Ten great UK sculpture trails

<span>Photograph: Ann and Steve Toon/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Ann and Steve Toon/Alamy

Take a walk among stunning carvings in beautiful settings at one of these art parks

Kielder Art & Architecture, Northumberland

Over the past 27 years, the stunning landscapes around Kielder Water – and the dense forest beside it – have become home to an extraordinary collection of visual art and architecture, featuring everything from wave chambers to futuristic shelters. Highlights include Silvas Capitalis, a giant, open-mouthed head, and the Janus Chairs, three king-size rotating 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

A colourful sculpture of a sad-looking girl with a brace on her leg and holding a teddy in one arm and a collection box in the other, surrounded by beautiful countryside
Long view: Charity, by Damien Hirst, at Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield. Photograph: Stephen Dorey/Alamy

Spanning 500 acres of parkland, the YSP was the UK’s first sculpture park, with a diverse collection of regularly changing works, with usually around 100 sculptures to discover and explore. Most famous for its world-class collection of work 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 paths, baby-changing facilities and the café has child-friendly food. In recent years, the YSP has expanded to have indoor galleries alongside the park.
Open daily 10am-5pm, admission £6/free; ysp.org.uk

Grizedale Sculpture, Cumbria

Axe-man sculpture at Grizedale in Cumbria
Woodland trail: Axe-man sculpture at Grizedale in Cumbria. Photograph: Picturebank/Alamy

Home to the UK’s first forest sculpture trail, artists have been exhibiting across this 10 square miles of natural woodland since 1977. The visitor centre has useful maps and the trail can be explored on foot or by bike, with works encompassing everything from wood-carved figures to standing stones and seating – many using rocks, plants and felled trees from the forest itself. Beyond the trail, Grizedale has a cosy café, children’s play area and many other walking and cycling paths.
Open daily, free entry; forestryengland.uk

Sculpture by the Lakes, Dorchester, Dorset

Search for Enlightenment sculpture by Simon Gudgeon, at Sculpture by the Lakes, in Dorchester.
Water work: Search for Enlightenment by Simon Gudgeon, at Sculpture by the Lakes, in Dorchester. Photograph: Martin Lindsay/Alamy

The creation of sculptor Simon Gudgeon and his wife Monique, Sculpture by the Lakes spans 26 acres, with over 30 large creations by Gudgeon, and works by 30 other international artists. Works range from kinetic wind sculptures to bronze animal and human figures, dotted along the paths in the woodland, and even in the shimmering ponds. The new Artisan’s Bazaar sells an eclectic mix of products from locally made gin to garden tools, while the Café by the Lake is a great choice for lunch. Note, though, 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 in Forest Fawr, a woodland above Castell Coch, Tongwynlais.
Tree tales: Forest Fawr woodland above Castell Coch in Cardiff. Photograph: Philip Veale/Alamy

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

New Art Centre, Wiltshire

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

Sainsbury Centre Sculpture Park, Norwich

Goodwood Steps by Anthony Caro at the Sainsbury Centre Sculpture Park in Norwich.
Studied work: Goodwood Steps by Anthony Caro at the Sainsbury Centre Sculpture Park in the grounds of the University of East Anglia. Photograph: SPK/Alamy

Set on the campus of the University of East Anglia, this 350-acre sculpture park surrounds Norman Foster’s landmark Sainsbury Centre. They house the art collection of the Sainsbury family, including works by Giacometti, Francis Bacon and Henry Moore. Current highlights include Anthony Caro’s monumental Goodwood Steps, spanning 33m, and Usagi Kannon, a striking bronze figure by Leiko Ikemura. The Terrace Café does good tea and cake.
Open daily (inside galleries closed Mondays), free; sainsburycentre.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 re-opened to the public in 2019, new owner Penny Streeter vowed to bring new life to the estate. Alongside a pinot noir vineyard and wallaby enclosure, thethis 240-acre woodland garden is now home to an extraordinary array of figures, tribal heads, colossal masks and humanesque forms by South African sculptor Anton Smit. His 7m-high Walk of Life figure overlooks the gardens. There’s an excellent café, and the main house offers afternoon tea, Michelin-starred dining and 10 sumptuous bedrooms if you want to stay.
Open daily 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 a 103-acre estate, Broomhill combines a boutique hotel and restaurant with a garden filled with 150 artworks, curated alongside horticultural designs. The exhibition is divided into two gardens; the first exhibits permanent installations and works available to buy, while the second – set in the lower river meadows – showcases National Sculpture Prize works. The Terrace Café does sinfully good homemade cakes and Italian coffee. Both the sculpture garden and café need to be booked in advance.
Open daily, £10/£5; broomhill-estate.com

Loch Ard Sculpture Trail, Trossachs

Pike sculpture on water by Rob Mulholland on the Loch Ard Sculpture Trail in Aberfoyle
Lake creation: 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 picturesque shores of Loch Ard and Lochan a’Ghleannin, is dotted with fascinating sculptures and charming woodland creatures for kids to spot. Unusual seats and shelters come with listening tubes and raised letters and symbols. Find the wildlife hides for the chance to see some of Loch Ard’s live animal inhabitants – and there are five sound posts along the way. The trail can be cycled as well as walked, and there are downloadable maps available on the website.
Open daily, free; forestryandland.gov.scot