Visit the Best Open Gardens in Britain
This summer, we celebrate our latest campaign #leaveflowersnottrash, so on your campervan adventure through the UK, where better to visit than one of Britain’s best open gardens?
The people of these isles have been plant-mad since intrepid travellers set out across the globe to collect new species and bring them back to Britain, seeking fame and fortune through root, leaf, and flower. Make the most of the season and take in colourful borders, abundant kitchen gardens, teeming wildflower meadows, and the occasional more exotic landscape.
Adventuring in the off-season? Many open gardens around the country have gems to uncover year-round, from Autumn foliage and Winter architecture to Spring bulbs. Allow yourself to be wowed and inspired by these open gardens: note down species, ask for tips, and learn how gardens have evolved throughout history.
Most places have car parking available. Please check opening times ahead of your visit to account for any seasonal changes. If you’re travelling with a four-legged friend, some gardens allow dogs – make sure to check ahead of time.
Open Gardens From London
North of London
Anglesey Abbey (National Trust)
The gardens at Anglesey Abbey are worth visiting in any season. Spectacular summer displays include a rose garden with 40 different varieties and a wildflower meadow that provides a much-needed haven for wildlife. Autumn sees Dahlias come to the forefront, as well as foliage that provides a stunning backdrop for the Temple Lawn and statue garden. In winter, scents and texture are used alongside colour to provide interest. As Spring comes around the focus is on the eruption of daffodils and hyacinths, showcased in both formal and informal settings.
Opening hours: open daily 9:30 am-5:30 pm
Distance: 88 miles, 1hr 40
South of London
Monk’s House (NT)
The gardens at Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s house feel like the quintessential English cottage garden. The planting creates a sense of both wildness and peace with flowers tumbling over each other, a calm orchard for whiling away the hours under a tree, and a traditional vegetable garden. It is a place that shines in all seasons; garden-inspired Virginia and her writing lodge can be found in the garden.
Opening hours: Wednesday (12:30-4:30 pm) and Thursday (12:30-5 pm)
Distance: 74 miles, 1hr 30
Please note, that tickets must be booked in advance.
The gardens at Mottisfont can be enjoyed in all seasons. Spring bulbs give way to early Summer roses (best seen in June; Mottisfont is home to the National Collection of old-fashioned roses), then wide, colourful borders and a bountiful kitchen garden in late Summer. As Summer fades, trees and shrubs shine with autumnal shades, while in Winter the winter garden brings colour and scent to an otherwise grey world.
Opening hours: open Monday-Saturday 10 am-8 pm, Sunday 10 am-5 pm
Distance: 66 miles, 1hr 30
Please note, car parking in June must be booked ahead.
A mock medieval house and ruins with an interesting architectural history, the gardens at Nymans include flamboyant summer borders, a terrace with a distinctly Mediterranean feel, and a South African meadow that is as much an experimental garden as it is theatrical. There are old-fashioned roses in Summer, and a blaze of colour as Autumn lights up the leaves of the native trees.
Opening hours: Saturday to Thursday 10 am-5 pm, Fridays 10 am-8:30 pm
Distance: 50 miles, 1hr
Please note, if visiting in June you may need to book ahead.
One of the seminal horticultural venues in England, Wisley’s experimental history is continued in many ways by its modern use as a school of Horticulture. You’d be hard-pressed to take in Wisley in just one day – as shown by the map, its extensive acres cover nature and cottage gardens, woodland, roses, exotic plants, and a variety of meadows. If you need help narrowing down the choices, there is a helpful page directing you to what’s looking good at Wisley right now.
Opening hours: open Monday-Friday 10 am-6 pm, Saturday & Sunday 9 am-6 pm. The glasshouse and alpine display are open daily 10 am-3:30 pm
Distance: 20 miles, 35 minutes
The gardens at Sissinghurst Castle are synonymous with Vita Sackville-West: her husband Harold planned the architecture of the garden rooms which she then brought to life with plants. There is so much to see here: a cottage garden, rose garden, herb garden and nuttery, an orchard, frothing borders, lime walk, and a Mediterranean garden. Sissinghurst also hosts events including morning and evening garden tours that allow you to experience the garden when the gates are closed, and the Sissinghurst Series, fascinating lectures linked to both Sissinghurst and current events.
Opening hours: open daily 11 am-5:30 pm
Distance: 5 miles, 1hr 45
Spread out over 200 hectares, Wakehurst is a botanical garden with the biggest seed conservation project in the world. There are 18 areas to explore inspired by different places in the world: the diverse mansion gardens are the more traditional garden exhibit, but you can also dream away the day in wildflower meadows, wander through the American prairie or Australasian woodland, immerse yourself in Himalayan valleys, or visit the nature reserve.
Opening hours: open daily 10 am-6 pm
Distance: 52 miles, 1hr 15
Please note, that pre-booking your visit may be necessary due to its popularity.
Open Gardens From Edinburgh
North of Edinburgh
A nine-acre walled garden based on the original Georgian design featuring ponds, more than 100 fruit trees, and a glorious summer herbaceous border. Blair Castle also has a sculpture trail and a wooded grove to explore, as well as Blair Castle itself which has been home to the same family for 750 years.
Opening hours: open daily 10 am-5 pm, pre-booked tickets required.
Distance: 74 miles, 1hr 30
Another venue visited as much for the castle as the gardens, Crathes Castle is mired in Scottish history. But for those who prefer the great outdoors, its gardens are not to be missed. Beautiful year-round, there are extensive walled gardens featuring elaborate topiary and sumptuous herbaceous borders, collections of conifers and carnations, and the new Evolution Garden highlighting the development of plants over the years.
Opening hours: open daily from 10 am, check the website for current seasonal closing times.
Distance: 115 miles, 2hr 30
Extensive formal gardens (one of just a few examples remaining that highlights the designs of celebrated Arts and Crafts garden designer Percy Cane), orchards, and a wildflower meadow are just some of the delights to be found on the grounds of a palace that was home to Mary, Queen of Scots. Hunt out the oldest real tennis court in Britain commissioned by James V of Scotland, or visit the living willow labyrinth based on the historic labyrinth in Chartres, France.
Opening hours: open 1st Mar-31st Oct daily 11 am-5 pm
Distance: 35 miles, 40 mins
Explore this classic Scottish countryside garden with long hedged walks and vibrant borders. The pièce de resistance is the walled garden built around a gargantuan Wellingtonia tree, enjoy the seasonal blooms found all across the area, or see what’s growing in the traditional kitchen gardens.
Opening hours: open 28th Mar-30th Oct daily 10 am-5 pm
Distance: 61.6 miles, 1 hr 41
West of Edinburgh
One of the best Himalayan-style gardens in Britain is set around a rocky gorge filled with Himalayan trees and flowers sourced from China, Tibet, and Nepal. Here you’ll find waterfalls fed by Crarae Burn, bamboo tunnels, and a National Collection of southern beech trees.
Opening hours: open daily 10 am-5 pm (seasonal opening times vary).
Distance: 115 miles, 2hr 15
South of Edinburgh
The gardens at Cragside were built to create a fantasy mountain landscape for inventor Lord Armstrong. His inventions made their way into the garden where hydroelectricity and hydraulics power the lights and waterfalls. With a rock garden, formal garden, and Pinetum – Lord and Lady Armstrong’s collection of soaring non-native conifers – as well as the Carriage Drive which allows you to see the whole estate by car, there’s something here for everyone.
Opening hours: open daily 11 am-4 pm
Distance: 94 miles, 2hr 10
The only garden in Scotland devoted to training horticulturalists, Threave has a wildlife reserve and planting that shines throughout all seasons. Wander through the garden rooms, visit the famous daffodil bank in Spring, or explore the RHS trial beds. The walled garden supplies tips for green-fingered visitors and produce for the café at Threave, while glasshouses provide a different climate for plants from all over the world.
Opening hours: open 11th Feb-23rd December daily 10 am-4 pm, extended to 5 pm April-October
Distance: 100 miles, 2hr 15
Whilst the biggest attraction here is the house with its history of William Wordsworth and his family as well as life in the 1770s, the gardens are worth a visit. Backing onto the River Derwent in Cockermouth, the gardens have been kept true to the period with fruit, vegetables, and flowers that would have been seen in the eighteenth century.
Opening hours: open Saturday-Wednesday 10 am-4 pm
Distance: 130 miles, 2hr 30
Biddulph Grange, Staffordshire
Midway between London and Edinburgh and featuring plants collected from all over the world, the gardens at Biddulph are an eclectic yet cohesive mix with something new to discover around every corner. The Grade I listed Victorian gardens have been restored as close to their original design as possible: explore the Egyptian, Italian, and Chinese-inspired landscapes, or wander along green avenues lined with lime and redwood trees.
Opening hours: open daily 10 am-5:30 pm
Inverewe, Wester Ross
This heritage garden in the Scottish highlands is on the West Coast, just off the NC500 route. Inverewe is not to be missed, especially if you’re driving right past! The aim at Inverewe was to create a lochside garden on the wild Atlantic coast filled with plants from around the world including California redwoods that thrive due to the unique climate created by the Gulf stream.
Opening hours: open daily 9:45 am-4 pm, with seasonal variations, check the website for more details.
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Stratford-upon-Avon
If you find yourself in Shakespeare’s country and feel the need to escape into peace and quiet, wander through the cottage garden of Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway. Its true beauty is to be seen in Summer when it froths with whimsical flowers, pastel colours, and copious greenery. Take a seat and admire your surroundings, or wander down to the orchards, and find respite from the sun (or the rain) under the boughs of the trees.
Opening hours: open daily, 10 am-5 pm
If you love gardens but have exhausted those near you, why not hire a roadsurfer campervan from London or Edinburgh, and discover new blooms? This list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to open gardens in Britain, and with so many to choose from you’re sure to find one to visit no matter which region you’re exploring. Make a day of it – many gardens have a café, or take a picnic and enjoy the beauty from your picnic blanket. You could even combine your garden visit with exploring one of the UK’s many forests.