There’s something nerdy about England’s centuries-old fascination with – and subsequent mastery of – gardening. “It’s certainly true to say that we love plants,” says Mike Calnan, the Head of Gardens at the National Trust, which maintains over 300 historically significant houses and gardens throughout England, Northern Ireland, and Wales.
American horticulture enthusiasts are slowly catching on, with many making it their main reason for traveling to the United Kingdom. In fact, gardens have become so popular that 2016 was declared as “The Year of the English Garden.” So, if you’re wondering where to go to experience England’s brightest flower borders, eye-catching topiary, and stateliest 18th-century gardens, you’re in luck as below you’ll find 10 of the best gardens that can be found in England.
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Biddulph Grange Garden, Staffordshire
This stunning and unique garden was the brainchild of Wealthy British landowner (and avid traveler) James Bateman, who attempted to create some of the faraway landscapes he witnessed in the 19th-century. Today, you can still pass through a series of exotic displays, such as an Egyptian tomb-inspired passage guarded by a pair of sphinx. In the China Garden, a red pagoda looms over the pond with carved wooden bridges, bamboo, and the oldest surviving golden larch in the United Kingdom.
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, North Yorkshire
How does a green bit of land get promoted from humble garden to a UNESCO World Heritage Site? Well, by also being home to spectacular monastic ruins, a medieval deer park, and views across the neighboring River Skell. This Georgian-era water garden amazes its visitors with its serene lakes, stone statuary, and neo-classical temples.
Hidcote Manor Garden, Gloucestershire
Take a step back in time with this 17th-century manor house, where a series of doorways reveal a succession of intricate and distinctive mini gardens. The effect is kind of like taking a walk through the maze in Alice in Wonderland – meandering stone paths, deep green lawns, bright bunches of flowers, a glasshouse, and an orchard are all there to be explored.
Located on the edge of the Lake District, this medieval fortified home is situated on 1,600 acres that are perfect for road tripping families. There’s a “Wild Trail” with obstacles, hidden animal sculptures, and rope swings. Along with the surrounding orchards and Dutch gardens, the castle is well-known for its limestone rock garden – a moss-covered paradise that is fed by some trickling streams and pools, containing over 200 species of fern and conifers.
Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire
Wimpole Estate is the epiphany of English country pomp and splendor. This turreted red bricked mansion is surrounded by perfectly cultivated grounds, rolling farmland, gravel walkways, and vibrant flowerbed. Beyond the farm, 12 acres burst into life each summer thanks to thousands of tulips, daisies, and foxtail lilies.
Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall
This once-abandoned garden, after decades of neglect, was restored sometime during the 1990s, and is now one of the most popular botanical destinations in England. The 200-acre plot is filled with jungle walks (which feature tropical plants that are not usually found in this part of the world, such as palm and banana trees), enchanting grottoes, a collection of lakes, and a farm full of cows, geese, ducks, and sheep.
Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire
Thousands of visitors a year flock to this historic estate, but it’s big enough (over 3,800 acres) that it never feels overcrowded. Near the entrance, a majestic avenue of lime trees claims to be the longest in Europe, and at the center, a lake that spans for over 4 miles is a fantastic spot for picnics and bird watching. A four-acre walled garden, full of California poppies, a huge greenhouse, and a variety of fruits and vegetables is another highlight.
Sheffield Park, East Sussex
If you’re heading to Brighton from London, you should consider a stop at the peaceful, 18th-century estate garden. The exotic and rare trees that can be found here, make it a great choice for families, who want to spend entire afternoons wandering the Ringwood Toll, which offers sights of Great Oaks, Giant Sequoias, and other (less giant) trees. The best time to visit is during later summer and fall when an explosion of color transforms the five foliage-rimmed lakes into great rings of fire.
Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent
This critically acclaimed garden is the legacy of 20th century poet Vita Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicholson. Anchored by the dramatic tower of Sissinghurst Castle, the property has a series of small enclosures, the most popular being the White Garden, which contains bleeding hearts, robust Echinacea, tulips, and star jasmine among others.
RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey
A Flagship of England’s Horticultural Society, this famous garden needs 90 groundskeepers to keep it looking lush. Exploring its long, polished lawns and delicately planted flowerbeds is like a crash course in English high-style gardening. Take a walk through its dense wooden trails, listen to the birds, and admire the garden’s architectural accents, such as a giant glass house the size of 10 tennis courts.