London Drum

Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Palm House & Palace

Kew Gardens
Where? Kew Gardens, Richmond · Web: Opening times? 10 AM to 7 PM (Mon-Fri, May-Aug); 10 AM to 8 PM (Sat-Sun, May-Aug); 1 AM to 7 PM (Mon-Sun, Sep); 10 AM to 6 PM (Mon-Sun, Oct & Mar); 10 AM to 4 PM (Mon-Sun, first half Nov & last 3 weeks of Jan); 10 AM to 3 PM (Mon-Sun, second half Nov-first week of Jan); 10 AM to 5 PM (Mon-Sun, Feb); Last entry 1 hour before closing Visiting hours may change Price? Adults £21.45; Children £5.50 (4-15); Infants free entry (under-4); Family ticket £48.95 Entry charges may change Time required? A typical visit is 4-5 hours (including travel time to/from london) Buses: 65 Bus fares Trains: The closest station is Kew Gardens District Overground Train fares

Craig’s review… I’ve been trudging across Kew Gardens for the last half-an-hour and my trouser cuffs are hanging like lead weights around the tops of my shoes. But I don’t care about the rain today because it can be quite nice walking through a wood when it’s wet.

Kew Palace & Dutch House

The main reason I came here today was because I was watching Time Team digging up George III’s house in the grounds where he went a bit nuts. Unfortunately most of the best buildings have disappeared now so if you come here expecting Kew Palace to be an actual palace then you’re going to go home disappointed – it’s more like a posh house in a park.

The Dutch House has a nice ornamental garden out the back where a team of gardeners are currently raking over the stones and picking dead leaves off the trees with tweezers. When you step inside you get greeted by a guy in period costume who hands over a little leaflet and then directs you to walk around the rooms at your own leisure.

You can still see where the king ate his dinner and lounged around, playing cards and taking meetings with his ministers, but most of the best rooms are missing (because the building has disappeared). You also get to see the Queen’s bedroom and boudoir, but there are no big State Rooms. There are no gold fittings, or anything like that. Everything is quite plainly decorated – you probably have to be a history nut to appreciate it.

The Royal Botanic Gardens

Most of the people who visit Kew are actually here for the botanical gardens which are colossal. They are so big they even lay on a land-train to take you round. You could spend all day walking around it and still not see it all, that is how big it is.

One walk that you might like to try is the Rhododendron Dell where big bushes tower up above your head through a winding woodland path. I’m currently sitting on a wet bench by the central lake, having a lazy moment with the swans – we’ve decided that we’re going to sit here and wait for the world to come to an end. I’m quite similar to a swan, I think. Not in looks – obviously I don’t mean in looks. What I mean is this: we eat, we sleep, and in-between we just sit around waiting for something else to happen. We float this way, then that way, and invariably end up at exactly the same place again, just another day older. And with a few less feathers.

I think these birds have hit the jackpot because they’re living in the human equivalent of The Ritz. If I was a bird then this is definitely where I would live. Forget all those pigeons pecking at the crisp crumbs in Trafalgar Square – what are they doing? They’ve got wings, haven’t they? Why don’t they come and live by the Sackler Bridge? I love this woody trail of fir trees and its forest floor littered with deep green pine needles. I could sit here all day staring at the muddy islands where all the little baby birds are living.

Marianne North Gallery

Remember to check out the Marianne North Gallery with its wall-to-wall paintings of plants and trees. It sounds quite boring when I describe it like that, but trust me – you should definitely peer through the door. Just poke your nose through the door for two minutes and you will be immediately glad that you did. The pictures are hung so thickly around the walls that it seems like you’re standing inside a greenhouse.

The Treetop Walkway

If you’re looking for something that’s interesting for kids then try the Treetop Walkway. But let me describe it to you first before I climb it and die: imagine a load of steel girders rising out of the ground to the very tops of the trees with a flimsy metal mesh suspended between them. Five minutes later I’m still standing at the bottom of it, wondering whether it’s safe to walk on (I don’t think it is). I’m trying to decide whether the whole thing is going to fall down in the next ten minutes. Are you seriously supposed to walk on this thing?

Okay… I did it! I’m back down on the ground now and I’m still alive – thank christ for that. Thank you God. Thank you Jesus. Thank you mum. If you’re wondering why I didn’t take any photographs whilst I was up there then that’s because I was too scared to let go of the rail. To be honest I don’t even want to talk about it anymore in case I have a panic attack, so let me just say that it was a) high, and b) it did have some good views, and leave it at that.

Tropical Palm House

My favourite part is the Palm House which reminds me of the rainforest room at London Zoo. As soon as you walk through the door you’re hit by the heat which steams up the insides of your eyeballs. It’s warm and humid and full of tropical plants and palm trees. I’m always half-expecting to see some colourful hummingbirds and monkeys swinging through the trees but there’s none of that – it’s just a greenhouse full of plants and trees.

The most exciting bit is the iron spiral staircase that takes you up to the lattice balcony that runs around the top, where you can peer down through the palms at the people far below. If you follow the spiral stairs all the way down to the basement then you’ll find a little one-room aquarium as well. It’s not the largest exhibit in the world (it’s only about twenty tanks in total) but it’s quite nice to see a few fish after overdosing on flowers.

Princess of Wales Conservatory

The Princess of Wales Conservatory is another greenhouse filled with prickly cacti, orchids and desert ferns. There are lots of rocks and water fountains and birds as well (I’m not sure whether they were real or not – I might have seen a few sparrows flying around).

See if you can find the tanks filled with tropical fish, turtles and frogs (they are very well hidden). There’s an underwater window down there somewhere where you can watch those the fish swimming around.

Worth a visit? Value for money? Good for kids? Easy to get to?

I also recommend… If you enjoy this then try Regent’s Park (take a tube journey from Kew Gardens to Regents Park); St. James’s Park (take a tube journey from Kew Gardens to St Jamess Park) and Wisley Gardens

London Squire bookThe owns and has spent the last decade reviewing the capital’s landmarks, attractions and hotels. His guidebook is available from Amazon

Related articles and events

Today Marc Quinn: Light into Life at Kew Gardens

Marc Quinn: Light into Life at Kew Gardens

Next month MIKA -- Open-air concert at Kew The Music

MIKA -- Open-air concert at Kew The Music

Next month Passenger at the Kew The Music Festival

Passenger at the Kew The Music Festival

Your comments and questions

PWaters How big is Kew Gardens? Can you see it all in a few hours or would you recommend a return visit

Craig Hi PWaters. It's huge - 326 acres. You definitely can't see it all in a few hours but you should be able to do most of the interesting stuff like the Palm House, Kew Palace, Princess of Wales Conservatory and Chinese pagoda. If you catch the land train around the grounds then you'll be able to see the best of the plants without having to walk it. But if you're really into plants and want to take your time with them then you'll definitely need a return visit. You'll also want to spend some time in their shop and restaurant which are pretty good

Victoria We always try to visit Kew several times a year and it is always wonderful, and there's always something new to see in the passing seasons. Christmas time is especially lovely when they have all the lights on the trees and festive trails. We try and avoid the shop now because we always say we won't buy anything but always come out with huge armfuls of plants and seeds regardless!

Leave a comment