The Ergohacks Verdict

Stourhead is a world-famous landscape garden created about 275 years ago. The garden was designed around an artificially created lake and a circular sunken path leads the way around with spectacular views, sculpted to look like paintings, emerging along the route. It’s a magical place to visit and particularly beautiful in spring when all the flowers are in bloom as well as autumn when the leaves change colour.

The estate surrounds and includes the village of Stourton on the Wiltshire Downs, near the Somerset border.

Stourhead is an artistic landscape garden that reaches the pinnacle of possibility. Created almost 300 years ago, it’s home to some of the tallest trees in England, flaunts classic principles of design, philosophy, aesthetics and landscape architecture and proudly shows off practical accomplishments and feats of engineering.

It’s an outdoor space that has something for everyone: rare orchids, excellent climbing trees – and how often does one get the opportunity to climb trees anymore, a spring-turned-grotto, the chance to contemplate a beautiful library and a working waterwheel. Also plenty of bird spotting and other nature watching opportunities.

For the philosophical minded, reminisce on how Alexander Pope’s “genius of the place” is implemented and how well seventeenth-century landscape painters like Poussin, Lorrain and Duchet is brought to life.

It’s a contemplative space and even on some of its busiest days of the year, it never feels crowded. See the flowers in bloom during spring, climb a tree in summer, experience a breathtaking autumn display or stop in for a hot chocolate in the cottage or warm fire at the house on a cold winter’s day. Accessible, welcoming and incredibly beautiful, Stourhead is a must-visit, enchanted place.

Highly recommended.

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Tickets available at entrance (*On-line booking required/recommended for special events)

Price: £ 15.60 (adult), £7.90 (child), Under 5’s free entry. King Alfred’s Tower is an additional £2 – 4 for entry.
Free parking. Free entry for National Trust Members.
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 About The National Trust

“We’re a charity founded in 1895 by three people who saw the importance of our nation’s heritage and open spaces and wanted to preserve them for everyone to enjoy. More than 120 years later, these values are still at the heart of everything we do. We look after special places throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland forever, for everyone.

As a charity, we rely for income on membership fees, donations and legacies, and revenue raised from our commercial operations. We have over 4.5 million members and 62,000 volunteers. More than 20 million people visit our pay for entry properties, while an estimated 100 million visit our open-air properties.

We protect and open to the public over 350 historic houses, gardens and ancient monuments.

But it doesn’t stop there. We also look after forests, woods, fens, beaches, farmland, downs, moorland, islands, archaeological remains, castles, nature reserves, villages – forever, for everyone.”*

Design

Stourhead has much to offer and is the National Trusts’ second busiest attraction. A walk around its lake is essential when visiting – read a little bit about each classical monument here before setting off – and don’t miss the places slightly off the main path. The Ice House, the waterwheel, Obelisk and Great Oar Meadow (behind the house) where rare English orchids thrive.

Visit Stourhead house to see a grand Palladian-style villa built in 1725 with a Regency style library and Chippendale furniture later added.

Most weekends King Alfred’s Tower is open in the afternoon  – check with Stourhead to ensure it is indeed open before setting off – it is definitely worth the climb on a clear day. The Tower is about 2 miles from the house and garden on the estate – enjoy a 5.5 mile (2 hour) circular walk there or park in the car park nearby. There are many other noteworthy places in the countryside around the house and gardens to enjoy – here is a National Trust recommended list.

Stourhead hosts many themed days – craft and art fairs, children’s seasonal events, known for their high quality, it is always worth checking their Events page to see what’s on.

Specification

Travel season: Open year round
Accommodation: Self-catering cottages available for hire
Location: Stourhead, near Mere, Wiltshire, U.K., BA12 6QF.
Booking: Advanced booking not required.
Opening: 9 am (gardens & restaurant), 10am (shop) 11 am (house).
Closing: 16:30 (house), 18:00 (garden, restaurant, shop)
Map: PDF map can be found here.
Public transport: Accessible (nearest bus stop in Stourton village).

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The review is based on multiple visits to Stourhead gardens, house, King Alfred’s tower and estate with most recent visit in December 2016. This article was first published on 14 July 2016 and last updated on 10 August 2017.