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  • 18th May 2024
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Why you don’t want to miss seeing the rhododendrons at Cragside

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As the sun starts shining, temperatures begin to rise (eventually) and flowers start blooming, it’s clear that spring has finally sprung.

One thing we absolutely love about spring is the burst of vibrant colours from flowers after our dull and grey winter. And one of our blooming favourite spots to revel in this beauty is Cragside.

Nestled alongside Cragside House – Britain’s original smart home and peaceful walking routes, you’ll discover blankets of stunning rhododendrons in the 1000-acre designer garden –  that are definitely camera-worthy.

The rhododendrons at Cragside put on quite a show, turning the landscape into a floral paradise every spring. And they’re about to bloom any minute now (more on that later), so don’t miss this natural spectacle at one of England’s most beautiful gardens.

We caught up with the team at Cragside to learn more about these beautiful blooms.

HLN TOP TIP: Cragside is less than an hour from Newcastle by car. You can also get the Arriva X14 from Haymarket Bus Station (Stand Q) and until the end of 2024 it’s just £2 each way as part of the price gap scheme.

THE BACK STORY: TRANSFORMING THE LANDSCAPE

When William and Margaret Armstrong moved to Cragside, the grounds were heathery moorlands. But they envisioned more. Together, they transformed the landscape into a grand designer garden. They planted millions of trees, swathes of rhododendrons and sculpted lakes into the hillsides. Their vision was not only aesthetic but practical too. The landscape was developed to include engineered lakes, which were the vital water supplies for creating hydroelectricity and powering hydraulics.

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WHAT DO RHODODENDRONS LOOK LIKE?

Rhododendrons are easily recognisable by their floret-shaped leaves, often waxy in texture. There are thousands of varieties, ranging in size from 30-40cm to towering three meters. Each variety bursts into plumes of petalled bell-shaped flowers.

WHEN DO RHODODENDRONS APPEAR AT CRAGSIDE?

Usually, rhododendrons at Cragside bloom from late May to June. This year, due to a mild winter, they’re expected a bit earlier, possibly mid-May. Keep an eye on Cragside’s website and social media for updates.

HOW LONG DO RHODODENDRONS LAST?

Once in bloom, rhododendrons last around three weeks. However, at Cragside, due to varying altitudes, the season lasts about five weeks.

WHERE TO SPOT RHODODENDRONS AT CRAGSIDE?

Rhododendrons blanket the hillsides at Cragside. Paths throughout the estate are lined with them, turning the usually green landscape into a riot of colours for just a few weeks each year.

THE BEST PHOTO OPPORTUNITY LOCATIONS

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The Rock Garden

For that picture-perfect view of Cragside House surrounded by rhododendrons, take one of the paths down the stone steps through the Rock Garden and step on to the Iron Bridge that spans the valley. From here, you will witness the House surrounded by rhododendrons, which has been transformed into a colourful wonderland during the season. As you explore the Rock Garden you can enjoy getting up close to some of the unique varieties that line the paths.

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Walking the Grounds

Explore the grounds on foot. There are eight way-marked walks to choose from, covering 40-miles of footpaths. For a dramatic view of the flowering rhododendrons, pick up the waymarkers for the Inspiration Trail. This short but hilly walk leads to Slipper Lake, a tranquil clearing nestled between the trees. From here, you will begin a hike up the hillside. The paths are lined with purple ‘rhodies’ and from the top you will experience a view of flowers tumbling down the crag between the trees.

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Nelly’s Moss Lakes

The lakes, once part of Armstrong’s hydroelectricity system, are now serene spots surrounded by rhododendrons. Take the one-and-a-half-mile walk around Nelly’s Moss Lakes for a tranquil experience.

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The Labyrinth

This maze is cut into a rhododendron forest and blooms with pink flowers.  Follow the twists and turns and see if you can find some of its hidden secrets. Only those skilled enough will find Nelly’s Den at its centre. It’s not just for the kids!

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The Carriage Drive

For a different perspective, take your car along the six-mile circular Carriage Drive. Blossoming flowers line the road and there’s plenty of places to stop for photos and explore a little more.

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Ones To Look Out For 

Keep an eye out for Rhododendron ‘Golden Flare’. Very different to the usual purple and pink varieties, this bright orange rhododendron provides a pop of colour on the slope as you approach the House. Rhododendron ‘Lady Armstrong’ was named after the Margaret Armstrong. Its bright pink blooms can be found in the heart of the Rock Garden.

VISIT CRAGSIDE’S WEBSITE

Cragside, Rothbury, Northumberland NE65 7PX

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Rachael Nichol
Creative Solutions Manager

After gaining a first in her BA Media and Journalism degree at Northumbria University, Rachael worked at Newcastle’s leading regional newspaper with her stories being picked up in national and global newspapers She spent two very successful years giving a voice to those communities across the North East who otherwise…

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