For someone who was once discouraged from continuing with art at school because I was just so pants at it, I’m mightily fond of sculpture. And when I found out there was a whole garden – in fact more of a walk in the woods – with a massive outdoor sculpture collection in North Devon, I had to go there. Broomhill Art Hotel near Barnstaple in Devon also hosts a gallery and a restaurant.
Now if you’re not particularly fond of art, don’t backtrack immediately, because I have to tell you that this place is stunning. Even if you want to experience Broomhill Sculpture Garden as a long walk in many acres of gardens with a lot of strange objects gathered around, I think you’ll still have a brilliant visit. So put on your walking feet, and let’s get going.
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Introducing Broomhill Art Hotel and sculpture garden
Not far from Barnstaple in Devon on the road to Muddiford, you’ll see the signs for Broomhill Art Hotel and the Sculpture Garden. The Art Hotel was set up by a Dutch couple with a passion for art and sculpture. The hotel website shows a number of beautiful rooms available, although we’ve not yet had the pleasure of staying there.
Looking up to the Art Hotel through a lot of rather magnificent hydrangeas
In the hotel there is a gallery with a wide collection of interesting exhibits (pretty much all for sale). The restaurant, Terra Madre, is based on slow food principles, with the customary use of local ingredients. The Broomhill restaurant menu has a lot of very interesting tapas, after which we were surprisingly full. Many of the tapas are vegetarian or vegan. And a stunning three of the four desserts on offer were coeliac-friendly for those of us who are gluten free.
The Times has this Sculpture Garden listed in the 20 Best Alfresco Destinations For The Arts, so you can tell it’s well loved.
There’s always something unexpected on the next bend in the path.
Broomhill Sculpture Garden
Entrance to the Sculpture Garden is a very reasonable £5, and for that price, don’t think you’ll be done in half an hour. We spent an energetic four hours. It could easily have been a lot longer.
Broomhill Sculpture Garden opening times are 11am to 5pm, and the Garden is closed between 20 December and 15 January. Payment is made in the hotel, where you can also stop off for refreshments before or after your visit. In summer, there are lots of tables outside, with beautiful views over the valley. From here you can plot your path through the gardens.
What to expect from your visit
In the Garden, there are over three hundred sculptures by more than sixty sculptors. Add ten acres of garden to that, and you can see it’s going to take a while to enjoy all the beauty that awaits.
Bear in mind that the Garden is in a valley which has some steep patches and leads down to a stream. Although there are good paths, you’ll need decent footwear with grip, particularly if there has been some Devon liquid sunshine.
We found a hare. Not, as far as we know, late for an important date.
If you have children with you, they are welcome visitors too. The sculptures in the garden include some really funky and brightly coloured works such as the red stiletto. There are animal sculptures to discover, my favourite being the hare, plus some oddities such as a rather fine sofa.
Dogs are welcomed with day visitors to Broomhill Sculpture Garden and they can also stay with you in the hotel. Hotel guests are offered private dining arrangements if they want to have their dogs with them at dinner.
Parking to visit the Garden is at the foot of the hill which leads up to the hotel. As you walk up the lane, you start bumping into some of the art work that fills the Sculpture Garden.
Verdant Wandering In the Sculpture Garden
Whatever time of year we visit, I’m always amazed just how green this place is. Whoever laid out the sculpture has a real eye for how to combine art made with so many different materials. I’m also impressed how each piece was placed in the stunning natural setting. On my visits, I’ve been constantly surprised and teased by little glimpses of the artworks through foliage.
You can get serenaded as you wander the grounds. This is the Violin Player by Sophie White
This is a garden, but it’s not a manicured space. This is nature full of exuberance, with gardeners letting her run just the right side of wild. My own garden could take some lessons. I’m thinking it takes a lot of effort to make this place look just as beautiful as it does, and indeed on our last visit, there was plenty of unobtrusive activity in the gardens.
It was so beautiful in the garden, some of the residents had settled in for a hug: Sophie White’s The Lovers
Where to stay in North Devon
You could of course stay at Broomhill Art Hotel itself. If you wanted to be in a town or on the coast, there are lots of beautiful alternatives in North Devon. Barnstaple is probably the biggest town and has plenty to do. Then there’s quaint Bideford, full of white houses and with an interesting market.
Previously we’ve stayed in the harbour village of Appledore, full of arty places and interesting food, and the teeny village of Georgeham which has two great pubs for evenings. We’ve also stayed in Braunton, which marks the turn off to the coast road. Here you can head towards the wonderful Saunton Sands beach and surfer’s Croyde Bay.
Further north, you could check out Ilfracombe, full of Victorian seaside splendour. It has a Damien Hirst sculpture – Verity – of its own in the harbour. From here you could take the boat and stay out on Lundy Island, where there are cottages owned by the Landmark Trust. I also love Combe Martin, which has a long street of interesting shops and houses running down to the cove. If you like your coast wild, then there’s Hartland Peninsula with its Quay, lighthouse and smugglers tales to read about its rugged cliffs.
Planning Your Trip to North Devon
I can highly recommend you consider a whole summer here! We’ve set out some of our best things to do in Devon. For further information, you can see Broomhill’s website here. And for more information about North Devon and all it has to offer check this local tourist board site out. I’ve written more about the local coast at Saunton Sands, Hartland Quay and Ilfracombe here. And if you’re a fan of art in general, don’t miss our visit to Antony Gormley’s Another Place.
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