For those of you longing to escape the confines of the city in favour of some less polluted air, 300 acres of green-fingered pleasure await you at the Royal Botanic Gardens called Kew. Grab your camera, throw on some sensible shoes, furnish yourself with a gourmet picnic and head southwest to the expanses of botanical glasshouses, sweet-smelling flora and visitor attractions referred to by the locals simply as Kew Gardens. Since beginning life as an exotic garden at Kew Park in the 18th century, Kew Gardens have grown (literally) into a leading centre of botanical research, a training ground for professional gardeners and an all around great day out.
The new treetop walkway (opened in 2008) is the superlative way to survey the gardens—at 18 m high and 200 m long—leading you straight into the tree canopy of a woodland glade, and allowing you to get a top-notch view of the rest of what Kew has to offer. The botanical collections themselves have something for everyone: gin lovers will revel in the glory of the juniper collection, culinary masters will adore Kew’s impressive herb garden, goremongers can witness mass insect extermination in the carnivorous plant collection, and those of a prickly disposition will feel most at home in the cacti collection. Committed urbanites—who may feel uncomfortable in the presence of such excessive amounts of chlorophyll—will benefit from taking one of the free tours around the Gardens. These twice daily guided expeditions point out Kew’s ample best bits and provide enough gardening know-how to turn you into a blooming horticulturalist within minutes.