The Kew Royal Botanical Gardens is one of, if not the, most famous gardens in the world and home to the largest collection of plants in existence. If that’s not enough, add in the generations of royal George’s living on the grounds, and it makes for quite a story! It’s been on our list of places to see since we got to London last year, and as soon as the weather turned nice, Troy and I jumped on the chance to see the park before the crowds start rolling in for the summer.
The first palace was built on the property in the 16th century by King Henry VII as an escape from the city. Over the years, properties were merged and new buildings constructed to house the children, plants, and at some point, even kangaroos. It went from summer home to permanent residence and, by the 18th century, the Royal family had created quite the microcosm in which gardeners and scientists were invited to experiment and discover.
From there, Kew faced years of ups and downs, but today, the Royal Botanical Garden can boast that it is home to 10% of the world’s wild flowering plant species and aims to boost that number to 25% by 2020. Kew Gardens was also added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2003. It’s quite an impressive place! Not to mention that, at the end of the day, the grounds are also quite simply just a lush and serene haven not far from the city, and a perfect place to find a bit of peace and calm on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
We began our visit with a ride on the Kew Explorer land train to get our bearings and hear a bit of history but quickly decided to ditch the golf cart and take time to discover the less traveled paths of the compound at our own pace. Though the history was actually quite fascinating, we ultimately decided it was not worth missing the chance to let E stop and smell the flowers (high or low!) or watch in awe as a family of peacocks wandered down the lane!
Troy, E and I spent hours roaming the broad, tree-lined avenues, picnicking under the Pagoda, marveling at the beautiful sanctuaries and letting the scent of early spring blooms carry us away from the chaos and busyness hovering just beyond the garden gates.
This was the first excursion we’ve taken in a while that allowed me to share another glimpse of my childhood with Troy and E. Even without the impressive playgrounds and fancy kids’ areas of today, my mother would cart my brother and me to the gardens regularly to run and play to our heart’s content during our stint in the UK. It was special for me to return to a place that could be seen as such a large part of my London story and spend an afternoon dreaming under the cherry blossoms with my person. Whether a local or out-of-towner, history buff or adventurer, this is a beautiful park to add to your list of must-sees while in town!