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The 9 most beautiful botanical gardens to visit in the UK

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Lauren Geall
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Immerse yourself in nature with a visit to these stunning botanical gardens across the UK

Let’s face it: you can buy as many houseplants as you want, but there’s nothing quite like being surrounded by the real thing.

Besides the fact that it’s pretty beautiful to look at, the natural world has proven benefits for our health; it can improve our mood, reduce stress levels and even improve our confidence and self-esteem. In fact, the benefits can be so significant that doctors in Scotland are now prescribing activities like bird watching and rambling to patients suffering from conditions ranging from mental illness to diabetes.

If you want a slice of the action, you’re in luck - there’s a wide selection of botanical gardens across the UK for you to choose from, showcasing beautiful collections of plants for you to browse to your heart’s content.

But don’t just take our word for it. If you’ve got no idea where to start, or just want to find your next botanical exploit, have a look through these natural gems and see what tickles your fancy. 

A quick tube ride from central London lies Kew Gardens, home to the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse, inside of which lies some of the world’s rarest and most threatened species of plants.

You can even take a trip around the world in the Princess of Wales conservatory, which boasts plants from ten different climate zones, from the desert to the tropics. Don’t miss the giant waterlily Victoria amazonica in the wet tropical zone – the leaves can reach an incredible 2.8m wide.

Buy tickets online to save yourself some money – admission is £18 for adults and £6 for children at the gate versus £16.50 and £4.50 online. 

Nestled in the countryside of Carmarthenshire, Wales, lies the region’s national botanical gardens.

You’ll want to make sure you add this one to your to-do list; it’s boasts a number of unique attractions including the world’s largest single-span glasshouse and a tropical butterfly house, home to butterflies including the huge blue Amazonian morphos.

Don’t miss the haunting ghost forest exhibition, an environmental art exhibition which features tree roots from the tropical rainforests of Ghana to highlight the devastation of deforestation.

Tickets are £10.45 for adults and £5 for children – and you can pay an extra £3.50 to gain access to the British Birds of Prey centre which is on site too. 

Situated on the outskirts of Birmingham, these botanical gardens offer a number of global and historical gardens, including a dedicated Japanese garden which houses the national bonsai collection.

And if that wasn’t enough, you could also visit the butterfly house and tea room, or take part in one of the guided tours.

Tickets are £6.75 for adults or £4.72 for a child – the gardens are open every day of the year apart from Christmas day and Boxing day. 

As one of the top universities in the world, what better a place to learn about over 8,000 different species of plants than the University of Cambridge’s botanical garden.

Founded in 1762, the gardens are home not only to a wide variety of plants and flowers, but also to a great diversity of wildlife, including badgers, grass snakes and foxes.

Adult tickets are £5.45 but children and students at Cambridge can gain entry for free - you can’t book tickets in advance online. 

Nestled close to the city centre are Sheffield’s own botanical gardens, giving you the perfect excuse to trade the bustle of the city for something a bit greener.

If you don’t have time to check out all the gardens, make sure you stop to take a look at the Grade 2 listed Glass Pavilions house – it’s sweeping glass exterior looks particularly brilliant in the summer sunshine.

The best thing is that entry is free, so there’s no excuse not to take some time to enjoy the gardens, even if it’s just for a quick visit.

Even in numbers, Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens are impressive. Featuring 100,000 plants across 70 acres and 10 glasshouses, the living collection is nearly 350 years old.

In person, however, you get to experience the true majesty which Edinburgh’s gardens have to offer. On top of the stunning glasshouses and 3,000 exotic specimens, the gardens boast panoramic views over the city’s skyline, making it an essential part of any visit.

Amazingly, admission to the garden remains free – although adults do have to pay £7 to access the glasshouses. 

Founded in 1621, Oxford’s Botanical Gardens are officially the oldest in the UK – and they certainly live up to their status.

The gardens are home to nearly 6,000 different types of plant, including flowers, cacti and a dedicated herbarium room, which boasts approximately 1,000 dried specimens.

It also features a pop-up café by the river (the gardens are situated right in the middle of the city) – for £5.45 for the day, why wouldn’t you? 

If you’re looking for a botanical garden with a difference, try Wakehurst. Situated across 500 acres of wild woodland, the garden is home to expansive meadows and developed woodland which is just waiting for you to explore.

Wakehurst also happens to be a hub for scientific activity, due to the fact that it is home to the Millennium Seed Bank, a project which aims to conserve 25% of the world’s plant species by 2025 - it’s already home to seeds from all the UK’s native species. 

Tickets are £13.95 for adults (you pay on arrival), but children and National Trust members can get in for free.

As well as the usual glasshouses featuring tropical and arid displays, Bristol’s Botanical Gardens feature an evolution collection which tells the story of plants from prehistoric times to the present day, including how species have adapted to changes in their environment.

Alongside the 4,500 plant species on display you can also get involved at one of the workshops offered at Bristol, ranging from photography to landscaping.

Admission for adults is £6.50, and children under 18 go free. 

Image: Getty

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Lauren Geall

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