The UK is home to some of the most beautiful gardens in the world. From manicured grounds and walled gardens to wildflower meadows and woodland walks, there’s a garden to suit everyone – and no matter where you’re located, you won’t be too far from a lovely lawn. In summer, these gorgeous spaces are bursting with colour and life, so there’s no better time to plan a visit.
Whether you’re planning a staycation or are just looking for a fun way to make the most of the great outdoors, here are 11 of the most beautiful gardens to visit in the UK. Why not pack a picnic, bring a blanket, and make a day of it?
1. The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall, England
If you love the idea of exploring gardens that were once lost to nature and time, you might want to visit Cornwall’s Lost Gardens of Heligan.
One of the country’s most romantic and mysterious gardens, Heligan’s 200 acres of land are a paradise for plant lovers, wildlife enthusiasts, and history buffs – as well as anyone who just appreciates a good story.
At the end of the 19th century, Heligan was at its peak. The home of the Tremayne family, the estate was tended to by numerous gardeners. But at the start of WW1, much of the workforce went off to fight, and the gardens were overgrown by brambles and ivy. As time passed, it seemed Heligan really was lost… but in 1990, the gardens were rediscovered, and eventually, painstakingly restored.
Today, Heligan isn’t only a beautiful garden, it’s also a tribute to the people who worked here before they had to abandon their tools one day in August 1914. You can trek through bamboo tunnels and under tree ferns and giant bananas in The Jungle, stroll through the picturesque Pleasure Grounds, and admire the restoration of the Victorian Productive Gardens.
Heligan is also well-known for its mysterious, living sculptures, including The Giant’s Head, Mud Maid, and Grey Lady – which are sure to leave a lasting impression.
A fascinating historic garden.
2. Bodnant Gardens, Conwy, Wales
The Welsh region of Snowdonia definitely isn’t short of beautiful attractions – and while it may not be as dramatic as Mount Snowdon itself, Bodnant Gardens is just as stunning.
This National Trust garden stretches over 80 acres and was established in 1874 by scientist Henry Pochin. It’s also where Britain’s first ever magnolias were grown.
Bodnant Gardens is probably most famous for its golden Laburnum arch, which is the longest in the country – and when it was grown in 1880, was also the first of its kind. But there are plenty of other highlights here; from wildflower meadows to Italian-style terraces, and sweeping lawns to elegant water features and quiet woodland. And of course, the views of the rugged Snowdonia mountains.
Bodnant is beautiful and colourful all year round, so whenever you visit, you’re sure of a treat. It’s home to pristine lily ponds, herbaceous beds, exotic plants from both the Himalayas and the Andes, and Wales’ largest collection of Champion Trees.
Bring a picnic and enjoy eating among the buzzing wildflower meadows, or enjoy a meal or snack in one of the two tea rooms.
3. Hidcote Manor Garden, Gloucestershire, England
Located among the idyllic rolling hills of the Cotswolds, Hidcote Manor Garden is regularly voted one of the best gardens in England – and it’s certainly one of the most unique and intricately designed.
Created by American horticulturist Major Lawrence Johnston, Hidcote was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement and is made up of vibrant outdoor ‘rooms’ that are bursting with life and colour.
If you’re looking for inspiration for your own garden, Hidcote is ideal. Essentially a series of gardens within gardens, there’s something for everyone. Stroll along the maze of rose-lined passageways, stumble upon secret gardens teeming with wildflowers, lose yourself in the Wilderness, and enjoy some peace and tranquillity as you relax beside the many water features and ponds.
Known for its collection of rare plants and trees – many of which were collected on Major Johnston’s exotic plant hunting trips – Hidcote is the perfect blend of wild nature and elaborate design.
If you’re into wildlife, keep an eye out for buzzards, green woodpeckers, and the elusive hummingbird moth. And if you’re peckish, Winthrop’s Cafe and The Barn Café are excellent – though picnicking is always lovely.
4. Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Scotland
If you’re visiting Edinburgh – or you live nearby – you’ll definitely want to think about a visit to the Royal Botanic Garden.
Aside from offering dazzling views of this historic city’s skyline and castle, these 70-acre gardens are also home to a plethora of plants from around the world. Plus, thanks to the diversity of plant life here, the Botanics – as they’re locally known – are beautiful all year round.
This incredible collection of plants is over 350 years old and you can wander through highlights including the arboretum, the Rock Garden, the Chinese Hillside, the Rhododendron Collection, the Alpine Houses, and the Woodland Garden. In the latter, you can marvel at soaring giant redwoods, which perfectly depict the age and grandeur of these gardens.
In summer, the Herbaceous Border is a riot of colour and in the Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden, you can admire the striking Golden Jubilee rose.
If you’re peckish there are two cafes and a coffee bar, though many visitors prefer to picnic by the pond or in the Heath Garden. And before you leave, head to the Botanics Shop to browse a wide range of plants, pots, or botanical-inspired gifts and books.
5. Downhill Demesne, Londonderry, Northern Ireland
If you’re in Northern Ireland and would like to enjoy a day of hiking and exploring, as well as admiring beautiful gardens, then there can be no better place than Downhill Demesne.
More than 250 years ago, Downhill Demesne and the Mussenden Temple were built by Earl Bishop as his country estate and today, the temple, historic gardens, and breathtaking surroundings are a popular attraction.
Located on the Northern Coast of County Londonderry, the dramatic landscape is steeped in history, and the views of the crashing North Atlantic Ocean are magnificent. But the gardens and grounds themselves are a delight to explore, with grand temples, secret gardens, mysterious mausoleums, and old dovecotes and ice houses to discover.
Highlights include the Bog Garden, which is home to a vast array of wildflowers, the Black Glen arboretum, which hides fish ponds and historic statues, and the Walled Garden, which once grew fruit and veg for the main house, and is now the perfect spot for a picnic.
Be sure to check out the ruins of Downhill House, and stop for a coffee and pastry in the cafe at the Lion’s Gate entrance.
6. Mottisfont, Hampshire, England
If you’d like to explore a historic country home as well as gorgeous gardens and grounds, why not head to Mottisfont in Hampshire?
Though the elegant house was built in the 18th century, this property dates back to medieval times, when it was home to a priory. Much of the garden was designed to reflect Mottisfont’s past and exploring the grounds takes you on a journey through time.
The rolling lawns that surround this house are beautiful in every season. In summer, the walled gardens are scented with rose and geranium and the colourful winter garden hums with life in the colder months. You can stroll past ancient trees and bubbling springs, relax along the tree-lined river walk, and spot basking trout, swans, ducks, and other waterbirds.
The kitchen garden grows many of the same herbs and vegetables as it did in medieval times, and is bursting with produce until the end of autumn.
Keep an eye out for the huge London Plane tree, which is thought to be the largest in the UK – as well as the many other impressive trees in the grounds including grand horse chestnuts and oaks that were planted in the Georgian times.
7. Plas Cadnant, Anglesey, Wales
If you love the romance of gardens like Heligan that were once lost and have been uncovered – and if you’re also thinking about booking a peaceful retreat – you might want to head to Plas Cadnant on the Welsh island of Anglesey.
Known as one of North Wales’ best-kept secrets, and located in a hidden valley overlooking the Menai Straits, this 200-acre rolling estate is truly spectacular.
As well as the grounds, there are also beautiful gardens to explore. Interestingly, the former owners of Plas Cadnant were related to the Tremayne family of Heligan House, and the story is similar… but so far, not one but three secret gardens have been discovered.
There’s a valley garden with waterfalls and a river, a woodland garden with 19th-century folly ruins, and a unique walled garden with a pool.
When the estate was bought in 2006, the owner began work on the restoration, and today it’s still ongoing – though what’s been done so far will take your breath away. Large swathes of the gardens have been restored to their former glory, and the estate is full of beauty and serenity.
With cosy holiday cottages available to hire, Plas Cadnant is a lovely place for a minibreak or a day trip.
8. Kew Gardens, London, England
If you’re based in London, the good news is that you don’t need to head too far to enjoy the peaceful surroundings of one of the UK’s loveliest gardens.
Founded in 1759, the Unesco-listed Kew is one of the most famous gardens in the country, and for good reason. Sprawling over 330 acres, and home to 50,000 plants and 16,900 unique species, Kew is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth.
If you’re looking for variety, you’ll find that here. From Alpine rock gardens to tree-canopy walkways and vast arboretums, there’s something for everyone. Be transported to sun-kissed Southern Europe in Mediterranean Garden, stroll along colourful herbaceous borders, marvel at the iconic Japanese Pagoda, and relax among the whispering trees and long grasses of the Natural Area.
Kew is also a celebrated research centre, and if you’re looking to learn about plants while you’re here – as well as admire them – you can certainly do that. In the Temperate House – the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse – you can learn about rare and threatened plants, and discover what’s being done to save them.
Ultimately, Kew is a haven of beauty and tranquillity in the country’s capital.
9. Mount Stewart, County Down, Northern Ireland
10. RHS Wisley, Surrey, England
As one of the most visited gardens in Britain – and the home of the Royal Horticultural Society – RHS Wisley is definitely worth a visit.
Created in 1878 by businessman George Wisley, who had a thing for plants that are difficult to grow, the original 60-acre site has blossomed into a 240-acre paradise. Here you can see some of the UK’s best examples of mixed flower borders, as well as gorgeous woodland.
Newer highlights include the Wellbeing Garden, where you can relax to the sound of water and stroll among the plants that most benefit health; the Wildlife Garden, where you can learn which plants are most attractive to wildlife and insects; the World Food Garden, where you can taste fruit, veg, herbs, and edible flowers; and the Model Gardens, which show what you can grow in small spaces.
The Glasshouse, with its jungle of soaring plants and exotic flowers, is a must-see, as is the Walled Garden, the Mediterranean Terraces, and the lovely woodland garden of Battlestone Hill. Oakwood – previously known as the Wild Garden – is the historic heart of Wisley, and also unmissable.
There’s so much to admire, discover and learn about here that you might have to come back the next day!
11. Branklyn Garden, Perthshire
From romantic secret gardens to historic houses with walled gardens and sweeping estates, and gardens that seem like an oasis in the middle of the city, the UK is home to some of the most glorious gardens in the world.
Head to Plas Cadnant in Anglesey or Heligan in Cornwall to experience the mystery of these once-lost gardens, plan a day trip to Mount Stewart or Mottisfont if you want to pair your garden exploration with viewing a historic house, or head to Kew or Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens if you want to escape city life.
Whether you’re looking for inspiration for your own garden or just want to enjoy a fun day out, being in a beautiful green space is known to be therapeutic, so there’s a good chance you’ll leave feeling happier and more relaxed – as well as far more clued up about plants, flowers, and trees.
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