The best of the UK’s outdoor art scene
Take some exercise and soak up a bit of culture at the same time with these must-see UK exhibitions, installations and art trails. Find the one nearest you below, and plan before you travel, as booking may be required
Where: Cumbria When: All year round
Spanning ten square miles of natural woodland, Grizedale Forest in the scenic Lake District is the UK’s first sculpture forest. Established in 1977, it boasts 50 permanent sculptures and 4,000 hectares of wilderness primed for exploration by bicycle or by foot thanks to its range of accessible footpaths and scenic cycle trails. Pack a picnic and hike on the Millwood Trail to check out one of the collection’s most striking creations, Checkpoint. Clamber inside and see if you can spot a curious series of hidden drawings.
Visit The Renoir
Where: Guernsey When: All year round
Set on the shores of the Channel Island, this trail enables visitors to walk in the footsteps of master Impressionist Renoir with a self-guided tour along the majestic Moulin Huet Valley. Guernsey’s Renoir Walk traces the locations that inspired his paintings while on a summer holiday in 1883. Along the route, five specially crafted ornate frames allow a picture-perfect photo op, where you can stand in the precise spots where the artist worked on his paintings and admire the surrounding beauty as he once did. If the children get restless, scan the QR codes planted along the path to hear an audio guide narrating the history of his work.
Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail
Visit The Forest of Dean Sculpture
Where: Gloucestershire When: All year round
Since opening in 1986 more than 25 artists and photographers have contributed works for the four-and-a-half-mile long Sculpture Trail in the Forest of Dean. While some have been lost to nature over time, 17 remain, allowing you to seek out art as you wander among the region’s ancient trees and remarkable woodland. Along the trail, be sure to seek out a giant stained-glass window suspended over the path, a deer crafted from wire and a huge chair made from tree trunks. Our insider tip? Head there in autumn when the views are extra special.
Emma Stothard Sculpture Trail
Visit Walking with
Where: Whitby When: All year round
The small seaside town of Whitby is thought to be where Captain Cook first learned his seamanship. Talk to any of the locals here and you’ll soon hear about their pride in its fishing heritage. To celebrate this, Scarborough Borough Council’s Walking with Heritage project reveals a new walking tour featuring seven life-size sculptures by local artist Emma Stothard. Look out for the fisherman’s ‘lass’ and baskets full of fish, which are on the west side of the swing bridge over the River Esk. And be sure to download the app for a handy map before you begin.
Ellesmere Sculpture Trail
Visit The Ellesmere Sculpture
Where: Shropshire When: All year round
Created over the space of a decade, and with new works still being added, the Ellesmere Sculpture Trail celebrates the best of Shropshire’s heritage and culture. Featuring work by artists from across the world, now’s the perfect time to visit, as the mix of granite, steel and wood creations are framed by vibrant autumnal colours. New to 2020 are two sculptures, The Sisters and Refuge, plus a Labyrinth installation, all of which commemorate the creation of the Save the Children Fund by sisters Dorothy Buxton and Eglantyne Jebb, who were born in the town. No booking required, but check before you travel.
Where: Plymouth, West Hoe Pier Until: All year round
The latest addition to Plymouth’s waterfront sees the unveiling of its long-awaited new sculpture, Look II, by British sculptor Antony Gormley OBE. Specially commissioned for this year’s Mayflower 400 commemorations, the 3.5m statue evokes a yearning to travel to a new world, just like the pilgrims who left the port city on the historic ship for the Americas 400 years ago. Made up of 22 cast-iron blocks, it stands proudly at the site where Sir Francis Chichester landed in 1967, becoming the fastest person to sail around the world in his 16m ketch, Gipsy Moth IV. Head to the West Hoe Pier to take a look at the striking artwork up close.
Visit Helaine Blumenfeld, Looking
Where: Canary Wharf, London When: Until 31 May 2021
Be sure to head east to London’s financial district on your next trip to the capital and take in Helaine Blumenfeld’s outdoor exhibition, Looking Up, in residence at Canary Wharf. The imposing corporate architecture makes an unusual but strangely apt setting for the sculptor’s latest showcase, which aims to portray the chaos of the contemporary world. Ten outdoor sculptures are spread around and between the towering glass façades, and highlights include the monumental three-part sculptures Taking Risks (2019) and Illusion (2018), which were created using her signature materials, respectively Carrara marble and bronze.
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