Is there anything more British than the love of a beautiful garden? From the southern tip of Cornwall to the Northern Irish capital, the UK is full of stunning gardens that are open to the public. While many of these wonderful gardens charge an entry fee, they are a brilliant place to take the whole family.
From majestic country estates, storied ancient castles, wildflower meadows, and magical woodland walks, these are some of the best public gardens to visit across the UK.
The Cotswolds are known for their bucolic landscapes, and Blenheim Palace is no exception. Designed by legendary landscaper Capability Brown, Blenheim Palace is both a UNESCO World Heritage site and the birthplace of Winston Churchill. You can spend days wandering around the grounds – visit the water terraces, Italian garden, rose garden, formal gardens, Churchill memorial garden, and the awe-inspiring secret garden.
Did you know that the Royal Horticultural Society’s Wisley Gardens is the second most visited garden in Britain? It was founded in 1878 by Victorian businessman George Ferguson Wisley, known for his green thumb and passion for growing hard-to-grow plants. He originally founded the Oakwood Experimental Garden on a 60-acre site in Surrey, which has now become the 240-acre national treasure now named for Wisley. Make sure you marvel at the tiny wonders in the Model Gardens.
Belfast’s Botanic Gardens are a beautiful place to spend a sunny weekend or eat your lunch on a weekday. The gardens are spread across 28 acres, and include the iconic Palm House conservatory. This is one of the world’s first curvilinear cast iron glasshouses, and it is certainly worth marveling at, along with the Tropical Ravine House and the beautifully fragrant rose gardens.
Named for their location at the origin of the Dorset Stour, Stourhead Gardens were opened all the way back in 1725, and were described as ‘a living work of art’, by the first visitors. Nearly 300 years later, this wondercul 2,650-acre estate continues to impress and delight guests from all over the world. Be sure to visit the stunning neo-classical gardens that are arranged around a large manmade lake. The temples, Palladian house, and grottos will impress visitors of all ages.
The Royal Botanic Garden offers sweeping views of Edinburgh’s skyline, which makes a trek to these iconic gardens worth the trip alone. However, there is much more to see – including 10 different glasshouses that each showcase different climates. You’ll enjoy a visit to the tropical glasshouse on one of Edinburgh’s legendary wet and windy days.
Kew Gardens is one of London’s most beloved tourist attractions, with nearly 2 million visitors making their way through its gates each year. Founded in 1759, Kew is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and known throughout the world for its vast collection of flora. The gardens are spread over 330 acres in Southwest London, and are home to a seed bank that houses the world’s largest botanical and mycological collections, with more than 30,000 plant species. It is so precious that it is guarded by one of the smallest police forces in the world, Kew’s very own force!
The Snowdonia Range attracts those seeking solace and beauty, something they will find at Bodnant Gardens, a Grade I-listed estate that spans 80 acres in North Wales. Make sure you visit in May or June to witness the flowering Laburnum arch, which is the UK’s longest. Rest on one of the park’s many wooden benches and take in the flora and fauna around you.
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden is truly a magical verdant landscape, something that UNESCO appreciated when they designated it a World Heritage Site. These gardens are home to monastic ruins, a medieval deer park, and lovely views of the River Skell. Make sure you visit he Georgian-era water garden for a slice of true tranquility.
The Lake District is picturesque as it is, but why not fill your heart with even more beauty with a visit to the Sizergh, a medieval fortified home set on 1,600 acres of manicured gardens. Families in particular love the 1.5-mile “Wild Trail,’ complete with a series of hidden animal sculptures, obstacles, and challenging rope swings. Wander through the orchards and formal Dutch gardens, and don’t miss the limestone rock garden that is home to more than 200 types of conifer and fern.
Clumber Park is located on a jaw-dropping 3,800 acres, which means that it never feels crowded, even when it is visited by thousands of visitors. Enjoy wooded trails, meadows, and manicured gardens, as well as an imposing avenue of lime trees, Europe’s largest. A large lake at the centre of the park is a brilliant place to picnic and relax, and the 4 acre walled garden grows all of the fruits and vegetables used in the on-site café.
Don’t let its name confuse you – Leeds Castle is nowhere near Leeds! It is in fact located in Kent, and is a perfect day trip from London. Leeds Castle is a 1,000-year-old Norman castle that was once also a palace of Henry VIII. Make sure that you visit the Culpepper Garden, known for its squash, herbs, and tomatoes, and the pretty daffodils and narcissi blooming throughout the Wood Garden.
Sheffield Park is a delightful 18th-century estate garden that is home to many exotic and rare trees. You can spend days here, wandering through the meadows and trails and gazing up at Giant Sequoias and Great Oaks. This is a truly stunning place to visit in the late summer and fall, when the leaves change colour in great glowing bursts.
Getting out into nature is a true pleasure, and no other country has such beautiful gardens for the public to enjoy.
Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches – a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.