Stunning royal gardens
From wildflower meadows to Islamic-inspired water gardens, the gardens of royal residences can provide places of calm, beauty and inspiration. We recommend the best royal gardens to visit in the UK
Not only do royal estates boast fine palaces, castles and country houses brimming with history and splendour, they also have acres of glorious gardens to explore. Many of these royal gardens are open to the public during certain times of the year and host tours, events and other activities for visitors to enjoy.
From organic wildflower meadows to Islamic-inspired water gardens, here is your guide to the best royal gardens to visit for a regal day out.
Read our piece remembering The Queen and her love of horticulture and gardens.
Royal gardens to visit in the UK
Kensington Palace, London
Kensington Palace was the birthplace of Queen Victoria, home of Diana, Princess of Wales and is now the official London residence of HRH Prince William and Princess Catherine. Diana was particularly fond of the Sunken Garden, which was created in 1908, then its new layout remodelled on the Pond Garden at Hampton Court Palace.
The Sunken Garden features an ornamental pond and a bronze statue of Princess Diana, commissioned by her sons.
Since the installation of the statue, over 4,000 flowers have been planted in the garden including 200 roses, two cultivars being Pearl Drift (='Leggab') and Blush Noisette (='Noisette Carnée').
Kensington Palace, London W8 4PX, hrp.org.uk
Buckingham Palace, London
Buckingham Palace was Queen Elizabeth II's famous London residence, with a walled oasis in the heart of the city. The 39-acre garden boasts more than 350 types of wildflowers, over 200 trees and a three-acre lake.
The garden also provides a habitat for native birds rarely seen in London, including the common sandpiper, sedge warbler and lesser whitethroat.
A tour of the garden can be completed by a cream tea in the cafe overlooking the Palace's famous lawn and lake.
London SW1A 1AA, rct.uk
Walmer Castle and Gardens, Kent
Eight acres of award-winning gardens surrounding a country house that was home to Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother.
The replanted borders in the Broadwalk Garden were unveiled in 2016 – the colour and planting scheme inspired by the influential British garden designer Gertrude Jekyll.
The Queen Mother's Garden was designed by Penelope Hobhouse, reflecting Hobhouse's interest in Islamic gardens with its classical lines, still water, rich planting and cool shade.
There are therapeutic activities on offer in the garden, including yoga, meditation and mindful walking.
Kingsdown Road, Deal, Kent, CT14 7LJ, english-heritage.org.uk
The illustrious Windsor Castle has a rich history spanning 1,000 years, with many different kings and queens making their mark on its gardens.
The East Terrace Garden opened to the public in summer 2020 for the first time in 40 years. It was first designed for George IV by the architect Sir Jeffry Wyatville to provide a pleasant view from the King’s new suite of royal apartments. During the Second World War, Queen Elizabeth II (then Princess Elizabeth) and her sister, Princess Margaret, were assigned an allotment for them to grow vegetables.
In 1971 Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh redesigned the flowerbeds and commissioned a new bronze lotus fountain based on his own design for the centre of garden.
Windsor SL4 1NJ, rct.uk
Queen Elizabeth II's Norfolk retreat first opened to the public in 1977 to mark the Queen's Silver Jubilee.
There are 60 acres of garden to explore, with herbaceous borders designed by Geoffrey Jellicoe and informal cottage garden areas that in full bloom in July.
The house and gardens are open to the public from April to October, while the parkland is open all year round. You can now stay in the former head gardener's cottage, which is available to rent on Airbnb.
Sandringham, Norfolk PE35 6EN, sandringhamestate.co.uk
Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire
Belvoir Castle is the home of the Duchess of Rutland, a passionate gardener who has restored the castle's gardens to their original elegance over the past 30 years. So impressive a job she has done on the gardens, they have been used as the setting for several of the the garden scenes in The Crown, the popular Netflix series about the Royal Family.
A wonderful highlight of Belvoir is the Victorian Rose Garden filled with roses grown by Peter Beales and David Austin, and the Hermitage, featuring foxgloves, snowdrops and bluebells.
Belvoir Castle, Grantham, Leicestershire NG32 1PE, belvoircastle.com
Highgrove House Gardens, Gloucestershire
Highgrove is the beloved residence of HM King Charles III and his wife Camilla, HM The Queen Consort. The garden has been lovingly transformed by the King over the past 30 years, helped by garden designers Julian and Isabel Bannerman and Rosemary Verey with a strict adherence to organic and sustainable methods.
There are guided tours of the gardens, including the wildflower meadow, lasting approximately two hours. Afterwards, why not treat yourself to lunch in the Orchard Room, the estate's restaurant and tearoom.
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Doughton, Tetbury, Gloucestershire, GL8 8TN, highgrovegardens.com
This 20,000-hectare estate has been the beloved Scottish home of the Royal Family since 1852, purchased for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert.
The grounds are open to the public from April to August, including three acres of formal gardens containing a walled garden, glasshouses and a Victorian conservatory. A water garden was recently introduced by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
Enjoy azaleas and rhododendrons along the riverside walk, and keep your eyes peeled for red squirrels.
Balmoral Castle, Ballater, Aberdeenshire, balmoralcastle.com
Castle of Mey, Caithness
This turreted 16th-century castle was the property of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother from 1952 until 1996.
Among its beautiful grounds is the romantic walled garden, redesigned by head gardener Chris Parkinson to provide interest all year round with its thriving grasses, rhododendrons and fuchsias.
There is an Animal Centre in the East Woods, where children can enjoy feeding the chickens and sheep.
Mey, Thurso KW14 8XH, castleofmey.org.uk
Abigail is a freelance writer and editor based in Hereford.
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