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9 beautiful botanical gardens to visit in the UK

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Lauren Geall
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Looking for something special to do this bank holiday? While away the hours surrounded by nature at one of the UK’s beautiful botanical gardens.

We can think of few better ways to relax on a bank holiday weekend than spending the day surrounded by some of the UK’s rarest and most beautiful plants at one of the country’s best botanical gardens.

It’s no secret that spending time in nature has proven benefits for our mental health – and at a time when we’re all dealing with the additional stresses presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, taking time to relax and unwind has never been more important.

Of course, the UK’s botanical gardens now have additional coronavirus safety measures to adhere to – including the need to book a time slot at some locations – so make sure you check their website before setting off.

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Whether you’re obsessed with rare, alien-looking plants or prefer to appreciate some of the UK’s natural species, there’s something for everyone on this list. So without further ado, here’s nine of the UK’s best botanical gardens to enjoy this weekend. 

Kew Royal Botanic Gardens

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.

National Botanic Garden of Wales

Nestled in the countryside of Carmarthenshire, Wales, lies the National Botanic Garden of Wales.

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.

The Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Situated on the outskirts of Birmingham, the Birmingham 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.

Cambridge University Botanic Garden

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.

Sheffield Botanical Gardens

Nestled close to the city centre are Sheffield’s own botanical gardens which are free to enter, 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. 

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

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. 

Oxford Botanic Garden & Arboretum

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).

Wakehurst Wild Botanic Garden

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.

University of Bristol Botanic Garden

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.

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Lauren Geall

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