May is here and what better way to enjoy this glorious Spring month than to explore some of the county's most beautiful, award-winning gardens.

Dorset's stunning array of gardens are skilfully hand-crafted and filled with unique collections of flowers and plants. Below you will find 10 of Dorset's gardens that promise you a ‘blooming’ great day-out.

1. Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens

One of the finest gardens in England, this 30 acre tropical splendour is filled with many unusual and exotic plants.

The Garden is a mixture of formal and informal flowers, world famous for its Camellia groves and magnolias. Noted in Dorset for its rhododendron and hydrangea collections and the charming Victorian Garden.

Don’t miss stunning views of the Dorset Jurassic Coast from the viewpoint at the top of the Magnolia Walk.

Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens

2. Minterne Gardens

The gardens are laid out in a horseshoe below Minterne House, with a picturesque chain of small lakes, waterfalls and streams.

Minterne hosts a world renowned and completely unique collection of Himalayan Rhododendrons and azaleas, with spring bulbs, cherries, maples and many fine and rare trees.

The trail through the gardens is around a mile in length with plenty of opportunities to sit and soak up the peace and tranquillity.

Minterne Gardens' Eleanor's Bridge

3. Keyneston Mill

Keyneston Mill is the largest private botanic gardens in the country dedicated solely to aromatic and scented plants, with over 1,000 varieties in a 50-acre estate.

Here the key ingredients of Parterre luxury perfumes are grown, harvested and distilled.

Come and enjoy the scented plants and perfume trails in the newly created botanic gardens, see the distillery and visit The Scented Botanist bistro and enjoy a cocktail or two.

The scented botanical gardens at Keyneston Mill

4. Athelhampton House & Gardens

The impressive gardens at Athelhampton House were built in 1891 by Alfred Cart de Lafontaine.

Francis Inigo Thomas designed four Ham stone courts in the Elizabethan style with a series of ponds and a formal canal.

The walled gardens include the world- famous topiary pyramids and collections of tulips, roses, magnolias, clematis and lilies.

The famous topiary pyramids at Athelhampton Gardens

5. Exbury Gardens & Steam Railway

Stroll along the stunning riverside walks and explore the spectacular 200 acre site while surrounded by world-famous Rothschild Collection of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias.

Capture Exbury’s hidden beauty and escape the cares of the world as you explore a myriad of pathways around this earthly paradise, before topping the day off with tea and cake in Mr Eddy’s Tea Rooms.

Vibrant show of colour at Exbury Gardens

6. Shaftesbury Abbey Museum & Gardens

The excavated remains of this once important and influential Abbey lie in a peaceful walled garden, scented with traditional roses, home to a medieval-inspired orchard and extensive historic herb collection.

The garden has a magic of its own, offering seclusion, peace and tranquillity. The plants in the Anglo-Saxon collection are just a sample of the species that would have been cultivated and used by the nuns that resided there.

As well as the more commonly known aromatic herbs, the garden includes unusual plants such as woad, marshmallow and even some poisons.

Shaftesbury Abbey Gardens has a notable herb collection

7. Mapperton House & Gardens

A Jacobean manor overlooking a 15 acre Grade II listed garden with outstanding views of the Dorset hills and woodlands.

Tucked into a steep north-south combe, these romantic gardens descend from the very formal topiary gardens and Orangery to the north to an arboretum, beyond which the land unfolds in small, steep valleys and headlands down to the sea five miles away.

Impressive landscaping at Mapperton Gardens

8. Bennetts Water Gardens

Eight acres of gardens with Monet-style Japanese bridge, tropical house and woodland walks. The gardens hold the National Plant Collection© of Water Lilies with over 140 different varieties.

When in bloom, thousands of flowers spread across the ponds and lakes creating one of the most outstanding displays of water lilies in Britain.

There are scenic places to sit and unwind, shaded woodland walks to explore and a Family Nature Trail keeps young visitors interested.

The Monet style bridge at Bennetts Water Gardens, Weymouth

9. Kingston Lacy House & Gardens

Extensive parkland gardens surrounding an elegant 17th century Italian inspired country mansion complete with an ancient Egyptian obelisk, Japanese Tea Garden and restored Victorian kitchen garden.

The Nursery Wood is a particular highlight in the Spring months with a spectacular display of azalea, camellia, rhododendron and flowering cherry trees

Enjoying the Spring colour at Kingston Lacy

10. Sherborne Castle Gardens

The eighteenth century 'Capability' Brown landscape provides a peaceful and tranquil setting with magnificent specimen trees, borders and sweeping lawns forming one of his finest Lake landscapes you will ever see.

Colour is provided throughout the seasons, from spectacular displays of spring bulbs and daffodils, through Summer Herbaceous borders to the breathtaking colours of Autumn reflected in the lake. The Garden boasts many champion trees including cedars of Lebanon and a particularly important Ginkgo tree.

Lakeside views at Sherborne Castle

Explore more of Dorset's amazing gardens and find your corner of paradise.


Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens
Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, Dorset

Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens are now open for pre-booked ticket holders. They are asking everyone who wishes to visit to book online, indicating their date and time of arrival.

Minterne Gardens
Minterne Gardens

Minterne Gardens are now open (usual hours from 10am to 6pm). Please observe the notices in place during the Coronavirus situation: respect 2 metre social distancing, there is a One-Way system around the Garden. Toilets will be open for emergencies only. Minterne is famed for its seasonal profusion of Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Japanese cherries and Magnolias are set in a peaceful wooded valley and have been described by Simon Jenkins as ‘corner of paradise.’ As seen on BBC Gardeners' World.

Athelhampton House and Gardens
Historic House/Palace
Athelhampton House and Gardens, Dorset

Athelhampton House and Gardens is now open for pre-booked ticket entry. Their restaurant has now re-opened. Athelhampton House & Gardens is one of the finest English manor houses, with beautiful furnished rooms. The Grade I Listed gardens are home to the famous topiary pyramids, fountains, newly opened Kitchen Garden, and the River Piddle.

Exbury Gardens & Steam Railway
Exbury Gardens New Forest Spring Azaleas

Exbury Gardens are now open. Please check their website for which facilities will be open. You can watch virtual garden tours on their social media channels. Now more than 100 years old, Exbury Gardens is a spectacular collection of woodland, herbaceous, contemporary, formal and wildflower gardens. At over 200 acres, these impressive gardens (created and managed by the Rothschild family) border the Beaulieu River and boast a narrow-gauge steam railway, wooden play area, newly refurbished restaurant and an outdoor cafe.

Mapperton House & Gardens
Mapperton House & Gardens

Mapperton Gardens is now open for pre-booked ticket holders. You can book tickets in advance online via the Mapperton website. Historic House and RHS members can visit free of charge but will still need to obtain an online ticket in advance. The Cafe is open at the weekends for takeaways. The House will unfortunately not be open at this stage. If you are unable to visit right now, you can join the free live stream house tours on Tuesdays 4pm at Spectacular formal valley gardens beside 16th-17th Century manor house. Pools, orangery, fine views and walks. Voted 'The Nation's Finest Manor House' by Country Life magazine.

Bennetts Water Gardens
The 'Monet' style Japanese bridge sitting over the Uk's largest National Plant Collection of waterlillies.

NOW CLOSED. REOPENS 22 MARCH 2021 Bennetts Water Gardens has now re-opened. There are limits on the number of people who can visit and you will need to book a ticket in advance of your visit. Eight acres of gardens. Outstanding displays of water lilies in summer. Monet style bridge and gazebo. Nursery, gift shop and tearooms.

Kingston Lacy
Historic House/Palace
Kingston Lacy House and Gardens

Kingston Lacy parkland, garden, takeaway cafe, shop and toilets are now open. The ground and state floors in the house are open but with limited availability. Pre-purchased tickets are required. Please check the National Trust website before visiting. Kingston Lacy is an elegant 17th century Italian inspired country mansion set in attractive formal gardens and extensive parkland. Wander around Kingston Lacy house and discover the Spanish Room with its gilded leather and gilded ceiling brought from the Contarini Palace in Venice. Witness paintings by Rubens, Van Dyck, Titian and Brueghel and explore the largest private collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts in the UK. Stroll around the Japanese Garden, complete with authentic tea house or

Sherborne Castle and Gardens
Historic House/Palace
Autumn colours at Sherborne Castle and Gardens, Dorset

The Castle Gardens are open from 10am-5pm every Saturday and Sunday until 1st November, last admission 4pm. The Tea Room and Gift Shop are open on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am – 4pm. Unfortunately the Castle will not be open during 2020. Built by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1594 & home of the Digby family since 1617. View Magnificent Staterooms, Nationally Important Collections of Art, Furniture & Porcelain, Raleigh’s Kitchen & a Museum. Explore 42 acres of English Landscape Gardens designed by ‘Capability Brown’ and discover a 50 acre lake, herbaceous borders, magnificent specimen trees and sweeping vistas.

Keyneston Mill
Botanic Garden
Keyneston Mill

Keyneston Mill is open from 10am - 5pm (everyday except Tuesday). The Scented Botanist bistro has a new lunch menu, socially distanced inside seating is now available and we are taking reservations. Alternatively, our picnics and takeaways are also available to enjoy in our bistro garden. Please, note that we are not taking outside table reservations. If you would like to enjoy your picnic in our river meadow, we will require you to purchase a garden entry ticket (only applicable when a garden entry charge is in place). Explore 30 acres of beautiful grounds incorporating glorious Scented Gardens, River Meadow, Lost Orchard & Perfume Crop Fields.

Shaftesbury Abbey Museum & Gardens
Shaftesbury Abbey Museum and Gardens, Dorset

Under the current government guidelines, the museum gardens is now open at the weekends ONLY. 10am-4pm. Social distancing applies. Donations gratefully received. Shaftesbury Abbey Museum tells the story of the Abbey founded by King Alfred the Great in AD888. The foundations of the Abbey lie in a peaceful walled garden with traditional roses and extensive herb garden. The museum brings to life the extraordinary history of the Abbey and its people through the ages.



  1. Colleen
    Fantastic thank you for the lovely photos and good information we look forward to visiting some of these gardens as we are coming to visit friends in Dorset very soon.
    I will look up for opening times on each of the sites and look forward to visiting some of them!

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