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The Best Botanical Gardens in the UK

Tuesday 31 October 2023

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Four of the Best Botanical Gardens

Whether you’re a keen green fingered gardener or just appreciate the beauty of nature, a walk around a well-kept garden is a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

To celebrate National Gardening Week, we’ve picked out four of the best botanic gardens in the UK and with spring plants fully in bloom, there’s no better time to give them a visit! Book an Advance ticket via our website to any of the gardens we've explored below.

York Museum Gardens 

Over 10 acres of grounds in the heart of York, the York Museum Gardens are a peaceful haven with loads of plant species, wildlife and historical features to explore.

Alongside an incredible collection of trees, shrubs, perennials and bulbs, the gardens boast a stunning backdrop of the medieval ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey. Don’t skip the Bulb Bank, where thousands of colourful daffodils flower in spring and provide a fantastic display with the ruins as a backdrop.

It’s not just plants; the gardens are home to a diverse array of wildlife.

  • Squirrels
  • Hedgehogs
  • Foxes
  • Birds
  • Moths & butterflies
  • Insects

Keep your eyes peeled for the endangered Tansy Beetle. Bright, green and jewel-like, the Tansy Beetle is a highlight in the gardens and can only be found in a 30km stretch of the bank of the River Ouse around York!

The Yorkshire museum can also be found within the gardens, which is a great place to explore. If you have a bit more time in the historical city, why not enjoy a walk in York?

Getting there: The York Museum Gardens are a short 10 - minute walk from York Train Station or a 10-minute bus ride.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Whether you’re a knowledgeable gardener or a curious sightseer, exploring the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a great way to spend the day. Just a stone’s throw from the city centre you will find 70 acres of stunning scenery and fantastic views of the city’s skyline.

Entry to the gardens is free but a small fee is asked to visit the glasshouses, which is well worth it. The garden's 10 magnificent glasshouses each has a different climatic zone, from steamy tropics to arid desert. Here you can discover 3,000 exotic plants from around the world including a 200-year-old palm tree!

Discover the world-famous Rock Garden or stroll amongst the giant redwood trees in the Woodland Garden. Don’t miss the Chinese Hillside; the largest collection of wild-origin Chinese plants outside of China.

Pack yourself a picnic or head to the garden’s award-winning Gateway Restaurant or Terrace Café for a bite to eat.

If you’re lucky enough to be heading to Edinburgh for the weekend, check out these free things to do!

Getting there: The Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh is a pleasant 30-minute walk from Edinburgh Waverly Train Station. Alternatively, the number 8 bus from North Bridge drops you right outside the gardens.

Sheffield Botanical Gardens 

First opened in 1836, Sheffield Botanical Gardens were built at a time when the chimneys of the steel industry towered above Sheffield and choked the air with pollution. The gardens were and still are a green haven and space to breathe. Sheffield is now one of the greenest cities in the UK.

Dotted amongst the gardens’ nineteen acres are three ponds, a fountain, and around 4,000 types of plants from all over the world. Many of these can be found in the 90-metre-long pavilion home to plants from different regions.

Why not listen to some Sheffield tunes whilst you explore the gardens? Several winding paths will take you on an exploration through over 18 different garden areas based on geographical or botanical themes. Discover the Four Seasons Garden which provides a changing display throughout the year, Birch Hill, a traditional Rose Garden and a Rock and Water Garden. Meadow plants can be found in the Prairie Garden and keep an eye out for the fossilised stump of a 300 million-year-old tree.

Getting there: Sheffield Botanical Gardens are situated one mile south west of the city centre. The 120 bus will take you all the way from the station to the gardens in under 30 minutes.

Oxford Botanic Garden 

As Britain’s oldest Botanical garden, the University of Oxford’s Botanic Garden is not to be missed. Visit delightful herbaceous borders, glasshouses that take you around the world, or simply relax in the beautiful surroundings. The Oxford Botanic Garden houses lots of different types of plant and is a year-round oasis of biodiversity in the city centre.

The Garden is made up of three areas featuring the following types of plants:

  1. Exotic
  2. Tropical
  3. Carnivorous

Take a stroll among the family beds in the walled garden and enjoy the lush herbaceous borders of the lower garden.

Wander the gardens by yourselves or choose to listen to one of the free audio tours. If you’re visiting the gardens with children, make sure you pick up a family-friendly botanic backpack filled with hands-on equipment and suggestions for activities.

If you have some time in Oxford, make sure you check out Oxford Castle Quarter for spectacular architecture and interesting history.

Getting there: From Oxford Train Station, the gardens are a 25-minute walk, or you can jump on the number 3 or 3a bus from Westgate.

Written by Julia

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