Arriving at Sissinghurst

We had been to Sissinghurst twice before. The first time was on a day trip from London during a rather dry July. The second time was at the start of a late-May driving tour that included Rye, Great Dixter, Hidcote, the Cotswolds, and Oxford. On that second trip we stayed overnight at the very nice B&B that is immediately adjacent to the gardens on the estate grounds. Staying there we saw how nice it was to be in the garden toward closing time at 5:30 when the bulk of the tourists had left for the day. So a few years ago when John came across something online that said that you could rent the Priest’s House and have after-hours access to the garden it seemed too good to be true. It didn’t take long before we decided we must give it a go.

Given that we wanted to stay there in June, a very popular month for gardens, we thought it might be a little hard to get a reservation. When I called the National Trust they told me we could book up to two years in advance. And that is exactly what we did. I waited until it was exactly two years before the dates we thought would work and made the reservation and put down a 50% deposit.

And then suddenly, two years later, there we were. There were many moments over those two years where I was convinced that there was a typo somewhere and we wouldn’t really have after-hours access to the garden. But then we got there and I happily discovered that I had been worried over nothing.

We. Had. The. Whole. Place. To. Ourselves.

Yes, there appeared to be a caretaker couple who lived on site, and some of the Nicolsons still have a weekend home in part of the main building and use the South Cottage in the month of June, but, with very little exception, these folks were invisible during our stay. And yes, in the morning there were gardeners on site, but they also didn’t get in our way and were super helpful and friendly when we had questions.

I should also mention at this point that England in June has really long days. We are talking sun up at 4:40 AM and sunset close to 10 PM. Since the garden is only open to the public from 11:00 to 5:30, this meant we had about 10 hours of daylight in the garden pretty much all to ourselves. I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but it is still amazing to me that we had such an amazing opportunity to experience Sissinghurst as if it were ours (without all the work).

More details and photos in the coming days, but I thought I would post a few snaps to give you a sense of our living conditions for the week.

I think we found it.
A view of the Priest’s House from the White Garden–essentially our back yard for the week.
The welcome tray with a handwritten note for us made it clear they were expecting us.
Our bedroom. Right outside those windows is the White Garden.
The view from our kitchen door. Looking over at the tower where Vita Sackville-West had her study.
And the view looking from the direction of Vita’s tower back to our house. The fencing is temporary while they work on the Delos garden right next to us.
A view of our house from the roof of Vita’s tower. We could only access the tower during opening hours which explains those people right outside our living room.
Another shot from the tower in the opposite direction from our house showing some of the amazing garden rooms we had to ourselves after opening hours.
If memory serves, these areas out in front of the main building were lawn the last time we were here. We very much approved of the more naturalistic plantings. So lovely and full of birds and pollinators.
Looking back toward the tower from the orchard.
A beautiful evening in the White Garden looking back at our place.

23 thoughts on “Arriving at Sissinghurst

  1. Annie D June 25, 2019 / 10:26 pm

    Back in 2000, my husband and I stayed in a National Trust cottage on the grounds of Ightham Mote in Kent (a 14th century moated country house) – absolutely magical. It was our first trip to England and everything was perfect – especially the after-hours access to the beautiful garden. Taking a bottle of wine and some food out around 8 PM (we stayed in June too with those long days) made us feel like we had traveled in time. Spent a week driving through Kent, visiting Sissinghurst, Knole, Hever, Canterbury, Chartwell, and many other wonderful spots.

    Highly recommend everyone that loves the UK to look into NT and Landmark Trust cottages – so worth it.

    Love your photos – so glad that you and John had a wonderful vacation.


    • Thomas June 30, 2019 / 12:46 pm

      That sounds lovely. It also feels good that your accommodation fees support the NT or the LT instead of some for-profit.


  2. Ruthiella June 26, 2019 / 2:03 am

    I love armchair traveling with you and John. Thanks for the beautiful pictures and descriptions.


    • Thomas June 30, 2019 / 12:46 pm

      Glad you like it. Many more posts to come.


  3. Liz Dexter June 26, 2019 / 9:45 am

    How wonderful! I love Vita’s tower with her little VITA window. Did you get to meet any of the Nicolsons???


  4. Gail in Washington State June 26, 2019 / 9:41 pm

    Pinch me !!! That looks like a deam.


    • Thomas June 30, 2019 / 12:46 pm

      The crazy thing I am still pinching myself.


  5. Kate W June 27, 2019 / 7:53 am

    Wow! That looks absolutely spectacular.

    We did a similar thing this year, staying in a lighthouse keepers cottage – amazing to have the whole place to ourselves.


  6. Sarah Faragher June 27, 2019 / 10:09 am

    How utterly gorgeous. I love that you planned this stay two years in advance. (Big fan of the long game.) I wonder if you have read the book “Dearest Andrew” – Vita S.-W. corresponded with a man in Maine for several years, about gardening mostly, and bits of this and that. It’s not a wildly compelling book, and is quite short, but I’m so fond of it anyway. I visit Andrew’s grave sometimes when I am way downeast.


    • Thomas June 27, 2019 / 10:21 am

      I haven’t read it, but John has. He was discussing it with the head gardener at Sissinghurst who seemed very keen on it, so I’ve ordered a copy so we can send it to him.


      • Sarah Faragher July 1, 2019 / 1:15 pm

        Well that is lovely to know. Sometimes I wonder who cares about books such as these anymore, then I come to my senses. WE do! WE care! And many others besides. Andrew’s house is still standing, by the way, and the old apple orchard next to it. Years back I bought a few of his books, from the book barn they went to after he died and the books were dispersed. The house was called Windslip. Thanks for your photos, they are wonderful to contemplate.


  7. Susan in TX June 27, 2019 / 12:06 pm

    What an amazing experience. Absolutely gorgeous. I’ve had Adam Nicholson’s Sissinghurst on my shelves for years. Now may be great time to actually read it. Thanks, as always, for sharing.


    • Thomas June 30, 2019 / 12:48 pm

      He stopped over one night. More on that later.


  8. Hina June 28, 2019 / 3:48 pm

    Excellent post, thank you for sharing this beautiful stay with your readers. I am thoroughly enjoying it.


    • Thomas June 30, 2019 / 12:49 pm

      I’m glad you are enjoying it. It can be overwhelming to sort through all the photos we took.


  9. Karen (BookishNYC) June 28, 2019 / 8:41 pm

    How wonderful! And what great timing — I remember the first time I was in England in June I was amazed at how late dusk is. You have given me ideas for a “big” birthday I have coming up in June 2021…


    • Thomas June 30, 2019 / 12:50 pm

      It sleeps six so you can bring your friends. Just make sure they are quiet friends.


  10. Karen K. June 29, 2019 / 9:08 pm

    WOW. This is one of the best vacations I could imagine. Must put it on my bucket list, even if it’s just for a night.


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