Berkeley Castle and Gardens and Butterfly House

  • 4 June 2021 4:56 pm
  • Gloucestershire



Berkeley Castle has been lived in by the same family for over 900 years. It is where history has been made. Where Edward II was murdered, where the Barons of the West gathered before Magna Carta and where Queen Elizabeth I hunted and played bowls.

The Gardens
In the beginning, the walls of the Castle dropped sheer to the surrounding levels to the South.


Quite early in its history, the water from the River Severn (nearer the Castle in those days) was channelled and managed to create defensive stretches of water on this side of the Castle, and later a ditch was dug to the North side, between the Castle and the church.

The approach to the Castle was via a slope to the West, leading to what is now the Gatehouse, all that remains of the double-drawbridge and huge octagonal towers through which men had to pass to enter the Outer Bailey and approach the present Great Doors.

The Planting
Over time, successive generations have softened the stern aspect of the Castle walls with flowers, until finally the present planting of the terraces was carried out with the help of Gertrude Jekyll at the turn of the last century.

The gardens specialise in scent and the roses in particular are a delight in June. Rare plants, shrubs and trees are to be enjoyed.

The grounds also include a Butterfly House with hundreds of butterflies flying freely in a tranquil indoor garden – "a calm oasis in a busy world," as one recent visitor wrote in our visitor’s book, where the whole life cycle of the butterfly is represented from chrysalis to caterpillar and fully fledged adult.

Evidence of earlier times can still be seen: below the sloping approach to the present gatehouse is a long "bowling green," thought to be where Queen Elizabeth I played bowls during her stay at the Castle.

A 19th Century venison larder nestles in the trees behind the present shop, which in its turn used to be the place where beer was brewed for the Castle household before being pumped down to the cellars.

The Lily Pond

The Lily Pond was first built as a swimming pool during the time of the last Earl and his American Countess.

From here sweeping curved steps lead down to the Great Lawn on which the two remaining Culloden Pines stand. These are said to have been brought back as pine cones from the Battle of Culloden by the 4th Earl of Berkeley. The greater of the two trees is in its own sunken circle: this was because the level of the Great Lawn was raised in the 1920s to prevent flooding.


The gardens are ringed on the South and East with rhines (pronounced "reens"), or drainage ditches.

These are fed from the River Severn and can vary in depth from a few inches to 8 or 9 feet during the winter. These rhines are still actively managed in this area of the county for agricultural purposes and to prevent flooding.

In the far south-western corner of the gardens is a small bridge with old sluice gates beneath. In earlier days, barges used to draw up here bearing deliveries to the Castle. (Berkeley Town was a thriving port with its own quay in mediaeval and Tudor times).

The Old Orchards
The car park is on the site of old orchards: under one corner are the hidden remains of an ice house, which stored ice gathered in winter from the flooded field immediately below the roadway.

And beyond the car park are the Butterfly House and Plant Centre in what used to be the old Victorian kitchen garden.

Butterfly House

"A pure magical experience."


Within the old walled kitchen garden at Berkeley Castle are the Butterfly House and the Plant Centre.

Come and see 42 exotic species from as far afield as Japan and Indonesia fly freely in a tranquil tropical osais. This is a great chance to see rare species in beautiful surroundings.

You can observe their life cycle up-close through the display of caterpillars and chrysalises.

The house is also home to the worlds largest moth!

Plant Centre

For garden lovers we have a well stocked plant centre with unusual varieties from the Castle grounds.

Above all, the gardens are a beautiful complement to a delightful and unique building, the terraces climbing nearly 30 feet from lawn to Gun Terrace and softening the mellow stone face of the Castle with the colour and texture of flowers.

The Berkeley Castle Tropical Butterfly House is open from Sunday May 2nd until Thursday 30th September 2010.
The Butterfly House is located within the old walled kitchen garden at Berkeley Castle, adjacent to the Rose Garden Picnic Area.

One visitor described it as ‘a pure magical experience’.

In the region of 42 exotic species, from as far afield as Japan and Indonesia, fly freely in a tranquil tropical oasis and it is a wonderful opportunity to see rare species in beautiful surroundings.
Species include the South American Blue Morpho, Glasswing, Hecales Longwing, Small Postman and the Owl Butterfly; as well as the Clipper, Mormons, Swallowtails, Lacewing & Tree Nymph all from South Asia.

The house is also home to the worlds largest moth – the Atlas Moth!

Visitors can observe their life cycle up-close through the display of caterpillars and chrysalises.

At the start of the season pupae of the different species is brought in, and butterflies are hatched in the nursery. Once hatched, they are able to breed freely in the idyllic surroundings, which are created by the tropical temperature and their preferred food sources.

Speciality plants are grown on site, some from all over the world.

The team spend many hours every day ensuring that the correct temperature and environment is maintained to ensure the optimum flying, feeding and breeding conditions for the butterflies.

Insects and pests damaging to the plants are kept at bay by the resident Chinese painted quail and diamond doves, who patrol the Butterfly House, organically controlling the bugs.

As the season progresses the number of butterflies soars – creating the most spectacular visual experience, as the Butterfly House teems with hundreds of tropical butterflies.

Visitors can learn about the life cycle of these beautiful creatures, as staff are always on hand to answer questions and to explain about the balance of nature created in this oasis on the Berkeley Estate.

Visitors can come to the Butterfly House as often as they like without visiting the Castle to see how it changes throughout the season. It costs just £2.00 (£1 for children) per visit.

The Butterfly House shop is also open to non-visitors on open days and stocks many butterfly themed collectibles, and children’s gifts, as well ice-creams and various plants.

For exact opening times between May – September, please refer to our website.

Berkeley Castle and the spectacular gardens and grounds at Spetchley are also available for hire for a variety of uses throughout the year.


Should you wish to use them for your wedding reception, product launch, photo shoot or film a period drama then the beautiful and historic landscape will lend itself perfectly to your wishes.

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Please choose from the following options:

Wedding Reception

Wedding Photographs

Corporate Events

Product Photo Shoot

Film Location

For more details for Berkeley Castle please visit our website and for Spetchley Gardens please view our website

Contact us:
Berkeley Castle
GL13 9BQ

[email protected]
Telephone 01453 810 332