arts and design

From Skyspace to The Scallop: 10 of the best outdoor art works

Cramlington, Northumberland

As you walk up the paths that spiral this grass-covered earthwork, you don’t immediately see that it’s a colossal female nude. With this modern pagan monument, Jencks created a 21st-century answer to the chalk horses and giants that dot Britain. It will give future archaeologists headaches trying to understand our matriarchal fertility cult. With outdoor Covid restrictions set to ease, ponder this spectacular enigma for yourself.

Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens, Cornwall

To sit in one of Turrell’s Skyspaces is to become aware of the magic of light as the circle of sky revealed by its open roof interacts with subtle lighting to slow you down and open your eyes and mind. Turrell is a sculptor of the senses whose primal and mysterious aesthetic blurs reality and dreams.

Victoria Tower Gardens, SW1

A triumph of compassion and pathos. The tragic expressions of Rodin’s ordinary people surrendering themselves to save their town have universal dignity. It portrays an incident in the hundred years war when the English offered to spare Calais if six citizens volunteered to die. This 1889 French artwork is even more poignant in the Brexit age.

Void eyed ... Barbara Hepworth’s Epidauros II in Cornwall.
Void eyed … Barbara Hepworth’s Epidauros II in Cornwall. Photograph: Zoonar GmbH/Alamy

St Ives

This big, bronze lozenge pierced by a circular void is like a giant eye framed against the wild sea. You can look past it and through it at the grey, green and black waters below. Hepworth lived in St Ives and the way the blue surface of this public sculpture melts into the warm, south-western sunlight shows you why.

Postman’s Park, EC1

This Victorian masterpiece remembers ordinary people: not with statues, but with harrowing accounts of their selfless deaths on ceramic plaques that fill a wall in a quiet City of London park. As you read, you see terrible imaginary events. Ghosts gather round you. Don’t go alone.


You can walk up this (often pee-scented) staircase to Edinburgh’s Old Town without noticing that it’s art – which is Creed’s point. He makes art that insists it’s just another bit of the world. Yet look down and the steps are made of colourful marble that would do an Italian piazza proud.


Art and nature interact in green and shady splendour on the paths through this spectacular forest in the Lake District. Land artist Andy Goldsworthy’s Taking a Walk for a Walk is perhaps the most poetic sculpture, a curving stone wall receding into the forest’s depths, covered in moss as nature reclaims it.

Misty mountain hop ... Avebury Stone Circle at dawn.
Misty mountain hop … Avebury Stone Circle at dawn. Photograph: Esther Smith/Alamy

Avebury, Wiltshire

Some of the most enigmatic art ever created can be enjoyed in British landscapes: the stone circles, barrows and tombs built by neolithic people. Avebury is free and open to visit, partly because there’s a village enclosed inside the stones. Nearby Silbury Hill is a great walk, as is the avenue of eerie megaliths. It all adds up to a haunting and visually striking day out.


Oldenburg, one of the greatest American artists, whose pop sculptures of burgers and cakes helped change perceptions of what art was in the 1960s, shows how to go beyond statues. Captain James Cook’s 1769 account of observing the transit of Venus becomes a note in a bottle – but the note is the bottle.

Aldeburgh, Suffolk

Before Hambling walked into controversy with her Wollstonecraft memorial she created this quieter work, a bronze shell commemorating Benjamin Britten on an atmospheric stretch of pebbled shore. The sea crashes, the wind whistles, the shell echoes – can you hear the mermaids singing?


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