11 of the Best U.K. Royal Gardens

Buckingham Palace in the background with a blue sky above and lawns surrounded by beds of red and yellow blooming flowers
The garden at Buckingham Palace is biodiverse with a remarkable number of trees, wildflowers, and grasses.

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Great Britain has plenty of historic sites to delight and fascinate visitors. And if you happen to be a gardener, there’s another reason to visit: Britain has some of the best royal gardens in the world. From massive gardens adjacent to palaces owned by the royal family to more intimate gardens managed by the Royal Horticultural Society, there are many varieties and styles of gardens throughout the country. 

Here are 11 of the best royal gardens in the United Kingdom.

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Highgrove Gardens

View of the classic English gardens at Prince Charles' High Grove - two pink-flowering trees flank the entry followed by a variety of neatly sculpted green hedges leading to the property

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Highgrove—the country home of Charles, Prince of Wales, and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall—is located in Gloucestershire. The gardens include a wild garden, a formal garden, and a walled kitchen garden that reflects Prince Charles's interests in organic and sustainable farming

Among the highlights are the national collection of beech trees and large-leaved hostas, plus a wildflower meadow with more than 70 varieties of plants.  Guided tours of the garden, which must be reserved in advance, are offered from July through September.

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Buckingham Palace Garden

A bright blue sky over Buckingham Palace with green lawns covered with red and purple flowers

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The garden at Buckingham Palace, the official London residence and working headquarters of the British monarch, is a 39-acre walled oasis in the middle of the city and its largest private garden. Queen Elizabeth II holds summer garden parties in the garden. 

Features include a 500-foot herbaceous border, a wisteria-clad summerhouse, a rose garden, and a central lake. The garden supports over 325 wild plants and more than 1,000 trees. It is also home to one of Britain's biggest garden ornaments—a 15-foot Waterloo Vase carved from a single piece of marble. Tours are limited to 25 visitors and are only available when the queen is not in residence.

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Sandringham Gardens

Lush green ad flowering plants surrounding a small body of water in front of the Queen's Sandringham Estate

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Sandringham is the queen's private estate and is located on 20,000 acres of land near the village of Sandringham in Norfolk. The 60 acres of gardens include wide lawns surrounded by flower beds, densely planted woodland walks, rare trees, and a variety of pollinator plants

Portions of the garden have more of a natural style with meadows and moisture-loving plants surrounding lakes.

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Hampton Court Gardens

Classic English gardens under a blue sky covered with neatly trimmed green lawns, sculpted green hedges, and beds of red flowers in front of Hampton Court Palace

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Hampton Court Palace is a royal palace that King Henry VIII built for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey circa 1514 in the London borough of Richmond upon Thames. While the royal family has not lived in Hampton Court Palace since the 18th century, the estate, landscape, and gardens represent a unique historical and horticultural resource.

With 60 acres of formal gardens and an additional 750 acres of parkland, the area is home to a wide variety of plant species. Special items of interest include the Great Vine, which was planted in 1768 and produces grapes sold on the grounds; Home Park, which includes deer and a wide range of birds; and the Palace Maze, a large and confusing hedge puzzle maze that was first created around 1700.

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Castle and Gardens of Mey

A gravel foot path with pink, white, and yellow flowering plants on each side leading to an archway covered with green vines with the Castle of Cape Mey in the distance

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Castle Mey in Caithness, on the northern coast of Scotland, was acquired by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1952 after the death of her husband, King George VI. She renovated and restored the castle and created the gardens that delight visitors today.

The gardens have been updated but remain much as they were in the queen mother's time. The variety of plants has been greatly expanded, and gravel pathways and seating areas have been reworked. Visitors will see marigolds, pansies, dahlias, primulas, nasturtiums, and old-fashioned shrub roses and climbers in the Shell Garden where the queen mother used to sit with her corgis in the afternoons.

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The Gardens at Glamis Castle

Three green sculpted hedges in front of taller flowering plants and larger green hedges on a vast green lawn leading to Glamis Castle

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Glamis Castle, located in the foothills of Angus Glens just north of Dundee, Scotland, has been the ancestral home of the Earl of Strathmore for more than 600 years and is the childhood home of the queen mother.

The gardens and grounds are beautiful year-round. In spring, swaths of daffodils line a mile-long avenue. In summer, the brilliant hues of flowering rhododendrons and azaleas light up the grounds. In autumn, the abundance of trees ensures a spectacle of fall color. Garden highlights include an Italian garden laid out by Countess Cecilia, the queen mother's mother, in 1910 and a four-acre brick-walled kitchen garden.

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Gardens at Windsor Great Park

A green hillside at Savill Garden at Windsor Great Walk filled with purple, red, white, and pink flowering plants and bushes along a footpath

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The Great Park was once part of a vast Norman hunting forest that was enclosed in the late 13th century. The 5,000-acre parkland and former private hunting ground of Windsor Castle includes a mix of formal avenues, gardens, woodland, open grassland, and a deer park. Now largely open to the public, the parkland and its forest in the western London suburbs are renowned for the scattering of great ancient oaks, which add interest to the park’s magnificent history.

Must-see gardens include the Savill Garden, considered Britain's finest ornamental garden; the Valley Gardens, which offer some of the best garden views in the British Isles; and the lake and other water features at Virginia Water. Depending on the time of year, daffodils, roses, or rhododendrons may be in bloom in the vast gardens. 

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Garden Wisley

A wide, green lawn with white edges with a mixture of colorful flowering plants in shades of red, pink, purple, and yellow on both sides leading to larger green hedges in the distance at Wisley at Surrey

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The garden at Wisley is the flagship garden of the four Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) gardens that are open to the public year-round. Located southwest of London in Surrey, Wisley has evolved into a world-class garden since the site was gifted to the society in 1903. 

The Mixed Borders garden, the Bowes-Lyon Rose Garden, and the state-of-the-art glasshouse are popular with visitors. During the fall, the garden is steeped in the colors of autumn.

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Garden Hyde Hall

A wooden trellis above a gravel walkway with lush, green vines growing along the vertical posts and purple flowers along the base

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The RHS gardens on the 360-acre Hyde Hall estate are beautiful in any season, but creating them was a challenge. Hyde Hall is an exposed site in an area of Essex that has very low rainfall and difficult soil conditions.

A 10-million gallon reservoir was built on the property to collect and store water. One of the gardens—a water-efficient dry garden created and modeled after Mediterranean gardens—features 400 drought-tolerant plants. The reward and lesson for visitors is that by choosing the right plants for the right places and by working with the prevailing conditions, it is possible to create a garden of great beauty almost anywhere.

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Garden Rosemoor

Pink and yellow flowers with large green leaves around a large shade tree on a lawn surrounded by hedges at Rosemoor in Devon

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Once the home of Lady Anne and her mother in the 1930s, Rosemoor garden was also a Red Cross refuge during the bombing of London in World War II. Located in Devon, Rosemoor was gifted to the RHS in 1988. 

The gardens include the national plant collection of flowering and colored-stem dogwoods as well as numerous varieties of rhododendrons and azaleas. Popular areas include the Stream Garden, Woodland Garden, and the Fruit and Vegetable Garden.

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Garden Harlow Carr

two people walking down a long, wide, green lawn garden flanked on both sides by pink and red flowers at Harlow Carr

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The gardens at Harlow Carr, which stand on what was once part of the Forest of Knaresborough, an ancient royal hunting ground, were started in 1950 by the Northern Horticultural Society (NHS) as a trial ground for growing plants in a northern climate. Located in Harrogate, west of Yorkshire, the gardens were acquired by RHS in 2001 in a merger with the NHS.

The 58-acre gardens are known now for spectacular displays of color at every turn in the garden paths. Favorites include the Alpine Garden, which has plants from various mountain regions; the Kitchen Garden, which houses a variety of fruits and vegetables; and the Scented Garden, a smaller space featuring roses, lavender, and honeysuckle.