Best of British: Sky gardens

Anna Walker

If you're in search of some botanical inspiration for the summer, just look to the skies…

Sky Garden—London

Situated on the 35th floor of the iconic “Walkie-Talkie” building in central London, this stunning garden sprawls over three stories, combining Mediterranean and South African planting.

The space is multi-award-winning garden designer Jack Dunckley’s favourite British sky garden. He told us, “The garden temperature here is monitored around the clock to mirror the conditions these plants would experience in a warm temperate climate. The temperature is always kept between 15-20 degrees which is adequate for the individual plants chosen to work in harmony with the very particular quality of light and warmth found under the roof canopy.”

“There are no seasons in the Sky Garden, so many plants flower all year round. Amongst the flowering plants are African Lilies, Red Hot Poker and Bird of Paradise.”

 

Oh Me Oh My—Liverpool

Situated opposite Liverpool’s historic waterfront, this hidden gem serves as a charming tea house by day and a glittering events space by night.

Bedecked with fairy lights, they even offer colouring sheets of the view from the balcony to keep the little ones entertained. If you’re looking for a little more privacy, why not join one of the venue’s “secret sessions” where a select group of visitors can enjoy brunch and Bellinis or a hearty roast dinner, all accompanied by live acoustic music.

Says events manager Sarah Lovell, "There's nothing better than sitting in the roof garden and taking in the stunning view with a cold drink and an open sketchbook."

 

Bambalan—Bristol

Bristol’s Bambalan restaurant burst onto the scene in 2016, and the hype around this summery spot hasn’t died down since.

Known for its laid-back atmosphere, it’s planted right in the middle of the city centre and the stunning outdoor terrace offers some unrivalled views across Bristol.

With Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food on the menu, this is the ideal place to bring a group, and enjoy the views and fresh décor as you share some tasty treats.

Says events manager Meg Pope, “Hidden in plain sight above Bristol's bustling city centre, our roof terrace is a true hidden gem. With resident DJs every weekend and an alfresco bar serving local beers and specially created cocktails, you'd be forgiven for thinking you were somewhere altogether more exotic than Bristol!”

 

Birmingham library—Birmingham

Hidden away on the seventh floor of Birmingham’s public library is a scenic rooftop garden offering a stunning secluded spot to enjoy a good book in the sun.

Created entirely by volunteers and reached via glass elevator, the bright garden showcases the red of sedums, resplendent green grasses and soft blue curry plants. Gravel paths lead visitors around the space, offering spectacular views over the city.

The plants in this garden (all 3,500 varieties of them) have been carefully selected to ensure the terrace will offer blooms all year round, so that visitors to this unique library can enjoy the inspiring views any time they please.

Wildlife thrives in this garden, with bird and insect boxes nestled amongst the plantings. If you plan a visit to the shelves, be sure to check out the thriving herb and vegetable plot on the third floor too!

 

Lanark rooftop garden—Lanarkshire

With stunning views from the roof of an old mill building in the heart of the New Lanark World Heritage site, this garden isn’t one to miss.

Says marketing officer Melissa Reilly, “Created on the 9,000 square feet roof of our historic mill, the New Lanark Roof Garden is the largest of its kind in Scotland. Imaginatively designed, the garden contains decorative planting with over 70 different plants and shrubs, a water feature and animal sculptures.”

The garden was originally created by the philanthropist Robert Owen, who owned the cotton mills here during the early 1800s.

Speaking in 1817 of his plans for the rooftop, which he intended to benefit the local community, he said, “They will be surrounded by gardens, have abundance of space in all directions to keep the air healthy and pleasant: they will have walks and plantations before them, and well cultivated grounds, kept in good order, as far as the eye can reach”.

 

The Printworks—Manchester

The bee is the symbol of the city of Manchester and in the last year, it's become synonymous with Mancunian strength and defiance. At the Printworks—an unexpected oasis perched atop the roof of an entertainment complex that hosts restaurants, bars, shops and a cinema—you can discover Mancunian bees buzzing away in their natural habitat.

Says the centre’s director, Fred Booth: “For the last five years our rooftop has hosted a garden with 25 different fruit and vegetable varieties alongside beehives. The bees were originally endorsed by Bez from the band Happy Mondays. In the following years, over £7,000 has been raised for the Booth Centre and Forever Manchester charities from the sale of honey from the hive.”

As well as the buzzing of bees, visitors can expect to spy chicken coops, a wild flower meadow, orchard and herb garden.

Incredibly, all the produce here is grown using state of the art hydroponics units—a way to grow plants without soil, using nutrients in water solvent instead.

 

Varsity hotel—Cambridge

Open all year round, the roof terrace of Cambridge’s Varsity 
Hotel brings the quintessential English garden to dizzy new heights. Views of the nearby Cambridge colleges with their iconic architecture, an impeccable lawn and delicious hotel menu make this spot unmissable. 

By night the Varsity becomes the most romantic spot in Cambridge and the perfect place to watch the sun go down while enjoying a champagne cocktail or gin and tonic.

Says hotel manager Roberto Pintus, “What makes us really special is our amazing location on the banks of the River Cam. Our roof terrace and panoramic restaurant boast breath-taking views of Cambridge; I can think of no better place to spend an evening! We take great pride in offering our guests a highly personalised experience, something a little more bespoke.”

 

Do you have a favourite sky garden for enjoying the long summer evenings? Email us about it at readersletters@readersdigest.co.uk