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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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