Whether you enjoy learning more about England ’s past or have a keen eye for horticulture, you’re spoilt for choice with the UK’s expansive rural landscapes. Lancelot Brown, affectionately called Capability Brown, crafted some of the most beautiful . In this blog post, we take a look at some of the mo st stunning Capability Brown landscapes across the UK, including those closer to home right here in Northumberland.

Who is Lancelot Capability Brown?

Before we start looking at his work, let’s first learn a little more about Capability Brown himself. Born in Kirkharle on 30 th August 1716, Capability Brown quickly gained popu larity as a landscaper of gardens, parkland, woods and farms in the 18 th century and is widely credited with shaping England’s landscape.

He gained the nickname ‘Capability’ because of his eye for seeing the potential within a given landscape and what it was capable of becoming. Capability Brown landscapes are characterised by comfort and elegance, remaining both practical yet visually stunning . Many of his landscapes were designed to c onfuse the eye, creating the illusion of distinct areas or divided lakes that are actually a single body.

With this in mind, here are some of the most characteristic Capability Brown landscapes and gardens that you can visit in England:


Between 1750 to 1786, Capability Brown was commissioned by the 1st Duke of Northumberland to redesign the castle’s grounds. Brown transformed the existing farmland into parkland, redesigning the River Aln and creating raised causeways to act as a viewing platform across the valley.

Originally, Brown was asked to create a large lake within the grounds, although these plans were dropped in 1771 following serious flooding. Instead, Brown joined forces with engineer James Brindley to rework t he river and make it a feature of the landscape. Work was undertaken to clear it of boulders and clear and level the river banks. Cascades were created to slow the river’s flow, creating the perfect compromise between river and lake.

During your visit to Alnwick Castle, you can survey the magnificent grounds and learn m ore about Brown’s work with our Capability Brown exhibition, spanning both our state rooms and outside on the terrace.


In 1770, Capability Brown returned to his roots and worked on modernising the parkland and building of his birthplace, Kirkha r le. The work was undertaken for Sir William Loraine, the 4th Baronet. Prior to this, Brown had worked a t the Kirkharle Estate from 1732, earning gardening, planting and land reclamation skills that would go on to shape his career and legacy.

The plan produced by Brown was intended to make the previous formal gardens appear more natural, although only some of the plan was implemented. While single trees and tree belts around the boundaries were put in place, the serpentine lake did not come to fruition until later in the 21 st Century, when two lakes were added and joined by a cascade to navigate around the A 696 road.


Stowe Lake” by andy_c is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

If you’re looking to learn more about Capability Brown’s landscapes, Stowe in Buckinghamshire is the perfect starting point, as it’s widely credit ed as the project that launched Brown’s career.

Starting as an apprentice to William Kent, Brown’s growing reputation saw him rise to the position of head gardener. The main work Brown undertook at Stowe was the sculpting of the Grecian Valley, crafting i mpressive views of the parkland and making the Octagon and Eleven Acre lakes appear more natural.

To this day, Stowe retains many of the original 18 th century design elements implemented by Brown, with on - going r estoration works aiming to preserve the garden for future generations.


Image by RonPorter from Pixabay.

Burghley in Lincolnshire holds special significance in the legacy of Capability Brown. N ot only was his work at Burghley his longest commission, the project involved him both landscaping the gardens and constructing buildings.

Started in 1754 under direction by the 9th Earl of Exeter, Brown modernised the ground, reworking the garden and pa rkland to offer views across the stone buildings of Stamford, while also creating stables, an orangery and a Gothic - inspired summerhouse. A restoration project is underway to maintain the beauty of Brown’s design.


Trentham Gardens” by Catherine Singleton is licensed under CC BY - SA 2.0.

Lakes are a prominent feature across many of Capability Brown’s landscapes but perhaps the most striking is the lake at Trentham. Brown’s damming of the River Trent created a stunning lake th at is one mile long. Following his work at Burghley, Brown once more enlisted his architectural skills to design a new wing and remodel the front of the house.

In typical Brown style, the work involved the remova l of formal gardens to create a more naturalistic landscape. However, some existing elements of the landscape were incorporated, such as the deer lawn and the hanging Kings Wood.

Each year, some 3.2 million visitors explore Trentham Gardens and appreciate the Capability Brown landscapes.


Image by Graham Hobster from Pixabay.

Despite being one of the earlier Capability Brown landscapes, traces of what would become Brown’s characteristic style can be found. There are many outstanding elements of the Chatsworth landscape, including the natural - looking lake. Brown altered the grounds to slope up towards the house and raised the River Derwent to offer improved views over the water from the house.

Another standout feature of the landscape is the driveway leading up to the house. Impressive in its design, the winding road allows visitors i ncredible views of the grounds and three arch bridge, designed by James Paine. Combined, these careful design elements emphasise the grandeur of the house.


Image by 5477687 from Pixabay.

Over the course of 10 years’ work, Capability Brown created an outstanding landscape to match the grandeur of Blenheim Palace. When Brown started work, the ground already had an existing lake, bridge and straight avenue, which Brown was tasked with modernising.

To create a majestic 40 - acre lake, the original was expanded and intricate work was undertaken by foreman Benjamin Read to create the Queen Pool. This was a difficult job involving underground and over ground runoffs, and the completed lake took almost a year to fill with water.

Two inviting driveways complete the approach to the palace, providing visitors with carefully planned glimpses of the house, grounds and lake as they enter.


Croome” by Kathryn is licensed under CC BY - ND 2.0.

Capability Brown’s work at Croome Park spanned 20 years in total, although the work was completed in stages. The work was far from easy; because of its location between the River Avon and the River Severn, the land struggled with drainage. Brown created a series of hand - dug underground drains designed to channel water away from the house and to a man - made ‘river’.

The lake was designed to take the form of a natural river, despite being man - made. Two islands feature, while Brown’s preferred serpentine shape remains present. Carefully planted trees and shrubbery highlight key design elements of the landscape too.

Brown also flexed his architectural skills, rebuilding the church in a more promi nent location on higher ground, and replacing the 17 th century house with a classical stone mansion.


Image by 139904 from Pixabay.

In 1794, Capa bility Brown was appointed His Majesty’s Chief Gardener to King George III. Unlike some examples of Brown’ s work we have seen previously where more formal gardens have been completely replaced, Brown decided to retain much of the garden’s original layout a nd straight walks. Some speculate that this decision was made because any costs for work would be payable from Brown’s own salary.

One of the most prominent alterations Brown made to the grounds was the installation of The Great Vine. Now the largest and oldest grapevine in the world, this fascinating addition still produces a large crop of black grapes each year. One of the vine’s branches measures a huge 75m!


Image by moneygrabbing from Pixabay.

Although many gardeners and architects worked on Harewood Ho use’s grounds from the 1750s, Capability Brown shaped some key elements of the landscape. Playing to his strengths, Brown’s main contributions are believed to be to the lake, cascades and driveways.

The lake was remodelled to accommodate for a pleasure bo at, which would later be ordered from London. New drives were created to show off the kitchen garden, which had been moved to clo ser proximity to the lake and grounds more generally.

This is just a snapshot of some of the outstanding landscapes Capability Brown has helped create. More information about each and other Capability Brown landscapes can be found at http://www.capabilitybrown.org/.

Start exploring the landscapes for yourself and book your Alnwick Castle tickets today. Book online at least 24 hours in advance to enjoy 10% off our on - the - gate prices.