Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens
Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens


Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens is a lovely historical garden begun by Elizabeth, 1st Countess of Ilchester, in 1765. The gardens cover 20 acres and contain unusual and exotic plants from around the world.

The Gardens

In 1765, Elizabeth, Countess of Ilchester, built a fanciful summer home overlooking Chesil Bank. The house, in the shape of a mock castle, no longer exists. But the garden that Countess Elizabeth created still survives, and it is this 18th-century paradise that forms the basis for the Abbotsbury Sub-Tropical Gardens. The Gardens have been expanded several times since their inception, and today they cover 20 acres of meandering paths through peaceful glades and woodlands.

A path through giant gunnera plants
A path through giant gunnera plants

The garden site is protected from the cold sea breeze by the surrounding hills, and by belts of oak and tamarisk. The soil is remarkable for this area; its sandy soil providing unusual opportunities for horticultural experimentation. Examples rare in this country include Japanese camellias, a Caucasian Wing Nut tree, and an olive variant which is, at 60 feet high, the tallest in Britain.

Much of the success of the gardens is down to the Strangways family, descendants of the 1st Countess. The 4th Earl of Ilchester, William Strangways, travelled far and wide in the course of his diplomatic career and sent home plant samples from all across the globe.

In a sense, there is not one garden, but many. Paths join smaller garden areas such as the Himalayan Grove, Tea, Rose, Victorian, Valley, and Peat gardens, among others. There are also a pair of stepped lily ponds at the top of the gardens, and a wonderful viewing point up to St Catherine's Chapel on the hill high above.

I've been lucky enough to visit the gardens on three separate occasions and each time I find something new and interesting that I'd missed on previous visits.

One of the newer attractions for visitors is a Burmese rope bridge, which is great fun to cross. It reminds me of those old Tarzan movies where a rickety rope bridge crossed a huge chasm. Thankfully, at Abbotsbury the rope bridge is not over a chasm but hovers about a foot above a placid stream. It is great fun to cross, but you do need two hands to cling onto the side ropes, just to keep your balance!

Getting There

Abbotsbury Sub-Tropical Gardens is located just off the B3157, on the western outskirt of Abbotsbury village, 9 miles west of Weymouth.


For current opening times and ticket prices, see the official garden website (below). Joint tickets are available, allowing access to the Gardens, Swannery, and Children's Farm.

More Photos

About Garden
Address: Buller's Way, Abbotsbury, Dorset, England, DT3 4LA
Attraction Type: Garden
Location: on the B3157, off the A35 near Dorchester
Website: Garden
Historic Houses Association
Location map
OS: SY556 849
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


HeritageWe've 'tagged' this attraction information to help you find related historic attractions and learn more about major time periods mentioned.

Find other attractions tagged with:

castle (Architecture) -


Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

St Catherine's Chapel - 1 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

Abbotsbury Castle - 1 miles (Prehistoric Site) Heritage Rating

Abbotsbury, St Nicholas Church - 1.3 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Abbotsbury Abbey - 1.5 miles (Abbey) Heritage Rating

Kingston Russell Stone Circle - 2.2 miles (Prehistoric Site) Heritage Rating

Abbotsbury Swannery - 2.7 miles (Family Attraction) Heritage Rating

Hardy Monument - 3.9 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

Winterbourne Poor Lot Barrows - 4.1 miles (Prehistoric Site) Heritage Rating

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