11 of the Best U.K. Royal Gardens

A flower garden in front of Buckingham Palace

Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

The royal family has been steadily supplying the kind of good news the United Kingdom's travel industry needs.

Prince William and Kate Middleton, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have welcomed three children into the world, and Prince Harry’s recent marriage to actress Meghan Markle has reinvigorated interest in the region.

If you happen to be a gardener, here's another reason to visit: Britain has some of the best royal gardens in the world.

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Prince Charles' garden at Highgrove

Photo: Chris Jackson/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Highgrove is the country home of Charles, Prince of Wales, and his wife Camilla, the duchess of Cornwall, and is located in Gloucestershire. The gardens include a wild garden, a formal garden and a walled kitchen garden that reflect Prince Charles' interests in organic and sustainable principles. Among the highlights are the national collection of beech trees and large-leaved hostas, and a wildflower meadow with more than 30 varieties of native plants. The garden tour is a walk of about 2 miles that lasts about two hours. Garden paths are bumpy and uneven and visitors, especially those with walking difficulties, are advised to wear stout shoes or boots and suitable clothing as the tours continue even if it rains. It's recommended on the website that you make reservations early to tour the gardens when they're open between April and October "to avoid disappointment."

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The Queen's Garden at Buckingham Palace

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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. Called the Queen's garden, it is where Queen Elizabeth II holds her summer garden parties. The central feature of the garden is a 3-acre lake created in the 19th century. Other highlights include a 156-meter herbaceous border, the wisteria-clad summerhouse, the rose garden and one of Britain's biggest garden ornaments — a 15-foot Waterloo Vase carved from a single piece of marble weighing an estimated 20 tons. It also includes the palace tennis court, where King George VI played Wimbledon champion Fred Perry in the 1930s. Timing and a little bit of luck are needed to see this garden. It is only open for tours during August and September and then only when the queen is not in residence. Tours are limited to 25 visitors.

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The queen's gardens at Sandringham

Photo: Martin Pettitt/flickr

Sandringham Estate is the queen's private estate and is located on 20,000 acres of land near the village of Sandringham in Norfolk. The 59 acres of gardens are considered to be the finest of all the royal gardens and include peaceful woodland walks, dramatic rockeries, a formal garden with pleached lime avenues and an intimate stream walk. The gardens, house and museum are open daily from the end of March to the end of October, save for a week in July.

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The gardens at Hampton Court Palace

Photo: Sarah G Perun/Wikimedia Commons

Hampton Court Palace is a royal palace that King Henry VIII built for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey about 1514 in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Wolsey fell from favor in 1529, and the palace was passed to the king, who enlarged it. 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. Special items of interest include the Great Vine, which was planted in 1768 and produces grapes sold on the grounds in season; the symmetrical Privy garden based on a 1702 design; Home Park, 700 acres of deer park with water features that attract a wide range of birds; the Palace Maze begun in 1690; and a series of other gardens including the Rose Garden, the Great Fountain Garden and the Lower Orangery Exotics Garden. The gardens are open year round.

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The gardens at the Castle of Mey

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Castle Mey in Caithness, the most northerly inhabited castle on the British mainland, was acquired by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1952 after the death of her husband, King George VI. She renovated and restored it and created the gardens that delight visitors today. The gardens remain much as they were in the Queen Mother's time, although the property now belongs to Prince Charles. The variety of plants has been greatly expanded. Visitors will see marigolds, pansies, dahlias, primulas and 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. The gardens are open from May 1 until Sept. 30, although some closure dates are likely.

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The gardens at Glamis Castle

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Glamis Castle, located in the foothills of Angus Glens 45 minutes north of Perth and considered the most beautiful castle in 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 glorious spectacle of fall color. Garden highlights include an Italian garden laid out by Countess Cecilia, the Queen Mother's mother, in 1910, a nature trail, a Pinetum featuring a variety of exotic trees laid out by the 13th Earl in 1870 and a four-acre brick-walled kitchen garden. The gardens are open from March 30 to October 31.

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The gardens at Windsor Great Park

Photo: Colin Smith/Wikimedia Commons

The Great Park was once part of a vast Norman hunting forest that was enclosed in the late 13th century. The 5,000 acres of parkland that includes a mix of formal avenues, gardens, woodland, open grassland and a deer park, was for many centuries the private hunting ground of Windsor Castle. 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, which was dammed and flooded in 1753 and was the largest man-made body of water in the British Isles until the great reservoirs were created.

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Wisley in Surrey

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There are four Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) gardens, which are open to the public year-round: Wisley in Surrey, Hyde Hall in Essex, Rosemoor in Devon and Harlow Carr in Yorkshire.

The garden at Wisley is the flagship garden of the RHS and has evolved into a world-class garden since the site was gifted to the society in 1903. Wisley is popular with visitors for its richly planted borders, luscious rose gardens and the state-of-the-art glasshouse. The gardens are open every day except for Christmas.

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Hyde Hall in Essex

Photo: Acabashi/Wikimedia Commons

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

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Rosemoor in Devon

Photo: Kerry Garratt/flickr

Once the home of Lady Anne and her mother in the 1930s, this garden was also a Red Cross refuge during the bombing of London in World War II. Rosemoor was gifted to the RHS in 1988. The gardens there now include the national collection of Cornus kousa (Kousa dogwood), a charming cottage garden and a spectacular display of roses. Rosemoor is open every day except Christmas.

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Harlow Carr in Yorkshire

Photo: Allan Harris/flickr

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. The RHS acquired the gardens in 2001 in a merger with the NHS. The gardens are known now for spectacular displays of color at every turn in the garden paths. Favorites include colorful candelabra primulas along a stream, blue poppies in the Meconopsis trial garden, and many different geranium species. Be sure to include the Alpine House on your must-see list. Harlow Carr is open all year around except for Christmas.