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England Travel Guide

10 Best Gardens to Visit in the United Kingdom

The loveliest gardens in a region known for them.

Who among us is not longing for the soothing balm of nature? Our nervous systems are raw from the endless cycles of terrible news and, after a long, cold winter stuck indoors, our anxieties thrum through our tight bodies like angry electric wires. We need to unplug. To visit gardens and be amongst the flowers, the trees, the green grass.

Doing this while on vacation allows time for languid rambling; it gives us the chance to stop and smell the proverbial roses. We can go slow, wander aimlessly, and let our senses be nourished by their wild beauty. Here are ten of the loveliest gardens in the UK, from grand to humble, just waiting to soothe and inspire.

1 OF 10

Charleston House

WHERE: East Sussex, England

Would you like to step back in time and into a piece of art history? Visiting the gardens at Charleston House allows you to do both. While the art-filled cottage itself is the more famous attraction–it was home to artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, and frequently hosted their wildly artistic circle, known as the Bloomsbury Group, which included Bell’s sister, Virginia Woolf–the garden is equally special. Designed by their friend and art critic Roger Fry, he filled the charming cottage garden with flowers designed to be painted. Often the grounds were used as a stage for their plays and exhibitions, and to stroll amongst this artists’ haven is to be touched by some of their magic.

INSIDER TIPThe Charleston Trust holds an exciting program of exhibitions, festivals, and events by local artists that capture the creative spirit of the place and are well worth your time.


2 OF 10

Dawyck Botanic Gardens

WHERE: Scottish Borders, Scotland

Just over an hour south of Edinburgh, nestled in the rolling hills of the Scottish Borders, lies Dawyck Botanic Gardens. There is a wildness to these gardens that is inherent to the rugged landscape of Scotland; perfect for long rambles and getting a bit lost. Famous for having one of the finest collections of trees in Scotland, including giant Sierra Redwoods, the scale of this place feels majestic and protective.

INSIDER TIPIt is especially enchanting in the autumn months, when plants and trees from around the world put on a show of color to rival New England in the fall.


3 OF 10

Prospect Cottage

WHERE: Kent, England

Another artist’s home, Prospect Cottage was a sanctuary for English film director Derek Jarman in his later years. The humble seaside gardens were recently saved from private sale by a crowdfunding campaign, allowing the spirit of this unique place to be preserved and enjoyed by many. His garden design style emerged from his disdain for modernist gardening and the use of chemicals. Against the backdrop of his coal-black cottage, technicolor native plants and flowers emerge from the endless shingle. Jarman intervened little in their landscaping, allowing the pathways to naturally emerge around the plants which thrive in a manner that feels organic. There is a surreal dreamlike quality that has established these gardens as a pilgrimage for artists and gardeners alike.

INSIDER TIPThis native planting offers invaluable inspiration for gravel gardens as we all become more water-conscious.

Related: Did You Know There’s an Otherworldly, Post-Apocalyptic Desert…in England?

4 OF 10

Little Sparta

WHERE: Dunsyre, Scotland

There is a restrained, intellectual beauty to the gardens that Ian Hamilton Finlay created amongst the moody Pentland Hills around Edinburgh that feels more akin to a gallery than a garden. Which makes sense, given that Finlay was a poet, writer, and visual artist, as well as a gardener, and that Little Sparta is considered his greatest work of art. The gardens stretch across seven miles of wild moorland and are scattered with multiple sculptures made in collaboration with stone carvers, letterers, and other artists. Everything is carefully considered, and the installations sit in conversation with the landscape itself. This interplay has the effect of framing nature as art, too. Which is a lovely reminder that of course it is.

5 OF 10

Mount Stuart House and Gardens

WHERE: Isle Of Bute, Scotland

There is something ancient and almost holy about the way these beautiful gardens (300 acres of them) have existed for hundreds of years, tucked away with historic Mount Stuart House on this little island off the west coast of Scotland. You feel far from hubs of art and culture and yet, here are these elegant walled gardens that have such a sense of history and elegance about them. There is a stillness here, a sense of quotidian reverence at the thought of gardeners working here to make beauty that so few people would see at the time. This hidden existence feels very relaxing–the polar opposite of people posting an Instagram photo to prove they are creating something.

INSIDER TIPThe sense of peace extends if you take the time to stroll amongst the cool and ancient trees, majestic in their age and beauty.


6 OF 10

Sissinghurst Castle

WHERE: Kent, England

Sissinghurst Castle was bought by writer and poet Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson in 1930. The two of them worked together to create gardens that are now among the most renowned in the U.K. Not a trained gardener, Sackville-West documented her trials and tribulations for a weekly column in The Observer, eventually creating a destination that reflected her poetic and eccentric view of the world. The garden is divided into separate sections, creating a sense of intimacy and magic. The Rose Garden, for example, was described by Sackville-West as “tumble of roses and honeysuckle, figs and vines.” This soft and dreamy planting plays off Nicolson’s architectural lines beautifully, creating a place with both clean foundations and playful growth and romance.

INSIDER TIPDon’t miss the White Garden, the most famous area at Sissinghurst, and a captivating experiment in color restriction. The moonlit tones of white, silver, and gray dance together in this most romantic of spaces.


7 OF 10

Kew Gardens

WHERE: London, England

Arguably the most famous gardens in the U.K., if not the world, this sprawling haven of green is hidden amidst the chaos of busy London. This verdant sanctuary offers the peace of the countryside where you most need it. Grand boulevards of trees provide the backdrop for laconic strolls while the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse is truly a site to behold (and worth a visit alone for its tropical warmth, which offsets the inevitable gloom if you are traveling in the colder months).

INSIDER TIPThe gardens are a UNESCO world heritage site, protecting over 50,000 living plants and offering you the chance to commune with the most biodiverse place on earth.


8 OF 10

Holme for Gardens

WHERE: Dorset, England

Relaxed, modest, and family-friendly, this treasure of a garden is tucked away beside a garden center and is well worth discovering. Unfolding like secret treasures, there is a wildflower meadow, a Japanese garden, a boulevard of lavender, and a landscaped grass amphitheater that holds plays in the summer.  This place is a somewhat undiscovered gem, which means visits here always feel tranquil and calm.

INSIDER TIPThe informal café serves homemade cakes and Dorset cream teas.


9 OF 10

Tresco Abbey Gardens

WHERE: Isles Of Scilly, England

Another island haven, this time located on one of the warmest spots in the U.K., just off the south coast of Cornwall. The climate on the Isles of Scilly allows for subtropical plant life to grow naturally, resulting in gardens quite unlike any others on this list. Situated around a Benedictine Abbey, the strange and glorious contradiction of pretty English gardens interspersed with tropical plants from around the world make for a fantastical experience. Lush, colorful, and dotted with palm trees and crumbling stone ruins, Trecso Abbey Gardens doesn’t quite feel real and, as such, offer joyful escapism from the relative monotony of everyday life.

10 OF 10

Chatsworth House

WHERE: Derbyshire, England

If you are seeking the grand landscaped gardens of English period dramas in which to live out your Jane Austen dreams, then Chatsworth is for you. Perfect smooth green lawns sweep out elegantly from the truly magnificent Chatsworth House. Amongst the 105 acres of land, cultivated over 500 years, you will find every garden treasure you could hope for: ponds and rock gardens, classical sculptures hidden amongst manicured hedges, even a maze. There is something for everyone here–space to run for children, art for art lovers, peaceful corners for the stressed-out (all of us, no?). The quintessential English stately home and gardens.

INSIDER TIPChatsworth hosts many events, from outdoor cinema to gardening classes–be sure to check their schedule.