UK parks and free public gardens: readers’ travel tips | Parks and green spaces

Winning tip: Menai marvel, Bangor

Treborth Botanic Garden in Bangor, north Wales, is owned by Bangor University and sits beside the beautiful Menai Strait at the gateway to Anglesey. The Wales coastal path passes through, and it is very popular with locals and visitors alike. It has not only stunning outside areas, including a Chinese garden, but also glasshouses (though these are still currently closed to the public). An army of volunteers, the “Friends of Treborth Botanic Garden” help keep it looking its best and run plant sales and other events. It’s a lovely place to volunteer, or just a tranquil garden to spend some time in.
Theresa Shaw


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Guardian Travel readers’ tips

Every week we ask our readers for recommendations from their travels. A selection of tips will be featured online and may appear in print. To enter the latest competition visit the readers’ tips homepage

Behind the green door, Swansea

Singleton Park Botanical Gardens
Photograph: Joan Gravell/Alamy

Every time I visit my sister-in-law in Swansea, the first place I head for is Singleton Park’s Botanical Gardens. It’s always a thrill slipping in through the anonymous-looking green door in the red-brick wall to discover the secret it’s keeping – towering herbaceous borders that are simply breathtaking. If this was all there was to see, you’d potter home more than happy. But it’s only the entrance and the long path leads to a haven of tranquillity blooming with many more delights and surprises including … but I’ll leave them for you to discover.

Ferry over the Tamar, Devon/Cornwall

Mount Edgcumbe Country Park
Photograph: Elinor Scott

Mount Edgcumbe Country Park in Torpoint, Cornwall, is the estate of a Tudor house overlooking Plymouth Sound and the River Tamar, now owned by Cornwall and Plymouth councils. The trip to get there on the little Cremyll foot ferry – bicycles accepted – from Plymouth is part of the fun (there’s also the Torpoint car ferry). The Grade I-listed gardens include rose, American, French, Italian and New Zealand gardens, a dell with tree ferns and the national camellia collection. There are spectacular views from the folly, a walk along the South West Coast Path to Kingsand village, two cafes (now open, with Covid-safe practices), and craft shops in the old stables.
Elinor Scott

Regency promenading, Shrewsbury

Aerial view of the Dingle, Quarry Park, Shrewsbury
Photograph: kev303/Getty Images

The Quarry park in Shrewsbury has been the perfect place to picnic and promenade since the 17th century, when the ladies of the town would enjoy a stroll along the banks of the River Severn, which loops elegantly around it. Today the public park has lost none of its charm and is easily reachable from the city centre. The jewel in its crown is the Dingle, a sunken flower garden with thousands of blooms sending lovely fragrances into the air, a credit to the town’s longtime parks superintendent, Percy Thrower. Follow the one-way system as you stroll and enjoy a homemade ice-cream at the Quarry cafe as you pass.

Ready to rock, North Yorkshire

Aysgarth Rock Garden, Wensleydale, North Yorkshire
Photograph: Bridget Mellor

Aysgarth Edwardian Rock Garden in Wensleydale is a Grade II-listed enchanting grotto of huge blocks of weathered limestone, with a spring-fed waterfall and 300 varieties of plants including ferns and alpines. It was commissioned in the Edwardian era by Frank Sayer Graham, a game dealer who made his money in silver rabbit furs and rare gulls’ eggs, to show off his wealth and plant knowledge. Lovingly restored, it’s a little oasis of charm and peace, open daily.
Bridget Mellor

Secret garden, Leeds

Temple Newsam Park, Leeds
Photograph: Debbie Rolls

Leeds council’s Temple Newsam park has rhododendron walks, ornamental lakes, laburnum arches, bluebell woods and formal gardens. Tucked away, and missed by many, is a superb 18th-century walled garden. Red bricks shelter stunning borders and central rose beds. I like to walk through the bougainvillea-filled glasshouse, pause to marvel at the varieties of coleus in the national collection, then sit on one of the many benches surrounded by a medley of scents and the buzz of the apiary’s bees. There are fees to enter the historic house and rare-breed farm, but the gardens and parkland are free.
Debbie Rolls

Diarist’s delight, East Sussex

Southover Grange gardens, Lewes
Photograph: Paul Mansfield/Getty Images

My favourite public garden is Southover Grange in Lewes. This garden played an important part in my life for many years and I feel nostalgic just thinking about it! It’s the garden of Southover Grange house, built in 1542, where the diarist John Evelyn once lived. The garden is divided into several “rooms” around the old house. There’s a lawn with an ancient mulberry tree, the Winterbourne stream running through, and colourful flowerbeds. The garden teas are another major attraction – sit on a bench with a cup of tea and delicious cake. [See footnote]
Jane Golding

Dun wandering, Montrose, Angus

The east walled garden at the House of Dun
Photograph: Brian Chapple/National Trust for Scotland

Enter the House of Dun walled garden and it’s easy to imagine you are a fine Edwardian lady taking a promenade around the formal yet cottage-style garden. Rose-covered arbours dotted around the sun-warmed stone walls are the perfect spot to sit and relax. Breathing in jasmine, sweet peas and roses, the years slip away and you could be of any time. Gazing at the windows, you can ponder the lives lived within, from the grand rooms to the servants’ attics. All had at least a most beautiful view. Buildings, cafe, shop and toilets are closed, but the gardens are free to enter.
Katrina Bruce

May the Forth be with you, Edinburgh

Starbank Park, with Firth of Forth views.
Photograph: Janet McArthur

Starbank Park on the beautiful coast in Edinburgh is a wee hidden gem! With views clear across the Firth of Forth, on a sunny day there is nothing like it. A team of passionate and green-fingered volunteers maintain stunning floral beds in the front park, and climbing the steep bank to the top rewards you with a different type of garden: of carefully curated trees and all variety of blooms. The park even hosts two mini free libraries – one for adults and one for smaller readers. Everyone is welcome to spend time in the peaceful rose garden or lost in thought gazing out to sea. It’s simply gorgeous!
Victoria Buchanan

Promise you a rose garden, Norfolk

rose arch at peter beales

The Peter Beales rose gardens in Attleborough, Norfolk, are brilliant for all the family and free to enter all year round. Beautiful rose arches are magnificent if you visit in the summer: the smell itself is enough to keep everyone entranced. It’s also accessible: our youngest son has severe learning difficulties and the gardens were very accommodating to his needs when we visited. There is a restaurant, but it was a bit crowded the day we went so we did not use it, though prices were competitive and the menu looked inviting. There is also a shop selling plants and flowers.
Fiona D

This article was amended on 25 August 2020 to correct the credit on the lead photograph and on 28 August to note that the kiosk at Southover Grange, Lewes is not open at the moment.

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