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Sunrise over two sculptures in a field, with a Norman Foster-designed building to the left, in the Sainsbury Centre Sculpture Park
Photograph: Andy Crouch

9 truly amazing sculpture parks across the UK

Soak up some culture (and some rays) at the UK’s best sculpture parks, from stately homes to woodland trails

Rosie Hewitson
Written by
Rosie Hewitson
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Listen, we all know that the UK is home to some incredible outdoor actvities (when the weather allows, at least). But it’s not just our brilliant beaches, picturesque beer gardens and outdoor pools that should get all the glory. England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are also home to gorgeous gardens, open-air museums and outdoor galleries that allow for a rare dose of alfresco artwork.

From a metalwork safari in Shropshire and a contemporary art haven in Norfolk to a changing programme of renowned artists in a scenic spot near Edinburgh, you’d be surprised at just how much outdoor art is on offer. For those looking to indulge in some culture as well as fresh air, we’ve rounded up nine of the best sculpture parks and trails in the UK.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in the UK

Best sculpture parks in the UK

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Yorkshire
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Yorkshire

The UK’s oldest sculpture park celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2017 and usually has around 100 sculptures to discover across its massive site, near Wakefield in West Yorkshire. The permanent exhibition includes works by local modernist sculptors Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth alongside visiting installations by renowned figures including Damien Hirst and Ai Weiwei.

There are also six indoor galleries dotted around the park, including the RIBA Award-nominated Weston building. Opened in 2019, this structure also features a shop and a fab restaurant serving a seasonal menu including dishes made with fruit from the park’s historic fruit trees. At a whopping 500 acres, it’d take you days to uncover everything YSP has to offer.

The Sculpture Park, Surrey
Photograph: The Sculpture Park

2. The Sculpture Park, Surrey

Looking to start a little sculpture garden of your own? Head to this ten-acre woodland garden, near Farnham in Surrey, where you’ll find as many as 800 sculptures by some 300 international artists on display at any one time. Ranging from the classical to the contemporary, the figurative to the surreal, virtually every style and taste is catered for, and with nearly everything in the garden on sale, the collection is constantly changing. 

The garden and its three lakes are also home to a variety of local wildlife, and the site has plenty of great picnicking spots. There’s plenty of comfy seating from which to take in all that ace art, too. 

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Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail, Gloucestershire
Photograph: Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust

3. Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail, Gloucestershire

Gloucestershire’s ancient royal forest is home to one of the UK’s oldest sculpture trails. Opened in 1986, it features 17 sculptures dispersed along a four-and-a-half-mile circular route, many of which interact with the forest setting or are constructed from its raw materials. ‘Iron Road’, for example, is made using railway sleepers placed on a disused line, and ‘Cathedral’ is a a fifteen-foot-tall stained-glass window depicting a woodland scene, hanging among the trees as if part of the landscape. 

The trail starts and ends at the Forestry Visitor Centre, which has a lovely picnic area for when you’ve finished your trek. Meanwhile, plans are afoot for eight more sculptures to sit alongside the existing works – creating an additional, shorter trail more suitable for families and those with access issues.

Jupiter Artland, West Lothian
Photograph: Allan Pollok Morris / Jupiter Artland

4. Jupiter Artland, West Lothian

The list of installations at this 120-acre woodland sculpture park in the grounds of Bonnington House reads like a who’s who of contemporary sculpture, with the likes of Antony Gormley, Phyllida Barlow and Anish Kapoor commissioned to create permanent works for the site.

Highlights include Marc Quinn’s 12-metre-high ‘Love Bomb’ orchid, a psychedelic paddling pool called ‘Gateway’ by Joana Vasconcelos, and ‘The Cells of Life’, a series of neatly landscaped grassy plains and lakes designed by Charles Jencks, which apparently depicts the process of mitosis when viewed from above. The park is also home to Jupiter Rising, an excellent two-day art, music and performance festival that takes place each August.

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The British Ironworks Centre Sculpture Park, Shropshire
Photograph: Shutterstock

5. The British Ironworks Centre Sculpture Park, Shropshire

Home to the largest sculpture collection in the Midlands, the British Ironworks Centre’s 30-acre garden features more than 100 metalwork sculptures. The main attraction is the educational Extinction Trail, a ‘metal safari park’ featuring forty sculptures of extinct and endangered creatures from a woolly mammal to a family of giraffes.

Other highlights include Uri Geller’s ‘Spoon Gorilla’, a sculpture made using 40,000 spoons, and the ‘Knife Angel’, a monument against violence constructed from more than 100,000 knives and weapons taken from UK streets. The site also has a café, playground and a showroom, along with workshops where you can learn blacksmithing and silversmithing.

Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, Cornwall
Photograph: Sykes Cottages / Flickr

6. Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, Cornwall

Following wishes expressed in her will, Barbara Hepworth’s family turned her St Ives home and studio into a public gallery in 1976, shortly after the artist’s death. Now owned and operated by the Tate, it features the largest permanent collection of works by the modernist sculptor, with many of the sculptor’s personal favourites on display in a small but picturesque garden overlooking the sea. 

Inside, her living room and workshop remain almost untouched, offering insight into the daily working life of one of Britain’s most prolific twentieth-century artists.

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Kielder Art and Architecture Trail, Northumberland
Photograph: Shutterstock

7. Kielder Art and Architecture Trail, Northumberland

Keen walkers can discover 22 massive sculptures and interactive installations on the 27-mile forest trail around Northumberland’s Kielder Reservoir, which offers plenty of entertainment for younger visitors. 

Make your way through the Minotaur Maze, take rubbings of the brass plates on the two-mile Kielder Keepsake trail or enjoy the view from the ‘Janus Chairs’, three giant rotating seats on a peninsula jutting into the reservoir. Other sculptures worth the trek are ‘Skyspace’ by James Turrell, the tree-hanging ‘Mirage’, a huge stone camera obscura called the ‘Wave Chamber’, and ‘Silvas Capitalis’, a huge timber head surrounded by pine trees.

Sainsbury Centre Sculpture Park, Norwich
Photograph: Andy Crouch

8. Sainsbury Centre Sculpture Park, Norwich

The indoor galleries at the Sainsbury Centre of Visual Arts brim with big names like Francis Bacon, Picasso and Degas. But more than 20 sculptures also surround the Norman Foster-designed building set on the University of East Anglia’s 350-acre campus.

These include pieces by sculptors Henry Moore, Antony Gormley, Lynn Chadwick and Elisabeth Frink. But the absolute best thing? If you’re lucky, you might be able to spot some of the resident wild rabbits frolicking among the artworks. Open daily during daylight hours, both the park and centre are free to visit.

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Tout Quarry Nature Reserve and Sculpture Park, Dorset
Photograph: Shutterstock

9. Tout Quarry Nature Reserve and Sculpture Park, Dorset

This former limestone quarry on Dorset’s Isle of Portland was turned into a nature reserve in the 1980s and now has more than 60 sculptures to discover around its 40-acre site, alongside an abundance of wildflowers, butterflies and other wildlife. Many of the sculptures are site-specific, either carved directly into the walls of the quarry or crafted from Portland stone, and the site features works by well-known artists such as Antony Gormley and Phillip King.

With sculpture courses and residencies taking place here regularly, you can sometimes even catch a glimpse of an artist and students at work around the quarry.

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