Belvoir Castle has partially reconstructed and restored gardens, originally laid out by the 5th Duchess of Rutland in 1799. The individual gardens were much influenced by Italian terraced gardens, which the Duchess observed on her Grand Tour.
Launde Abbey is a substantial country house in east Leicestershire. It is surrounded by attractive landscaped gardens and parkland containing mature trees. There is an 18th-century stable block, a chapel, and an early 19th-century ha-ha, walled garden and glasshouse.
Days out in Leicestershire
Beyond the urban city walls of its capital city, Leicester, the county has much to explore in many of its well-known towns including Loughborough, Market Harborough, Hinckley, and the wonderfully named Ashby-de-la-Zouch. From outdoor pursuits to indoor fun and attractions, there’s a variety of things to do and days out for all the family.
As a thriving east midlands city, Leicester has it all going on with a history that goes back a long way. A great place to learn more is the Leicester Museum and Art Gallery with collections and artefacts from both the local area and around the world. The Jewry Wall Museum is the place to go for a deep dive into the city’s impressive Roman history.
Famously, after his remains were found under a city car park, the King Richard III Visitor Centre will give you an insight into this fascinating discovery, before visiting the historic Leicester Cathedral. Inside, you’ll see some glorious architecture from through the ages, as well as King Richard III’s final resting place. For something a little more futuristic, the award-winning National Space Centre is out of this world, with galleries of spacesuits, the rocket tower, and the largest domed planetarium in the UK.
As Leicestershire’s second-largest location, Loughborough has a rich history. The Charnwood Museum features wonderful exhibits, collections and artefacts from around the local area, and look out for the Loughborough Carillon – a 150ft tall local landmark and tower inside Queen’s Park, which also contains 47 bells.
In Castle Donington, the world-famous Donington Park Circuit is a mecca for motorsport fans with championship race days and bike and car track days to test your experience and ability. If you’re anywhere near Melton Mowbray, a visit to Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe – where they’ve been baking the famous Melton Mowbray pork pies for over 160 years – is essential.
Though having the title of being the furthest town from the sea, the market town of Ashby-de-la-Zouch is rich in architectural history with plenty of things to do. Dating back to the 12th-century, a tour of Ashby Castle lets you discover its fascinating history with underground passages and spectacular views from the top of the Hastings Tower.
Topography, geology, and climate
Despite its size, Leicestershire largely shows a majority soil type, showcasing the region’s history of livestock farming rather than crop growing. There still remains a variety of smaller pockets of different soils with varying fertilities.
Both the south and east of the county are covered with seasonally wet, base-rich loam and clay with medium fertility, although there are patches of similar soils with a higher acid content together with more lime-rich qualities. The seasonally wet, base-rich loam and clay soils also appear in the north and west regions, and these areas also contain several patches of loam with naturally high groundwater, and more free-draining but low-fertility acidic loam soils.
Leicestershire shares much the same weather and climate as its Rutland neighbour – a temperate maritime climate, and well-positioned to escape extreme weathers. Summer temperatures average at around 21ºC (70ºF), while winter month temperatures average at around 1.5ºC (35ºF). And Leicestershire’s annual rainfall averages at around 650mm (25”).
Leicestershire’s parks and gardens
Leicestershire has plenty of beauty on show across many of its parks, gardens, and arboretums. From beautifully formal, landscaped style gardens to the well-cared-for public spaces of the inner city and outer towns, the great outdoors is there to enjoy for gardeners and families alike.
- Leicester City
On the outskirts of the city centre, the University of Leicester Botanic Garden is a beautifully landscaped space covering 16-acres with extensive plant collections from around the world. The magnificent Water garden features vines and climbing roses with a large pool with several varieties of water lily, while the Sunken Garden is a level space with a formal arrangement of small flower beds with spring and summer seasonal plantings.
Other highlights include the Desert House with its collection of succulents and cactuses, the sprawling and aromatic Herb garden, and the Conservation garden with a special collection of fuschia. There’s much to explore here, with a sharp focus on study and research.
Just beyond the Botanic Garden, you’ll find the Attenborough Arboretum, a 5-acre site filled with a grand planting scheme showing native trees in the order in which they arrived into the country from around 10,000 years ago.
There’s also plenty of public, open space in the city, which is perfect for taking some time out during a visit or just to enjoy the peaceful surroundings. They include two award-winning parks:
Spinney Hill Park is a beautiful space in the heart of a populated area. Among an array of mature trees, there’s a circular display of borders with a section of raised beds in the Infinity garden, and a naturalised brook with plantings suitable for the habitat.
Knighton Park, just south of the city centre, is another popular spot for the Leicester locals. Almost 80-acres of open land with an abundance of trees that includes the Knighton Spinney Nature Reserve as well as a heath garden and a path through the park bordered with magnolias.
Abbey Park is one of Leicester’s finest and covers around 90-acres. Together with formal flower gardens, mature trees, shrubs, and floral displays, other attractions include the Sensory garden, lavender maze, and a boating lake complete with a spectacular fountain – not forgetting the ruins of Leicester Abbey.
- Outer Leicestershire
Near Ashby-de-la-Zouch, the Bluebell Arboretum has a wonderful collection of unusual plants, shrubs, and trees right across this stunning woodland garden. As an RHS partner garden covering 9-acres, Bluebell offers something special for its visitors - although a relatively young garden, with planting only having started in 1992, there’s already many beautiful specimens to enjoy.
In Ulverscroft, near Loughborough, the National Trust’s Stoneywell features an amazing Arts and Crafts cottage dating back to the 1890s with extensive gardens. Aside from amazing carpets of daffodils in the spring, Stoneywell is renowned for its incredible displays of Rhododendron. With over 150 varieties planted around its 4-acres, these hardy shrubs provide rich colour throughout the year, alongside pieris and camellias. There’s also an abundance of bluebells to enjoy in spring while walking throughout the extensive woodland.
In nearby Long Whatton, Whatton House dates back to the early 1800s and is surrounded by 15-acres of peaceful mixed woodland and gardens. Beyond a large and vibrant herbaceous border, two extensive rose gardens provide a treat for the senses, with colour and scent taking over. The Chinese garden includes some striking replicas of the famous Terracotta Army figures, while the Dutch garden is a small, enclosed oasis. There’s also a woodland path walk to enjoy through the large arboretum.