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Britain's Best Gardens for Rainy Days

GemmaKH
Published on December 17th 2020
2
Rain droplets on leaf
Please check local COVID restrictions and the garden's policy before planning your visit. Some gardens may be closed.
156.2 days – latest figures show this is the average amount of rainfall we see annually in the UK, with Snowdonia, the Lake District and the Scottish Highlands all receiving more than four metres of rainfall in a year. But, just because it’s raining, it doesn’t mean you have to stay at home. There’s still plenty of ways to get your nature fix even when it’s tipping it down.
So grab your brolly and check out four of the best gardens to visit on rainy days.

Eden Project

Rainbow at Eden Project
Image credit: The Eden Project
A close up of a lush green hillside

Eden Project

The largest rainforest in captivity – and much more. Soaring biomes housing enormous collections of tropical and Mediterranean plants are surrounded by contemporary gardens. The Eden Project in Cornwall is an educational charity that connects people with each other and the living world, exploring how we can all work towards a better future - it's truly an inspiring day out. From clay pit to paradise, the Eden Project is a world-famous feat of ambition, ingenuity and engineering. Explore rare and exotic tropical plants as you wander along canopy walkways in the steamy Rainforest biome, aka the largest greenhouse in the world. Embark on a journey through the landscapes of the world’s temperate regions – from South Africa to California to Australia – in the Mediterranean Biome. And there are plenty of activities for kids too including outdoor play spaces and trails. Bear in mind that while dogs are welcome in the grounds, they are not allowed into the Biomes. Beyond the plant life, you can tuck into organic seasonal and/or local dishes at the cafés.

If there’s a beautiful and inspiring garden made for all weathers, it’s this one. Nestled in a huge crater in Cornwall, the top eco visitor attraction and educational charity boast two enormous conservatories, housing the largest rainforest in captivity and stunning collections of tropical and Mediterranean plants. They serve as a backdrop to their striking contemporary gardens and offer plenty to see and do even in the pouring rain.

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Inside these geodesic domes, you’ll find huge biomes that provide a feast for the senses. The West Australia Garden, located in the Mediterranean Biome, is a particular highlight for Biomes manager Catherine Cutler.
'The plants are just amazing', she exclaims, 'the Grevillea ‘Superb’ flowers like mad, displaying a beautiful blend of orange, apricot and pink tones.'
Grevillea 'Superb'
Image credit: The Eden Project
Meanwhile, the Tropical Biome, home to ginger, aubergines and bananas, emits a powerful earthy and exotic scent.
Head over to the Core building and you’ll find Eden’s little-known secret.
‘We have another indoor area called Invisible Worlds’, explains Catherine, ‘it’s an indoor exhibition about everything invisible to us because it’s either too big or too small or too far away; the microflora in our bodies that we can’t see, for instance.
‘Then, hidden right in the heart of the building is the Eden “Seed” – a giant granite sculpture that was commissioned for Eden,’ she adds.
‘While it's a beautiful and tactile sculpture, it’s also a symbol that represents hope and the future.’
Eden Seed
Image credit: The Eden Project
There are also some spectacular sights outside for when it’s raining. Wander among an avenue of trees and watch as the rainwater trickles down the leaves, or escape from the showers under the array of outdoor covered areas, including a leaf-shaped shelter.
Even on a dry day, a visit to the rainforest will enable you to hear the soothing sound of water droplets as the spray from the nearby waterfall beats down on the authentic tin-roofed rain shack. Meanwhile, you won’t feel a splash.
Catherine adds, 'Within the rain shack, you can learn about how rainforests support our weather patterns around the planet.'
Eden Project Core roof
Image credit: ©Hufton+Crow
It’s clear to any visitor that the Eden Project celebrates rain and provides an uplifting day out whatever the forecast.
See their website for tips on visiting on rainy days.
  • Location: Bodelva, St Austell, Cornwall, PL24 2SG
  • Opening times: 8.45 am-8 pm during December and January; Biomes 9.15 am-7.30 pm, seven days per week (times vary depending on date) (closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day and Mondays and Tuesdays throughout January)
  • Price: adult £28.50, child over 5 £15, family £75, concessions £23.50-£26
  • Facebook: @theedenproject
  • Twitter: @edenproject
  • Instagram: @edenprojectcornwall

Glasgow Botanic Gardens

Kibble Palace
Image credit: Glasgow Botanic Gardens
Right in the heart of Glasgow’s buzzing West End is an oasis of calm. The Glasgow Botanic Gardens, whose grounds border the beautiful River Kelvin are a terrific blend of the relaxed open lawns of a public park and the exotic plating of a botanical garden. Here, you can see a spectacular array of plants from around the world, including cacti and succulents from the arid deserts of Africa and America.
Inside Kibble Palace
Image credit: Glasgow Botanic Gardens
Managed by Glasgow City Council, the Gardens are dominated by the famous Kibble Palace. The magnificent Victorian-era glasshouse, designed by John Kibble, houses an impressive national collection of tree ferns and is ideal for sheltering from wet weather. 2006 saw the restoration of the Palace and, in 2012, a large range of South African plant species including Proteas, Aloes and Pelargoniums were added.
Kibble Palace
Image credit: Glasgow Botanic Gardens
Despite this, manager of the Gardens Ewen Donaldson claims the conservatory of the Main Range is the most colourful glasshouse due to its bold displays of seasonal flowering plants.
‘A special treasure in wintertime in our palm house (Main Range) is the Calliandra inaequilatera (Powder Puff Tree) which produces a stunning display of red powder puff-like flowers', he adds.
During brighter weather, you can follow the Heritage Trail through the mature arboretum, which features a varied selection of Pines, Sorbus (Rowans) and Acers, or take a stroll along the riverside walk.
Main Range, Glasgow Botanic Gardens
Image credit: Glasgow Botanic Gardens
  • Location: 730, Great Western Road, Glasgow, G12 0UE
  • Opening times: grounds are open 7 am to dusk all year; Kibble Palace 12 pm-4 pm, daily; Main Range 1 pm-4 pm, daily
  • Price: free entry to Gardens and glasshouses
  • Facebook: @GlasgowBotanicGardens
  • Twitter: @GlasgowBotanic

Cambo Gardens

Cambo Gardens
Image credit: Cambo Gardens
Best known for their spectacular collection of snowdrops, – 350 types to be precise – these unique Gardens are situated on the glorious East Coast of Scotland. Variety and inspiration on Cambo Estate is aplenty, from alliums, lilacs and roses in the 2.5-acre Georgian Walled Garden, to innovatively-themed plant displays in its four recently rebuilt Victorian-era Glasshouses.
While crowds might flock to Cambo Gardens during snowdrop season, the team endeavour to create year-round interest through herbaceous plantings that are constantly evolving and can be enjoyed in all weathers.
Snowdrops
‘We have fantastic late-season colour in the Walled Garden,’ says director of Cambo Gardens Keri Ivins, ‘so visiting in August and September is actually when the Gardens are really at their peak.’
The waterfall situated in the Walled Garden is Keri’s favourite feature along with the idyllic sound it creates as it cascades after heavy rainfall. And, there’s no better place to listen to the soothing sounds of the running water than the nearby sheltered Japanese teahouse.
Cambo Gardens
Image credit: Cambo Gardens
Drawing on the Company’s philosophy that there is always something to see at Cambo, Keri claims the Hellebores that surround the glasshouses look particularly beautiful in the rain.
There’s also a lot of grasses in the Gardens. We don’t cut them back over the winter, so whether it’s a frosty day or a rainy day, the raindrops look lovely glistening on them, she says.
Keri believes the rain accentuates the Gardens' features, providing heightened scents of the earthy woodland and a more intense sensory experience.
Water on grass
Take a stroll through the woods and you might discover the magical experience that is ‘Cambo Den’ – an area protected by a cliff face and a comforting canopy of trees, offering welcome shelter.
If there’s torrential rain, you might need to head indoors. But you won’t be disappointed! The team is continually producing quirky displays for visitors such as the ‘sensory house’ which is focussed on scent and touch. Last year, they even renamed one glasshouse ‘calm bubble,’ filling it with home-grown loofahs and scents and materials used in soaps.
Cambo Gardens
Image credit: Cambo Gardens
‘We themed another glasshouse around the ingredients for a chilli con carne, growing tomatoes, chillies, aubergines, sweet potatoes and beans etc.,’ adds Keri.
As the team says, this is a ‘Georgian Walled Garden and so much more…’

Book tickets here.

  • Location: The Stables Visitor Centre, Cambo Gardens, Kingsbarns, St Andrews, Fife KY16 8QD
  • Opening times: 11am-4pm, daily
  • Price: adults £6.50, free for children under 16
  • Facebook & Twitter: @cambogardens
  • Instagram: @cambo_gardens

Barbican Conservatory

Barbican Conservatory
Image credit: Max Colson
If you want to get away from the rain altogether, head to London’s second-largest conservatory at the Barbican Centre. Designed by the Barbican’s architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, the roof is constructed of steel and glass and covers 23,000 square feet, providing shelter for over 1600 cubic metres of soil.
Described as a ‘hidden tropical oasis,’ its origins are as fascinating as the garden itself. They were inspired by the Barbican Theatre’s large concrete fly tower that it surrounds, with the addition of the greenery originally intended to hide the aesthetically unappealing structure. It now plays host to around 1,500 tropical, rare and endangered plants and trees as well as exotic fish.
Barbican Conservatory
Image credit: Max Colson
Planted between 1980 and 1981, the Conservatory’s vibrant mix of temperate and arid species range from areas as diverse as the rocky deserts and bushland of South Africa to the coastline of Brazil. You can see extraordinary flora including the iconic Tree fern, Phoenix (date palm), the Monstera deliciosa (Swiss Cheese Plant) and coffee and ginger plants all under one roof.
Arched wooden bridges over the ponds which provide a haven for koi, ghost, and grass carp from Japan and America add to its enchanting atmosphere.

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Bringing the outdoors inside is this garden’s speciality as there is also an Arid House attached to the East side of the Conservatory, featuring a large collection of cacti and succulents and an overwintering collection of Cymbidiums (Boat Orchids).
It’s an ideal space for experiencing nature without having to get wet.
  • Location: Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS
  • Opening times: 12 pm-5 pm, select days of the week
  • Price: entry is free
  • Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @BarbicanCentre

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