I love nothing more than losing myself for a couple of hours in a botanic garden. I’ve visited many exotic gardens on my travels and now I’d like to tick off some of the UK’s most beautiful gardens from my list.
Living just 40 minutes out from the city of Oxford, where better to start than with the oldest botanic garden in the UK?! The University of Oxford Botanic Garden has been calling my name ever since I relocated to Oxfordshire last November and I can’t believe it’s taken this long for me to visit…
Let’s begin with some of the finer details to help you plan your visit!
- Prices – £5.45 an adult, with annual passes at £25.00 – an amazing deal if you plan to visit the gardens multiple times throughout the year. I know I would if I lived in the city!
- Parking – No available parking on site. There are several car park’s in Oxford but lot’s of people come in via public transport or by using the Park & Ride.
- Location – Just off the High Street, the end closest to the river. In fact, just inside the gardens, you can walk alongside the River Cherwell and watch as people rent out traditional punts and make their way along the water.
- Website – https://www.obga.ox.ac.uk/
- Opening Times – Daily 9am – 5pm (4pm in Winter) – check website for exact details and booking time slots.
Info about visiting during the Coronavirus pandemic
There are now time slots with limited spaces every half hour. It’s recommended on the website that you pre-book to guarantee your slot. On arrival you simply pass through the ticket office (sanitiser available), have your tickets scanned through a perspex screen and make your way through to the gardens. There are leaflets to guide you around, but you can also download an app. Toilets are open and I found them very clean at the time I visited. Some of the glasshouses are still closed however, with the few that are open operating in a one-way system. It is asked that face masks are worn inside buildings and glasshouses, but otherwise can be removed.
More about Oxford Botanic Garden
Founded in 1621, the University of Oxford Botanic Garden is the oldest in the UK and prides itself on educating people on the importance and conservation of plants, of which there are over 6000 species within the gardens. Nearly 400 years ago, the gardens were founded by Henry Danvers, Earl of Danby, hence the name of the very grand entrance, The Danby Gate.
At the time of writing, there is a pop-up café present in the gardens, a firm Oxford favourite, Jericho Coffee Traders (you can spot their espresso bar, roastery and multiple pop-up’s across the city) so you can stop for coffee, cake and ice cream or grab a drink to go and find a nice spot to picnic.
As well as Oxford Botanic Gardens, there is a sibling site called Harcourt Arboretum, also belonging to the University of Oxford. It’s possible to visit both (and to pre-book tickets on the same website as stated above) however bare in mind, it’s not in the city of Oxford, but just over a 10 minute drive away.
Making the most of your time at the gardens
Make your way through the Danby Arch and start by veering left in the direction of the glasshouses. My favourite of the few that were open to visitors was the Water Lily House – just like walking through an exotic jungle, with some of the largest lily pads you’ve seen. I’ll have to come back when the rest have re-opened to the public!
Head between the very pretty gate that stands between two glasshouses (pictured below) and make your way through the walled garden, where many plant and tree varieties can be seen including medicinal plants and those that originate from the likes of New Zealand, Japan, South Africa and South America.
Soon after you’ll approach the Lower Garden, bordered once again by the relaxing ripples of the River Cherwell. Here you’ll pass orchards and wild meadows, eventually bringing you to the Rock Garden, with it’s focal feature another lovely Water Lily pond. Right by the pond, you can join the path to re-enter the other side of the Walled Garden, enjoying yet more colourful varieties of flowers centred around a peaceful waterfall and seating area.
You’ll now see the Danby Gate again in the distance so can choose whether to spend some more time walking, relaxing or heading out to explore more of Oxford!
How much time to spend at the gardens
Due to social distancing measures, the Gardens are asking visitors to try where possible to limit their visits to two hours, which is plenty of time to stroll around the entire gardens and take in all of its beauty.
I spent just over an hour walking around the gardens, though I could easily have done a second lap, they were so pretty!
What else can you do nearby in Oxford?
Visiting Oxford for a day? There’s a lot to discover in this historic university city. Just across the road is Magdalen College, founded in 1458! It does open to the general public, but check out the updated info on their site as like everywhere now, there are some closures due to Covid-19.
Not far from the Botanic Gardens, you can also walk to the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, where you can climb the spiral staircase to the top for city views (on my list). Opposite the church is perhaps Oxford’s most iconic landmark, Radcliffe Camera, and just beyond is the famous Bodleian Library. And about a 15-minute walk through Oxford city centre, on Beaumont Street you’ll find the Ashmolean Museum.
Shopping in Oxford is great too, with souvenir shops, luxury gifts, small independent stores, deli’s and bakeries in the Covered Market and high street fashion in Westgate shopping centre.
Sightseeing aside – a day strolling the streets, admiring the historic architecture, eating at one of many restaurants/cafes/pubs and soaking up that famous university culture – is still (in my opinion) a day well spent in Oxford!
If you liked this post, why not have a little read of my guide to visiting Singapore Botanic Gardens? – Definitely one to add to your botanic garden bucket list!