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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 28 May, 2023
Expert travel writer: Annabelle Thorpe

The rolling hills and picturesque villages of the Cotswolds are dotted with historic manor houses, castles and estates – and these, in turn, come with some of the most glorious gardens in the country.

Landscapes designed by Capability Brown and William Kent sit alongside contemporary, recently-restored gardens; vast National Trust-owned estates roll out around small, privately-owned gardens that have been a lifetimes work. The affluence of the Cotswolds means that most of the gardens are pristinely kept, and most offer interesting guided tours explaining the garden’s history and current gardening techniques.

Some are dedicated to aesthetics, some to specific species, but there’s also a significant number advocating and showcasing leading thinking on home-grown produce.

Recommendations

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Hidcote Manor Garden

Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom (UK)

A beautiful garden overgrown with shrubs in front of Hidcote Manor House

This National Trust property is one of the best known and most influential Arts & Crafts gardens in Britain, with its linked ‘rooms’ of hedges, rare trees, shrubs and herbaceous border.

Adult price: £10

Best for ages 18+

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Highgrove Gardens

Tetbury, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Exterior of the front of the house covered in shrubbery

A beautiful, organic and sustainable garden, Highgrove is also the private home of King Charles III.

Adult price: £29.50

Best for ages 18+

Painswick Rococo Garden

Stroud, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom (UK)

A pathway leading up to a red gazebo in a garden

Dotted with follies, quirky buildings, colourful borders and unusual shrubs and plants, Painswick dates back to 1799, and is the UK’s only complete surviving rococo garden.

Adult price: £10

Best for ages 18+

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Raymond Blanc Gardening School

Great Milton, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

People on the cooking course collecting vegetables from the garden

Providing much of the home-grown produce for the chef’s world-famous cooking school are 11 enchanting gardens and orchards. These interactive day courses in the gardens offer advice, ideas and inspiration for growing your own produce, from the best in the business.

Adult price: £150

Min age 13

Best for ages 16+

Duration: 1 day

When: Selected dates

Frequency: weekly

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Rousham House & Gardens

Bicester, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Exterior view of Rousham House, built in golden stone

Owned by the same family since 1635, Rousham is a gloriously untouched garden, free of commercialisation, still very much as originally designed by famous 18th-century gardener William Kent.

Adult price: £8

Min age 15

Best for ages 18+

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Sudeley Castle

Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom (UK)

The exterior of a well-kept castle on a sunny day.

A history-rich, Grade I listed castle dating back to 1443, visited by King Henry VII. The big draw here, though, is the ten themed gardens covering 15 acres, including a reconstructed Elizabethan parterre garden.

Best for ages 13+

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Westonbirt Arboretum

Tetbury, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
A curved, modern bridge over a lake with many trees in the background.

The National Arboretum is one of Europe’s most beautiful collections of trees, with over 15,000 different species and a stunning treetop walkway.

Adult price: £11

Best for ages 13+

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

Most gardens are easy to do independently, but there are plenty of local companies offering day (or longer) escorted tours to some of the best-known gardens. Public transport is, however, limited and many gardens often lie some distance from stops. Self-driving is your best bet.

When to do it

The Cotswolds gets packed in late spring and summer – if you want to visit gardens then (when they are admittedly at their most beautiful), go on a week-day or first thing in the morning.

Autumn days, when the foliage blazes and the air is crisp and cool, can be wonderful and less crowded, if you’re not concerned with seeing summer blooms.

Destination guides

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Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

The Cotswolds

The Cotswolds, United Kingdom (UK)

Silhouettes of cottages on a misty day. Winters morning in the Cotswold village of Ebrington, Gloucestershire

One of England’s most beautiful regions – a patchwork landscape of idyllic countryside, postcard-perfect villages and cosy historic boutique hotels.

Stratford-upon-Avon

Warwickshire, United Kingdom (UK)

An overview of a public park with a large open grass area with people seated down.

Picturesque Stratford-upon-Avon combines theatre, museums and architecture to give a unique insight into Shakespeare’s life.

Oxford

Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

External view of the beautiful round building, in golden stone, with domed roof

One of Britain’s most beautiful and historic cities, graced by heartstopping architecture and home to the world’s second-oldest university.