Sissinghurst Castle is one of the loveliest and most relaxing gardens in England. It is a treat to spend an afternoon enjoying the beautiful flowerbeds and lawns, which were created by author Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson, and basking in the sunlight of those long, mid-summer British days.
However charming Sissinghurst Castle may be, Sackville-West would rather have remained in her family’s massive ancestral home, Knole. But she had no choice: she was the only child of her father Lord Sackville. As a woman, under the rules of primogeniture, Sackville-West could not inherit the house and Knole passed to her uncle.
Sackville-West and Nicolson moved to Sissinghurst instead and quickly came to love the place. Together, they developed the beautiful gardens on the site of ruins of an Elizabethan castle. A bit of the old castle moat, still filled with water, forms a border at the garden’s far end. Mid-way along the garden, a tall castle tower still stands, which houses a room at the top where Sackville-West and Nicolson used to write. From that room, there are spectacular views of the gardens below and the surrounding farmland of Kent beyond. Looking out from the tower, it’s not hard to imagine how inspiring and satisfying the view must have been to the garden’s creators, Sackville-West and Nicolson.
Sissinghurst Castle is owned by The National Trust and open to visitors from March through October. The Royal Oak Foundation, the American affiliate of The National Trust, supports not only Sissinghurst Castle, but also nearby Knole, Sackville-West’s ancestral home. Currently, Royal Oak is leading a two-year fundraising campaign to restore Knole’s ballroom to its former glory. Membership in Royal Oak Foundation entitles free entry to both properties. The Royal Oak Collections from Lee Jofa offer many fabric patterns inspired by English gardens and flowers. For more, visit www.royal-oak.org.