The warmer climates of the South and West make it the perfect location for carefully planned gardens to thrive. Here are some of our favourites.
From family-friendly National Trust gardens to carefully preened private gardens with limited spring opening, there’s a garden for all needs (and weathers) in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
Visit carefully preened gardens where every detail has been thought of for a gentle walk with your favourite person. There’s nothing that says romance more than a quiet wander through blooming flowers. Prior Park landscape garden has been considered and cultivated to take you on a journey and the iconic lake and 18th-century bridges really transport you back in time to something out of a Jane Austen novel.
For a gang of kids and adults, look for the larger estates and parkland to give you plenty of space for running around, jumping in puddles, climbing trees and building dens. The grounds at Osborne House have kept gardens alongside winding paths down to a private beach and exhibitions on the children at Osborne in the Swiss House. It makes for a great family day out on the Isle of Wight.
These are just two of the many places to visit in the South and West to get your garden fix.
Gardens on the Isle of Wight
The island has a vast diversity of wildlife and landscapes and it’s very easy to get from one side of the island to the other so no matter where you stay, you can visit most places. As well as our recommendation of Osborne House, we like Carisbrooke Castle for a family friendly walk and there’s space to hide inside if showers strike. The Princess Beatrice garden has been recently created in the grounds and is beautiful in late summer with lots of sensory plants to feed all of your senses.
Sticking to gardens alone, Ventnor Botanic Garden is a treat throughout the year as each section is inspired by different parts of the world so there’s always a new bloom to admire. Mottistone Gardens are a lovely place for a walk as is Appeldurcombe house for the vast grounds that welcome dogs all year round.
If cultivated gardens don’t pique your interest but you love a good stomp through the woods, Parkhurst forest has lots of paths for walking and is home to a resident population of red squirrels. Visit at the right time of the year and the forest is full of wildlife to spot.
Take a look at our Isle of Wight holiday cottages and start planning your next holiday.
Gardens in Hampshire
Of course, the New Forest is the place to go for outdoor days out in this county but there are a number of formal gardens if you’d like to admire some carefully cultivated florals, grasses and bushes. We love Exbury gardens for a good day outside with family or friends, it’s open from March until November and full of flowers that bloom in vibrant colours in the spring. There’s also a steam railway if you’re looking to add some extra excitement to your day out.
There’s also the Vyne, run and maintained by the National Trust, Hinton Ampner estate and Sir Harold Hillier gardens. Downton Abbey fans might like a trip to Highclere castle and gardens which was a main filming location for the popular TV show and history buffs will love the atmospheric grounds of Titchfield Abbey.
For something a little bit different, visit the Allen Gallery Garden where you can enjoy sculpture work in situ. The environment makes the art more poignant, carefully placed so that they complement one another.
Our collection of Hampshire holiday cottages are in prime locations to explore the county.
Gardens in Dorset
You’ll find plenty of big gardens in the Dorset countryside. Visit gardens with a little history and a former home attached, like Thomas Hardy’s cottage garden, Kingston Lacey or Sherborne Castle and gardens. Then you’ll have something to do both inside and outside in case the rain decides to spoil your fun. Alternatively, put on wellies and a good coat and hop through the puddles at Compton Acres gardens.
Get closer to the Jurassic Coast at Abbotsbury sub-tropical gardens. Head here for the morning and then spend an afternoon fossil hunting on the beach. This sounds like the perfect family day out.
For more stately homes, we love Athelhampton house and gardens and Mapperton house, which was used as a set for Far From the Madding Crowd. You’ll find that most of the estates will plan activities during school holidays to keep your little ones entertained.
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Gardens in Somerset
The garden county has so much to choose from that we couldn’t fit them all into this blog alone. Somerset is a garden lover’s place to go. There’s plenty of well-kept gardens for you to admire, you’ll certainly go home feeling inspired to get more green-fingered in your own outdoor spaces.
One of our favourite places is the Hauser and Wirth Somerset Gallery near Bruton. The gardens incorporate the art making for an interesting walk combining creativity and nature. It’s a really beautiful cohesion. Another interesting place to visit is the Yeo Valley organic garden. It’s left to run a little more wild than a formal garden but benefits from vistas across rolling Somerset hills. Fill your lungs with fresh air, admire the view and relax.
If you’re looking for gardens with lots of flowers, structured paths and planned out beds, we’d recommend Hestercombe gardens at the heart of Somerset or East Lambrook Manor which was originally created by the founder of the English Cottage Garden, Margery Fish. For a spot of history, choose from Barrington Court, Tyntesfield, Dunster Castle and many more.
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Gardens in Devon
There’s an incredible amount of National Trust properties in Devon. Some of our family favourites include Arlington Court, Saltram, Overbecks and Killerton. Each one has acres of grounds and gardens to explore and usually offer some child-friendly activities in the school holidays.
Step into a new world of creativity and Devon countryside at Dartington Hall. Inspiring artists for years, we’re sure you’ll leave Dartington feeling ready to dip your toe into new creative pursuits or why not start on your visit? All it takes is a pencil and some paper to sketch landscapes on your journey around the gardens.
For more artistic inspiration, pop into the former home of Agatha Christie situated on the river Dart. Arrive by boat for the magical experience of approaching this home from the water. Take a peek into what life was like for Christie writing novels by the river in south Devon. We’re sure you’ll feel inspired to get creative after a holiday learning about other people’s inspirational experiences here.
Pick your next holiday location from our Devon cottage collection.
Cornwall’s gardens can be small but they’re something mighty, each one offers a different diversity of plants and animals to discover on your way around. We love Glendurgan for it’s kid-friendly hedge maze and giant swing along with a whole host of weaving paths that lead down to Durgan beach. Have a quick splash in the sea and then race back up to the café for a slice of cake.
For an interesting day of learning, the Eden Project is an ever-changing exhibition of all things plant-like. The biomes are situated in a disused quarry and it’s fascinating to see the process of clearing the space, building the domes and growing the gardens both inside and outside. There’s also live music events at Eden in the summer, keep your eyes on their website to snap up some tickets.
On top of these two, there’s a whole host of places to visit in Cornwall. Mount Edgecumbe looks over to Plymouth with Antony estate nearby. The Barbara Hepworth sculpture garden brings the artist’s work to life at her former home and Trewidden is a green haven with an atmospheric fern forest that are reminiscent of something out of Jurassic Park, to name but a few…
Discover all of these places on your next Cornwall holiday.