Ten Great British Carving Trails | To travel

Kielder Art & Architecture, Northumberland

Over the past 27 years, the stunning landscapes around Kielder Water – and the dense forest that surrounds it – have become home to an extraordinary collection of visual art and architecture, from wave chambers to futuristic shelters . Highlights include Silvas Capitalis, a giant head with an open mouth, and the Janus Chairs, three rotating king-size seats, which overlook the lake from the north shore. There are three art and architecture trail guides that can be downloaded from the website before visiting.
Open daily, free entry (parking £5); kielderartandarchitecture.com

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, Yorkshire

Telescope: Charity, by Damien Hirst, at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield. Photograph: Stephen Dorey/Alamy

Spread over 500 acres of parkland, the YSP was the UK’s first sculpture park, with a regularly changing diverse collection of work, with typically around 100 sculptures to discover and explore. Most famous for its collection of world-class works by Henry Moore, the park is also home to sculptures by Barbara Hepworth, Andy Goldsworthy and Damien Hirst. A great family option, there are buggy-friendly trails, baby changing facilities and the cafe offers kid-friendly food. In recent years, the YSP has expanded to have indoor galleries along the grounds.
Open every day 10am-5pm, admission £6/free; ysp.org.uk

Grizedale Sculpture, Cumbria

Ax Man sculpture at Grizedale in Cumbria
Forest path: Axe-man sculpture at Grizedale in Cumbria. Photography: Picturebank/Alamy

Home to the UK’s first woodland sculpture trail, artists have been exhibiting on these 10 square miles of natural woodland since 1977. The visitor center has useful maps and the trail can be explored on foot or by bike, with artwork encompassing everything from carved wood figures to standing stones and seats – many using rocks, plants and felled trees from the forest itself. Beyond the trail, Grizedale has a cozy cafe, a children’s play area and many other walking and cycling trails.
Open every day, free admission; forestryengland.uk

Sculpture by the Lakes, Dorchester, Dorset

Look for Simon Gudgeon's Enlightenment sculpture at Sculpture by the Lakes in Dorchester.
Waterwork: Search for Enlightenment by Simon Gudgeon, at Sculpture by the Lakes, Dorchester. Photograph: Martin Lindsay/Alamy

The creation of sculptor Simon Gudgeon and his wife Monique, Sculpture by the Lakes spans 26 acres, featuring more than 30 major Gudgeon creations and works by 30 other international artists. Works range from kinetic wind sculptures to bronze animal and human figures, dotted along the pathways in the woods and even in the shimmering ponds. The new Artisan’s Bazaar sells an eclectic mix of goods from locally made gin to gardening tools, while Café by the Lake is a great choice for lunch. Note, however, no children under 14 – and tickets must be pre-booked online.
Open Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5pm, £12.50; sculpturebythelakes.co.uk

Fforest Fawr Sculpture Trail, Cardiff

Spring flowers at Forest Fawr, a woodland above Castell Coch, Tongwynlais.
Tree tales: Forest Fawr forest above Castell Coch in Cardiff. Photograph: Philip Veale/Alamy

Kids will love this wooded trail, with lots of artwork to spot – faces peering down tree trunks, unusual animals popping out of rock piles – all carved from wood or hewn from local rock. The works encourage children to discover the forest while imagining the story of a giant creature, living among the trees. The Forest Tea Room (at Forest Stoves and Fires) offers slap-up breakfasts and great coffee and cakes.
Open daily, free; outdoorcardiff.com

New Arts Centre, Wiltshire

A narrow blue top structure at the New Art Center in Wiltshire.
Looking up: The New Art Center in Wiltshire

The New Art Center originated in a London gallery in the late 1950s as a charity to support emerging artists – settling in Wiltshire in 1994, where experimental and large-scale works can be exhibited. The 60 acres are home to landmark works by Barbara Hepworth and Antony Gormley. There is no cafe, but the Lord Nelson pub in nearby Middleton has excellent lunches (the-lord-nelson.co.uk).
Open daily, free; sculpture.uk.com

Sainsbury Center Sculpture Park, Norwich

Goodwood Steps by Anthony Caro at the Sainsbury Center Sculpture Park in Norwich.
Work studied: Goodwood Steps by Anthony Caro at the Sainsbury Center Sculpture Park within the grounds of the University of East Anglia. Photography: SPK/Alamy

Located on the campus of the University of East Anglia, this 152-hectare sculpture park surrounds Norman Foster’s iconic Sainsbury Centre. They house the Sainsbury family’s art collection, including works by Giacometti, Francis Bacon and Henry Moore. Current highlights include the monumental Goodwood Steps by Anthony Caro, spanning 33m, and Usagi Kannon, a remarkable bronze figure by Leiko Ikemura. The Terrace Café makes good tea and cakes.
Open every day (interior galleries closed on Mondays), free; saintsburycentre.ac.uk

Leonardslee, West Sussex

Eight Bronze Cardinals in Leonardslee Gardens
Figures of Eight: Eight Bronze Cardinals in Leonardslee Gardens in West Sussex. Photograph: Gwendoline Pain/Alamy

When this world famous garden reopened to the public in 2019, new owner Penny Streeter pledged to breathe new life into the estate. Alongside a pinot noir vineyard and a wallaby enclosure, this 240-acre woodland garden is now home to an extraordinary array of figures, tribal heads, colossal masks and human forms by South African sculptor Anton Smit. Its 7m high Walk of Life silhouette overlooks the gardens. There is excellent coffee and the main house offers afternoon tea, a Michelin star restaurant and 10 sumptuous bedrooms should you wish to stay.
Open every day 9am-4pm, admission £13.50/£6.50; leonardsleegardens.co.uk

Broomhill Sculpture Garden, Devon

Giant red stiletto shoe at Broomhill Sculpture Garden in Devon
Well heeled: giant red stiletto shoe at Broomhill Sculpture Garden in Devon. Photograph: Guy Harrop/Alamy

Set on 103 acres, Broomhill combines a boutique hotel and restaurant with a garden filled with 150 works of art, curated alongside horticultural designs. The exhibition is divided into two gardens; the former features permanent installations and works available for purchase, while the latter, located in the Lower Meadows, features works from the National Sculpture Prize. The Terrace Café offers delicious homemade cakes and Italian coffee. The sculpture garden and cafe must be reserved in advance.
Open daily, £10/£5; broomhill-immobilier.com

Loch Ard Sculpture Trail, Trossachs

Pike sculpture on water by Rob Mulholland on the Loch Ard Sculpture Trail in Aberfoyle
Creation of the lake: pike sculpture by Rob Mulholland on the Loch Ard Sculpture Trail near Aberfoyle. Photograph: Angus McComiskey/Alamy

Another great option for kids, this trail along the scenic shores of Loch Ard and Lochan a’Ghleannin, is dotted with fascinating carvings and charming woodland creatures for kids to spot. Unusual seats and shelters come with listening tubes and embossed letters and symbols. Find the wild animal pelts for the chance to see some of Loch Ard’s living inhabitants – and there are five sound posts along the way. The trail can be walked or cycled, and downloadable maps are available on the website.
Open daily, free; forestryandland.gov.scot

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