With the warmer months fast approaching and the sun beginning to make an appearance, it is the ideal time to scope out your local public gardens. After all, what’s better than exploring the rich architecture much of the UK has to offer whilst surrounded by acres of spectacular gardens?
With this in mind, we have trawled (gardening pun intended) the internet to see which public gardens have the best amenities, the prettiest of views, the most space to run around, dog-friendly areas and, most importantly, accessibility for disabled people.
All of these elements and more were gathered using information from TripAdvisor, History Hit, Parks and Gardens and more, allowing us to score each location out of 100. By taking a seed list of 66 UK cities, we crunched the numbers to see which garden centre or country house came out on top - to make exploration easier for all botanical enthusiasts this summer.
The UK’s Best Botanic Gardens
One of the most relaxing aspects of visiting a new garden centre is the calming, tranquil feeling that seems to wash over you as soon as you arrive. This is usually heightened by acres of luscious greenery, along with somewhere to rest with a cup of tea and some cake afterwards.
Our findings highlighted that London was top of the list when it came to scenic gardens, with an impressive score of 72.6/100. This was down to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew scoring a whopping 10/10 when it came to social media engagement, thanks to 520,000 Instagram followers.
The Royal Botanical Gardens also ranked 10/10 in the accessibility score, thanks to an extensive number of steps taken to be as diverse and inclusive as possible - such as free entry for carers and instructions on how to get around in a wheelchair.
In second place was the Royal Botanical Garden of Edinburgh, with an overall score of 71.3/100 - coming very close to first place. This is the place to be for those looking for relaxation, as it scored 10/10 in this section, with 538 mentions of the word ‘peaceful’ on TripAdvisor. As well as this, it received a ranking of 9.5/10 for being ‘Instagrammable’, which was determined by 52,221 hashtags.
Up third was Lincolnshire in the East Midlands, scoring a respectable 71.2/100 for Grimsthorpe Castle. They also scored 10/10 for dog-friendliness, allowing people to bring their furry best friends without any concerns. A pub rating of 8.6/10 was thanks to 70 pubs being found in the local area, highlighting many culinary options for when you are finished exploring the garden.
Finally, we had Tal-y-Cafn in Wales, racking up 70.6/100 for Bodnant Garden. Despite their high ranking, they only managed to receive 2.7/10 when it came to accessibility, suggesting that some work needs to be done in that area.
As no details were provided online in regards to wheelchair access, this score was difficult to determine. However, they scored 7/10 due to having a reasonable 139 local cafes in the area, as well as receiving 10/10 for dog-friendliness - and what’s more beautiful than a dog-friendly garden?
The UK’s Most Historic Gardens
Many people visit gardens to bask in the historical ambience, which many of the locations on our seed list provided - from ghoulish ghosts to stately homes that haven’t been cleared out or changed since 1600.
One of the highest scoring on the list, when it came to historical richness, was Doddington Home and Gardens in Peterborough, East Midlands. Scoring 8/10 in this category, the building and gardens remain faithful to the Elizabethan layout designed by Elizabethan architect Robert Smythson, with box-edged borders surrounding wild flowers and even four topiary unicorns representing the Jarvis family crest.
Another high-flyer when it came to historical interest was Crook Hall and Garden, situated in Durham, North East England. Ranking 9.7/10 in this category, the hall is said to be inhabited by a ghost known as ‘The White Lady’, that roams the staircases on St. Thomas' Eve (December 20th) every year. As well as this, the bountiful garden is waiting to be explored by visitors and is even fit with its very own maze, perfect for little ones.
If ghosts aren’t your thing, then perhaps Arundel Castle & Gardens, located in Arundel, South East England, is.
Scoring top marks in this section with 10/10, Arundel Castle is one of the oldest in our seed list, having been constructed in the 11th century by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel. Since then, it has been inhabited by royalty such as King Henry I (1068-1135), King Henry II (1133-89), and the 3rd Duke of Norfolk (1473-1554) who was uncle to the late Catherine Howard and Anne Boleyn.
Finally, we have Eltham Palace, located in London, East England. Scoring a very impressive 9.4/10 and established in 1305, the palace is an intriguing blend of Tudor and medieval architecture. With more than 19-acres of award-winning gardens, the hall has also hosted a huge number of royal figures including the half brother of William the Conqueror, Odo, Bishop of Bayeux.
The palace has also been graced by the likes of Edward II, Edward III (1327–77), and John II of France (1319–64), drawing tourists from far and wide to experience the historical atmosphere.
The UK’s Most Instagrammable Botanical Gardens
If it isn’t on the ‘Gram, it didn’t happen. With this in mind, we examined the number of hashtags and followers that each garden had on Instagram, in order to reveal the most ‘Instagrammable’ location of all.
First up, we had the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, situated in London, East England. This location scored top marks with 20/20, which took into account the number of Instagram followers and hashtags referring to the garden. This could be down to its alluring giant lily pads and luscious aquatic plants, situated on a tranquil indoor pond.
Second up was Longleat, located in Warminster in South West England. This destination boasts a score of 19.6/20, thanks to a staggering 143,000 Instagram followers - allowing them to rank 9.8/10 in this category.
This garden also came in strong with 237,387 Instagram hashtags, once again achieving 9.8/10 in this category. The stunning stately home comes equipped with a maze and a steam train ride for children, offering many opportunities for Instagram pictures.
In third was Hever Castle and Gardens, situated in Hever, South East England. This stunning location is the stuff of fairytales, encouraging an unsurprising 79,603 Instagram hashtags - scoring them 9.7/10 in this section.
Surrounded by a moat, the garden also offers jousting and archery shows - which also offer the option to take some great pictures for the ‘Gram. With 63,600 Instagram followers, it is no wonder that this stunningly scenic area is so high up on our life of picture-perfect gardens, and achieved 9.7/10 once again overall for this category.
The Best UK Cities To Own A Garden
We have analysed the best gardens that you can visit in the UK, but where are the most ideal locations to own your perfect garden? Our research highlighted that the top destination to own a garden in the UK is Liverpool, with an overall ranking of 22.1/30.
This score was decided thanks to their lowest house price coming in at £10,000, allowing them to achieve 7.1/10 in this category. Liverpool also had a very impressive number of homes with private gardens (5,172) scoring them 8.6/10 in this section.
Next up was Sheffield, with an overall score of 21.8/30. It was revealed that houses in Sheffield had a whopping average garden size of 142 m2, which contributed to them achieving 8.9/10 in this category.
Sheffield also had a respectable 3,649 recorded homes with gardens, highlighting how obtainable it would be to own your own green space. However, their house prices let them down slightly, with the cheapest revealed to be £15,000 (compared to Stoke-on-Trent with £5,000), scoring them only 5.4/10 in this bracket.
In third place was Stoke-on-Trent, with a concluding score of 20.7/30. As discussed previously, this was thanks to astronomically low house prices, with the most expensive being only £825,000 - compared to other locations that were well into the millions.
Their average house price falls at £150,326, allowing them to walk away with an elite score of 8.9/10 in this group. The average size of gardens in Stoke was 116m2, which would mean the freedom to plant more shrubbery and even the option to add decking or a patio. Despite this, only 1,754 of the homes in Stoke have gardens, bringing down their overall ranking with 3.2/10 in this list.
At the other end of the spectrum, the city shown to have the worst value for gardens was Reading, with a very disappointing score of 7.9/30. This could be down to the fact that the average garden size in this location is only 66m2, scoring Reading only 3.2/10 in this section.
As well as this, the average house in Reading costs £384,442, with the cheapest asking people to fork out £62,500 - scoring them a very poor 0.4/10 in this category. Reading also only offered 2,055 houses with private gardens, contributing to their other low overall score of 4.3/10.
Overall, whether you like to sit back in a deckchair and bask in the ambience of the flowers and plants that you have allowed to bloom, or prefer strolling through the grounds of historic gardens, there is a location on this seed list for you.
After being cooped up indoors for such a long time during the national lockdowns, it is no wonder that so many of us are being drawn back to nature - just make sure you are stocking up on hayfever tablets!
The best botanic gardens in the UK
Taking data from TripAdvisor and Great British Gardens, we found out the UK botanic gardens that were the most historic, accessible, dog-friendly, peaceful, and present on social media. From Tripadvisor we also found the number of local amenities like cafes and pubs.
The best places to own a garden in the UK
Using RightMove and Office For National Statistics, we examined the average house price vs garden size in each city to determine the best UK cities to own a garden.