Words by Abi Himan
I think we all need a major holiday after this year, and whilst we're obviously longing for the glittering beaches of faraway shores, a lot of us will still be proceeding with caution as we plan our summer hols this year. Though to be honest, if this year has taught us anything, it's that looking local can have some pretty wonderful results.
From Norfolk to Northumberland, the UK has some gorgeous spots that are really worth a visit and make for a great escape from the city slump. It will come as no surprise that amongst these spots there are a fair few gardens that are very deserving your time. Here in the UK we're basically bursting with historic gardens - from rolling parklands, perfectly-planted beds and pristine parterres to elegant terraces, extraordinary glass houses and to-die-for kitchen gardens, they're all just waiting for you to visit. We've put together a lowdown on some of our favourite gardens to visit up and down the country to help you get a break from the same old streets and plan your staycation this summer.
The Walled Gardens at Houghton Hall are without doubt one of its highlights. The ornamental gardens are great examples of formal design and demonstrate some moments in the history of British gardening. The grounds also play host to a number of modern contemporary sculptures, with impressive works by the likes of Rachel Whiteread, Richard Long and Henry Moore, which contrast the formal gardens beautifully.
Oxford's Botanic Garden boasts the prestigious title of the oldest of botanic garden in the country (and one of the oldest in the world). Pretty special, no? Originally founded in 1621 as a physic garden (basically a medicinal garden but a bit extra), it was a key player in the study of plants way back when. You can still these same beds today, along with other beds, walled gardens and glasshouses in their unmistakably Oxford setting. You actually feel a bit smarter just by visiting.
Whilst in the area, you can also head to Blenheim Palace, where, incidentally, you will find even more exceptional gardens.
The grounds and gardens of Forde Abbey are the stuff dreams are made of. Once the home of early Cistercian monks, who used the land to grown seasonal fruit and veg, it has evolved greatly over time with the tastes and sensibilities of its owners. Today you will find beautiful mix of formal and informal styles of garden design, with beautiful herbaceous borders, topiary lined vistas, Asian inspired woodlands, a prairie garden and a really big fountain (England’s highest powered in fact). They also have an Instagram page that will make your jaw drop.
Another South West gem, Kilver Court Garden has a bit of a secret garden feel to it. Venture behind the vast stone textile mills that hide it and you'll find a breathtaking garden framed by the sweeping curves of the Charlton Viaduct. At a modest 3.5 acres, they're by no means the largest, but they pack some seriously good stuff into that space.
Photo credit: @gaias_pickery
If you like a bit of topiary, this ones for you. Home to the world's oldest topiary gardens, this place is a veritable playground of the stuff. Amongst the verdant spirals, globes and pyramids you'll also find an orchard, rose gardens, a willow labyrinth and a wildflower meadow - this place will give you some big Alice-in-Wonderland meets Wizard-of-Oz energy, and honestly we're here for it.
Another one that started life as a physic garden, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is not only worth visiting to see its beautiful plant specimens, it's also still a world leader in plant science, so a visit here is a visit for all plant-kind. With this in mind, there's always loads of really interesting programming going on in and around the garden - a great one for the proper plant nerds amongst us.
There are literally hundreds more on there but if we wrote about them all you'd spend all summer reading this article rather than getting out there and enjoying them. If you're going away, have a quick research online to find your nearest. The RHS website has loads to get started on, we also love National Open Garden Scheme for gardens off the beaten track.