With their green and perfectly manicured lawns, structured hedges, and colourful blooms that change throughout the seasons, it’s no surprise that Britain is home to some of the most beautiful gardens in the world. Additionally, with the origin of many of the UK’s best gardens going back hundreds of years (and many of their original features still surviving today), visiting some of our most spectacular gardens will also enable you to immerse yourself in our country’s rich history.
So, whether you’re hoping to enrich your mind, find the perfect spot for a relaxing stroll, or you simply want to gain some planting inspiration for your own garden, here’s our round-up of the most beautiful public gardens to visit in the UK…
- Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (England)
The Kew Royal Botanic Gardens is one of the most famous public gardens in the UK, and it’s recognised internationally as being an important botanical research and educational institution that employs over 700 members of staff, and has more than 8.5 million items in its botanical and mycological collections.
Although there are plenty of spectacular attractions to explore throughout the Royal Botanic Gardens, including the Arboretum, Grass Garden, and Queen’s Garden, it’s most famous for being home to ‘The Great Broad Walk Borders’ which is the world’s largest double herbaceous border at 320-metres long.
Containing over 30,000 plants in total, the borders incorporate various colours and textures, and each of its sections have been designed with a different theme. According to the official Kew Royal Botanic Gardens website, the best time to visit the borders is between June and September as it contains bulbs for Spring, as well as some late flowers and seed heads for Autumn.
- Sissinghurst Castle Gardens, Kent (England)
Created in the 1930s by poet and garden writer, Vita Sackville-West and her husband, the author and diplomat, Hard Nicholson, the grade I listed Garden at Sissinghurst Garden isn’t just known for its great beauty and diversity; it’s also steeped in history.
Although the gardens you can visit today were originally created by Sackville-West and Nicholson (and their care was taken over by the National Trust in 1967), the grounds were once a Saxon pig farm, and later, a poor house in the 19th century, and a working farm in the 1950s. In fact, several of the buildings from this time still exist now.
However, Sissinghurst Castle Gardens also takes inspiration from Gertrude Jekyll, who pioneered using colour themes in planting. The gardens have various ‘rooms’ which are divided by pink brick walls and tall hedges. A particular standout includes The Orchard, a ‘room’ in the garden that attracts bees with its honey blossom.
- Mount Stewart Gardens, County Down (Northern Ireland)
Mount Stewart Gardens in Northern Ireland has been voted as being one of the top ten gardens in the world. Now owned by the National Trust, it’s situated on the grounds of a 19th century house, and was first owned by the Stewart family (who played a vital role in British and Irish politics), who purchased the estate in 1744.
Although the gardens were already standing when the Stewarts purchased the Mount Stewart estate, it was Lady Londonderry who made the gardens the beautiful attraction we can still visit today. In the 1920s, she increased the size of the lake, as well as creating a number of different gardens within the grounds, including the Spanish Garden, Italian Garden, and Shamrock Garden.
Because of its unique plants, the Mount Stewart Gardens have been nominated as a potential UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, it’s the restored walled Rose Garden that’s a standout feature with its fragrant collection of flowers.
- Abbey House Garden, Malmesbury (England)
Having been featured on a number of television programmes, the spectacular Abbey House Garden in Malmesbury isn’t just considered to be one of UK’s most beautiful gardens; it also has 1,3000 years of rich history, and is the burial place of the first Kind of England!
Jane Clarke, a Content Writer for Fantastic Services Australia, says that Abbey House Garden is one of her favourite UK gardens. She says: “One of the many reasons why I think that this is the most beautiful British garden is the fact that its beauty lasts all year long. It doesn’t matter what season is; it’s always amazing to visit. It also has a fascinating history, as it was a property of Henry VIII for a while.
“The things that make it so impressive are many. Let’s begin with the thousands of tulips and daffodils, which create a beautiful mass of colours in the spring, and the 2,000 roses and 2,000 herbs, which give a great display in the summer. Moving to the bottom garden, this is full of many shade-loving plants, specimen trees, and shrubs. You walk through these on beautiful paths, with amazing flowers on both sides.
“If you want to make your garden more impressive you can take inspiration from Abbey House Garden by incorporating similar features in your own. For example, you can make beautiful paths by planting different kinds of flowers and shrubs around it. However, if your paths are part of the lawn, you’ll have to take good care of them. If you don’t have the time, you don’t know how to, or you don’t have the equipment, it’s better use professional lawn mowing services.”
- Bodnant Garden, Colwyn Bay (Wales)
The spectacular Bodnant Garden in Colwyn Bay, North Wales, is owned by the National Trust and has been described as “Grade I-listed horticultural paradise” by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). One of the most beautiful, unique, and revered gardens in the UK, it was also voted “The Favourite Garden in the Country” by readers of The Telegraph in 2000.
Established by the scientist, businessman and politician, Henry Pochin, in the year 1874, it was his and his family’s aim to diversity the garden by filling it with the plants collected by famous global explorers, from the 19th and 20th centuries, such as Magnolia, Eucryphia, and Rhododendron forrestii.
When visiting, also look out for the garden’s collection of 22 Champion Trees, and the Laburnum Arch, a 55 metre walk that’s filled with uplifting yellow flowers, and the stunning rhododendrons in The Dell, a deep valley hidden within Bodnant Garden.
- Attadale Gardens, Strathcarron (Scotland)
A 30,000-acre estate that stretches from the south shore of Loch Carron to Loch Monar, Attadale isn’t just admired for the vibrant and beautiful Attadale Gardens; it also provides spectacular views of Skye
And the surrounding hills for a truly breath-taking experience.
Although it was originally established by Baron Schroder in the late 19th century, the original woodland at Attadale Gardens required restoration after being flattened by the great storm of 1980. This work was carried out by the artist, Nicky Macpherson (with the help of her husband, Ewen), who made use of the hollows left in the land to create extensive water gardens.
Today, the gardens also include the restored sunken garden (which houses a 35-foot sundial) and herb garden, and plenty of exotic planting and rare trees can also be found amongst the garden’s impressive sculptures.
- The Old Rectory, Netherbury (England)
Julian de Bosdari, a gardening expert and Owner of online garden nursery, Ashridge Nurseries, counts The Old Rectory in Netherbury as one of the UK’s most beautiful gardens, as well as one of his personal favourites to visit. As he explains: “Netherbury sits in the heart of Hard's Dorset, and its 16th century Old Rectory has a garden to rival any in the land.
“This is a garden created by very gifted amateurs. Each plant has been loved and chosen for a specific reason; that particular Iris (Jane Phillips), that special rose (Felicite Perpetue), a tree peony (Rockii), as well as endless bulbs, such as Snakeshead Fritillaria, Camassias, and Anemones.
“This garden has been tended by the same owners for years and it shows. Trees have been allowed to mature, so there is an orchard full of mature apple trees surrounded by wild flowers, a crenelated yew hedge, several giant wisteria, and many artfully clipped box and laurel punctuation marks. There’s also endless places for repose; a tiny Gothic hermit's retreat, a table beneath a huge copper beech, and a Villandry-esque vegetable garden with a fruit cage tented in a style worthy of a pasha's court.
“I’m sure that the vertiginous slope on which the garden stands did not seem promising all those years ago, so it’s incredible what skill and imagination took it to where it is now.”