Garden Portrait: Abbotsbury Sub-tropical Gardens

Our Route through the gardens

Although autumn is not the ideal time of the year to visit a garden, sometimes you have no option. A couple of years ago we were in the New Forest and enjoyed Exbury Gardens, where the colours of the leaves, golden rudbeckia, grasses and multi-coloured hydrangeas in their faded autumnal dress were enough to keep us happy. This year we were in West Dorset and a quick search brought up the Abbotsbury gardens only a few miles away from where we were staying. A lot of people may have heard about the Abbotsbury Swannery, but we headed for the gardens, a mile or so west of the village.

It is not a garden with masses of well-tended borders of colour and much of it is quite wild, but if you are reasonably fit is well worth taking a couple of hours to wander as there are lots of hidden gems. If you are looking for a manicured garden with easy accessible footpaths, this may not be the garden for you. But if you like exploring off the sign-posted paths then you will enjoy it.

Through the entrance is a beautiful colonial styled restaurant with a lovely outside terrace and outdoor seating, very busy at lunch-time on this sunny day. You can visit the restaurant and the plant centre without paying to enter the garden. Pass through into the Walled Garden with a sunken lawn before heading along to the Jungle Glade. And everywhere you walk the air is permeated with the smell of burnt toffee.

The Sunken Garden

 Jungle Glade

A fairly steep climb uphill brings you to a highlight of the garden. This view. From here you can see all along the Jurassic Coast and Lyme Bay from Portland in the east. With binoculars or a good zoom you can even spot the Abbotsbury Swannery below.

Jurassic Coast View Point


The Sino-Himalayan Glade, Bamboo Ride and Jurassic Pond in the east part of the garden is the wildest and darkest area with uneven and sloping paths meandering through trees, shrubbery, bamboos and streams. But keep your eyes open as there are many interesting colours and shapes and textures hidden here. And if you hear an odd coughing noise it is most likely to be a pheasant.

Sino-Himalyan  Glade

White arrows direct you through the best parts of the garden, but don’t stick to them as there are some interesting paths leading off to other discoveries. And if you are in a wheelchair, don’t confuse them with the wheelchair route as it is not.

Colour in the Garden


Although I mentioned that you shouldn’t expect masses of colour at this time of year, that doesn’t mean that there is none. In fact  there are many plants still in bloom and where they aren’t don’t forget to look up at the leaves, many turning colour, and if the light is right they can look just as beautiful.

A lovely Pavilion in the top corner provides shade from the sun or shelter from the rain and where you can sit and look out over the Southern Hemisphere Garden.


Finally finish off with a slice of Victoria Sponge cake from the Colonial Tea-room. You’ve earned it!


  • Street:        Bullers Way
  • Postcode:   DT3 4LA
  • City:            Weymouth
  • County:      Dorset
  • Country:    United Kingdom

More lovely walks can be found over at my friend Jo’s place.


14 Comments Add yours

  1. suej says:

    Looks a great place for a wander, Jude! My kind of garden, not too structured….

    1. Heyjude says:

      It was a great way to spend the afternoon even in a shower or two 🙂 Well worth a visit if you are ever in that area.

      1. suej says:

        Might happen one day!

  2. restlessjo says:

    This is a delicious post, Jude! The Red Hot Poker shot and the Abutilon are fabulous but what a situation! That shot of Chesil Beach from the heights- fabulous! 🙂 Absolutely my kind of garden. I could spend hours there. Thank you so much for your participation and support. I know you’ll have an amazing time in Oz. I think you go soon after I’m back from the Algarve so you know I’ll be jealous. Take care 🙂

    1. Heyjude says:

      It has it all Jo, including the view 🙂
      When are you off to Tavira and how long for this time? If it were me I’d stay until April 😀

      1. restlessjo says:

        I’d stay with you, Jude! 🙂 It’s just 8 days and we go Thursday so I’ll be back before you’ve gone, I think. 😦

  3. Lucid Gypsy says:

    Ahh fabulous, I love Abbotsbury and you timed it well to enjoy the fragrance of the cercidiphyllum 🙂

    1. Heyjude says:

      Indeed! The smell of bonfire toffee 🙂

  4. pommepal says:

    This garden is incredible Jude I loved walking around it with you. The names invite you to explore “Jungle glade” “The Sino-Himalayan Glade,” “Bamboo Ride” and “Jurassic Pond” they conjure all sorts of images. I love rambling sorts of gardens, your photos are the next best thing to being there.

    1. Heyjude says:

      It was a pleasant surprise as in the first 10 mins of the walk there isn’t much to see, but once you hit the tropical woodlands and the rest of the garden it is very interesting.

      1. pommepal says:

        Certainly was… 🙂

  5. Patrick says:

    Wow!!! That is one beautiful garden. It was a nice visual break from the 80’s colors that make up my cubicle…with not outside view. Thanks!!!

    1. Heyjude says:

      Thanks Patrick – the garden got better as we went around.

  6. Amy says:

    I’m in awe with this fabulous garden photos. Thank you so much for the beautiful walk, Jude.
    Ready for you big trip? 🙂

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