10 of the best family-friendly gardens for UK days out
Our pick of the best UK gardens for a great family day out, from big name family favourites to smaller quirkier gardens – all included in Gardener's World's 2-for-1 ticket offer
When it comes to exploring the great outdoors, gardens may have a reputation for appealing to an older crowd, but these lush spaces can also be a great place for a family day out. Children can enjoy a day in the fresh air, roam freely around lawns, meadows and woodlands. Often filled with colour and wildlife there is plenty to keep kids excited.
Many gardens have now started catering for children with nature trails, adventure playgrounds and interactive experiences. And with the Gardeners' World May issue, you can get two adult entries for the price of 1 at 416 gardens across the UK, so you can make big savings whilst enjoying a family day out.
How do I get a 2-for-1 Gardens card?
The 2-for-1 Gardens card and guide is available with the Gardeners' World May issue, which is on sale in stores and online now. Buy the Gardeners’ World May value pack, which includes your reusable 2-for-1 Gardens card, valid at 416 gardens nationwide, and save on family days out! The bundle also includes 6 FREE packs of seeds and 10% off plant shopping.
How does the 2-for-1 Gardens deal work?
Present your card at any of the 416 gardens included in the scheme for 2023 to get two adult admissions for the price of one.
Are there any restrictions?
The 2-for-1 Gardens card is reusable up until April 2024. Some gardens may have restrictions such as bank holidays weekends so please check the guide or online directory before travelling.
- Find a 2-for-1 Garden near you
Our pick of the best 2-for-1 Gardens for a family day out, from famous favourites to smaller spaces
1. Brodick Castle, Scotland
- Best for history lovers
Adult ticket £14.50 | 2-for-1 Saving £14.50 | Under 5s go free | Partial access for the disabled | Parking spaces available
Children can run, climb, and swing through the Isle Be Wild adventure play area at Brodick Castle. There are two sections, one for toddlers and younger children and another for older kids. This woodland playground features zip wires, high towers, bridges and jungle-style walkways. Children can also follow along the Fairy and Legends Trail to complete their magical day out.
Inside the castle, enjoy the new immersive visitor experience with Victorian arcade, mood lighting and sounds.
In the formal gardens, find waterfalls and bathing pools. Terraced lawns, walled gardens offer colour across the seasons. Keep an eye out for bold rhododendrons, wildflower meadow and views out across the mountain and sea.
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Pros: Lots to do, activities for children of all ages
Cons: On the pricier side
Tickets: Brodick Castle website
2. Painswick Rococo Garden, Gloucestershire
- Best for children that love to explore
Adult ticket £10.50 | 2-for-1 Saving £10.50 | Under 4s go free | Dogs permitted on the lead |Partial access for the disabled | Parking spaces available
Laid out as a pleasure garden in the 1740s Painswick Rococo Garden celebrates all things frivolous, fanciful and fun - and very little has changed since then. At Painswick Rococo Gardens children are encouraged to run free, play and explore.
Children can enjoy exploring the hillside maze, with grown-ups directing from above. There is also a rustic play area with woodland swing, climbing frame, balancing logs and its own charming wooden folly. Keep your eyes peeled for a fairytale castle, inspired by Schloss Neushwanstein, carved into an old beech tree.
Nestled into a picturesque Cotswold valley, you can absorb the 6 acres of vistas, follies and woodland at your leisure. Visit in late spring to find tulips, roses, lavender and campanula in bloom.
Pros: Relaxed and fun atmosphere
Cons: Maze might be a little simple for older children
Tickets: Painswick Rococo Garden website
3. Paradise Park, Sussex
- Best for families with children of different ages
Adult ticket £10.99 | 2-for-1 Saving £10.99 | Under 3s go free | Dogs permitted on the lead |Full access for the disabled | Parking spaces available | Baby changing facilities |
Paradise Park is a great spot for a family day out. Discover the hidden Paradise Garden, complete with small lakes, waterfalls and fountains. It is also the home to impressive plant houses. Travel through the desert zone filled with plants from America and Africa before visiting the Mediterranean glass house. There is also an oriental style garden, complete with Koi carp.
Follow the Sussex History trail as you explore the gardens and find hand-crafted models of local landmarks. You can also experience the sights and sounds of prehistoric times on the Dinosaur Safari, with full sized replicas of prehistoric creatures from sea life to famous predators.
This garden is also complete with an extensive play zone. Outside, there is Tyrannosaurus Towers and the Triassic Treetop Adventure Play for children to climb, slide and crawl. Inside, there is soft play with a ball pit, tunnels and slides.
Pros: Indoor and outdoor activities
Cons: Likely to be busy in school holidays
Tickets: Paradise Park website
4. Witley Court, Worcester
- Best for wildlife lovers
Adult ticket up to £11.30 | 2-for-1 Saving up to (price varies) £11.30 | Under 5s go free | Dogs permitted on the lead |Partial access for the disabled | Parking spaces | Baby changing facilities |
Travel back in time at Witley Court, as you visit this romantic garden and ruined mansion. In the formal gardens, you will find a beautiful lake and a lovingly restored east parterre garden. Keep an eye out for the recently restored Perseus and Andromeda fountain.
Children can enjoy the Witley Court adventure playground, nestled amongst the woodland. Cross the wobbly bridge to reach the enchanting tree house beyond. Complete with slides, nets and rope walks there is plenty for children to enjoy.
Younger children can find musical instruments inspired by nature, as well as basket swing and animal rides. Pick up a wildlife spotter sheet as you keep your eyes peeled for birds, squirrels and rabbits.
Pros: Lots to do, good for English Heritage members
Cons: Spotting the wildlife is not guaranteed
Tickets: Witley Court website
5. Leeds Castle, Kent
- Best for a full day out
Adult ticket £35 | 2-for-1 Gardens saving £35 | Full access for the disabled | Baby changing facilities | Parking spaces |
Visit Leeds Castle for a complete family day out.
As though plucked from a fairytale, the maze at Leeds Castle is made from 2,400 yew trees and plans a queen’s crown. At the heart of the maze is a magical underground grotto, visit to find twists and turns and mythical creatures, who show you the way back above ground.
There are two adventure playgrounds, designed for older and younger children. Designed for the under 6, the Squires’ Courtyard Playground is a place for little ones to swing across zip lines, play in sand pits and on slides. Whilst under 14s can explore the wooden replica castle in the Knights’ Stronghold Adventure Playground. The castle even has its very own Obstacle Course! Tickets also include Falconry displays, be awestruck as Hawks and Falcons swoop overhead. There is also a Birds of Prey centre, home to many varieties of birds from Owl to Eagle.
Highlights in the garden include the Princess Alexandra Gardens, which is beautifully framed by the castle backdrop. A romantic profusion of roses, lupins and poppies fill the cottage garden with colour and fragrance. Meanwhile, the Mediterranean terrace is packed with sun-lowers, including palms and cacti.
Full the MFM family days out review of Leeds Castle.
Pros: Lots to do
Cons: Very pricey
Tickets: Leeds Castle website
6. Dartington Trust Gardens, Devon
- Best for a relaxed day out
Adult ticket £7 | 2-for-1 Gardens saving £7 | Partial access for the disabled | Parking spaces |
The nature trail at Dartington Trust Gardens offers fun activities to help younger visitors explore, including bug hotels and den building. The children's trail map is included in your ticket price, so make sure to pick one up when you arrive! You can also follow the Deer trail, which includes the deer park, to uncover the 700-year history of the people who lived here, the landscape, the deer you might spot on your travels.
You can also explore the 26-acre Grade II listed gardens, which boasts colourful borders, lawned terraces, wooded glades and impressive vistas. As you explore the gardens, look out for the sculptures hidden in the landscape, from Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure or The Bronze Donkey. There are also many ancient trees, including a 1,500-year-old yew.
Pros: Lovely landscape, good for teaching children about the arts, ecology and social justice
Cons: There is an extra fee for some of the kids activities like the children's cinema
Tickets: Dartington Trust Gardens website
7. Sizergh Castle Gardens, Cumbria
- Best for children with a sense of adventure
Adult ticket up to £13 | 2-for-1 Gardens saving £13 | Partial access for the disabled | Parking spaces available | Baby changing facilities |
Spend a family day out at Sizergh Castle Gardens. The ‘children’s scallop trail’ allows younger visitors to trace the history of Sizergh in a fun and interactive way, pick up a trail sheet when you enter the house and spot the hidden scallop shells.
Children over 3 are also invited to test their agility on the ‘wild play trail’, follow the clues to reach the end using the climbing wall, balance beams, rope swings and stepping stones. If you find yourself visiting over the summer, keep an eye out for the beautiful butterflies and other wildlife which make Sizergh their home.
Developed over 800 years, these elegant and richly planted gardens offer much to see across the seasons. These gardens are complete with formal terraces, kitchen garden, apple orchard, mirror lake, wildflower meadow and views out to the Lake District landscape. Visit the garden plant donation stall to take a piece of Sizergh home with you, fruits and vegetables or potted sweet peas are all on offer when in season.
Pros: Activities for all ages, good for National Trust members
Cons: Beautiful butterflies are only in the garden over the summer
Tickets: Sizergh Castle Gardens website
8. Gibside, Tyne and Wear
- Best for children that love everything outdoorsy
Adult ticket up to £14 | 2-for-1 Gardens saving £14 | Dogs permitted on the lead | Full access for the disabled | Parking spaces | Baby changing facilities |
For family fun, discover the Explorer trail at Gibside. On this route, look out for wooden animal sculptures, adventure play areas, open green spaces and marvel at the 600-acre woodland. In the Strawberry Castle play area, enjoy zip-lines and climbing frames, children can soar through the sky on the bucket and Tarzan swings.
Once you reach the West Wood, have some forest fun! Crawl along log bridges and clamber over tree trunks in the Nature Playscape, put engineering skills to the test in the Den Building area or test your balance on the Low Ropes challenge obstacle course. Try downloading Go Orienteering or the Geocaching App to discover even more.
Designed with views and vistas in mind, this is a rare example of an 18th-century landscape garden. This is one of the grandest designed landscapes in the north of England, hosting neo-classical chapel, walled garden and ornamental ponds. Spot wildlife such as ride kites, willow tits and roe deer. With over 720 acres to explore, this is definitely a complete day out.
Pros: Plenty to do
Cons: With over 720 acres to explore it can be a little overwhelming
Tickets: Gibside website
- Best budget day out
Adult ticket £5 | 2-for-1 Gardens saving £5 | Dogs permitted on the lead | Partial access for the disabled | Parking spaces |
Immerse yourself in the story of the Gruffalo, at Ardkinglas Woodland Garden. Storyboards with extracts from the book are dotted throughout this enchanting woodland, to connect every spot with this beloved children's story. Keep your eyes peeled for sculptures of Mouse and the Gruffalo, which are hidden in the trees.
In the lower woodland, explore the spell binding Fairy trail, looking out for the fairies and elves who have made Ardkinglas their home. All money placed in the Fairy Trail wishing well is donated to a local charity every 3 months.
Set against a spectacular backdrop of mountains and forest, this garden is filled with many champion trees. Visit in the first half of the year to find rhododendrons in bloom. As well as the ancient mill, woodland lochan and scriptorium there is also a visible and thriving population of red squirrels for you to spot.
Pros: Affordable family day out
Cons: Children looking to meet the Gruffalo will be disappointed
Tickets: Ardkinglas website
10. Riverhill Himalayan Gardens
- Best for children who love to build things
Adult ticket £11 | 2-for-1 Gardens saving £11 | Dogs permitted on the lead | Partial access for the disabled | Parking spaces | Baby changing facilities |
Explore Riverhill Himalayan Gardens and enjoy this unconventional garden.
Climb ‘Little Everest’ for the perfect picnic spot and views out across the Weald of Kent, looking out for the Riverhill beehives on your way up. At weekends and in school holidays, the gardens are visited by an elusive resident yeti. You can join him in the Chestnut woods, collecting leaves and building dens, make sure to treat him with kindness and never chase a yeti!
Young explorers can also enjoy letting off steam in the adventure playground, there is a twisting slide, cargo nets and plenty to climb and swing between. The hedge maze was designed by the world’s leading maze designer, Adrian Fisher, based on Tibetan carvings, see if you can solve it both clockwise and anti-clockwise.
Riverhill is also home to a spectacular collection of historic rhododendrons, azaleas, rare shrubs and Japanese maples. Visit in spring to find carpets of bluebells. As you wander through Riverhill Himalayan Gardens, they change from manicured terraces with frothing fountains, to the wild jungle garden and Edwardian Rock Garden carpeting with deep green ferns.
Pros: The resident yeti is something different and totally unique!
Cons: Resident yeti only visits at the weekends and in school holidays.
Tickets: Riverhill Himalayan Gardens website
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