A visit to Stourhead.
Stourhead house and gardens are located in the beautiful west country near Warminster, England. The gardens are, without a doubt, one of the finest examples of eighteenth century landscaped gardens anywhere in the world. At the heart of the gardens, nestled in a sheltered valley, lies a magnificent ornamental lake, surrounded by trees, neo classical temples and frivolous water filled grottos. Graceful swans float on the tranquil waters, their passage causing the tiniest of ripples on the glass like surface. There is a very good reason why the gardens are also known as ‘paradise’.
At every turn the visitor is greeted by views that stagger belief. Many of the pathways consist of hard gravel surfaces and as such are accessible to wheelchair users. Mobility scooters can be hired from the entrance gate and are a good idea for those of us less able to get around easily, as the path around the lake stretches for well over a mile. The more energetic members of the family can climb the 205 steps that lead to the top of King Alfred’s tower, a tall, triangular red brick folly. The views are spectacular from up there, or so I’ve been told. I haven’t made the climb myself - yet.
A National Trust property.
Created in the 1740’s by Henry Hoare the second, the gardens quickly became a firm favourite amongst his family, friends and visitors earning him the nickname Henry the Magnificent.
As the garden developed Henry added more and more features such as the Pantheon, the Temple of Flora, the temple of Apollo, water filled grottos, bridges and wonderful romantic looking gothic ruins.
Today Stourhead is owned and managed by the National Trust and so entry is free to members. The temple of Apollo has become a popular and very romantic venue for weddings. The backdrop of the gardens make for spectacular wedding photos at any time of year.
The tranquil lake at Stourhead.
A great day out for the whole family.
Stourhead is a wonderful place to spend the day with the whole family. Adults and children alike love the gardens and children really like exploring the ruins, grottos and generally running around in the woods having fun.
Take a picnic and find a good spot overlooking the lake to enjoy a leisurely lunch, don’t be tempted to feed the birds until you have finished eating, they will mob you. As will the cheeky squirrels if you give them half a chance, they are tame enough to eat from your hand but don’t seem to know where bread ends and fingers begin! If you don’t want to bother taking food then there is an excellent restaurant at Stourhead.
The restaurant uses good quality locally produced ingredients to provide a varied and interesting menu that changes often to make best use of seasonal produce. Free range eggs, organic meat, handmade sausages and the freshest vegetables, they grow them in a walled garden on the estate, you could wish for make a visit to the restaurant a real pleasure. There is even a farm shop where you can buy the same ingredients to take home with you.
Alternatively, you can eat in the local pub, the Spread Eagle Inn. Situated inside the gardens the inn serves hearty meals including vegetarian choices, wine and several local real ales. The Ploughman’s lunch is huge and delicious with the best home made chutney I’ve ever tasted. If you don’t fancy a meal then the inn also serves a great selection of ice creams and sorbets, just what you need on a hot summer day.
The Spread Eagle Inn.
Year round colour and interest.
Stourhead is an amazing place to visit at any time of year from January when the snowdrops carpet the ground as far as the eye can see to the autumn when the woods blaze with rich reds and gold. The gardens and woods abound with wildlife too, from butterflies and dragonflies to badgers and deer. If the weather turns nasty, as it often does in England, then take refuge in the huge house and enjoy the many paintings and period furniture much of it by Chippendale, there is also a magnificent Regency library to explore containing many rare books.
You can even stay at Stourhead as there is a lovely cottage for hire right next to the entrance gate. The Spread Eagle Inn also has a selection of en-suite bed and breakfast rooms to let.
Getting to Stourhead is easy - if you come by car there is a large car park including many disabled spaces on the lower level near the Spread Eagle Inn, the Wiltshire cycle way runs right through the estate and the local bus stops just down the road from the entrance gate. However you chose to arrive, Stourhead is a must see if you ever find yourself in this part of the world.
Beautiful snowdrops in early spring.
The holiday cottage.
How to Find Stourhead House and Gardens.
Autumn colour at Stourhead.
Galaxy Harvey (author) from United Kingdom on August 26, 2010:
Thanks R Talloni. My family have spent many happy days at Stourhead as it's quite close to where we live.
RTalloni on August 26, 2010:
Sounds like Stourhead is a good reason to find oneself in that part of the world! Thanks for the great tour! You've made this destination very tempting... :)