10 Best English Gardens to Visit

For many keen gardeners, a visit to an English garden is one of the highlights of any trip to the UK.  There are loads of beautiful gardens to visit in England and most of them offer something to see at any time of year. These ten could inspire you to get creative with your own garden (or window box or flower pot) back home.

01 of 10

Hidcote Manor

Hidcote Manor Gardens
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Hidcote Manor is an Arts & Crafts masterpiece hidden down a series of twisting country lanes in the Cotswolds. It was designed and developed by Maj. Lawrence Johnston, a wealthy, well educated and eccentric American who became a naturalised British subject and fought with the British Army in the Boer and First World Wars. Johnston sponsored and participated in plant hunting expeditions around the world to secure rare and exotic species for this extremely pretty garden.

02 of 10

RHS Garden Wisley

Butterflies at Wisley
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The Royal Horticultural Society's Wisley Garden is where British gardeners go to be inspired. Its world famous collection of plants has been developing for more than 100 years and there is always something new to see, any time of year.

Spread out over 240 acres in Woking, Surrey, about an hour's drive from Central London, Wisley is open every day of the year and full of practical garden design ideas and cultivation techniques. Anyone interested in the latest and the best in gardening shouldn't miss it.

03 of 10

Sissinghurst Castle Garden

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Sissinghurst Castle Garden is the most visited garden in England and one of the most romantic. Created by 1920s writer Vita Sackville-West and her husband Sir Harold Nicolson, it is divided into intimate garden "rooms" that offer different garden experiences all year round. The White Garden is world famous. Plan your visit in the afternoon when it is quieter. What you will see is a series of enclosed spaces or garden rooms each styled and planted in a different way but all giving an overwhelming impression of abundance and romanticism. Rare plants mingle with traditional English cottage garden flowers. With its hidden corners and long views, this garden offers sensual surprises at every turn.

04 of 10

Stowe Landscape Gardens

Palladian Bridge
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Stowe Landscape Gardens is huge and important. In fact, with its 750 acres and 40 listed historic monuments and temples, it is one of the most significant English landscape gardens. The greatest names in English landscape architecture and garden design created it in the 18th century. Begun in the 1710s by garden designer Charles Bridgeman, architect John Vanbrugh and garden designers William Kent and James Gibbs participated in shaping it. Between 1741 and 1751, the famous Lancelot "Capability" Brown was head gardener. Stow was a visitor attraction almost from its inception in the mid 18th century. It even inspired a poem by Alexander Pope.

Stowe is unusual in that it was designed to express its owner's political philosophy and beliefs. When Richard Temple, Viscount Cobham created the gardens, with the help of so many illustrious designers, garden design was all about shades of green, rather than flowers. Broad swathes of lawn, trees, shrubberies and stretches of peaceful water were laid out to take the visitor on paths to see specific and pointed viewpoints. 

Cobham was interested in leading visitors to choose the paths of Vice, Virtue or Liberty. So the Path of Vice - designed by a Mr. Love - is full of hidden and not so hidden meanings; classical temples decorated with images of seductions and excess. The Path of Virtue expresses heaven on earth, with statues of worthies and many bridges representing the virtuous struggle. Lastly, The Path of Liberty represents Lord Cobham's policial aspirations. It is, apparently, the longest and hardest of the garden walks. Temples along the way celebrate victory and might. 

In case Stowe, with its massive size and hidden meanings, seems too overwhelming, guides are on hand to help.

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05 of 10

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden

Fountains Abbey
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Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden together make up one of North Yorkshire's most rewarding visitor attractions. The Abbey, a nearly 900-year-old Cistercian monastery is not only Britain's largest monastic ruin, it was also Yorkshire's first UNESCO World Heritage site. What makes the adjoining Studley Royal Water Garden more remarkable is that it was the life's work of one man, John Aislabie. Aislabie was expelled from Parliament. Afterward, he spent his last 21 years creating the water garden.. His son later bought the monastery and joined it to the garden as a picturesque "folly".

06 of 10

Nymans Garden

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Celebrity gardeners and theatrical tastes mark Nymans Garden in West Sussex, a place known for its rare plants and unusual touches. It was one of the first English gardens to be left to the National Trust in the 1950s and was created and sustained by three generations of the Messel family, including the famous theatrical designer and rival to Cecil Beaton,Oliver Messel. The design sensibility and talents displayed in this colorful garden, seem to run in the family. Messel's nephew was photographer Lord Snowdon, once the Queen's brother-in-law, and his grand nephew is furniture designer Viscount Linley, the late Princess Margaret's son.

07 of 10

Trelissick Garden, Cornwall

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At this unusual National Trust managed garden in Feock, Cornwall, tender subtropical plants thrive in sheltered glades, cedars and cypress trees tower over immaculate lawns. If you thought hydrangea was an undistinguished, everyday garden standby, think again. Trelissick cultivates some of its rarest varieties. Located at the head of the Fal Estuary, the tiered garden takes full advantage of stunning views of Falmouth Harbor and the wide waterway known as the Carrick Road.

After a visit to the garden, stop to admire the work of Cornwall artists and craftspeople at Trelissick's galleries, or take the guided tour of the Copeland China Collection, the private collection of Trelissick House's owners who are associated with Spode China.

08 of 10

Anne Hathaway's Cottage

Anne Hathaway's cottage
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 It may seem unusual to include Anne Hathaway's Cottage in a list of great British gardens, but if you've ever imagined the perfect English cottage garden, filled with a profusion of apparently carelessly arranged flowers and shrubs you've probably seen a postcard or a calendar photo of this lovely garden. And since the 2016 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death, a visit to his widow's house in Shottery, a mile from the center of Stratford-upon-Avon, seems particularly appropriate. 

Besides all the colorful flowers, it has a willow arbor and living willow sculptures, conservation borders planted to attract butterflies and a garden planted with trees mentioned in Shakespeare's plays. A new feature, Miss Wilmott's Garden, was added in 2016, named after the woman who designed the gardens in the 19th century.

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09 of 10

The Eden Project

The Eden Project
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To describe The Eden Project as paradise on earth is not much of an exaggeration. The gardens were created as a way to recycle some old china clay pits that were scars on the landscape. The solution was to fill them with two enormous, plant-filled "biomes", structures made of joined, clear geodesic domes. The rainforest biome is about 165 feet high and filled with tropical trees, giant banana plants, birds and insects native to that region of the world. Bring a bottle of water, because climbing up inside it is hot work.

The smaller biome, the Mediterranean biome has plants native to regions in a temperate zone from about 48 to 77 degrees, There are citrus groves, vineyards and more than 1,000 plants found in the Mediterranean region as well as South Africa, South West Australia, Central Chile, and California.

The grounds outside the biomes are also filled with wonderful plants and there's a lot more to see and do. Great for the whole family.

10 of 10

Alnwick Garden

Alliums in the Cherry Orchard
Graeme Peacock

 Alnwick Garden, not far from Alnwick Castle (pronounced "Annick") the movie stand-in for Hogwarts, is an example of what can be done in a relatively short time. While many of the gardens featured here took centuries to create, Alnwick began in the 1990s when the current Duchess of Northumberland (mistress of the castle), discovered the bones of an older garden, overgrown and almost erased on some of the Alnwick estate. 

The Duke and Duchess donated the land and a considerable fortune to establish the garden as an independent trust. Today the garden, less than 30 years old, has fountains and water features, open woodlands planted with wildflowers, an established rose garden, water features to play in and - best of all - a sinister poison garden, featuring some of the deadliest plants and herbs on earth. It's kept behind locked gates and can only be visited with a guide. This is a must if you are in the northeast of England.

And what about Allotments?

English people at all levels of society have long been keen gardeners. Not all wonderful gardens are attached to stately homes. Find out more about allotments where the ordinary working men and women of England's cities and towns can do a bit of gardening for themselves.