The U.K. is famous for its idyllic gardens. Many of these have traditionally been the pleasure grounds of the English aristocracy, typically designed around grand manor houses and constructed to be their owners’ private Edens — but now, they are mostly open to public use. Complete with sweeping lawns, elaborate water features, and remarkable buildings, here are five English gardens to visit during the summertime.
Kew Gardens, London
Famous for its variety, Kew Gardens is home to a host of eclectic structures and plants. From the Chinese Pagoda, modeled after buildings found in the Far East, to the huge Temperate House, which has been newly reopened, Kew Gardens is the pinnacle of British horticulture.
The multiple glass conservatories and ornamental structures dotted around Kew are visible from its famed Treetop Walkway, which snakes nearly 60 feet (18 meters) above the gardens. Each building comes alive with various flora from around the world that have been collected at Kew for hundreds of years. Easily accessible from London via the Tube, Kew Gardens is a wonderful visit for those passing through and locals looking to enjoy the summer sun.
Buscot Park, Oxfordshire
Unlike many of the other estates featured on this list, Buscot Park is still inhabited by its owner, the current Lord Farringdon. The manor and gardens at Buscot in many ways represent the epitome of English country estates, with a diverse array of features to explore across 100+ acres of land.
Buscot Park accommodates many walled gardens brimming with colorful flowers, a water garden built of tiered levels of ponds and statues, and an expansive collection of fine art (including a few pieces by Rembrandt). All of this sits alongside a fascinating collection of foreign antiquities such as terracotta soldiers, miniature pyramids, and Egyptian obelisks — the sheer amount of things to see at Buscot Park is staggering. Sweeping pleasure grounds footed by lakes, multiple gardens hosting a variety of plants from across the world, and open lawns for basking in the summer sun make Buscot Park the quintessential English Manor Estate.
Ickworth House and Grounds sits in the calm county of Suffolk, which stretches inland from the east English Coast. The grounds are occupied by grand neoclassical Italianate stone structures with ornate facades, surrounded by exquisitely cultivated and maintained hedge and flower gardens. And, what’s more, this estate is home to some of England’s most distinctive buildings (including the Rotunda and the Ickworth House itself). Needless to say, it is simply a beautiful place to spend a summer’s day.
There, you can wander for miles through meadows and gardens, all set among the gorgeous English countryside. Featuring a Mediterranean Temple Garden and vast open grounds ideal for picnicking, Ickworth is well worth a full day trip. The garden also stages open-air performances and movie screenings on the lawn in front of the Rotunda, should you wish to stay into the evening. If you decide on an overnight trip, Ickworth also offers multiple cottages and houses for rent. You won’t find anything similar on Airbnb — that’s for sure!
Among the Comer Woods lies Dudmaston, a grand estate with plenty to see. Located in Shropshire, on the Welsh border, Dudmaston is home to a legacy that has remained in the same family for nearly 900 years. Featuring sweeping lawns, tranquil lake walks, an outdoor theater, and various gardens, such as the American Garden, Dudmaston promises much to discover. In the surrounding area, you’ll even be able to get lost in some of England’s most delightful countryside. You can also make Dudmaston your home for the weekend by renting one of the family cottages dotted around the property.
Once described as “the palace of palaces,” Osterley Park and House is nothing short of grand. Accessible via a short tube ride from central London, it remains one of the last of its kind within the borders of the U.K.’s capital. Two public-access lakes border its northwestern and southwestern edges with multiple trails connecting the estate’s various gardens and features. Two such features to see would be the Temple of Pan and the Garden House. Osterley also has an area of its grounds designated to allow dogs off the lead. So, if you’re looking to escape the city for a day, Osterley is a sublime place to do so.
With the English summer in full swing, it’s time to venture out and explore its myriad gardens, grounds, and grand estates. While the locations featured above are beautiful examples of what’s in store for you, you can find a full list of what’s nestled in the hills and valleys of the countryside at the National Trust’s website.
Header image by Eddie Howell