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Duncombe Park – a hidden gem just 15 minutes from Coxwold

- 17 June 2021 -

The iconic view of Duncombe - just 15 minutes from Coxwold Cottages
The iconic view of Duncombe – just 15 minutes from Coxwold Cottages

Many know the lovely market town of Helmsley, almost on our doorstep, and many will know Helmsley Castle and the famous walled gardens. Yet few venture into the immaculately maintained gardens at the heart of Duncombe Park. Highly recommended, but don’t tell everyone!

Duncombe Park was built in the 1710s, possibly with the advice of Sir John Vanbrugh who was working at Castle Howard at that time. The main house (not open) is an interesting mix of styles, Baroque on the west and Palladian on the east, garden facing, front. There is also a Victorian twist as, in the 1840s, Sir Charles Barry (who designed the Houses of Parliament) replaced the original wings with sunken parterres adjacent, as well as the charming entrance lodge at the entrance to the main park. The house was gutted by fire in 1879, restored and enlarged in 1895 and then, following family tragedy, from 1914 to 1980, it became a girls school. Now the family has returned and the gardens have been restored to their original grandeur.

Who designed the gardens is sadly not known, but anyone who knows nearby Rievaulx Terrace will know the style for the Duncombe’s created that garden in the 1750s on an adjacent promontory. The style is similar, fabulous folly at either end of a broad grass walk with views over the surrounding landscape. At Duncombe, everything is on a grander scale to Rievaulx though, with a half mile separating the Tuscan Temple from the Ionic Rotunda – both recently restored. Between the two follies, across the grand lawn by the house, is a charming sundial in the form of Father Time, attributed to Van Nost and dating from c1715. Elsewhere, wandering along walkways through the classic eighteenth-century style wilderness landscape, is a magical Orangery with bubbling fountains, possibly the first ha-ha in England, a pet cemetery, collapsed columns, a yew tree walk and much more. Great fun exploring! Even the visitor’s centre, where you buy your entrance ticket, is worth viewing.

Outside the more formal garden is the parkland where you can enjoy a lovely circular walk with views over Helmsley and the River Rye as the backdrop. Unsurprisingly, Duncombe Park is a Grade I listed park and garden. History is all around us at Coxwold Cottages. Such a great place to stay if you like exploring – whether heritage, countryside or shops! Our luxury holiday cottage and charming shepherd’s hut awaits…

The Palladian-inspired garden front at Duncombe
The Palladian-inspired garden front at Duncombe
The orangery or conservatory at Duncombe
The orangery or conservatory at Duncombe
The photogenic yew walk at Duncombe
The photogenic yew walk at Duncombe
The recently-restored Tuscan Temple at Duncombe
The recently-restored Tuscan Temple at Duncombe