Beautiful Bristol gardens you need to visit

From a vast estate in rolling countryside, to a small, yet intricate Tudor-style Knot Garden, an urban nature reserve, to a Victorian garden cemetery, here’s my pick of beautiful Bristol gardens you need to visit.

University of Bristol Botanical Gardens

Bristol botanical gardens in Stoke Bishop tends to fly under the radar, and is often overlooked by locals. Within the five acre site, there are four core plant collections, inviting visitors to stroll through several distinctly different worlds. Wander through prehistoric flora in Evolution to tropical vegetation and vibrant displays in the Mediterranean Climate Regions section, to a recognisable English country garden mix.

Learn up on medicinal plants, marvel at verdant glass houses teeming with exotic species and discover an African Rondavel. The garden hosts a variety of events during the year (don’t miss the Easter Sculpture Festival (March 29-April 1 2024), plus a diverse programme of gardening courses for the keen green-fingered.

Arnos Vale Cemetery

Established in 1839, Arnos Vale Victorian garden cemetery, set among 45 acres of woodland, was Bristol General Cemetery Company’s solution to overcrowded, unhygienic 19th century parish graveyards. On a hillside surrounded by fields, a scenic, nature-filled environment was created, with, as was fashionable at the time, architecture mirroring classical Greece. The growing city has since replaced those fields, making Arnos Vale a peaceful sanctuary in a bustling urban environment.

Winding paths lead visitors through towering evergreens and tranquil woodland, grassland dotted with wildflowers, and a community garden. Pick up or download the Discovery Trail or Woodland Walk map, keeping an eye out for fairy doors, wildlife and monuments honouring notable former Bristol residents. 

Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol
Arnos Vale Cemetery
Arnos Vale cemetery walks in Bristol
Arnos Vale Cemetery

Ashton Court Estate

A short hop across Clifton Suspension Bridge and you’re in Ashton Court’s whopping 800 acres of parkland. It’s a favourite with mountain bikers, horse riders, golfers, dog walkers and families, who flock here for countryside ventures close to the city (whose rainbow-coloured houses can be seen in the distance).

At the heart of the woodland, deer park and green grassy areas, lies a 16th century manor house surrounded by formal sunken gardens, and a pond, with flower-filled borders and 160 species of rose. Tree lovers rejoice! The estate is home to a large number of unusual tree species, including gargantuan redwoods and a 700-year-old Domesday Oak.

Ashton Court Estate walk
Ashton Court Estate

Brandon Hill 

When Brandon Hill Nature Reserve was opened by Sir David Attenborough back in the 1980s, it was a pioneering testament to urban conservation, and remains a haven for wildlife to this day. In spring, the meadow glows with cowslips, while summer introduces the likes of daisies and knapweed.

Located just off Bristol’s steep Park Street and framed by handsome Georgian houses, views soar over rooftops and boat masts to the distant Mendip hills. The century-old Cabot Tower, surrounded by a pretty water garden, stands as the best vantage point in the sloping Brandon Hill park. Accessible via steep, winding steps to the top, those that dare make the climb will be treated to phenomenal views in every direction.

Brandon Hill Park and Cabot Tower Bristol
Brandon Hill Park and Cabot Tower Bristol

Royal Fort Gardens

Originally designed by English landscape architect Humphry Repton in 1800 (who also has Ashton Court gardens in his portfolio), the sloping green lawns of Royal Fort Gardens belong to the University of Bristol, but are open to the public for most of the year.

Last year, the gardens were bestowed with a coveted Green Flag Award and are the perfect spot for hill-rolling and picnicking. Visitors are encouraged to explore – seek out a wildflower garden and public artworks; dart in and out of Jeppe Hein’s mirrored labyrinth (a favourite with kids) and be wowed by ‘modernist grotto’, Hollow, created using 10,000 tree samples from across the globe by Katie Paterson and architects Zeller & Moye.

Royal Fort Gardens Bristol
Royal Fort Gardens

The Red Lodge

Behind an unassuming red door on Park Row lies 16th century house, The Red Lodge, with a captivating history and an Elizabethan-style knot garden. Following a restoration in the eighties, the garden was redesigned to showcase how it might have looked when the house was built over 400 years ago, drawing inspiration from plasterwork designs in the master bedroom, one of Bristol’s oldest rooms.

Brimming with plants reminiscent of English gardens before 1630, the borders complement the Tudor knot garden trend. Red Lodge is open to the public from April until mid-December, although the garden is at its best in late May/June when the roses are in bloom.

National Trust Tyntesfield

Just seven miles from Bristol, the National Trust’s Victorian Gothic Revival mansion house, Tyntesfield, is surrounded by a sprawling 540 acres of picturesque parkland, woodland and gardens. The driveway, flanked by topiary yews gives you a glimpse of the horticultural delights that await, largely unchanged since the early 1900s.

Large open lawns sit alongside formal terraces that burst with colourful bulbs in spring, while a rose garden with Mendip views and two restored Victorian gazebos is a treat for the senses, with over 100 highly-fragrant roses. There’s also an arboretum showcasing numerous Champion Trees, an Orangery, a cut-flower garden and an impressive Kitchen Garden whose produce supplies the Cow Barn restaurant onsite.

National Trust, Tyntesfield

Goldney House

*The historic garden tours at Goldney house for the public will be paused for 2024.

The gardens of Goldney House university hall are definitely some of the most unique in the city. Hidden away in handsome Clifton, among the treasures of this ornate garden are a heritage orchard, an orangery, a canal, Corinthian columns and one of the most dazzling surviving examples of an 18th century garden grotto in Britain.

Picture pillars encrusted with rare shells and Bristol diamonds (quartz crystals found in the Avon Gorge), pseudo-stalactites and a rock pool, overlooked by the River God. Normally closed to the public, tours of Goldney Gardens are available from April to September. Book your place using the online shop and discover what lies behind the garden gate.

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