The best gardens to visit in Dorset

Days out, Rural, Nature

Posted by Kate Atkin on 8th August 2022

Minterne Gardens in Dorset

While Dorset is almost a garden itself, with its rolling downland, heathland and woodland, its mild climate makes it a perfect setting for some of the most enchanting gardens in the UK.

Some of the gardens in Dorset have been cared for over the course of hundreds of years. They are horticultural masterpieces, home to exotic and rare plants unseen anywhere else.

From classic country gardens surrounding stately homes to sub-tropical havens beside the coast, we’ve put together a list of some of the best gardens in Dorset to visit on your next getaway. And if you can’t wait to begin exploring Dorset and all of its natural wonders, click the button below to browse our collection of self-catering holiday cottages in this verdant county.

Cottages in Dorset


Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens

Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens

A paradise of exotic plants, the award-winning Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens boast 30 acres of blooms. They are nestled within a wooded and sheltered valley in Abbotsbury, leading down towards the sea at Chesil Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Dorset. The unique location of Abbotsbury gardens has produced a balmy microclimate where rare species from around the world, that would otherwise need greenhouses, flourish.

Follow winding palm tree-fringed pathways and cross ruby red bridges to wander amongst camellia groves, woodland bejewelled with rhododendrons and hydrangeas, and sunken gardens peppered with golden pheasants. Established in 1765, Abbotsbury tropical gardens have been described by Alan Titchmarsh as "one of the finest gardens I have ever visited".

Location: Buller's Way, Abbotsbury, Weymouth, DT3 4LA

Opening times: Open daily 10am-5pm

Stay nearby: The Old Sweet Shop, Portesham | Sleeps 5 + 1 dog

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The Walled Garden Moreton

The Walled Garden Moreton

The Walled Garden at Moreton is a botanical treasure trove and has become well known due to its association with T. E. Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia. Every year, thousands of visitors are drawn to this village in Dorchester to visit his grave, which backs onto the garden.

You’ll find a wide variety of perennial plants in the borders of the Moreton walled garden, which have been styled in original Georgian and Victorian designs. The Chilean Arboretum, the Acer Walk and the Rose Garden are particular highlights within the 5 acres, plus there is a small farm area and some picnic spots for families to enjoy.

Location: Station Road, Moreton, Dorchester, DT2 8RH

Opening times: Open daily 9am-5pm

Stay nearby: Little Water Barn, near Wool | Sleeps 2 + 1 dog

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Bennetts Water Gardens

Bennetts Water Gardens

Admire the National Plant Collection of Water Lilies at Bennetts Water Gardens, an 8-acre sanctuary of over 200 different varieties, which are in bloom from late spring through to early autumn. This water garden in Weymouth has been built on the site of former clay pits. Groundwater has filled the pits, creating ponds filled with these delicate flowers.

Like something out of a painting with the Monet Bridge at its heart, paths wind around the ponds and wetlands, as well as through shaded woodland and into a tropical house full of exotic plants. This has got to be one of the best gardens in Dorset for those seeking postcard-perfect photo opportunities.

Location: Putton Ln, Chickerell, Weymouth, DT3 4AF

Opening times: Sunday to Friday 10am-4pm

Stay nearby: Sun Beam – Weymouth, Weymouth | Sleeps 6 + 2 dogs

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Compton Acres

Compton Acres

Comprising a series of classical-themed gardens featuring a variety of plants from around the world, Compton Acres in Poole is one of the finest privately owned gardens in the South of England.

Sit beneath the thatched temple in the Japanese Garden, follow the meandering pathways through the Wooded Valley, and admire the reflections in the ornamental lake of the Italian Garden. With 10 acres filled with more than 3,000 species of trees, shrubs, bulbs and herbaceous plants, there is surprise, beauty and interest at every turn – so it’s no wonder this is one of the top gardens in Dorset to visit.

Location: 164 Canford Cliffs Road, Poole, BH13 7ES

Opening times: Open daily 10am-5pm

Stay nearby: Woodridings, near Poole | Sleeps 8

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Sherborne Castle and Gardens

Sherborne Castle and Gardens

If you fancy combining one of the most spectacular castles in Dorset with one of the most magnificent gardens in Dorset, then this is the perfect day out. The Grade I-listed garden at Sherborne Castle was one of Capability Brown’s first commissions, laid out around a shimmering 50-acre lake. An exhibition in the museum dedicated to his works is also available to view.

From carpets of daffodils in spring to radiant herbaceous borders in summer, and the fiery tones of majestic specimen trees reflected in the still waters of the lake in autumn, there is plenty of colour throughout the seasons here. Wander the 42 acres of English landscaped garden to find the Ginkgo Lawn, a Fossil House, Earl Henry’s Bridge and the Orangery.

Location: New Rd, Sherborne, DT9 5NR

Opening times: Open daily, April to September 10am-5pm, October 10am-4.30pm

Stay nearby: Greenfinch Cottage, near Sherborne | Sleeps 6 + 1 dog

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Minterne Gardens

Minterne Gardens

Diaries from the archives of Minterne House have revealed that whenever Capability Brown was working on the aforementioned gardens at Sherborne, the stately home’s owner Robert Digby would ride over to pick his brains. So these extraordinary, 18th-century gardens are very much styled in the manner of the famous landscape gardener.

Laid out in a horseshoe shape, Minterne Gardens showcase a chain of small lakes, waterfalls and streams. They are particularly noted for a unique collection of Himalayan rhododendrons, azaleas, cherries and maples. And in the summer, the mophead and lace-cap hydrangeas are dazzling in bold shades of blue, pink, purple and white.

Location: Minterne Magna, Dorchester, DT2 7AU

Opening times: 1 February to 6 November open daily 10am-6pm

Stay nearby: The Wing at Minterne House, Minterne Magna | Sleeps 8

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Kingston Lacy

Kingston Lacy

One of our favourite National Trust gardens in Dorset is at Kingston Lacy. Here, 300 acres of formal gardens are set in a vast 8,500-acre estate, surrounding an opulent family home built to resemble a Venetian palace. A range of different garden styles can be explored, from a Japanese Garden overflowing with cherry blossom and flaming maples to a Victorian Fernery with over 40 varieties of ferns.

There is a Kitchen Garden, where Queen Victoria once sent her own gardeners for inspiration, an ancient 6.5m-high Egyptian obelisk, and the world’s oldest pedigree herd of Red Ruby Devon cattle. In spring, over 40 varieties of snowdrops drift across the grounds, while autumn brings a firework display of colour in Nursery Wood and along Beech Avenue, where over 650 beech trees are resplendent in burnished bronze.

Location: Wimborne Minster, BH21 4EA

Opening times: Please check the website as they vary throughout the year

Stay nearby: The Old Mill Corfe Mullen, near Corfe Mullen | Sleeps 8 + 4 dogs

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Athelhampton Gardens

Athelhampton Gardens

Athelhampton is a grand 15th-century manor house, enveloped by one of the great architectural gardens of England. These formal gardens were built in 1891 by Alfred Cart de Lafontaine and encompass sweeping lawns, clipped topiary, fountains and mature trees.

There are over 20 acres of Italianate gardens to explore, including the Great Court with its world-famous topiary pyramids, as well as 15 other ‘secret’ garden rooms. The River Piddle flows through, forming a natural boundary between the gardens and the surrounding woodland. Walk along its banks to uncover a stunning Octagon Pond and a rose-covered medieval dovecote.

Location: Athelhampton Rd, Puddletown, Dorchester, DT2 7LG

Opening times: Sunday to Friday 10am-5pm (summer), open daily 10am-4pm (autumn)

Stay nearby: Stable Cottage - Dorchester, Briantspuddle | Sleeps 4 + 1 dog

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Map of gardens in Dorset

Locate these gorgeous gardens in Dorset on our handy map.

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Stay in a self-catering holiday cottage in Dorset

Celebrate the seasons with a trip to one of these glorious Dorset gardens, then put your feet up and relax in one of our cosy holiday cottages.

Whether you’re a couple, a family or a group, you’re sure to find the perfect setting for your next staycation within our collection of holiday cottages in Dorset. We’ve also got a great selection of dog-friendly cottages in Dorset, if you’re thinking of bringing the four-legged member of your family along too, including dog-friendly cottages with enclosed gardens.

Just click the button below to browse our full collection.

Holiday cottages in Dorset

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.