Gardens for all ages: Our trip to East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden

Me stood in a doorway at East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden

The O'Hallorans

The OHallorans

We’re made up of Lyndsey, John and Erin, who all love a new adventure. We try to get away as much as possible, especially during school holidays and variety is a must for us. That means staying anywhere from a luxury hotel to a hostel and it’s not often we go to the same place twice. 

Norfolk is full of wonderful places to explore outdoors. During spring and summer, East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens is a delightful place for a family day out. 

Where is East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden?

East Ruston Old Vicarage
East Ruston
NR12 9HN

Opening times

East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens only open for a period of time each year. In 2023 the gardens were open from Wednesday 1st March and close on Sunday 29th October 2023.

Opening times during this period were Wednesday to Sunday & Bank Holidays, 12.00 to 5.30 pm.

​Admission tickets

*Correct as of October 2023

Adult — £13 
Children — £2 (3-14 years)
Season ticket — £43
Private groups — £25
(minimum 20 people)

Erin stood at the entrance to East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden

Where can you park?

Parking is free at East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens. The car park is quite large and only a short walk away from the main entrance and ticket office.

Is East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden accessible?

Although there are some paths and walkways that are accessible at East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens, not everywhere is. There is rough and uneven ground due to the nature of the gardens and there are some areas where ramps or smooth paths are not possible.

Exploring the gardens

To start with, the East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden site is much larger than I thought it was going to be. The gardens span a massive 32 acres, and have been a work in progress since the owners bought the vicarage back in 1973. While the gardens were once designed and used as a place for the owners to walk their dogs, it’s now a place for future generations of garden lovers. I would describe the gardens as a series of rooms, but outdoors. 

As we hadn’t visited before, it would have been nice to have a map of the gardens so we knew where we going and how to get around. There were some booklets available for sale at the ticket office but not maps. I think this would really help people to identify which garden is which and also, help them to find their way back to the entrance or toilets. 

Different gardens to see

It’s impossible to go through all of the different garden areas at East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden because of how many there are. We definitely did not visit each of them while we were there, although we did see a lot. You’ll find a real range of exotic plants, ever-changing display of plants, herbaceous borders and old-fashioned pelargoniums in these 32 acres of garden.

Here’s some of what you can expect to enjoy:

King’s Walk

King’s Walk is a beautiful and well-maintained area of the gardens. It was designed to be seen from the house but it’s also spectacular looking back the other way as well. There are spectacular-looking, and well-looked-after lawns and brick gateways, as well as topiary pyramid cones.

King's Walk at East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden

Sunken Garden

The sunken garden was one of my favourite areas out of all of the gardens. This area has really high edges and is really sheltered from the wind. It’s a lovely place to sit and relax. This area also has a series of raised beds, alpine troughs, and a square pond at its centre. The pong has a modern sculpture by Bill Cordaroy, a Blacksmith-Artist, representing the owners of the garden in stainless steel and glass. Standing at the edge, you can take in the sculpture and look for fish in the pond!

Sunken Garden at East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden

Desert Wash

The area known as Desert Wash has a completely different feel to the gardens, compared with other areas. This is a much drier feeling area that resembles an Arizonian landscape. Desert Wash is made with Norfolk flint stones and is home to a collection of drought-tolerant, semi-tender plants. 

Desert Wash at East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden

Winter Garden & Lighthouse

Although not easy to get a picture of, walking through the winter gardens is a must if you want a great view of Happisburgh Lighthouse. There is a small ‘hole’ in the trees, giving you the perfect viewing spot. However, it’s quite hard to get somewhere for the best view, especially if you want to take a good picture. Those of us without great cameras will have to settle for a badly zoomed-in picture like the one below.

Happisburgh lighthouse through a gap in the trees

Vegetable & Cutting Garden

Another of my favourite areas was the vegetable garden and the cutting garden. It was getting close to the end of summer when we visited however, there was lots to be seen. We walked around these gardens picking out the different vegetables and trying to figure out some of the food that we weren’t sure about! It’s nice to know that this is a kitchen garden and things grown are actually used. 

Seating areas

It seems like no matter where you go in the gardens, you’ll be able to find a sitting area not too far away. If you have mobility issues, or maybe visiting with children who get tired easily, this is fantastic. We made sure we sat on the benches in many of the gardens and had a bit of a rest. Erin took a drawing pad with her so this was ideal for her to be able to sit and draw for a while. There are some especially nice places to sit in the sunken rose garden.

Erin sat at the edge of a pond

Water features

In various areas of the gardens, you’ll find some great water features. There are a couple of different ponds which we really enjoyed looking in, as well as sculptures and fountains. Some of the water features seem to be in complete contrast with the plants in the garden but in the best way. It’s nice to have something different to look at in some of the areas.

​Tea rooms

Not too far from the main entrance, you’ll find an adorable little tea room. Here you can get a range of sandwiches, light lunches, drinks and afternoon teas. There is both indoor and outdoor seating available. On nice days, it would be lovely to sit outside with some cake or an ice cream before exploring more of the gardens.

Tea room menu at East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden

How long should you plan to stay for?

On our visit we were able to stay from roughly 12pm until around 3:30/ 4pm. We visited with a 7 year old who was getting tired by the end of the visit so I think on another day, we might have been able to stay until closing time. The gardens are huge and they’re lovely to take a slow stroll around. East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden is one of North Norfolk‘s gems and well worth a visit.

In conclusion, our family day at East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden was a bit magical. Norfolk is a treasure trove of outdoor wonders, and this garden is certainly a gem in the region. With its extensive 32-acre expanse and diverse garden areas, it’s a haven for plant enthusiasts, nature lovers, and those seeking tranquil spots to relax. From the meticulously manicured King’s Walk to the cosy Sunken Garden, and the arid beauty of Desert Wash, each area had its own unique charm. If you plan a visit, be sure to allocate enough time to savour every facet of this garden, as it’s a serene, beautiful haven that’s well worth exploring in North Norfolk.

Outdoor days out in Norfolk:

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