Now that spring is finally showing signs of sticking around, it’s the perfect time to venture out of hibernation and see Bristol’s beautiful gardens in bloom. From tiny Knot Gardens hidden behind tall Georgian town houses, to unforgettable estates in rolling countryside, here are our pick of Bristol’s best gardens...

Bristol Zoo Gardens

An exotic oasis in the desirable Clifton area of Bristol, Bristol Zoo Gardens is set within 12 acres of beautifully colourful gardens, unusual trees, shrubs and plants (such as the monkey puzzle tree, tree ferns, wollemi pine and the purple-berried flax lily), and one of Bristol’s most important collections of plants. Visit a buzzing nectar garden, butterfly forest, rock gardens, Lemur Garden and the ‘Smarty Plants’ area, see rare plant species or wander along long avenues flanked by vividly coloured seasonal borders before relaxing on the lush green lawns.

Bristol Zoo Gardens

Bristol Cathedral Gardens 

The serene and award-winning gardens beyond the Cloister of Bristol Cathedral are just as heavenly as the vaulted ceilings, exquisite chapels and tranquillity inside. Surrounded by colourful, scented blooms and elegant sculptures it’s easy to forget you’re in the heart of the city. Pop into the Cathedral’s Courtyard Café for one of their very good value and extremely delicious cakes to enjoy in the gardens on a sunny day.

The University of Bristol Botanic Garden

Not far from the vast green expanse of The Downs, you’ll find this beautiful garden filled with a huge diversity of plants set against the backdrop of a handsome Victorian house. The 1.77 hectare garden tells stories about plant evolution and is home to four core plant collections: Evolution, Mediterranean Climate Regions, Local Flora and Rare Native Plants, and Useful Plants. Large glasshouses display exotic plants including cacti, orchids and a sacred lotus collection.

University of Bristol Botanic Garden

Avon Gorge and Downs wildlife gardens

At one end of the spectacular Clifton Suspension Bridge is a display of the rare plants that grow in the Avon Gorge. Over 30 kinds of nationally scarce plants grow in the Gorge, making it one of the top botanical sites in the UK.  Some of its Whitebeam trees grow naturally here and nowhere else on Earth and it’s the only place where Bristol rock-cress and Bristol onion grow wild in the UK. Here’s another fact for you… the bridge’s designer, Victorian engineer and Bristol hero Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was even instrumental in saving a special plant himself – the Autumn Squill.  A lady named Mrs Glennie noticed the plant growing on the site of the bridge and spotted that the construction was going to destroy it. Brunel halted building and had his workers move it to another site. It is still growing in the gorge to this day.

Blaise Castle Estate

Blaise Castle Estate’s impressive 19th century mansion house (now a museum) is surrounded by 400 acres of parkland, dramatic gorge and a folly castle which featured in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. You'll also find ‘evidence’ of Bristol’s mythical Giants, Goram and Ghyston in the grounds – seek out Goram’s Chair, soap dish and ‘tantrum’ footprint. Hidden behind the walls of the estate, Blaise Community Garden, established in the 1800s, is affectionately known as the Secret Garden. Here you'll find three community-nurtured beehives, set up by one of Bristol's top 10 green businesses (according to The Guardian), Bee the Change. In June 2013 the Friends of Blaise and Henbury Conservation Society were invited to restore a part of the garden and create Henbury’s first community kitchen garden. The beautiful thatched dairy is beside the garden and adds to the fairy-tale feel of the spot.  

Blaise

Wild Place Project

There’s more than just exotic animals like lemurs, meerkats, giraffes and grey wolves to discover at Wild Place Project. Visitors can see ‘Stop the Spread’ - an award-winning RHS Chelsea Flower show-garden created by landscape designer Jo Thompson and commissioned by The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera). It includes a pretty sunken garden of herbaceous plants, woodland trees and shade-loving plants, dramatically contrasted with a symbolic avenue of bare and lifeless trees and an island holding a single seedling in a black pool.
The Sanctuary Garden boasts ornamental and edible plants, and is so-named as it housed air raid shelters during World War II and would have been an area of sanctuary for nearby families in war-torn Britain. It now provides sanctuary to plants in need of conservation. There’s also Tower Meadow, a large green space perfect for picnics and letting kids run around in, with the Hollywood Tower at is centre. The tower’s clock was made by Dent who constructed 'Big Ben'.

Ashton Court Estate

This sprawling parkland is just minutes from the centre of Bristol and offers sweeping views across the entire city. The site of Bristol International Balloon Fiesta since 1979 (this year is the 40th anniversary), the estate is popular with mountain bikers, dog walkers and horse riders. The formal sunken gardens beside the mansion house are lovely in spring when hundreds of daffodils line the walkways and 160 species of rose give off a heady scent around the rose garden.

Somerset

Image- Ashton Court Estate, credit Paul Box

BBC Bristol wildlife garden

BBC Bristol on Whiteladies Road is the base for the BBC’s Natural History Unit and has produced captivating shows like Planet Earth II, Springwatch and Countryfile. The plain lawn that once sat at the front of the building has been replaced by a small wildlife garden, created in partnership with Avon Wildlife Trust. This colourful roadside oasis is a reminder that nature can thrive even in the heart of the city. The building also has a rooftop garden, which is included on the BBC studios tour.

Brandon Hill Nature Reserve

Managed by the Avon Wildlife Trust, Brandon Hill is in the very heart of Bristol just off one of its main independent shopping areas – Park Street. It’s a haven for wildlife and wildflowers and the views across the city from the terrace and the top of Cabot Tower are stupendous.  The meadow is full of cowslips in spring and ox-eye daisies, yellow rattle and knapweed in summer. Look out for frogs, toads and newts in the pond or for birds and squirrels darting between the trees in the woodland.

Brandon Hill

Image - Cabot Tower and Brandon Hill, credit Paul Box

Red Lodge

The Red Lodge is an historic Elizabethan house tucked away near on Park Row near Bristol’s busy shopping area, Park Street. One of the Lodge’s finest features is the little walled garden. In the centre, is an Elizabethan-style knot garden, showcasing an intricate design which reflects plasterwork ceilings in the house. The surrounding borders are filled with plants which would have been found in English gardens before 1630. The garden is at its best in late May/June when the roses are in bloom. Red Lodge is open to the public four days a week from 1 April to 31 December.

Floating Ballast Seed Garden

Working with the University of Bristol Botanic Garden and Bristol City Council, contemporary arts centre Arnolfini has transformed a disused concrete barge on Bristol's Floating Harbour opposite Castle Park and created ‘Seeds of Change’ - a permanent Ballast Seed Garden. Populated with foreign seeds that were once mixed up in the ships’ ballast, there are a variety of non-native plants, creating a living history of the city's trade and maritime past. Opportunities to visit the garden by boat are arranged through Arnolfini’s event programme.

Kings Weston Estate

Set in over 300 acres of parkland, the Grade l* listed, privately-owned Kings Weston House was designed by Sir John Vanbrugh (architect for Blenheim Palace). The estate was once famous throughout Europe for its gardens and spectacular views across the River Avon and Bristol Channel towards Wales, attracting royalty and aristocracy from afar. The Famous landscape designer Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown is said to have visited here several times in 1777 and suggested alterations to the areas (stables and walled gardens) surrounding the house and Jane Austen also mentions the estate in two of her novels; Emma and Northanger Abbey. As well as historic buildings, the park contains a formal lily pond, woodland and is home to the oldest avenue of lime trees in Bristol.

Kings Weston House

Berkeley Castle

The Berkeley Castle Estate spreads over 6,000 acres in Gloucestershire’s Berkeley Vale. The castle has been home to the Berkeley family for over 800 years and is surrounded by terraced gardens that specialise in scent - the roses are particularly splendid in June. Rare plants, shrubs and trees can be found here too, as well as a gorgeous lily pond (originally built as a swimming pool during the time of the last Earl and his American Countess) and the Great Lawn. Within the old walled kitchen garden at Berkeley Castle are the Yurt restaurant, Plant Centre and Butterfly House, where over 42 species of butterflies fly freely in an indoor garden.

Bowood House and Gardens

This fine stately home is set among one of ‘Capability’ Brown’s most beautiful parks, which contains a fabulous collection of trees and shrubs. The gardens include lawns gently sloping to the twinkling waters of the lake, against a backdrop of chalk downs. Garden highlights include the Cascade, Doric Temple, Terrace Gardens and a huge adventure playground for children with pirate ship. Visitors can also book a guided tour of the 4-acre private walled garden at the rear of the house. Bowood House and Gardens are open to visitors from now until the 4th of November, while the separate woodland garden containing bright azaleas and rhododendrons, is open between late April and early June each year.

Bowood gardens

National Trust Tyntesfield

Almost unchanged since 1900, the characterful gardens at the National Trust’s Tyntesfield Estate offer long views across the rolling parkland and Yeo Valley. Romantic gazebos in the rose garden, a pristine croquet lawn and the produce-rich kitchen garden are wonderful to roam around. In summer, more than 10,000 plants in the beds are a colourful contrast to the spectacular Victorian Gothic Revival house above. In December you can see the estate after dark when the paths, trees and gothic house are lit up in colourful lights.

Westonbirt Arboretum

Visit one of the finest collections of trees and shrubs in the world, on the edge of the market town of Tetbury in the Cotswolds around 25 miles from Bristol city centre. Managed by the Forestry Commission, Westonbirt Arboretum is magical whatever the season. The Acer Glade in the Old Arboretum is renowned as one of the best spots in the country for autumn leaf peeping, full of blazing ambers and fiery reds (October is usually the best month). It’s a riot of colour in spring too,  when the rhododendrons, magnolias and azaleas come into bloom and a sea of bluebells covers the forest floor in Silk Wood (spring colour from March to May). Head to the treetop walkway for soaring views from the tree canopy.

Walkway westonbirt

Edible Bristol

Incredible Edible Bristol are a community movement made up of green-fingered volunteers who have planted over 30 edible gardens in parks, curb sides, street corners and station platforms around Bristol, showing that even the most urban of spaces have the potential to grow food. They aim to inspire and educate as well as providing free food for people and pollinators.

Barley Wood Walled Garden

Set in gorgeous North Somerset countryside, Barley Wood Walled Garden is a lovingly restored Victorian kitchen garden built for Henry Herbert Wills and his family in 1901. Blossoming fruit trees and wildlife-friendly plants in the borders are rich with colour in summertime. Beautiful views further gaze out towards Wrington Vale and the Mendip Hills. Events are regularly held in the garden and orchard, including the popular annual Wassail and summer solstice events. Produce grown here often makes its way onto the tables of The Ethicurean - an award-winning restaurant beside the garden. Fruit and veg is available for visitors to buy.

National Trust Dyrham Park

The walk (or shuttle bus!) down to this beautiful 17th-century mansion, garden and deer park has spellbinding views towards the Severn Valley and Welsh mountains. A herd of around 200 fallow deer roams freely among the 270 acres of ancient parkland. Visitors can get closer to these majestic creatures as part of the winter deer feed between December and March. The elegant West Garden boasts year-round colour from the colourful planted borders, wildflower orchard, mature trees and the picturesque Upper and Lower Pools. Pick up a take-away afternoon tea from The Courtyard Tearoom and relax in the beautiful gardens. Look out for daily tours depending upon the season. 

Dyrham Park

Pin it!

Related

Bristol Zoo Gardens
Animal Collection
Ring-tailed Lemur with baby

A visit to this city zoo is your passport for a day trip into an amazing world of animals, exhibits and other attractions

Bristol Cathedral
Cathedral/Minster
Bristol Cathedral

Much more than a fascinating building, being a fine example of a hall church, it is a centre of Bristol's history, civic life and culture.

University of Bristol Botanic Garden
Environmental Attraction
University of Bristol Botanic Garden

Discover over 4,500 stunning plant species, including rare and threatened plants, in this huge University collection

Wild Place Project
Country Park/Nature Reserve
Zebra

The Wild Place Project is Bristol’s new affordable and fun family attraction that will provide adventure, play and learning.

Blaise Castle House Museum and Estate
Museum
Blaise Castle House Museum and Estate

Unique mansion that houses some stunning period costumes and everyday Victorian objects, including model trains, dolls and toys

Ashton Court Estate
Garden
Ashton Court Estate

Historic 850-acre parkland with mansion, two pitch-and-putt golf courses, deer park, miniature railway, orienteering and nature trails

BBC Bristol Tours
Walking Tour
BBC Bristol Tours

Come and find out what goes on inside BBC Bristol, the regional television centre for the West of England.

Brandon Hill Nature Reserve
Country Park/Nature Reserve
Brandon Hill

Brandon Hill Nature Park is located in the city-centre and is a haven for wildlife. During spring and summer there are many beautiful flowers that blossom here in the park, which give the park some colour.

The Red Lodge Museum
Historic House/Palace
The Red Lodge Museum - Copyright Destination Bristol

A historic Elizabethan house, with a stunning walled garden and many original or otherwise completely restored features.

Castle Park and St Peter's Church
Garden
Castle Park Bristol - St Peter's Church

A picturesque park offering a quiet place to sit or stroll, right alongside the tranquil waters of the city harbour

Kings Weston House
Historic Venues
Kings Weston House

Kings Weston House was built between 1712 and 1719. Designed by Sir John Vanbrugh for Edward Southwell. Now a private home open to conferences, weddings, filming and public & private events.

Berkeley Castle
Castle/Fort
Aerial shot of Berkeley Castle

Berkeley Castle is a beautiful and historic Castle, begun in 1117 and still remains the home of the Berkeley family. It is a great day-out for all the family, hosting special events on bank holidays and during school holidays

Bowood House and Gardens
Historic House/Palace
Bowood House and Gardens

Outstanding 18th century mansion house estate.

National Trust - Tyntesfield
Historic House/Palace
National Trust - Tyntesfield

At its heart Tyntesfield is a Victorian country house and estate, which serves as a backdrop to the remarkable story of four generations of the Gibbs family. Their tale charts the accumulation of wealth from the guano trade, transformation of a Georgian house to a Victorian Gothic masterpiece and the collection of over 50,000 objects.

Dyrham Park
Historic House/Palace
National Trust's Dyrham Park

A stunning National Trust property, set in 265 acres of ancient deerpark, built between 1691 and 1702 for William Blathwayt.

Westonbirt The National Arboretum
Parkland/Woodland Garden
Westonbirt Arboretum

Arboretum with over 16,000 rare and beautiful trees, all set in 600 glorious, easy-to-stroll Cotswold acres