Day 1. Cheltenham: Sudeley Castle & Winchcombe

We planned a weekend based in the Regency spa town of Cheltenham and on the way there spent an afternoon at Sudeley Castle nestled in the Cotswold hills.  It is located just outside Winchcombe and only eight miles from Cheltenham.  The castle and gardens are open daily from 10.00 – 5.00 p.m. until the end of October with standard admission £17.75.

Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire
Sudeley Castle

Sudeley is the only private castle in England to have a queen buried within its grounds as the last of Henry VIII’s wives Katherine Parr died in the castle.  Her tomb was hidden for almost 250 years before being discovered in 1788 and moved to the castle’s chapel.

Tithe Barn Ruins, Sudeley Castle
Tithe Barn Ruins

As it was our first visit to the castle, a member of staff kindly pointed out a suggested route for us to follow and we then entered the gardens through a stone archway.  In addition to its extensive grounds, Sudeley features ten individual gardens and the first one we came to was the Tithe Barn Ruins beside an ornamental lake.

Ornamental lily pond, Sudeley Castle
Ornamental lily pond, Sudeley Castle

The castle suffered partial destruction during the Civil War leaving the magnificent remains of the original 15th century baroque hall.  This creates a dramatic backdrop for The Ruins Garden with its deliberate, wild, untouched appearance.

Ruins Garden, Sudeley Castle
The Ruins Garden

In 1837 the castle was purchased by the Dent family who were wealthy glove manufacturers.  As can be seen from the above photograph, the castle was already in a state of disrepair but over the years the family restored much of the castle and its extensive grounds back to its former glory.

Entrance to the East Wing of Sudeley Castle
Entrance to the East Wing

Leading on from the castle ruins we wandered along to the original 15th century west wing of the castle which contains an exhibition entitled Trials, Triumphs and Treasures, highlighting key moments in Sudeley’s history.

Display of Henry VIII and his wives at Sudeley Castle
Display of Henry VIII and his wives at Sudeley Castle

The castle was closely associated with some of the most famous of English monarchs including Edward IV, Richard III and Henry VIII.  On display are a collection of fascinating artefacts dating from Roman times to the present day.  These illustrate the history of the castle and include beer jugs belonging to Charles I, lacework believed to have been created by Anne Boleyn and Marie Antoinette’s bed hangings.

Displays in the East Wing of Sudeley Castle
Displays in the East Wing of the castle

Moving on to the east wing we viewed a selection of family rooms open to the public and occasionally used by visitors.  Our self-guided tour took us through the library which contains over a thousand books many of which are over 400 years old, bedrooms, dressing rooms and the drawing room.  Photography is not permitted in this part of the castle but a selection of photos can be found on Sudeley Castle’s own website to gain an impression of its design and layout.

The Knot Garden, Sudeley Castle
The Knot Garden at Sudeley

On leaving the castle we then entered the exquisite Knot Garden, a sheltered courtyard comprised of 1,200 box hedges formed in an intricate geometric design. The layout is actually based on the pattern of a dress worn by Elizabeth I, displayed in a portrait hanging in the castle.  Dotted around the gardens are wooden benches in secluded spots, just perfect for a relaxing breather or to enjoy a picnic and in one corner this queen inspired garden artwork.

Royalty inspired garden artwork, Sudeley Castle
Royalty inspired garden artwork

Our stroll then led us through the Queen’s Garden, Sudeley’s magnificent centrepiece named in honour of four of England’s queens – Anne Boleyn, Katherine Parr, Lady Jane Grey and Elizabeth I as they are all said to have admired the fragrant roses there.  The garden boasts more than 80 varieties which were all looking at their best during our late June visit.

The Queen's Garden, Sudeley Castle
The Queen’s Garden

The route of the Queen’s Walk is marked by trellises and a stone pathway leading from the castle to the south side of St. Mary’s Church through the White Garden.  The estate church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and as a symbol of her purity all of the flowers in this area are white.

St. Mary's Church, Sudeley Castle
St. Mary’s Church
The White Garden, Sudeley Castle
The White Garden

The small church still holds regular services and features some beautiful stained glass windows.  To the left of the altar lies the tomb of Katherine Parr who died just a few days after giving birth to a daughter at Sudeley.  She is the only Queen of England to be buried in a parish church.

The tomb of Katherine Parr, Sudeley Castle
The tomb of Katherine Parr

We then went on to visit the nearby pheasantry as the castle is home to one of the largest public collections of rare and endangered species from around the world.  The castle has a long history of breeding pheasants and is also home to a pair of peacocks which roam freely around the estate.

The Pheasantry, Sudeley Castle
The Pheasantry in the castle grounds

This concluded our tour of Sudeley, and with it taking us around two hours to see everything we felt that the admission price offers good value.  There’s a cafe and gift shop near the entrance and as parking is close by, the castle and gardens are easily accessible without needing to walk very far.

Quaint cottages in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire
Quaint cottages in Winchcombe

Having returned to our car, we made the short journey to the medieval market town of Winchcombe less than a mile away.  We managed to find two hours free parking in the square from where we explored the attractive small town with its warm toned Cotswold stone cottages, interesting small shops, historic pubs and tea rooms.

Flags on Winchcombe High Street
Winchcombe High Street

It was a joy to stroll along the high street with its charming old timbered coaching inns little changed from their early days.  Winchcombe was an important centre in Saxon times and became prosperous from its former Benedictine abbey, its wool trade and as a producer of tobacco.  There’s a museum in the centre documenting the town’s history which we would have enjoyed visiting but this was closed at the time of our visit.

Part timbered buildings in Winchcombe
Part timbered buildings in Winchcombe

The town is popular with walkers as the 42 mile Winchcombe Way is centred on the town following a figure of eight route through some of the north Cotswold’s beautiful countryside whilst uncovering hidden gems.  Near to where we had parked the car we spotted a picturesque terrace of alms houses with gabled porches which were originally built for John Dent of Sudeley Castle.

Alms houses in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire
Alms houses on Dents Terrace

Back in the car, it was then just a short drive to Cheltenham where we were staying and and looking forward to exploring the following day.  To be continued.


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100 thoughts on “Day 1. Cheltenham: Sudeley Castle & Winchcombe

  1. Wow! This castle looks so beautiful would love to visit someday. Also if you ever visit Ireland and want to explore castles there then you should definitely consider visiting Dunlough Castle there. It is considered to be one of Ireland’s most beautiful site and is situated perfectly to overlook the Atlantic ocean. Here’s the link to know more about it in detail

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Day 2. Exploring Bristol – Clifton & Banksy – Love Travelling Blog

  3. So nice to see there are some who are willing to invest their personal wealth in restoring some of the aging treasures of the UK. Too many of those old treasures have been allowed to fall into disrepair and its a shame to see that happen.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. ThingsHelenLoves

    What a beautiful place, I could see the Ruin Garden making a great backdrop for a fashion shoot or a wedding. Sudeley is a bit of a hidden gem, I’d not heard of it until I spotted your pic over on Instagram. Great find!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Great post and fantastic photos, Marion 🙂 England is among the few places in the world that have still preserved its misty, green and alluring landscape boasting a treasure trove of castles. Summertime is definitely one of the best times to visit them as the castle gardens are blooming with flowers. Thanks for sharing and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xxx

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Pingback: Day 1. Cheltenham: Sudeley Castle & Winchcombe – We are 🪞

        1. I’m sure we will. We’ve just taken the train up to Edinburgh for a few days as it’s my husband’s birthday today. You won’t believe it but I’d arranged dinner out somewhere nice for him but had to change it because he preferred to watch England play their Euro semi-final match instead!! M.

          Liked by 3 people

  7. Incredible pictures Marion! What a beautiful place to visit! I really loved seeing the gardens with the remnants of the buildings so entwined with greens. So interesting to see the display of Henry VIII and his wives and interesting that Katherine Parr was hidden for so long before being moved to the chapel. I’m looking forward to reading more on this visit 🙂 -Meg

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Absolutely beautiful photos and thank you for providing the history behind the images. As a history nerd and Anglophile I really appreciated your info. I’m in the south of England for the next couple of weeks and have been visiting castles, manors, and cathedrals while here. My husband is from Southampton and we are here visiting from the US where we live.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. These are beautiful photographs, especially the gardens. I live in the U.S., and I’m also unfamiliar with the Cotswolds. I will have to add this to my “future vacations” list. Thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. I absolutely loved Sudeley – one of my favourite places. I managed to be first through the doors last summer and had the gardens to myself for a good 30 minutes; it was incredibly special! We also visited Winchcombe afterwards and had lunch at The Corner Cupboard which was delicious. Thanks for bringing back the happy memories 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  11. This was such an interesting post! Even more interesting for me as coincidentally, I saw a movie called ‘The other Boleyn girl’ last night which is about the same topic lol. And the pictures are so beautiful too! I NEED to visit Sudeley castle one day

    Liked by 5 people

  12. I absolutely love the castle. Beautifully ruinous in parts and such a delightfully English green flowing throughout. Poor old Catherine Parr being buried there gives it a really unique spin too. This one has gone firmly onto the UK bucket list. Excellent photography too!

    Liked by 4 people

  13. The Cotswolds is an area that I’m dying to visit when I return to the UK; the charming villages with their small homes look like something out of a fairy countryside! Sudeley Castle appears to be such a lovely little gem, and I appreciate you sharing more of your adventures in your home country– keep them coming!

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Rebecca. The Cotswolds are beautiful and Sudeley Castle and its gardens delightful. It’s sad that so few tourists were around but it did give us an opportunity to explore in peace. The forecast was terrible but as our weather is so unpredictable we were lucky as it was actually quite good!

      Liked by 3 people

  14. I’m not familiar with Sudeley Castle but what an amazing piece of history! I’ve always been fascinated by Henry VIII and his wives. We’re less than an hour from Hampton Court which I have visited many times and I always drive past on the way to my dentist! Hope you’re having an enjoyable weekend, Marion.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Sudeley Castle is beautiful especially at this time of the year with its gorgeous gardens. We once visited Hampton Court gardens when the boys were small and would like to take another look sometime. We’re dodging the showers in Bournemouth this weekend!

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Excellent post Marion. The castle just oozes history. Glad that it was preserved for all. Love the look of the Alms Houses in the town. Thanks for sharing. Hope your Sunday is going well. Allan

    Liked by 4 people

  16. Ooo what awesome day tripping! I love your photos. I went to Sudeley Castle for their winter light display (Spectacle of Light) a couple of years ago and it was amazing. I’d like to look around more of Winchcombe because while I’m in Cheltenham, I’ve still not really done much mooching in nearby places.

    Caz xx

    Liked by 4 people

  17. Ah, I love these gardens at the castle … especially the lily pond. And the same for the St Mary’s Church – it’s really beautiful and love your photo’s! Upon seeing your photo of the wives of Henry VIII, I had to google him – so, he was a busy man – had 6 wives (but at least not at the same time 😉).
    And the Alms houses – how pretty are they!
    Thanks Marion, this was quite an enjoyable read 💌.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Sudeley Castle gardens are beautiful and despite the weather forecast predicting showers, it was sunny afternoon for our visit. Im surprised that Henry VIII was able to persuade other women to be his wife with his track record of beheadings etc! Marion

      Liked by 2 people

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