You don’t have to travel all the way to Japan to enjoy a beautiful Japanese garden. There are many wonderful Japanese gardens in the UK! From the Scottish Highlands in the north to the English capital in the south there are many peaceful Japanese gardens in the UK to choose from. Full of calming stone gardens, pretty pagodas, quaint red bridges and trickling streams there is something magical about a Japanese garden. Here are 20 of the best Japanese gardens in the UK to visit.
What is a Japanese Garden?
A Japanese garden is a traditional garden which has been designed with Japanese philosophical ideas and aesthetics. These beautiful outdoor spaces are designed to celebrate the natural landscape and avoid artificial elements. For example, water and rocks are key elements in a Japanese garden whereas flowers feature less so. The streams and ponds are meant to represent much larger rivers and lakes in Japan. Also, Japanese gardens favour aged materials and plants to demonstrate the unstoppable advance of time as well as the fragility of existence. Garden lovers across the world appreciate the tranquillity and peacefulness of Japanese gardens. They evoke very different feeling to ones when we see organised flower beds.
What types of Japanese Gardens are there?
There are two main types of Japanese Gardens and then there are various subcategories of Japanese Gardens. The two main types of Japanese Gardens are the Japanese Garden that you can walk around and the Japanese Garden that is simply viewed from a veranda or building. There are then a few subcategories of Japanese gardens. These types of Japanese gardens are:
- Pond and Island Japanese Gardens
- Dry Landscape Japanese Gardens (karesansui)
- Japanese Tea Gardens (cha niwa)
- Japanese Stroll Gardens (kaiyushiki teien)
- Japanese Courtyard Gardens (tsubo niwa)
Many of the Japanese Gardens in the UK are a combination of several of these types of Japanese gardens.
History of Japanese Gardens in the UK
For centuries, Japan was a closed country which isolated itself culturally and politically from the rest of the world. The land of the rising sun was a mysterious land in the far East. When Japan began opening its trade policies in the mid-19th century a fascination of the culture of this country grew in the UK. One important cultural aspect that was of particular interest in the UK was the Japanese Garden.
Within the first few decades of this opening up, Japanese arts was highly fashionable. As diplomats and traders wrote about Japan and their Japanese gardens, having a Japanese Garden in the UK was very desirable.
An exhibition in Kew Gardens inspired many landowners and landscape artists to create their own Japanese Garden in the UK.
As with all trends, Japanese gardens fell out of fashion by the mid-20th century. Many cited the high militance and upkeep as reasons for this decline in popularity. Sadly, many Japanese gardens in the UK were left to decay or were removed completely.
There has recently been a renewed interest in Japanese gardens in the UK. In the late 60ies and 70ies, Japanese gardens started to re-emerge across Britain. Many of these new Japanese gardens are slightly smaller than the older Japanese gardens in the UK to make them more manageable.
If you would like to see some of the beautiful Japanese gardens in the UK check out the list of the best below! There is also a handy map helping you find the one closest to you.
Map of Japanese Gardens in the UK
Not sure where all of these UK Japanese gardens are? Use this map to find your closest Japanese Garden!
List of Japanese Gardens in the UK
Japanese Garden at Calderstones Park
Liverpool is a bustling city full of fascinating nautical history. Few people know that there is a wonderful Japanese garden that you can explore for free! Located within Calderstones Park is the Liverpool Japanese Garden. The Japanese Garden in Calderstones Park was created as an apprentice scheme in the 1970s and is particularly stunning in the Autumn.
Japanese Garden at Tatton Park
The Japanese Garden in Tatton Park is a lovely Japanese Garden in the UK.
It is said that Tatton Park’s Japanese garden was the result of Alan de Tatton’s visit to the Anglo-Japanese exhibition in London in 1910. The exhibition at White City showcased all types of exotic things from Japan. Aparently Alan de Tatton saw the Japanese garden at the exhibition and decided to create a Japanese garden in Tatton. Created by Japanese workmen, this Japanese garden is said to be one of the finest examples of Japanese gardens in Europe.
The artefacts and the Shinto shrine in Tatton Park’s Japanese garden are all from Japan.
This Japanese garden in England is in the style of the Japanese tea garden. Elements of ying and yang can be seen as the various stones, rocks and trees. There are lanterns which are said to be particularly beautiful in winter as they are designed to trap as much snow as possible on the top of the lantern.
Flowers are less important in Japanese gardens compared to western gardens such as in Versailles or in the patios of the San Basilio district in Cordoba. Trees on the other hand are very important in Japanese gardens. Trees must be pruned but must also look natural. In Tatton park Japanese garden, you will find many Japanese maples and Japanese acers. Bamboo can also be found at the western end of the garden. The sound of the wind rushing through bamboo shoots is a heavenly sound. Furthermore, the evergreen plant ensures interest for winter visits.
You can enjoy this Japanese garden from the perimeter or if you would like to explore within the grounds you can join a guided tour.
Horsforth Japanese Garden
The Japanese garden in Horsforth just outside Leeds is a bit of a Yorkshire hidden gem. Few people know about this secret Japanese garden in Yorkshire.
Located within the Horsforth Hall park is the Horsforth Japanese Garden. This is a lovely Japanese garden which is open to the public for free 365 days a year.
As you enter the walled space you can stroll along the circular path, past bamboo groves, over a red bridge next to a pretty waterfall and admire the various stone rock formations. This used to be a tennis court but was converted into a garden in the 1970ies.
The Horsforth Japanese garden is a lovely thing to do in Yorkshire and is one of the lesser known Japanese gardens in the UK.
Japanese Garden at Newstead Abbey
Poetry lovers will enjoy this Japanese garden in the UK!
The Japanese garden at Newstead Abbey has a beautiful Japanese oasis within its grounds. Newstead Abbey is a historic house surrounded by acres of gardens and parkland within the heart of Nottinghamshire. There was a monastic house on this site in the 12th century but by 1808 Newstead was home to the poet Lord Byron. You can even explore the poet’s private apartments.
The Japanese garden at Newstead abbey is a sunken ornamental Japanese garden. There are pretty maple trees that come alive in the autumn months. Within this Japanese garden are streams and stepping stones. The river Leen feeds the various water features in Newstead Abbey. There are also pretty bamboo groves to explore in the Newstead Abbey Japanese garden.
Japanese Garden in Birmingham Botanical Gardens
Birmingham, West Midlands
Birmingham is England’s second city. There are many things to do in Birmingham and one of the best is visiting the Birmingham Botanical gardens! Located in the pretty suburb of Edgbaston, close to where JR Tolkein lived are the Botanical gardens. Within these gardens you can find one of the UK’s best Japanese gardens as well as the national bonsai collection!
The Japanese garden in Birmingham is a courtyard garden or ‘tsubo-niwa’ (garden between buildings) and was built with the help of members of the Japanese Garden Society.
Birmingham Botanical garden’s Japanese garden aims to be a place of relaxion and contemplation. There is a bubbling boulder which is said to represent a volcano. Did you know there are 110 active volcanoes in Japan!?
In addition to the Japanese garden in Birmingham there is also the national bonsai collection. Bonsai trees are miniature trees and this display first opened in 1993. At any given time around 25 various bonsai trees are displayed in the botanical garden on a rotating basis. There are handy signs describing the various tree styles. Who knows, maybe you will be inspired to grow your own bonsai tree after visiting this Japanese garden in the UK!
Pure Land Meditation Centre & Japanese Garden
The wonderfully named Pure Land in the midlands has a “little slide of Japanese serenity in rural Nottinghamshire.”
Pure Land boasts a Japanese meditation garden. These Japanese gardens have been created over four decades by Buddha Maitreya. The gardens transport visitors into a Japanese paradise with ornamental monuments, a crystal garden and native Japanese trees.
There are various bridges over little streams. You can skip across stepping stones or even discover secret passageways. Once you have explored, find a quiet spot by the koi pond.
There is also a meditation centre on the site for those who are seeking meditation tuition. Even if you are not, you will find it hard not to relax at this Japanese garden whether you are outside or enjoying a tea at the onsite tea rooms.
You can even experience a taste of a Japanese festival! In August there are many wonderful Japanese festivals – this is one of the best things about visiting Japan during the typhoon season. You can see a Lantern lit festival every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in August and September.
If you want to experience a Buddhist Japanese garden with the chance of seeing a summer Japanese festival, add Pure Land to your Japanese gardens in England bucket list!
Capel Manor Gardens
Waltham Cross, Essex
This Japanese Garden is situated within a college!
Capel Manor is a Georgian manor house with a 30-acre estate. Nowadays it is a specialist college for those “interested in plants, animals and the environment.”
There are many wonderful gardens to explore and the Japanese Garden is currently being restored. It will be great to see what it looks like when the project is finished.
Japanese Garden in Hammersmith Park
Hammersmith Park in London has the oldest Japanese Garden in the UK.
It is also a much less formal Japanese garden as shady benches are used by parents as their children play amongst the stones.
The Japanese Garden at Hammersmith Park is all that remains of the garden in the Japan-British Exhibition of 1910. The exhibition garden contains pavilions and bridges as well as plants from Japan. The stones were brought in from Derbyshire and Devon. Sadly, the pavilions and bridges were taken when the exhibition ended but the actual garden remained. It survived until 1950s when the original Garden of Peace was reconfigured to fit the designs of the time. Yet in 2010 the council commissioned a restoration of the garden. The garden was reconfigured with an emphasis of the configuration of rocks.
This is now a lovely shady spot in London with cascades and a meandering stepping stone path. Rhododendrons and azaleas bloom in the spring and there is a haiku by one of the entrances.
There is a dry garden which is particularly popular with children. The dry garden is based on a beautiful Japanese story. The stones reflect the journey of a crane and a turtle on their way to the island of eternal happiness. This story is said to be a metaphor for a child’s journey and their wish to be happy. It is not raked but used as a children’s play area.
Holland Park, London
Kyoto Garden is a wonderful hidden gem in London. This is a fabulous Japanese garden in Holland Park in West London.
In 1991 Kyoto Garden was opened in Holland Park. The garden was a gift from the city of Kyoto. It was a gift from the city to commemorate the long friendship between the UK and Japan. This gift is now open to the public for free for all to enjoy! This is a wonderful oasis in the busy city.
Within the garden you will find peaceful waterfalls and a tranquil pond. There are pretty stone lanterns to spot too as well as wonderful Japanese maple trees. Occasionally the Holland Park peacocks wonder over to admire the Japanese Garden in London too.
Japanese Garden at Royal Botanic Kew Gardens
Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens is a must visit for any UK garden lover. The huge site celebrates all things botany. Naturally, a Japanese Garden had to be included to such a collection!
The Japanese landscape at Kew incorporates three Japanese gardens. These three Japanese Gardens at Kew are the Garden of Peace, the Garden of Harmony and the Garden of Activity.
As you enter the landscape you will begin to explore the Garden of peace. This is said to represent a Japanese tea garden. There are pretty stone lanterns along the path way. After that you wonder into the Garden of Activity. This part of the Japanese landscape incorporates elements such as waterfalls and hills to represent mountains. The sea is also evoked through the raked gravel. Within the gravel are large rocks to symbolise islands which the water flows around. Finally, the Garden of Harmony is said to unite the two other gardens. Here you can see stones and rocks surrounded by shrubs and low-lying hedges of Rhododendron.
Make sure you take time to admire the gateway as this is a near replica of the Gate of Nishi Hongan-ji in Kyoto.
The Japanese Garden
St Mawgan, Cornwall
The Japanese Garden in St. Mawgan is one of the most beautiful gardens of Cornwall! This magical Garden is a wonderful place to visit in Cornwall. It was built as a meditative garden to help visitors let go of unwanted stress and calm their minds. The water features and plants help guests to contemplate and reflect. Uniquely, the garden combines both Japanese plants with local Cornish plants. For example, you will spot beautiful Japanese Acres next to an old English oak tree!
Compton Acres Japanese Garden
The Japanese garden in Compton Acres aims to celebrate “unique elegance and incomparable beauty of Japanese horticulture.”
Stones and artefacts were imported to add to the authenticity of this Japanese garden. Flower lovers will love this Japanese garden in the UK. There are many wonderful native plants to admire. In the summer beautiful wisteria which has been draped around the tea house turns into a gorgeous curtain of lilac. There are also Japanese cherries and maples. Hakon grass and a ginkgo can also be spotted at Compton Acres Japanese garden.
You can hop across the stepping stones and enjoy one of the best Japanese gardens in England.
Kingston Lacy Japanese Garden
Blossom season or Sakura fans will love visiting this Japanese garden to enjoy the gorgeous cherry trees!
The Sakura Cherry Tree project at Kingston Lacy is a British-Japanese project to highlight friendship and celebrate cooperation. Along with a few other UK gardens this Japanese garden will be receiving 100 cherry blossom trees! This will ensure visitors will be treated to a spectacular display of blossom each spring!
In Japan, the cherry blossom represents both the fragility of life as well as new beginning. These delicate petals look beautiful on branches. Cherry blossom is such an iconic symbol of Japan. When it is time for the season to move on the pretty petals fall. This beauty of the falling petals represents how everything must end but to find beauty in the process. They also look like snow falling gently to the ground.
The best time to visit this Japanese garden is in late spring. There are cherry trees in the Cherry Garden, the Japanese Tea Garden and the Quarry Garden at Kingston Lacy. Spring is a wonderful time to admire various other flowering trees such as azaleas and magnolias. Did you know that the magnolia is actually the official city flower of Shanghai?
St. Austell, Cornwall
Another wonderful Japanese Garden in Cornwall can be found in St. Austell. The Pinetum Gardens aim to give visitors a zen state of mind. The bridge symbolises the journey of life. The concept of borrowed scenery is achieved by incorporating the lake and wildflower meadows that lie beyond. Many of these plants in the Pinetum Gardens have been chosen by the Kyoto Botanical Gardens to ensure Japanese authenticity.
Lauriston Castle Japanese Garden
Lauriston Castle is a gothic 16th century tower house in Edinburgh. The castle has overgone several changes over the centuries but its most recent addition is a Japanese garden. The Japanese garden in Edinburgh was dedicated as the Edinburgh-Kyoto friendship garden.
If you are interested in visiting another secret garden in Edinburgh, check out my visit to Dunbar Close Garden.
St. Mungo Zen Garden
Japanese zen gardens are often stone gardens. The Japanese garden at St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art in Glasgow was Britain’s first permanent Japanese zen garden.
The Japanese garden in Glasgow was designed to mirror the natural world through stone, pebbles and moss. The pebbles represent water whilst the stones are mountains. Zen Buddhists would study zen gardens on their journey to enlightenment.
The Japanese garden in Glasgow is designed to allow visitors to achieve inner peace by calming the mind. It is a lovely place of tranquillity to relax in Scotland’s biggest city.
Stobo Japanese Water Garden
If you like water, then you will enjoy this Japanese garden in Scotland. The Stobo Japanese water garden in Peebleshire, Scotland is dominated by its water feature. This Japanese water garden boasts a 60-foot waterfall!
The Stobo Japanese waterfall is surrounded by lush green woodland. In the spring, the Japanese garden in Scotland comes alive as the rhododendrons and azaleas fill the air with heady scents and provide a burst of colour. In autumn, you can appreciate koyo (autumnal leaves celebration) as the acers and cherries turn crimson.
Aside from the giant waterfall, there are pretty lanterns, a tea house, several bridges and stepping stones.
This is a truly spectacular Japanese garden in Britain!
Funnily enough there was never supposed to be a Japanese garden at Attadale! The Japanese garden was said to be a practical response to a challenge! A part of the Attadale Gardens filled up with water at certain times of year. This meant that grass was not a suitable solution. A Japanese garden on the other hand would make the most of the water!
Cowden Japanese Garden
Cowden Japanese Garden is one that has only been reopened to the public for a few years!
It is a fascinating and huge Japanese Garden in Scotland with an amazing history. Fearless females will appreciate the history of this Japanese Garden.
Cowden Japanese Garden was inspired by Christie Cowden’s visit to Japan. She had already travelled to Borneo and India in 1905 where she trekked, slept in the snow, became the first woman to meet the Dalai Lama and partied with the nobility. The fearless spinster then went on to Japan where she was inspired by the gardens she saw there. When she was back in Scotland, she wanted to create her own Japanese garden. Naturally, as an independent woman she wanted a woman to design her Japanese garden. Taki Handa was the first woman and in fact only woman to have ever designed a Japanese garden of this size and nature. Taki Handa created a wonderful Japanese Garden over the 7-acre site. Over the years the garden fell into disrepair. It was closed to the public in 1955 and was sadly vandalised in the 60ies. In 2014 it opened again after some much needed TLC.
Now visitors can admire this incredible Japanese garden in Scotland once more.
Japanese Garden in the National Botanical Garden of Wales
Do you live in Wales? Well, check out this Welsh Japanese garden! The National Botanic garden of wales in Carmathenshire houses a lovely Japanese garden.
The national botanic garden houses the world’s largest single-span glasshouse which measures 110m by 60m! There are lovely flowers to admire in the glasshouse but head outside to see the Japanese garden. This Japanese garden in wales is called ‘Sui ou tei’ which means blossom and daffodil. Blossom is the national flower of Japan and the daffodil is the national flower of Wales.
Rather than create one particular type of Japanese garden the Japanese garden at the National Botanical Garden of Wales combines three different traditional Japanese garden styles. One of these is the pond garden, another is the tea garden and finally there is a dry garden. This is to educate visitors of the various types as well as show how Japanese gardens have changed over their 1400 year history.
Which Japanese Garden in the UK do you want to visit?
Which Japanese Garden in the UK have you been inspired to visit? Have you already been to one of these UK Japanese gardens or have we missed one? Let us know in the comments below!