10 Best Gardens To Visit In The UK
Call us biased, but the UK is home to some of the most magnificent gardens out there – and we can take you to many of them. Ask us at various points throughout the year to list our top ten and we’ll be sure to have different answers depending on the beauty of the season, but we’ve come up with our latest collection of favourites to give you a little inspiration now and help with booking your next garden holiday!
1) RHS Garden Wisley
This is the flagship gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society and is now considered one of the UK’s most-visited. George Fergusson Wilson was the garden’s original creator and he purchased the site in 1878, bringing it into the spotlight with his efforts that resulted in fantastic Japanese irises and water plants. Sir Thomas Hanbury bought the garden following Wilson’s death in 1902 and it was moved from Chiswick to Wisley in 1904. Today, it is home to a heather landscape, a pinetum and a rock garden. Visit RHS Wisley on our Chelsea Flower Show & Classic English Gardens holiday and our Behind-the-Scenes with Colin Crosbie RHS Chelsea Flower Show holiday.
This National Trust garden must be seen to be believed. Described as a ‘living work of art’ when it was first opened in the 1740s, Stourhead’s gently winding paths, its Italianate architecture that includes the Temple of Flora, Pantheon and Grotto, and wide open lake make it worthy of inclusion on any must-visit list. Discover its 300 years of history on our Chelsea Flower Show holiday and our Gardens of Somerset & Dorset holiday.
3) Kew Gardens in London
There’s nothing quite like the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew, which is now a World Heritage Site and boasts a unique collection of plants from all over the world. Among the attractions are the iconic Palm House, which recreates a tropical rainforest environment; the Temperate House, home to the world’s tallest indoor plant; and the Princess of Wales Conservatory, which contains ten climatic zones and a huge variety of plants including orchids and cacti. Visit Kew as part of our new RHS Chelsea Flower Show & the Gardens of London holiday.
4) Tresco's Abbey Garden
Tresco lies just 28 miles from the Cornish coast yet it basks in a balmy climate where spring comes early, autumn stays late and winter hardly exists at all. The wonderful Abbey Garden is home to more than 3,000 species along with magnificent vistas, colours and scents. There is certainly no other garden like this in the world. Even in winter there are 300 plants in flower in the Abbey Garden and as each day lengthens more and more exotic flowers appear. Our Tresco’s Abbey Garden holiday spends time here.
5) Bodnant Gardens in Wales
Situated above the River Conwy and spanning some 80 acres looking across the valley towards Snowdonia is Bodnant Garden. The garden has two parts: the upper garden around Bodnant Hall, which consists of the terraced gardens and informal lawns, and the lower garden, which is known as the “Dell”, formed by the River Hiraethlyn and containing the wild garden. Bodnant has a range of beautiful plants from all over the world, particularly China, North America, Europe and Japan, which are suited to the Welsh climate and soil. Care has been taken to ensure that they enhance each other and contribute to the general beauty of the garden throughout the seasons. At certain times of year if you are very lucky, you are able to see the stunning laburnum arch in bloom, which has graced many a postcard and calendar. Visit Bodnant on our Gardens of North Wales holiday.
6) Sissinghurst in Kent
This famous garden was created by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson from 1930 onwards and became the most admired English garden of its time. Few great gardens live up to their reputations so effortlessly as this. Sissinghurst is a large connoisseurs’ garden consisting of a series of small romantic areas enclosed by the surviving parts of an Elizabethan mansion. It never disappoints its visitors and it has the power of enchantment, but it is also an unending source of inspiration for all gardeners. Sissinghurst is surely as close to gardening perfection as you can get, and it continues to be one of the most-copied flower gardens in the world. Explore Sissinghurst on our Gardens of Kent & Sussex holiday.
7) Great Dixter
Once the family home of gardener and gardening writer Christopher Lloyd, Great Dixter is well worthy of pilgrimage from the green-fingered among us. Restored by Edwin Lutyens who also planned the garden, Mr Lloyd has firmly put his lively stamp on it. A recent experiment involved installing a summer tropical garden rich in bold shapes and brilliant colours. No gardener could come to Great Dixter without making discoveries and rekindling a zest for gardening. Visit Great Dixter on our Gardens of Kent & Sussex and RHS Chelsea Flower Show & Classic English Gardens holidays.
8) Beth Chatto Gardens
The garden was created in 1960 by Beth and Andrew Chatto from overgrown wasteland with poor gravel soil and boggy hollows. They transformed the area into an informal garden, harmonising with the surrounding countryside and complemented by a large retail nursery with a wide range of plants. In the gravel garden, areas have been filled with drought loving plants, emulating a winding dried up river bed. The gentle descent of what was a soggy hollow has now been turned into dramatic water gardens. Sadly, Beth Chatto passed away in May 2018, but her garden will continue to thrive under the direction of Beth’s granddaughter. Visit as part of our Private Gardens of East Anglia holiday.
One of Gertrude Jekyll and Sir Edwin Lutyens’ greatest masterpieces, Hestercombe is well worth a visit. The garden is home to a round pool in a round walled garden filled with wintersweet and roses; and a Dutch garden of lamb’s ears, lavender and the most beautiful orangery of the 20th century. Everywhere there are details of design and planting from which any gardener can learn. We visit as part of our RHS Chelsea Flower Show & Classic English Gardens holiday.
10) Inverewe Gardens, Scotland
This is unquestionably one of the most outstanding gardens in the country. The northern road into Inverewe is spectacular – towering mountains and breathtaking vistas – and the view from above Gruinard Bay has to be seen to be believed. Famous gardens do not always live up to their reputations but it would be hard to imagine anyone failing to be excited by Inverewe, when at this time of year it will be at its most colourful. The balmy Gulf Stream Drift Climate promotes luxuriant growth and today it is a jungle of mature exotic trees and shrubs laced with winding walks, rising and falling, giving sudden glimpses of shimmering water through the foliage. Visit as part of our Gardens of the Far North, Highland Wildlife Safari and Stornoway, Skye & the Summer Isles holidays.