Elizabeth Strangways-Horner established the first gardens at Abbotsbury in the 18th century, making the most of the area’s microclimate to plant flowers and exotic trees and shrubs.
The former abbey land was leased to Sir Giles Strangways in 1541, but the first castle wasn’t built here until 1765, when Elizabeth Strangways-Horner commissioned the new building. It was demolished in 1934 but the gardens have remained and have grown lots since they began. Planting began around 1808 and the 4th and 5th Earls of Ilchester made the garden three times larger than it originally was. The 4th Earl, William Fox-Strangways, was a leading botanist and he brought plants back from Chile, the Canary Isles and the Himalayas to plant at Abbotsbury.
The floral courtyard gardens have camellias, rhododendrons and hydrangeas and lead into green wooded areas with trees and exotic shrubs. The paths are signposted and the gardens have a rope bridge, fishpond and a viewing point where you can look out over the Jurassic Coast cliffs and the sea. In the autumn you might be able to go to an Enchanted Garden Event, where the gardens are lit up with colourful candles and floodlights.