Georgian and Tudor Facades of Hampton Court Palace with the foreground showing the colorful sunken gardens

Are you looking for somewhere to take the kids or spend a relaxed afternoon? With fragrant flowers, buzzing bees and plenty of history to take in, there’s perhaps no lovelier way to welcome in the spring than in one of the UK’s beautiful palace gardens. So, if you’re ready to stroll in the footsteps of royalty among the blooming borders, we’ve got just the list for you.

Kensington Palace Gardens

As a private retreat for royalty, Kensington Palace Gardens have been shaped by the royals who have called the palace home over hundreds of years. Today, the gardens have become a secluded haven for visitors, who can explore and take in the tranquil views between Wednesdays and Sundays.

One of the garden’s standout features is the Sunken Garden, first created in 1908. An ornamental pond sits at the centre of the garden, with lawns, paved areas and immaculate flower beds surrounding it. In 2017, the garden was re-planted with white flowers in memory of and celebration of the life of Princess Diana, who was known to have a fondness for the Sunken Garden.

Close by, you can get some shade from the spring sunshine underneath the canopy of red-twigged lime, known as the Cradle Walk. You can also spend time in the beautiful wildflower meadow or by the tranquil Serpentine boating lake, created by Queen Caroline in the 18th century. 

Hampton Court Palace Gardens

Surrounding Hampton Court Palace, you’ll find 60 acres of beautiful formal gardens and a further 750 acres of parkland to explore.

Highlights include the Fountain Court – a formal garden of herbs and shrubs planted in colourful patterns, and the Great Vine, thought to be the oldest and largest of its kind in the world. The grapes from the vine are harvested in September, so unfortunately, you won’t be able to try them in the spring, but it’s still well worth a visit. There’s also the ever-popular Maze, which kids and adults alike are sure to enjoy as they try to puzzle out the twists and turns.

The gardens are also home to the famous annual Tulip Festival. Running between April and May, the festival is the embodiment of springtime, where over 100,00 tulip bulbs will bloom in a vibrant sea of colour. If you manage to visit over the easter holidays, the palace gardens will also be hosting an exciting (and delicious) Lindt Gold Bunny Hunt for the whole family to get involved in.

Hillsborough Castle and Gardens

Hillsborough Castle is the official royal residence in Northern Ireland and is surrounded by 100 acres of gardens. Developed since the 1760s, this includes walled gardens, enchanting woodland and meadows for you and your family to discover.

Sit in Lady Alice’s Temple for a moment of stillness while you enjoy views out of the garden, or explore the Imaginary Menagerie, an interactive trail for all ages that celebrates wildlife at Hillsborough. A stream that winds its way through the gardens will then lead you to a secluded lake where you can walk along the historic pathways that have been there for hundreds of years.

For the second time, the gardens will be putting on Spring Spectacular, where over half a million bulbs will bloom into a stunning display of daffodils, crocuses, tulips and more. As part of the World Daffodil Convention, Hillsborough will also be hosting the Hillsborough Castle and Gardens Spring Daffodil Show on the 20th and 21st of April.

Kew Gardens (technically, there is a palace here)

This is one on our list where the gardens may actually be more famous than the palace itself. Between 2021 and 2022, Kew Gardens was the second-most visited paid attraction in England, welcoming almost 2 million visitors.

Kew Gardens was originally founded in 1759 by Princess Augusta, who created a nine-acre botanic garden at Kew, which was once the home of her son George III and Queen Charlotte.

As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Kew Gardens is a hub for horticultural scientific research and is home to a huge collection of rare plants. There are entire worlds to discover at Kew, from the Japanese-inspired gardens to Mediterranean habitats, a specially constructed alpine house and much more. Spring is a particularly beautiful time to visit the hidden Rhododendron Dell, which comes to life in a fragrant, colourful display – some of which cannot be seen anywhere else in the world.

The Great Pagoda is also reopening this spring, so you’ll be able to get the best view of all the spectacular displays Kew has to offer. Come rain or shine, the gardens make a truly memorable visit—all you need is a ladies’ umbrella to keep you dry from the rain or shade from the sun.

The Palace of Holyrood

The Palace of Holyrood in Edinburgh is the Royal Family’s official Scottish residence, and the surrounding gardens have a rich and varied history. Since the creation of the royal palace, the gardens have witnessed tournaments, archery, tennis, hawking and hunting and have also acted as a place of sanctuary for people who couldn’t pay their debts since the 1500s.

In the gardens, you’ll also find the majestic ruins of Holyrood Abbey. Founded in 1128, during its time, it was one of the grandest medieval abbeys in Scotland, and the monks who lived there were the first custodians of the gardens before the palace even existed.

Today, visitors can experience swathes of colourful blooms throughout the gardens, including the Jubilee Border, which was specially planted with silver plants to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. Meanwhile, kids can explore and learn about the gardens with the Family Garden Trail.

When you visit these carefully conserved places, you get the chance to not only experience hundreds of years of history but also surround yourself with all the best sights, sounds and scents that spring has to offer. What better way for you and your family to welcome in the warmer days to come?