their restorers, who continue to cultivate them and operate them as a visitor attraction.

Design

Heligan Gardens is an extensive estate with 200 acres of land. It’s a mix of woodland, wildlife haven, working farm, formal gardens, play grounds, fields and kitchen garden. It has a saw mill, charcoal kiln, wildlife hide as well as the iconic sculptures of the mud maid, grey lady and its famous Burma Rope Bridge.

Specification

Season: Open year round, except Christmas Day
Location: The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Pentewan, St.Austell, Cornwall, PL26 6EN
Secure on-line booking: Yes, if booked via Eden Project as a joint ticket.
Opening: 10 am
Closing: 6pm (April – Sept), 5 pm (Oct – March).
Timed restrictions: Closes at 14:30 on Christmas Eve.
Map: PDF map can be found here.
Public transport access: Bus stop inside the car park – timetable here. Nearest Railway station in St Austell, 5 miles and links with bus service. Also directly linked to National Cycle Network Route Number 3, providing a safe, virtually traffic-free link to Mevagissey, Pentewan and St Austell. By foot – 1.5 miles from the South West Coast Path. Newquey airport is 20 miles. Arrived by Megavissey Ferry from Fowey (30 minute walk from Mega).
Parking: Plenty of free on-site parking
Nearby: Eden Project,

Special considerations

We found the Lost Gardens of Heligan to be highly accessible. There were multiple visitors using wheelchairs, accessible routes were pointed out to each visitor on arrival and facilities were adapted, including ramps, accessible toilets  with left and right hand transfer with RoomMate installed to assist blind and visually impaired visitors. Accessible parking is located near the front entrance and companions required for access is admitted free of charge. Assistance dogs are welcome and wheelchairs are available on loan. View full access guide.

All dogs are welcome, but must be kept on a short lead at all times and are not permitted inside the restaurant or cafè – however plenty of outdoor seating is available.

Vegan, vegetarian, low carb and gluten free options are available in the restaurant and Stuarts Cafè. Carb count is not printed on most of the packaging (except for drinks and packaged snacks), however when we were totally stuck on some items, the staff were very helpful and tracked down appropriate packaging that listed the carbohydrates. They went above and beyond at the Lost Summer Children’s activities to understand Cass’ requirements and include her in the fun despite an annoying joint dislocation and blood sugar low.

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We based our Ergohacks Verdict on a full day’s visit during July 2017. This article was first published on 3 August 2017.