Autumn is one of the most wonderful times of the year to go touring in the UK. And as a green-fingered nation it’s our gardens that undoubtedly show the country off to its best advantage. Seed heads encrusted with early frost, golden grass swaying in the breeze, and flowering heathers in shades of red, purple, and pinks are just some of the wonders to behold.
Not to mention the magnificent red, gold and purple-clothed trees! Throughout the length and breadth of these islands, when it comes to gardens there are almost too many to choose from. If you fancy exploring this season, then read the Motorhome Protect round-up of the best autumnal gardens to explore right now.
Just make sure you get your motorhome insurance sorted before heading out on the roads. With the days getting shorter and weather turning wet and cold, touring can be more hazardous at this time of year.
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London
Established in 1759 the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew has drawn millions of visitors to this corner of south west London. There’s plenty to see here at any time of year but Kew's arboretum really comes into its own during the autumn. Its vast display of beautiful trees from around the world look truly glorious in the changing seasons.
If the weather takes a turn for the worse, then head inside to the celebrated Palm House. This glasshouse was designed by Decimus Burton in the 1840s and is a great place to warm up in an almost-tropical climate.
There are also numerous follies dotted around Kew harking back to its origins as an 18th Century royal pleasure garden. The most conspicuous is the 10-storey, 163-foot-high Pagoda. If you get tired, be sure to grab a well-earned coffee and cake at one of the on-site cafes.
Where to stay: A short trip west along the River Thames will bring you to the tranquil and traditional Walton on Thames Camping and Caravanning Club Site.
Long regarded as the Garden of England, Kent has countless stunning gardens to discover. Our favourite has to be this one, found just 12 miles east of the elegant town of Royal Tunbridge Wells. First taken over by the poet and writer Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson in the 1920s, the transformation of this garden was undoubtedly a labour of love for the two. Now cared for by the National Trust, the five-acre plot is spread over the site of a medieval moated manor.
Nestled in the heart of the Weald, the estate and its gardens are a shining example for horticultural enthusiasts whatever the season and weather. However, in autumn the most impressive display has to be found in the Cottage Garden. Featuring rich tones of fiery oranges, golden yellows and reds, it’s an Insta-worthy spectacle if ever there was one!
Be sure to make time for a woodland walk and to take in the beauty of the Purple Border in the Delos Garden. It’s at its best during the early autumn when it provides a welcome contrast to other colours in the garden.
If you’re visiting Sissinghurst then you must also visit one of Britain’s loveliest castles, Leeds Castle. Just 15 miles north, on the A20, this fairytale palace is great fun for all the family. Here you’ll find a castle maze, over 500 acres of sprawling gardens, castle-themed adventure playgrounds, and even a Go Ape Tree Top Adventure!
Where to stay: One of the closest places to park up is the well-maintained and spacious Still Acres Touring & Camping Site. With so much to do in this area, to get the most out of your visit you don’t want to be driving a long way every day.
Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey
This landscape arboretum near Godalming was carefully designed by its founder Dr Wilfred Fox to reflect the colours of each changing season. And while its collection of native trees looks pretty enough in autumn, it has to be the imported trees that offer those striking reds, yellows, and golds we love so much. Boasting Japanese, American and Norwegian maples, hickory, and tupelo, the trees paint a breathtaking picture across the landscape.
Wander through the arboretum during the autumn and you might catch the distinctive toffee-like scent of the katsura tree. It’s so distinctive that in German it’s called the ‘Kuchenbaum’ or ‘cake tree’!
The National Trust took full control of the arboretum in 1988. Since then, they've worked tirelessly to look after the land in a way that's true to Dr Fox's vision. If you’re feeling inspired to follow in Dr Fox’s footsteps and volunteer your time, then the National Trust is a great organisation to start with.
Take a look at our recent article on volunteering opportunities for outdoor lovers. There’s bound to be something to suit your interests. And of course, with your motorhome you’ve got the perfect place to stay! Just make sure your motorhome insurance is up to date before you travel.
Where to stay: On the edge of the North Downs and situated on the shore of a beautiful lake, Horsley Camping and Caravanning Club Site is perfect for fishing, relaxing and walking.
Sheffield Park and Garden, Sussex
This historic landscaped garden was originally laid out in the 18th Century by perhaps the most influential garden designer of all time, Capability Brown. It evolved further through the 20th Century with the work of its then owner Arthur Soames. Today its design centres around a series of four lakes and woodland. Indeed, in the autumn months its dazzling display of green, yellow and orange clad trees are reflected perfectly in the waters. An ideal spot for a classic picnic, if you bring plenty of blankets and hot chocolate!
Simply grab a map from reception and take your time walking the well-trodden paths and kicking your way through piles of fallen leaves. Before finally arriving for a glorious view of the Gothic mansion built for Lord Sheffield by James Wyatt. As with many popular gardens in autumn, pre-booking is needed to ensure entry on the day.
If you’re looking for something else to do during your visit, then just a mile south west of the garden lies the southern terminus of the vintage Bluebell Railway. What an entertaining and nostalgic way to travel through the Sussex countryside!
Where to stay: The rural location of Broomfield Farm Caravan Club Site is perfect for a peaceful stay. Be aware, the site does not have a toilet block.
The world-famous 18th Century landscaped garden at Stourhead in Wiltshire has to be one of the most accomplished examples of this popular pastime. The Grade I listed Palladian house built for gentleman gardener Henry Hoare in the early 1700s sits in an incredible landscape. Classical domed temples, magnificent trees, stone bridges, grottoes and statues abound, all mirrored vividly in tranquil lake waters. It’s like walking through a fabulous Italian landscape painting.
Where to stay: If you think an unexpected dose of Italy in Wiltshire feels strange, then how about a trip to the African savannah? Longleat Caravan Club Site is just a hop and a skip from the pleasures of the equally famous Longleat Safari Park. A word of warning, leave your motorhome at the site if you want to visit the monkey enclosure. You don’t want to have to make a claim on your motorhome insurance!
Eden Project, Cornwall
A former disused clay pit four miles northeast of St Austell is the somewhat unlikely home of one of the world’s most ambitious gardening projects, the Eden Project. This eco visitor attraction and educational charity explores the interconnections between all living things and is an incredible experience whatever the weather. The whole site is stunningly landscaped, but taking centre stage have to be the vast geodesic biomes holding plants from around the world. You’ll never forget a visit to the Eden Project!
While you’re down in the south west there are many other gardens to visit. Trebah Garden offers tantalising views of the Helford Estuary. Set in a deep ravine, walking the miles of footpaths that criss-cross through rhododendrons and jungle-like vegetation you’ll feel like you’ve travelled hundreds of miles away to a tropical paradise. Passing a series of pools, you’ll finish up at the boathouse beach café for a welcome snack and delicious Roskilly’s ice-cream.
Where to stay: Just a short walk from the coast Carlyon Bay Touring Park is the perfect place from which to explore this charming county. Indeed, the park itself has 30 acres of meadow and mature woodlands. The perfect setting for an autumn break.
Rivington Terraced Gardens, Lancashire
Back in the roaring 1920s, these magical gardens near Bolton were conceived and financed by soap magnate William Hesketh Lever (later Lord Leverhulme). He dreamed of creating an Asian-inspired garden complete with Japanese lakes, pagodas, archways and bridges. Like the remains of a lost civilization, there are few more fascinating gardens to visit than this.
Where to stay: We’ve got two great recommendations for places to stay. Wilcocks Farm Caravan Site is nestled at the foot of Winter Hill and provides a secluded and tranquil experience. While the Home Farm Caravan site sits right next to Rivington reservoir, it’s very peaceful.
National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire, Wales
Nine miles west of Carmarthen is the beautiful National Botanic Garden of Wales. Stunning autumn highlights include maple trees in the Japanese Garden, paperbark maple on the Broadwalk, Himalayan birch in the Double Walled Garden and multicoloured waxcaps on the meadows and lawns. But perhaps the most audacious feature is the vast oval glass house designed by Sir Norman Foster. A truly stunning piece of engineering that’s probably worth the price of entry alone!
Where to stay: The family run, adult-only Towy Valley Caravan Park is open all year round and offers unspoilt views of the Towy Valley.
Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Scotland
Just beyond the northern edge of Edinburgh’s New Town, with entrances on Inverleith Row and Arboretum Place, lies the 70-acre Royal Botanic Garden. With bursts of gold, red, yellow, and orange foliage, the arboretum provides a rather splendid tapestry in autumn. With brightly coloured fruits, attractive leaves and deciduous conifers adding to the colour mix. All perfectly complemented when flowering bulbs create an equally superb ground display among spectacular fungi, prickly beech nuts, fir cones and shiny conkers.
In years gone by when the weather turned bad, many visitors took refuge in the garden’s glass houses with their displays of orchids, giant Amazonian water lilies and a 200-year-old West Indian palm tree. However, at the moment the glass houses are closed as part of the Edinburgh Biomes project. Over the next seven years this significant project will see huge changes with a stunning new glass house and research facilities. Why not visit and see how the plans are progressing?
Where to stay: With easy access to the city and waterfront, Edinburgh Caravan and Motorhome Club Campsite is the perfect base for a trip to this friendly and cosmopolitan Scottish city.
Mount Stewart, County Down, Northern Ireland
Regularly voted one of the best gardens in the UK, the 19th Century Mount Stewart house and garden in County Down is found on the east shore of Strangford Lough. The celebrated Arts and Crafts-like gardens reflect a rich planting artistry bearing the personal imprint of its brilliant creator Edith, Lady Londonderry.
The most visited National Trust mansion house property in Northern Ireland, there are miles of walks suitable for everyone. Whether a short stroll around the gardens or a longer walk taking in the lake and woodlands, you’re sure to enjoy an unforgettable autumn outing.
Where to stay: Delamont Country Park Camping and Caravanning Club Site offers wonderful Northern Irish hospitality, large and well-spaced pitches, and a beautiful location. What more can you ask for?
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