Gardens in Dorset

Places to Go

Gardens in Dorset

Dorset boasts a rather spectacular backdrop, whether you’re after leisurely days along the coast, landmark hopping through the ages, or walking and cycling across rolling rural vistas. The incredible offering doesn’t end there, either. Oh no, with a sun-kissed collection of gardens at its green fingertips, Dorset is a true haven for a nature-inspired day out.

Dorset’s beautiful gardens are wonderfully varied, giving an infinite choice of verdant oases to explore. Bask in the vibrant hues of a subtropical collection, wander through a walled garden full of homegrown veg ready to supply the local eateries, and explore the fantastically grand grounds of a castle or manor house – the possibilities really are endless!

Green fingers itching to get started? Here are just some of the best gardens in Dorset to plant the seed for your next stay… 

 

Sculpture by the Lakes, Dorchester

A sculpture through an arch of wisteria at Sculpture by the Lakes in Dorset

Art gallery meets bountiful garden, Dorchester’s famous Sculpture by the Lakes is a true celebration of artistry – whether it’s nature-made or human. Nestled within 26 acres of curated countryside, a series of sculptures by Simon Gudgeon reflect and play with the surrounding natural world, each having been carefully placed for maximum impact. It’s this symmetry between art and nature that creates such a magical experience. Spend your time exploring winding paths before continuing your inspiring journey through The Makers Yard, where you’ll find a superb gallery, pantry, shop, and kitchen. Time your visit right, and you can catch the annual arts festival that’s held in the gardens, adding even more inspiration to the art-studded grounds. 

 

Kingston Lacy, Wimborne Minster

The historic house and manicured garden at Kingston Lacy in Dorset

When it comes to expected sights in Dorset, a grand Venetian palace might not be high on the list, which makes Kingston Lacy all the more enchanting. The opulent family home was artfully re-modelled by William John Bankes, with exceptional interiors taking centre stage throughout the house – the Spanish Room is particularly enthralling. Surrounding the stately home, a classic English garden waits to be discovered, with herbaceous borders and a formal Parterre filling the air with heady scents while your eyes soak up the kaleidoscopic colours. Expanding your turn around the garden a little further, you’ll find a stunning Japanese-inspired collection and vibrant woodland, creating a wonderfully colourful border to the Victorian garden.

 

Mapperton House & Gardens, Beaminster

The historic house and hanging flowers at Mapperton House & Gardens in Dorset

Another of Dorset’s historic houses to boast a rather special – and award-winning – garden, Mapperton House & Gardens is well worth a visit, whether you’re a history buff or flora fan – it’s also one of the filming locations for the incredible 2020 remake of Rebecca. Grade II* listed, stroll through the formal and oh-so-romantic topiary gardens, noting the beautiful orangery as you go. At the bottom of the vivid displays, an arboretum provides a dappled curtain between the undulating valleys that lead to the sea beyond. There are many lovely walks around the grounds of Mapperton – not to mention the house itself and two wild play areas for the little ones – offering lots to see and do during your visit.

 

The Walled Garden, Moreton

A bench surrounded by flower beds at The Walled Garden in Dorset

Home to a stunning series of formal gardens, tangled jungles, and even some farm animals, there’s a selection of flora and fauna to discover throughout the year at The Walled Garden in Moreton. Marvel at the towering trees in the Chilean arboretum, enjoy the fragrant delights of the winter borders in the cooler months, and fill your senses in the wedding garden, Mediterranean garden, and rose garden – the kitchen garden supplies the Dovecote Café with the freshest of ingredients! Perfect for family days out, the farm area is home to a collection of critters, including ferrets and lizards. From fairs to fresh food, open air exhibitions to yoga, there’s a whole roster of fun-filled events to enjoy at The Walled Garden.

 

Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, Weymouth

A red Japanese style bridge in the middle of Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens in Dorset

Enjoying its own microclimate along the Jurassic Coast, Abbostbury Subtropical Gardens is a rather magical spot to add to your Dorset to-do list. Some of the rare plants have been happily growing here since the 18th century, with recent collections added to over the last 25 years. You can expect a heady mix of camellias, magnolias, and rhododendrons, as well as lily ponds and a Burmese rope bridge for the fun at heart. Dogs are welcome here, making it a great destination for families, and with its close proximity to the Jurassic Coastline, it’s easy to combine with a beach day for a truly unforgettable day out in Dorset.

 

Compton Acres, Bournemouth

A beautiful Japanese garden with a pool and building at Compton Acres in Dorset

With over 10 acres of horticultural haven to explore in an ingenious circular route, there’s a reason the ornamental gardens at Compton Acres are so renowned. Full of light, life, and colour, the Italian garden boasts a picture-perfect setting, with water features, Grecian sculptures, and a remarkable Italian villa whisking you off to the Med. The rock and water gardens promise a series of breathtaking displays, while the heather garden offers stunning sights throughout the year. You’ll also find a tranquil Japanese garden and enchanting wooded valley, providing something for everyone whether you want a moment of mindfulness or cascading waterfalls. There are multiple eateries throughout Compton Acres too, giving you every excuse to spend the whole day exploring this magical Eden in the heart of Dorset.

 

Sandsfoot Gardens, Weymouth

Looking out across the neatly arranged Sandsfoot Gardens in Dorset with the sea in the background

One of Dorset’s wonderful hidden gems, the gardens that surround the ruins of Sandsfoot Castle are a peaceful oasis on the county’s stunning coast. Enjoying views out towards Portland and across the famously long Chesil Beach, this waterside wonderland is the perfect stop for a picnic while walking the South West Coast Path. A series of seasonal flowers make up the beds, with herbaceous borders adding even more colour to the small yet endearing space. Sit by the ornamental pond as you soak up the peaceful surrounds or take a look at the 14th century ruins that hark back to the days of King Henry III.

 

Forde Abbey Gardens, Chard

The historic building of Forde Abbey Gardens in Dorset alongside flower beds and a lake

Nestled on the Dorset and Somerset border, Forde Abbey boasts a remarkable award-winning garden over 900 years in the making. Although it started as an abbey, there is little left of its initial heritage throughout the grounds save the great pond, which would have been used to power a mill by the monks. Since then, many generations have added their own injection of character to the gardens – an impressive 350,000 trees were planted by Geoffrey Roper in the 19th century. The Roper family are also to thank for the impressive Centenary Fountain, which not only celebrates 100 years of the family’s residence at the abbey but holds the record for the highest, powered fountain in England. Perfectly manicured topiaries decorate the gardens, while herbaceous borders cast swathes of colour along the winding paths. Take a seat on any one of the many benches and let yourself drift away amidst the picturesque gardens.

 

Sherborne Castle & Gardens, Sherborne

A series of garden benches in the gardens at Sherborne Castle in Dorset

With 42 acres of gardens and pleasure grounds and over 1,000 acres of parkland, Sherborne Castle is swimming in scenic beauty. The spectacular landscape garden owes its thanks to the brilliant eye of Capability Brown, a renowned gardener and landscape architect who was behind many of England’s most beloved landmarks, including Blenheim Palace, Warwick Castle, and even elements of Kew Gardens. Bursts of colour can be found around every corner of the quintessential English garden, with daffodils rising their golden heads in spring and herbaceous borders joining the colourful chorus throughout the summer months. Walk around the winding lake, pause for a moment of quietude in the thatched hut, and take in the rolling landscapes dotted with ancient trees – you can even pop into the garden centre to add to your own garden at home!

 

Careys Secret Garden, Wareham

A series of archways with a sculpture at the end at Careys Secret Garden in Dorset

A hidden gem that’s still in its sapling stages, Careys Secret Garden is a not-so-secret delight that we cannot wait to see bloom! Left to its own devices for over 40 years, Careys is in the midst of an incredible transformation. Edible hedgerows have been planted, with flowers, veg, herbs, and fruit trees following suit. This is a wonderful opportunity to follow along the journey of a garden, watching the beds transform and the character of the garden take root. Garden tours run every Friday, April to September, for those wanting to take a closer look at the work going on here, while a series of events and activities provide a rolling roster the whole family can enjoy. Breathe in the fresh air with some garden yoga, learn how to tell your moth from your butterfly with Moth Mania workshops, and try your hand at some arts and crafts, taking inspiration from the peaceful gardens that surround you.

 

Embark on your own vibrant tour of Dorset’s beautiful gardens during your next scenic stay. From rural retreats to coastal escapes, there’s a magical holiday cottage in Dorset to suit.

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