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“Interesting and pleasant, but not inspiring”
Review of RHS Garden Wisley

RHS Garden Wisley
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$40.00*
and up
Northern Limit Line and Ganghwa History Day Trip from Seoul
Ranked #1 of 3 things to do in Wisley
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: Flagship garden of the RHS, Wisley captures the imagination with richly planted borders, luscious rose gardens and a state-of-the-art Glasshouse.
Stroud, Gloucestershire
Level Contributor
15 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
“Interesting and pleasant, but not inspiring”
Reviewed November 14, 2012

I visited RHS Wisley for the first time in July this year (2012), and four months later as I write this review, I am still trying to understand why I went away feeling disappointed rather than inspired.

I think it was that I went with expectations which were too high and unrealistic. I joined the RHS about 3 years ago on a trip to Rosemoor, and have been very impressed by both the design and the immaculate execution of that garden. I've been to the RHS shows at Malvern and Tatton several times, and always be overwhelmed by the big flower tents, and excited by the displays and show gardens. I've read the RHS magazine and been impressed by that too. So just as a pilgrim to Rome hopes and expects to be inspired, I as an RHS member, going to the home of the RHS, was expecting to be inspired. But I wasn't.

In my view the garden has a slightly institutional air about it. It's more of a shining example of what a municipal parks department might hope to achieve, rather than being one of the great gardens of the country. Despite that, it contains a lot of fine things, it's well worth a visit, and on this occassion, my wife and I spent a very intersting afternoon exploring. Here are a few notes on what we saw and did.

The first thing we discovered is that Wisley is popular, so when we arrived in late morning the extensive carpark was full. We just managed to squeeze in on the end of a row, but had to trek quite a way to the entrance.

Being an RHS member, we got in free. It's well worth being a member if you have the slightest interest in gardens and I recommend it highly. I cannot remember how much it would have cost if I had to pay, so I cannot comment on the value for money question.

The house and formal pool, which is the first area you arrive at, are very attractive. It's nice to see every plant clearly labelled (something you notice from the moment you arrive), but it amuses me as I remember the ten or more reasons that Christopher Lloyd gives at his Great Dixter garden for not labelling plants. I think not being the RHS was one of them!

The glass house containing the cacti and succulents is well worth visiting although there is a longish walk to get there. The collection of flowering orchids was nice, although we have seen much more impressive ones in commercial orchid nurserys.

Getting refreshments at the cafe were just like getting refreshments at any other attraction during the summer - slightly more expensive than seems reasonable, slow service from slightly confused and slightly disorganised young staff, difficulty in finding a table, and crowds of noisy people, young and old.

It was nice to see the quite tame heron which put in an appearance at the lake. And it was amazing to see the childern feeding the carp. They were throwing in bits of bread, and there must have been over a hundred fish, some of four or five pounds in weight, almost climbing out of the water to get it. At one point, the fish had two thirds of their backs out of the water in their eagarness to get food.

So a pleasant, interesting but not inspiring afternoon out.

Visited July 2012
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Thank ericbrownbill
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Horsham, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
496 reviews
220 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 223 helpful votes
“A shame it's necessary to eat here”
Reviewed November 13, 2012

Have visited Wisley over the years more times than I can remember and the gardens and woodlands and all the plant features and the special events (such as butterfly weeks) are always stunning as you would expect of the Headquarters Garden of the Royal Horticultural Society but ……….. the Restaurant is a serious let-down. The RHS site is in the middle of no-where and you’re inside and you are captive and they are without competition so maybe they think they don’t have to try – the place takes the shine off an otherwise fantastic day every time. On our last visit, a Tuesday; the menu was short and uninspiring; one of the three starters was off, and for one of the three main courses there was only one portion left - we ordered it and were told ten minutes later it was not available; there seems no communication between the kitchen and the waiting staff. One of our party who had not been able to get either the starter or the main course he wanted commented “Why do you bother with a menu?” Boy, was that the wrong thing to say – the coffee cups were practically throw on the table later. We were not impressed. I had a confit of pork belly - it was disgusting; stringy in the extreme. I looked up the term ‘Confit’ and it means ‘…… suggests comfort, softness, an intensity of flavor….’ so this attempt missed the mark by a long way. It’s not cheap either. In the past we’ve found the cafeteria (which was closed on this visit) very similar – a lot of the items are not available and the quality leaves a whole lot to be desired. It’s a great shame you have to eat on site – the options seem all to be disasters.

Visited November 2012
Helpful?
Thank OLDGIT71
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Waterlooville, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
41 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 18 helpful votes
“Never fails to impress”
Reviewed November 10, 2012

We have been visiting RHS Wisley off & on for over 30 years, and it just gets better every visit, always something new to see or being updated. For instance our first visit, over 30 years ago, the rockery was being constructed, it now looks like it has always been there, same with the glasshouse, and more recently the Bowes - Lyon rose garden

Even a non gardener will enjoy the walks & scenes, unless a grumpy teenager dragged along of course

If you live within easy travel distance it may be worth considering annual RHS membership, which allows free entry for one accompanied family member

Any time of year is good, obviously high summer has more flowers, but even in winter there is always something, and the glasshouse has plenty to wonder at

We have found the restaurants busy at times, mostly school or Bank holidays, so we often use nearby pub [s]

The plant centre is on the expensive side, but you may just find a plant not available elsewhere

If you are even slightly interested in plants, fruit or veg, go along

Visited October 2012
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Thank farway
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Farnham, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
21 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
“Lovely Afternoon With My Toddler”
Reviewed November 5, 2012

I went here during half term week so it was a bit busy in the restaurant but not unbearable. I was very impressed by the 'natural' play area which made a refreshing change from endless swing pushing and I particularly loved the food served in the restaurants. Having visited places like Birdworld where the food is atrocious for children, I wished they could visit Wisley and see how it should be done. Really healthy and nice. Carrot sticks, sliced sausages, grapes, ham or cheese sandwich and fruit juice. The food for grown ups was exceptional as well. Apparently, they often hold activities for kids but I didn't see this on the day I went as was just happy to walk around. Shop also beautiful and tempting but not very kid friendly! Too much delicate stuff on open shelves!

Visited October 2012
Helpful?
Thank CandidWatson
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Epsom, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
67 reviews
20 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 29 helpful votes
“Lovely day out in the country”
Reviewed November 5, 2012

Masses of flora and exquisite views. When there is a frost or snow it's dreamlike. Otherwise it's just brilliant.

Visited November 2012
Helpful?
Thank Gary D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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