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7 of the prettiest glasshouses to visit in the UK

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Megan Murray
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Immerse yourself in nature while marvelling at some spectacular architecture with our list of the prettiest glasshouses in the UK. 

It doesn’t take much persuasion from the changing seasons to have us dreaming of long summer days and how we’re going to spend them.

In fact, pretty much as soon as our sun-deprived skin feels a tickle of real sun light, we find ourselves planning trips to rooftop bars, beer gardens and picnic-worthy parks.

And one idyllic day out you need to add to your list is a visit to one of the stunning glasshouses dotted around the UK.

We told you the Instagrams would be good…

Glasshouses, if you haven’t been to any before, are like glorified greenhouses, similar to those you might spy in a green-fingered grandparent’s garden.

But instead of housing a few tomatoes, the impressive structures on this list are home to thousands of unique plants from all over the world, sprawling across hundreds of feet and giving some of the best Instagram back-drops you’ve ever seen.

That’s right: these botanical beauties have a little something for everyone. Not only do they give you a chance to enjoy the benefits of surrounding yourself with nature, it’s safe to say your snaps will be spot on.

Here’s our edit of some of the biggest and most beautiful greenhouses to visit in the UK. 

The Temperate House at Kew Gardens 

The Temperate House

This monumental structure has been out of bounds for visitors to the iconic southwest London botanical garden for five years due to restoration work.

But now, for the first time in half a decade, the largest glasshouse in the world is open for business, and boy, does it look good.

Officially known as The Temperate House, the grade I listed building was originally unveiled to the public 150 years ago, in 1863. It houses over 10,000 plants, with 1,500 of these coming from places such as Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific Islands.

The space specialises in some of the rarest and most threatened plants, from the hottest countries globally, and is therefore seen as a huge part of Kew’s ongoing plans to safeguard as many species as possible from extinction.

Plus, for the price of the entry fee, visitors to Kew Gardens are also treated to the iconic Victorian Palm House (its rainforest climate supports a unique collection of tropical plants) and the cactus-filled, Princess of Wales Conservatory.

See more information here

The Glasshouse at Down House 

The hothouse at Down House 

Pop on your learning hat and head to the picturesque former home of Charles Darwin, the legendary scientist and creator of the theory of evolution.

This English Heritage site is a beautiful place to spend the day and makes the perfect spot for a picnic. Down House is surrounded by gardens filled with colourful wildflowers and Darwin’s ‘thinking path’, where he came up with some of his best ideas. You never know, retracing his steps could deliver you a burst of inspiration.

Arguably one of the most precious areas of this historic site is the glass-paned hothouse, which houses carnivorous plants and orchids all year round. It may not be as gigantic in scale as some of the others on this list, but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in charm thanks to its duck-egg blue exterior and assortment of terracotta planted pots.

See more information here.  

The Winter Garden 

In a bid to provide the people of Sheffield with a green space that can be enjoyed all year round, the city’s council built The Winter Garden back in 2003, heralding it as the largest urban glasshouse in Europe.

The stylishly designed space is home to more than 2,000 plants from all over the world and covers 70 metres of ground, towering 22 metres high.

The greenhouse feels unique in its position, slap bang in the middle of a bustling and predominantly industrial city. The contrast of the surrounding buildings and the explosion of lush greenery behind the glass panes make it an extraordinary place to spend time.

Wander the winding paths that lead you around the expansive, carefully selected plant life, take a moment to sit on one of the benches with a coffee from the refreshment area or check out the central space, which sometimes has entertainment for visitors to enjoy.

See more information here.    

The Conservatory at Barbican 

The conservatory at Barbican

London’s Barbican is well worth a visit, not just for its eye-opening exhibitions and artsy cinema, but because it also happens to have a huge, very cool conservatory attached to it, too.

The shadows of sweeping trees and gnarled cacti can be spotted almost immediately from the outside, peeking through the panes of glass that sit beside the cultural hub’s brutalist architecture.

Once inside, the mass of plants that sprout from various levels, growing in wild shapes and tangling together will leave you dazzled, trying to take it all in.

Explore the various quiet corners, where you might find an art student sketching or a solitary soul reading a book. Trot across the romantic mini-bridge arching over one of the water features and explore the unmissable cacti room, which is filled with every type of succulent and desert plant you could imagine.

The conservatory is only open on select Sundays so make sure you check times before you go, and if you’re feeling fancy, book yourself into the afternoon tea which takes place in the centre of the botanical action.

See more information here.  

The Victorian Fernery at Ascog Hall Gardens 

Ascog Hall Gardens are part of a collection of 20 gardens that are spread throughout the mainland of Argyll, Scotland.

Within this three acre Eden sits an outstanding feature, a beautiful Victorian glasshouse, that’s sunken structure is fed by natural spring waters.

Inside, visitors can find a selection of exotic perennials, shrubs and fern species, including a 1,000 year old King Fern, which the garden is quite famous for.

This is a gorgeous place to visit at the turn of a season, particularly summer to autumn, because of the pigmented hues of the flowers that grow there. From blue Menconopsis to the purple Northern Marsh orchid and red Chilean Fire Tree, it’s a living masterpiece of vibrant colour.

See more information here

The Glasshouse at RHS Garden Wisley  

The Glasshouse at RHS Garden Wisley  

If you’re looking for horticultural inspiration, look no further than this magnificent garden and greenery-filled glasshouse in Wisley.

In terms of a visual spectacular, this cathedral-like structure certainly ticks all the boxes, covering an area the size of a whopping 10 tennis courts and soaring 40ft into the sky.

Thanks to its large size, walking through the glasshouse is like venturing into a jungle, with towering palm trees and ferns swooping inwards from either side of the path. As you travel further into the building you’ll feel the environment and climate change gradually, taking you on a tour through the world of plants, from tropical to moist and then dry temperatures.

See more information here.  

Bicton Glasshouses at Bicton Gardens 

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If you’re spending any time in Devon, Bicton Gardens are a sight you’re going to want to see. The historical gardens are full of things to do and experience, and none so much as the site’s three magnificent glasshouses.

Although all of the buildings have impressive histories, The Palm House is the oldest of the trio, having been built in the 1820s. Its mesmerising curvilinear design was created using 18,000 small glass panes in thin iron glazing bars, painstakingly constructed into elegant domed shapes.

As the name suggests, The Palm House contains a selection of rare and beautiful palms, perfect for fulfilling all your palm-trend dreams.

See more information here

Images: Courtesy of venues / Getty 

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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