Image: © National Trust Images / James Dobson

In Brief

Type: Nature and history attraction
Suitable for: All the family
Address: Godolphin Cross, just outside Helston, near Porthleven
Price: Adults £5, children £2.50
Dog friendly?: Yes

A trip to Helston doesn’t just mean hitting up Flambards and the Cornish Seal Sanctuary. It also means checking out some of the incredible historical venues and beauty spots that are dotted around the area. Godolphin in Cornwall should be high up on any holidaymaker’s list as it’s both ancient and sports gorgeous gardens and special views of the region. This is an estate and National Trust property in the large village of Godolphin Cross, about seven kilometres outside of Helston. The estate actually adjoins Godolphin Cross on one side and includes Godolphin Hill, which gives great views over west Cornwall, including the famous St Michael’s Mount.

The 550 acre estate is the former seat of the Dukes of Leeds, who owned the property from 1786 but never lived there, and the Earls of Godolphin, an important line of peers in England’s 18th century. On the estate, the Tudor and Stuart mansion, which is a remnant of an even larger house, is a Grade I listed building and the surrounding gardens date back to around 1500, with the Elizabethan stables dating back to the early 1600s. The property passed through a number of owners until 1937, when celebrated American Impressionist landscape and marine artist Walter Elmer Schofield purchased it and his son restored the mansion. In 2000, the Schofields sold the wider estate to the National Trust, with the NT acquiring the house, gardens and farmyard in 2007.

There are more than 400 recorded archaeological features on the estate, ranging from Bronze Age enclosures to 19th century mining buildings. The mansion itself consists of three wings around a square courtyard, plus there’s still one room inside that dates back to the 16th century with its linenfold panelling. The 16th century gardens include The King’s Garden with its box hedges and primroses, The Side Garden with its none-compartment Tudor design and The Paddock, which is home to the National Trust’s first native bee haven and home of a project to save the black honey bee. On your visit, also trough down at the Piggery tea-room, which boasts cream teas and Cornish ice creams.

The National Trust calls the attraction ‘an ancient and atmospheric estate with a medieval garden and historic house’. It’s rich in tales of the past, in archeology and in flora and fauna. The trust also calls the exterior expanses of greenery ‘one of the most important historic gardens in Europe’. Exploring the whole estate is recommended during your visit, from the Leeds engine house and chimney stack that were used in the Godolphin family mine to the spooky and soul-stirring woodland that’s been strangely shaped by all those years of mining. Pre-booking is recommended if you’re planning a weekend or school holiday visit and check what’s open as the house may be closed. And it doesn’t matter if it is because the gardens and grounds are worth relaxing in and wandering in one of Cornwall’s most dramatic areas of countryside.