Gardens to visit: 10 best British gardens

Looking for beautiful gardens to visit? Make the most of the summer weather and check out these most stunning of British gardens

gardens to visit
(Image credit: Jonathan Need)

Looking for gardens to visit this season? When the sun is shining and the blooms are in full flower, nothing beats exploring the endless beauty of a garden. Whether you’re interested in spotting exotic flowers, relaxing in serene parkland or getting inspiration for your own plot at home, you're in luck as Britain has some of the most stunning gardens in the world.

We've scoured the length and breadth of the country to bring you the very best gardens to  visit, so you can make the most of the summer weather. If you're looking for more inspiration for your garden at home, check out our useful gardening guides for handy tips and tricks. 

1. Sissinghurst, Kent

sissinghurst gardens at sunrise

(Image credit: National Trust/Andrew Butler)

One of the most famous gardens in the world, and thought by many to be the most romantic, Sissinghurst Castle was home to Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson. They both indulged in affairs, including Vita’s dalliance with Virginia Woolf, but the marriage lasted and they combined their skills to create this garden of rooms together: Harold laying out the structural design, and Vita creating the colourful and full effervescent plantings, which became a cornerstone of the English garden style. For a truly special experience, stay the night in the Priest’s House, and enjoy having the gardens all to yourself. 

2. Winterbourne Gardens, Birmingham

Bridge over the lake at Winterbourne gardens

(Image credit: Greg Milner)

Inspired by the work of Gertrude Jekyll, Winterbourne Gardens offer one of the best surviving examples of an Edwardian Arts and Crafts suburban villa garden. With glorious glasshouses, showcasing a wide variety of exotic species, the seven acres of twisting gardens feature more than 6,000 different plant species from around the globe. The gardens are a stunning spectacle all year round, but particularly come to life in summer when the flowers are in full bloom and every inch of the deep borders boast an array of fascinating colours, textures and life. 

3. Pitmedden Garden, Aberdeenshire

Pitmedden Garden

(Image credit: National Trust for Scotland)

Meticulously maintained Pitmedden Garden encapsulates the essence of Scottish charm. Originally laid out by Sir Alexander Seton in 1675, the gardens fell into disrepair in the 20th century. Taken into the care of the National Trust Scotland in the 1950s, the gardens were recreated based on 17th century plans of the gardens at the Palace of Holyrood House in Edinburgh. The intricate parterres at the heart of the garden feature almost six miles of clipped box hedging and are a masterpiece of colour and scent, coming to life in swirling patterns.

4. Alnwick Gardens, Northumberland

A spectacle to behold, Jane Percy's 1997 design of Alnwick Gardens was the Britain’s most ambitious garden creation since the end of World War II. At its heart
stands the cascade waterfall, where 120 water jets amaze with a repertoire of dramatic displays. Take a sensory journey through the sensational colours and scents of the Rose Garden, home to over 3,000 David Austin roses, including the exquisite Alnwick Rose. Venture on and you will discover an orchard of Tai Haku cherry trees, the largest collection outside Japan. These are interspersed with hanging double swinging seats for taking a moment to sit and reflect.

On your tour of Alnwick’s grounds, don’t miss the Poison garden. Enclosed behind ornate iron gates, it was opened in 2005 to promote awareness regarding drug abuse. It is a legal requirement that the gardens remain locked to the general public and can only be accessed by guided tour. Filled with over 100 infamous ‘killers’, such as hemlock, belladonna, tobacco and, with a licence from the home office, cannabis – it is a garden like no other. 

5. Cliveden Gardens, Buckinghamshire

Cliveden gardens

(Image credit: National Trust Images/Andrew Butler)

A proud celebration of status and splendour, Cliveden has played a pivotal role in British history. Set upon 376 acres of National Trust grounds, Cliveden House is regarded as one of Britain’s finest examples of Grade I stately architecture. 

In 1893, American William Waldorf Astor purchased the property and created the iconic Italianate Long Garden, Water Garden and Maze. 

Cliveden is also known for the ‘Profumo Pool’, the meeting place of the Secretary of State for War and Christine Keeler, the mistress of a suspected Russian spy, in 1961. 

Their affair went on to alter Britain’s political landscape, and the pool is the last remaining listed outdoor pool in England. 

Nature and structure exist in harmony in the gardens, adorned with gilded iron and statuary and the landscaped gardens that overlook the River Thames are a delight in every season. There are miles of woodland walks to discover, as well as guided tours of the house.

6. Botanic Gardens, Cambridge

The glasshouses at Cambridge Botanical gardens

(Image credit: Howard Rice)

Cambridge University Botanic Garden is one of the largest university-owned botanic gardens in the world. With over 8,000 species, spread across 40 acres of landscaped gardens, this heritage-listed garden has been designed for year round interest and are a spectacle to behold. Filled with buzzing bee borders, rock and scented gardens, and every climate imaginable under the glasshouses, the Botanic Gardens are every gardener’s dream. 

7. Prior Park, Bath

Prior Park

(Image credit: National Trust/James Dobson)

Set in a sweeping valley, Prior Park makes the most of its naturally dramatic site. The focal point, the Palladian Bridge – one of only four of this design
in the world – offers views of the surrounding hills and city, and a circuit walk takes in shady woodland, wide-open vistas and several garden features, which add mystery and intrigue. 

Over the last two and a half decades, the garden has been lovingly restored. The circuit walk now meanders through the garden’s diverse scenes and the small Tea Shed by the lakes makes for the perfect place to enjoy the views. 

8. Dyffryn Fernant, Pembrokeshire

dyffryn fernant

(Image credit: Jonathan Need)

A secret garden hidden in the heart of Pembrokeshire, the six acres of Dyffryn Fernant is designed in a series of rooms from richly planted formal areas through to the marsh garden featuring pond and stream. The range of vastly difference environments invites you to explore the variety of the natural world. With myriad seating, Christina Shand and David Allum have created a sanctuary, a pause from the fast-pace of modern living, encouraging you to take your time and enjoy serenity that nature offers. 

9. Himalayan Garden & Sculpture Park, Harrogate

Himalyan Sculpture Park

(Image credit: Rebecca Newnham)

Home to more than 70 striking contemporary sculptures, the Himalayan Garden & Sculpture Park brings 45 acres of stunningly beautiful woodland to life. With 20,000 species of plants across its gardens and arboretum, including the North’s largest collection of rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias, the garden has something for everyone and is the perfect place to spend an afternoon exploring. 

Throughout 2019, the gardens will be unveiling a series of exciting new attractions, including five unique sculptures by Subodh Kerkar (the founding director of the Museum of Goa); a Norse Shelter set in the recently developed woodland area, which pays homage to the area’s Viking history; and an exciting project by local sculptor Anna Whitehouse, inspired by pollen grains and made from clay dug from the Himalayan gardens.

10. Alfriston Clergy House, Sussex

Alfriston Clergy House, Sussex

(Image credit: National Trust Images/Marianne Majerus)

Alfriston Clergy House is a quintessential cottage garden laid out in the 1920s; a wistful space of charming disorder, full to the brim with colourful blooms. The National Trust took it on as the organisation’s first ever property in 1896, with founder Octavia Hill describing the medieval thatched Alfriston as the ‘epitome of old England’. With its enchanting riverside location, the garden features a raised herbaceous border, a bountiful kitchen plot and an orchard.


Holly Reaney
Holly is Sub-editor and Features Writer for Period Living. She is busy putting her stamp on a pre-furnished flat by making cushions and upcycling second-hand finds.