Our pick of the best gardens to visit in the UK to inspire you to up the stakes with your own…
Gardens take a lot of work and commitment. We might be dedicated to the cause, but without a considerable amount of elbow grease and an understanding for soil and seasons, our gardens are in danger of becoming a little mismanaged, at the very least.
Here in Britain, many of us are obsessive in our journey to greenness. Whether a cottage garden all quaint and serene, or a sweeping escape of modernity, we take pride in our foliage. But inspiration is required at times. To get the ball rolling, here are some of the best British gardens to visit this season. And what better time to visit than the present? With summer in full swing, there’s no better way to enjoy the weather than by taking a walk (and perhaps a picnic, too) in one of these beautiful gardens.
For Londoners, this garden is nestled in a microclimate next to the Thames on Swan Walk in Chelsea. The walled space was founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries for apprentices to study medicinal plants. It’s also the oldest botanical garden in London. 66 Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, SW3 4HS.
2. Wrest Park
These vast gardens showcase over three centuries of design, incorporating French, Dutch, Italian and English landscaping styles. Don’t miss the statue of Diana, the goddess of hunting. Silsoe, Bedfordshire, MK45 4HR.
Bodnant Gardens located in Colwyn Bay is a world-famous and respected garden home to national collections of plants. Created over 150 years, the plants collected and brought over from far afield have helped create this haven of rarity and beauty with a stunning backdrop of the Carneddau mountains and Snowdonia. Bodnant Rd, Tal-y-cafn, Colwyn Bay LL28 5RE
4. Buscot Park
To enjoy Buscot Park to the fullest, time should be taken to explore the extensive gardens that surround the late eighteenth-century house. They consist of the Four Seasons garden, water garden and Woodland avenues. Faringdon, Oxfordshire SN7 8BU.
Explore Charles Darwin’s outdoor laboratory at Down House. As it stands, the gardens are a relaxed family area, but on closer inspection, you can see the scientist’s work throughout. A historic tour. Luxted Road, Downe, Kent, BR6 7JT.
You’ll have to travel a little farther afield for these, but they’re worth it. Founded on the island of Tresco, on the Isles of Scilly, in 1834, unusual plants are abounded due to the warmer climates, and protection from salt winds. Tresco Abbey Garden, Isles of Scilly TR24 0QQ.
Whether you’re inspired by the love story between Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, or simply the beauty of the garden, Sissinghurst Castle’s blend of fresh greenery and stone walks has become one of the most iconic of them all. Biddenden Road, near Cranbrook, Kent, TN17 2AB.
Belvoir Castle is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Rutland. Crowning a hill in Leicestershire, its turrets and towers look over the Vale of Belvoir. The estate has been divided up into four gardens; The Formal, The Japanese, The Duchess and Hermits – all unique and stunning in their own right. Grantham, Leicestershire, NG32 1PE
Levens Hall houses the most extensive topiary garden in the world. If you want to get creative with your gardening this summer, mark this as your challenge. Levens Hall, Kendal, Cumbria, LA8 0PD.
Hestercombe House is nestled in a sleepy little village in Taunton in Somerset. Perfect for a stroll, the gardens feature two exquisite historic landscapes – the 18th-century park by Copleston Warre Bampfylde, and a Lutyens/Jekyll area with formal stonework and classic colour schemes. Hestercombe House, Cheddon Fitzpaine, Taunton, Somerset TA2 8LG.
The former home of St Ives artist Barbara Hepworth houses the Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, which displays a collection of her work in the clutches of west Cornwall. Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden, Barnoon Hill, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 1TG.
This Palladian mansion and world-famous landscape garden is a captivating escape in the country. The lake is a must see. Stourhead, near Mere, Wiltshire, BA12 6QF.
13. Iford Manor
In 1899, Harold Ainsworth Peto discovered Iford and the individuality of the garden owes everything to his inspiration and eye for combining architecture and plants. Set in 2.5 acres, the Italian style gardens provide visitors with an abundance of plants but also picturesque views over the valley. They have recently launched their own Cider handcrafted on the estate. Iford Cider was born from the desire to use the apples from the ‘forgotten’ orchards which can be visited whilst at the manor, coinciding with a new neighbour who wanted to try his hand at making cider. Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, BA15 2BA
Designed by Chris Beardshaw, the award-winning gardener, this fragrant, floral spot is known for its architectural elements and geometric pattern. The plants represent Princess Beatrice’s blue, red and gold heraldic crest. Don’t miss the orchard either… Castle Hill, Newport, Isle of Wight, PO30 1XY.
Set in 26 acres of bucolic Dorset countryside, renowned sculptor Simon Gudgeon has blended inspiring pieces with natural beauty and Monique, Simon’s wife, has created a modern garden which perfectly compliments the sculptures. The garden was inspired by several places both in the UK and around the globe and features over 3,500 different trees and shrubs, as well as herbaceous plants, bulbs and grasses. From bees and butterflies to birds and other wild visitors, Monique’s main aim is to restore the original flora as much as possible. Sculpture by the Lakes, Pallington, Dorchester, Dorset DT2 8QU
A statue of Anne Boleyn by Philip Jackson stands on a moated island in the grounds of this Tudor house once owned by her great-grandfather. Their tulip festival is not one to miss, with 40,000 tulips (of 112 different varieties) creating a carpet of colour. Their enchanting bluebell walk is also a must. Pashley Manor Gardens, Ticehurst, Near Wadhurst, East Sussex, TN5 7HE
Just a mile from Edinburgh city centre lie 70 acres of carefully curated greenery. In the summer months, the herbaceous border is at its prime and the ponds in the glasshouses are sporting exotic sacred lotuses and tropical water lilies. Royal Botanic Garden, 20A Inverleith Row, Edinburgh, EH3 5LR