Travelling abroad may be difficult this summer due to Covid-19 restriction, but luckily the UK has a lot to offer! As plant lovers, visiting one of the UK’s many gardens is a great way to find inspiration, improve your gardening knowledge, or simply reconnect with nature.
In this article, you will discover our picks of the five best gardens to visit this summer. We’ve made sure to include different gardening styles and activities, so you can have fun whether you’re visiting alone, with your significant other, your little ones, or your furry friends!
The best gardens to visit this summer:
- Levens Hall - A living sculpture gallery
- Stourhead - A cinematic landscape
- Westonbirt - The National Arboretum
- Leonardslee Garden - Victorian Rock Garden
- RHS Wisley - The RHS Flagship Garden
Important: Most gardens have special arrangements in place and will require you to book in advance for Covid-19 prevention, so make sure you plan your trip ahead of time.
Levens Hall - A living sculpture gallery
Location: Kendal, Cumbria
Why it’s famous: The world's oldest topiary gardens
Entrance price (House & Garden): Adult: £14.50 - Child: £5.00 - Family: £36.00
Photo credit: Levens Hall
Levens Hall is home to the world’s oldest topiary gardens, which have remained largely unchanged since their creation in the 17th century. As you wander through the estate and discover the delicately shaped shrubs and trees, be sure to look out for the rose gardens, herbaceous borders and fountains.
Why not explore the history of the estate and its occupants while you’re at it? The 13th-century Elizabethan house, which sits at the centre of Levens Hall, possesses a fine collection of furniture, clocks, paintings, and other fascinating artefacts sure to arouse your interest.
If you fancy a break, be sure to treat yourself to an afternoon tea or get a taste of the Morocco Ale, an exclusive recipe brewed exclusively for Levens Hall! The award-winning kitchen also serves seasonal dishes made from locally grown produce.
Stourhead - A cinematic landscape
Location: Stourhead, Wiltshire
Why it’s famous: The filming location of a famous movie
Entrance price (House & Garden): Adult £15.00 - Child £7.50 - Family £37.50 - Free for National Trust members
Photo credit: National Trust
Described as “a living work of art”, Stourhead offers a breathtaking landscape with a magnificent lake as its centrepiece. If it looks familiar, it’s because the stunning hills, trees, bridges, and classical temples at Stourhead served as a backdrop for the movie “Pride and Prejudice” starring Keira Knightley.
Have a picnic in the park or wander through the wider Stourhead estate and explore the chalk downs, ancient woods and farmland. Throughout May and June, you can join in the Floralia celebration, a festival honouring Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers and spring.
You can also revisit the past with a tour of the Palladian house, home to a unique Regency library and a large collection of paintings and furniture. Before you leave, make sure to drop by the farm shop and the art gallery to bring home a souvenir!
Westonbirt - The National Arboretum
Location: Westonbirt, Tetbury
Why it’s famous: One of the largest plants collections in the world
Entrance price (House & Garden): Adult: £11 - Students & job seekers: £7 - Child: £4 - Free for children under 5
Photo credit: Westonbirt
Westonbirt is home to one of the largest plant collections in the world and plays a vital role in research and conservation. The arboretum is also known for its beauty, with a design inspired by the Picturesque movement. What started out as an ambitious personal project during the Victorian era has become a national endeavour and treasure since its opening to the public in 1961.
In the summer, enjoy the dove tree and the sweet scent of mock orange as you stroll through the summer trails, or contemplate the forest from higher up by taking the STIHL Treetop Walkway. If you’re visiting with kids, the Gruffalo Spotters trail is a must-see.
You can also visit the Woodworks to discover what happens to the trees when their lives come to an end and learn green woodworking techniques from craftsman Paul Hayden.
Leonardslee Garden - Victorian Rock Garden
Location: Lower Beeding, Horsham
Why it’s famous: Ornamental rock garden and lakes (Grade I listed garden)
Entrance price (House & Garden): Adult: £13.50 - Child: £6.50 - Family: £36
Photo credit: Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens
Born from the collection of plants Sir Edmund Loder gathered on his travels, Leonardslee is home to a Grade I listed garden and several beautiful lakes. It has just reopened in 2019 after a 10-year closure during which the garden was almost lost.
Discover the rock formations as you walk through the different paths. Watch out for the renowned Rhododendrons and the clump forming Chusan palms as they are unique to Leonardslee Garden.
If you’re visiting with your little ones, you should pay a visit to the famous Leonardslee wallabies, or explore the miniature version of the Edwardian Estate in the Dolls’ House Museum. If you’re visiting with your significant other, delight them with a wine tasting session in England’s first Pinotage Vineyard.
RHS Wisley - The RHS’s Flagship Garden
Location: Woking, Surrey
Why it’s famous: Flagship RHS garden
Entrance price (House & Garden): Adult: £14.95 - Child: £7.45 - Free for RHS Members and children under 5
Photo credit: RHS Wisley
The flagship garden of the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society), RHS Wisley is a treasure trove of inspiration for all horticulturists. You can spend days walking around its 240 acres precincts, and the planting schemes frequently get updated, so there’s always something new to discover!
In the summer, we recommend a visit to the traditional English mixed borders and the glasshouse borders. At the end of the path, you’ll find the famous Glasshouse, a cathedral-like building the size of 10 tennis courts displaying tender plants from all around the world.
If that wasn’t enough, three new gardens will open at RHS Wisley on June 24, along with the RHS Hilltop, the UK’s first horticultural scientific centre of excellence.
There you go, 5 amazing gardens to visit this summer in the UK! It was hard to choose among the thousands of great gardens across the country, so let us know if we missed your favourite!