In Depth

Days out: the UK’s best sculpture parks

Explore beautiful open-air spaces and discover some arresting works of art

The UK is home to some of the best sculpture parks, gardens and trails in the world. Discover works by both renowned and up-and-coming artists as you explore the delights of these destinations.

Tout Quarry, Dorset

Few sculpture parks have as intrinsic a connection with their natural surrounds as this destination in Dorset. Originally a working quarry, the site was protected from further mineral extraction with the establishment of the park and nature reserve in 1983, inviting artists to create both temporary and permanent works in response to its famous Portland stone. Enrol on a course to develop essential carving skills and craft your own masterpiece in these inspirational surrounds.

Portland, Dorset, DT5 1BW; learningstone.org

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

This grand house is a treasure trove for sculpture enthusiasts, both inside and out. Home to the Devonshire Collection, one of the most significant private collections of art in Britain, start with a tour of the interiors before exploring the treasures to be found within its beautiful, landscaped grounds. Here you’ll happen upon such works as a series of busts by Angela Conner, who was a close friend of Andrew Cavendish, the 11th Duke of Devonshire. Depicted among them are Harold Macmillan, HM The Queen, HRH The Prince of Wales and Lucian Freud.

Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1PP; chatsworth.org

 
The Sculpture Park, Surrey

Home to one of the largest, most eclectic collections of sculpture in the country, the Sculpture Park brings together more than 300 artists and 600 works across its ten-acre gardens. It was founded with the aim of allowing sculptors to showcase their creations in stunning natural surrounds, with all the pieces on display available for purchase. As befits the park’s aim to represent the diversity of the genre, here you’ll find both well-known and up-and-coming names, a wide range of materials and styles, as well as something to suit all budgets.

Corner of Jumps and Tilford Road, Churt, Farnham, Surrey GU10 2LH; thesculpturepark.com

Burghley House and Gardens, Lincolnshire

Burghley House is one of the finest examples of Elizabethan architecture in the UK, and its surrounding gardens are equally impressive. Among them is an expanse of landscaped parkland where deer roam, the stately South Gardens conceived by Capability Brown and the quaint Garden of Surprises, where you’ll find playful swivelling Caesar busts and mirrored mazes. But away from the historic grandeur, there’s also some of the best contemporary sculptures on display.

Stamford, Lincolnshire PE9 3JY; burghley.co.uk

New Art Centre, Wiltshire

Founded in 1958, the New Art Centre was originally located in London before moving in 1994 to Roche Court, a 19th-century house near Salisbury. The organisation has put its expansive grounds to good use, with a large sculpture park in which all works are for sale. If the weather turns wet, explore the on-site gallery or book in advance to visit the Artists House, a display of domestic-scale works of art.

Roche Court, East Winterslow, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP5 1BG; sculpture.uk.com

Jupiter Artland, West Lothian

Set within the picturesque 100-acre site of Bonnington House, Jupiter Artland was the brainchild of Robert and Nicky Wilson, herself a sculptor. Since 1999, they have built up an impressive, constantly evolving collection of both permanent and new works. While route maps are on hand, they encourage creative exploration of the park, where you’ll happen upon sculptures such as Marc Quinn’s Love Bomb, a 12-metre tall orchid specially commissioned for Jupiter Artland, and Anish Kapoor's Suck, a large wooden cage in which you can glimpse a wormhole-like void in the ground.

Bonnington House Steadings, Wilkieston, Edinburgh EH27 8BB; jupiterartland.org

Kielder Art and Architecture, Northumberland

From exhibitions at the castle to watersports on the lake, there’s much to see and do at Kielder Water and Forest Park. However, make sure to set aside some time to visit the impressive art and architecture scattered across its countryside. The collection has been built up since 1995 and covers 16 square miles, with a number of handy trails put together to help you plan your route in advance. Perhaps the best way to discover the works is to join one of the regular tours led by an expert.

Kielder, Northumberland NE48 1BT; kielderartandarchitecture.com

Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, Cornwall

Barbara Hepworth came to live in Cornwall at the outbreak of the Second World War, making Trewyn Studios in St Ives her home until her death in 1975. In keeping with her wishes, a year later it opened as a museum and now houses the largest collection of the influential artist’s work. The inside of her workshop was left virtually untouched, giving a glimpse of the creative processes behind her creations, while most of her finished pieces are kept outside in the garden. Weather permitting, take a moment to marvel at such works as the angular Conversation with Magic Stones and the fluid lines of Figure for Landscape.

Barnoon Hill, St Ives, TR26 1AD; tate.org.uk

 
Grizedale Sculpture, Cumbria

This collection of 40 permanent and temporary works is nestled within Grizedale Forest in the heart of the stunning Lake District. Start your trip with a visit to the Yan, which houses a display featuring all the works to be found across the site, before heading off on foot or by bike to track them down in person. The collection is continually updated with new commissions.

Grizedale Forest, Hawkshead, Ambleside, LA22 0QJ; grizedalesculpture.org

Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust, Gloucestershire

While some parks grab the eye with the stark contrast of modern, man-made sculptures against a natural background, this outpost in the Forest of Dean takes a more organic approach. It was founded on the principal that the artists’ works should be inspired by and reflect the beauty of the environment surrounding them, and therefore if you follow the trail you’ll happen upon creative treasures scattered amongst the flora and fauna.

Speech House Road, Coleford, GL16 7EG; forestofdean-sculpture.org.uk

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Yorkshire

Leading the way in showcasing open-air art for 40 years, Yorkshire Sculpture Park rightly holds its place as one of the best-known and best-loved sculpture parks in the UK. The park’s open-air collection comprises long and short term loans, gifts from artists and individuals and site-specific commissions. There are always around 80 sculptures and installations to see in the open air.

West Bretton, Wakefield, WF4 4LG; ysp.org.uk

Irwell Sculpture Trail, Lancashire and Manchester

This impressive 33-mile trail winds its way through Salford, Bury and Rossendale, making it the largest public art scheme in the UK. While you could take in the whole thing in one day by bike, if exploring by foot there are a number of pre-planned routes that enable you to discover the sculptures in bite-size chunks. Each area has its own distinct identity that is reflected in the works; Stacksteads’ industrial history comes through in creations by Robin Dobson, Tim Norris uses material quarried at Clifton Country Park for The Lookout, and Salford City’s vibrant contemporary art scene is expressed in sculptures made in collaboration with students from the University of Salford.

Various locations; irwellsculpturetrail.co.uk

Cass Sculpture Foundation, West Sussex

The non-profit Cass Sculpture Foundation was founded in 1992 with the aim of promoting and supporting contemporary sculpture, showcasing some of the best examples from its gallery and grounds in the grand Goodwood Estate. Over the years, its constantly evolving collection has included works from such names as Eduardo Paolozzi, Anthony Gormley and Anthony Caro, and all pieces on display are available for sale, with proceeds split equally between the artist and the organisation to fund new commissions. It also runs a diverse programme of talks, workshops, showcases and exhibitions.

New Barn Hill, Goodwood, PO18 0QP; sculpture.org.uk

Broomhill Sculpture Gardens, North Devon

This picturesque spot surrounded by acres of tranquil countryside was established in 1997 and has since grown into one of the largest permanent collections of contemporary sculpture in southwest England. Broomhill is also home to a Victorian hotel and award-winning restaurant, providing a relaxed vantage point from which to take in the hundreds of works found in the gardens. Each year it hosts the Broomhill National Sculpture Prize, which supports emerging UK artists, and the ten shortlisted works are currently being displayed in its annual summer exhibition, which runs until November.

Muddiford, Barnstaple, EX31 4EX; broomhillart.co.uk

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