In the height of summer, Britain’s gardens are looking their best. It’s the perfect time of year to spend outside treating your senses to the rich shades of green, riotous floral colours and heady scents while exploring manicured lawns and shaded paths dappled with sunlight. Here’s our guide to five of the UK’s best and most accessible gardens.
Enjoying the sunshine at Beningbrough Hall
1. Beningbrough Hall, North Yorkshire
A few miles northwest of York, this 18th-century Baroque country house has a fascinating history, including its occupation by the RAF during World War II. Today, Beningbrough Hall belongs to the National Trust, and is a gallery run by the National Portrait Gallery. Its extensive land is well tended with broad lawns, herbaceous borders, formal Italian gardens, grand oak trees, a Victorian walled garden and wildlife areas. Beyond, there is open parkland and woodland trails.
Much of the land is accessible thanks to the flat terrain and hard surfaced or gravel paths. Assistance dogs are welcome throughout the property and there are benches in most areas. The herbs in the walled garden and the double border are designed as a sensory experience. See the access statement for full accessibility details.
View towards the aviary in Birmingham Botanical Gardens
2. Birmingham Botanical Gardens
This oasis of green in the heart of Birmingham will delight any garden-lover. The listed Birmingham Botanical Gardens, which opened in 1832, feature landscaped lawns, a bandstand and four Victorian glasshouses with desert and tropical zones. The gardens are packed with 7000 plants laid out in pretty beds, shrubberies with alpines and perennials, varied collections of roses and rare trees.
As well as events throughout summer – including garden tours, family activities, photography and art classes, theatre, music and falconry – there are outstanding facilities for visitors with disabilities. Access is along tarmac paths in most areas, there are ramps into the glasshouses and a sensory garden. A thorough online disability guide has photographs that prepare visitors for arrival and getting around the site.
The restored greenhouse at Trengwainton Garden
3. Trengwainton Garden, Cornwall
This National Trust stately home at Trengwainton in Cornwall has 25 acres of sheltered garden stocked with plants and flowers from around the world. The walled gardens are home to year-round fruit and vegetables – which are used in the garden’s tearoom – plus chickens and a beehive. Throughout the summer, there is live music, garden games and a quirky collection of scarecrows made by local schoolchildren. At the top of the hill, next to the country house, you can admire the incredible views over Mount’s Bay.
Dogs are welcome at the park. Around 75 per cent of the gardens are accessible to regular wheelchairs, but all-terrain Trampers are available for hire to make getting around easier (book in advance). Follow the sensory trail for a tactile experience of the gardens.
Family fun at the Alnwick Garden
4. The Alnwick Garden, Northumberland
Adjacent to Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, the Alnwick Garden offers a fun family day out. Children will love the wooden treehouse, which is the largest of its kind in Europe, and the meandering bamboo labyrinth. The central grand cascade is one of the largest water features in the country – every half hour a series of fountains create a sculptural wave. There are hands-on and sensory experiences all around these award-winning gardens, from smooth metal sculptures in the serpent garden to the rich honeysuckle aromas in the air. The poison garden is fascinating but visitors should be aware that it features poisonous plants (visit by guided tour only).
An accessible trail circuits the gardens, which is sloped in places but there are seats. Wheelchair-users won’t miss out on the treehouse, as the rope-bridges are fully accessible. Assistance dogs are allowed in the gardens and some staff have BSL and Next Generation Text training. See the online access statement for more information.
Picturesque Dawyck Botanic Garden
5. Dawyck Botanic Garden, Scotland
Among the stunning hills of the Scottish Borders, Dawyck Botanic Garden is a magical arboretum. It’s known for the seasonal displays of flowers from around the world, which in summer include magnificent late-flowering rhododendron. The heritage tree collection has some of Britain’s oldest and tallest trees, with some dating back to 1680 – for example, the old larch, which grows near to the Dynamo Pond, and some fine Douglas firs and Giant Sierra redwoods. Guided tours are available or you can explore and listen to the birds sing at your own pace. Dawyck Gardens has a Silent Space; visitors can switch off their mobile phones and take a moment of quiet reflection in a peaceful setting.
Although there is an accessible route of paths around the lower section of the garden and plenty of seating, some areas are too steep for wheelchairs. The Dawyck Studio has tactile exhibitions with objects for visitors to touch and the award-wining visitor centre is fully accessible.
Rough Guides would like to thank the following individuals, companies and picture libraries for their kind permission to reproduce their photographs (in order of appearance on the web page):
Header image: © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam
Beningbrough Hall: © National Trust Images/Paul Harris
Birmingham Botanical Gardens: © VisitEngland/Birmingham Botanical Gardens
Trengwainton Garden: © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler
The Alnwick Garden: © VisitEngland/Chris Auld
Dawyck Botanic Garden: © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam