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Abbey Gardens in Top 20 Most Visited Free Attractions in England and Top in the East of England

National survey shows 1,345,058 people visited the gardens in 2023

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The Abbey ruins and St Edmundsbury Cathedral from the wildflower labyrinth. Photo: Phil Morley

The historic Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds with the ruins of the Abbey of St Edmund is in the Top 20 most visited free attractions in England and the top free attraction in the East of England.

VisitEngland published its 2023 Annual Survey of Visits to Visitor Attractions today which showed that 1,345,058 people visited the gardens in the heart of the Town Centre last year, make it the most visited free attraction in the East of England and the 11th in England.

The award-winning 14-acre Abbey Gardens is on the site of the former Benedictine Abbey, the Abbey of St Edmund, once one of the richest, largest and most powerful Benedictine monasteries in England. People came from all over England and further afield to visit the Shrine of St Edmund and it became one of the most famous and wealthy pilgrimage locations in England, visited by royalty.

Internationally renowned for its colourful and attractive displays and the heritage of its backdrop make the gardens a very special place to visit and visitors come from all over the world to see it.

The gardens are framed by the abbey wall that runs from the 13th century Abbot's Bridge via the imposing Abbey Gate to St Edmundsbury Cathedral.

It is not hard to understand why the Abbey Gardens have won the prestigious Green Flag Award on numerous occasions, it is a stunning venue for the many and varied cultural events which take place in Bury St Edmunds.

Created in 1831 by Nathaniel Hodson, the Abbey Gardens was originally a botanic garden laid out in the same style as the Royal Botanic Gardens in Brussels. In 1936 the concentric circles were replaced by the sixty-four island beds which, together with illuminations, formed part of the Coronation celebrations for George VI in 1937.

Today, approximately 20,000 plants are bedded out in the spring for the summer display plus 12,000 plants and 20,000 bulbs in the autumn for the spring display.

The town's stunning St Edmundsbury Cathedral was the eighth most visited free attraction in the East of England with 73,442 visitors last year.

In the paid for visitor attractions, National Trust’s Ickworth near Bury St Edmunds was in eighth place in the Top 20 Most Visited Paid Attractions: East Of England, with 325,900 visitors last year, a 13 per cent increase on 2022.

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The central beds. Photo: Phil Morley

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