Stowe secret places walk

Stowe, Buckingham, MK18 5EQ

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Discover our newly opened Secret Garden © David Lewing

Discover our newly opened Secret Garden

Who's behind the Temple of British Worthies? © Paul Watson

Who's behind the Temple of British Worthies?

Find the hidden place behind the Temple of Venus © National Trust

Find the hidden place behind the Temple of Venus

Route overview

Remember those magical childhood tales of hidden, secret gardens, which you crept into through a creaky, wooden door mantled with ivy?

Our Lamport Garden has been a genuine secret for many years. But now you can discover it along with a whole host of rarely seen locations as part of our secret places walk.

Normal admission charges apply.

Route details

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

Stowe Secret Places walk map
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: New Inn, Stowe, grid ref: SP 68175 36436

  1. Brown's Cascade. Turn right out of New Inn and follow the drive down to Bell Gate. Turn right and cut across the grass towards the Palladian Bridge. Follow the path and directions to the Chinese House. Take the grass path on the other side of the Chinese House and follow the path through the gate. Head down the steps to arrive at the Cascade.

    Show/HideBrown's Cascade

    Named after James Brown (not 'Capability' and not the soul singer) who was a head gardener and instrumental in beginning work in this area. In 1827 he received a silver medal for the best fruits from King George IV for growing one of the largest pineapples ever seen at that time. It was 11 inches high, 33 inches round and weighed 22lbs, which was a great indicator of his skill as a gardener.

  2. Secret Garden. Cross the bridge and go through the gate on the other side to arrive at our Secret Garden.

    Show/HideSecret Garden

    Become one of the first to re-discover our newly opened Lamport or ‘Secret’ Garden. This 19th-century rock and water garden contrasts quite significantly to the landscaping of the rest of our gardens. It was built around 1830 when the family purchased Lamport Manor, which they then knocked down to make the garden.

    Discover our newly opened Secret Garden © David Lewing
  3. Signor Fido. Turn right and follow the path around the lake, keeping the lake on your right. Follow the path back to the gate at the top of the Cascade. Go through and follow the path as it curves to the right and leads you away from the Chinese House. Turn right to cross the Palladian Bridge and then turn left, keeping the lake on your left. Go through the gate and turn right for Thanet Walk and go uphill. Look for the leaning tree on your right – opposite this is a secret path that is the entrance to Signor Fido’s monument. Follow this down.

    Show/HideSignor Fido

    Take a look behind the Temple of Worthies and discover this often-missed memorial to Signor Fido, the much-beloved greyhound belonging to Lord Cobham. This memorial marks the spot where Signor Fido was buried. It demonstrates just how much Lord Cobham thought of his dog as he chose to bury him amongst the Great British Worthies. Read the poem on the memorial stone to find out more about the life of the beloved Signor Fido.

    Who's behind the Temple of British Worthies? © Paul Watson
  4. Modern Virtue. Take the curved grass path to the right of the path that you came in on. Follow this round and turn left to arrive at the Worthies. If you turn right, take the first bridge on the left, which is Shell Bridge. Walk into the Temple of Ancient Virtue. Exit the Temple of Ancient Virtue and head into the dell to find the remains of the Temple of Modern Virtue under the yew trees.

    Show/HideModern Virtue

    The missing Temple of Modern Virtue worked together with the Temple of Ancient Virtue to illustrate the value of facing challenge and working hard throughout life. The idea was that the Temple of Modern Virtue was all that was to be attained if a person took the easy route through life as opposed to the Temple of Ancient Virtue, a far superior place that could be attained through hard work and sound values. Therefore, the Temple of Ancient Virtue is a beautiful structure whereas the Temple of Modern Virtue was built as a part ruin.

  5. Walking yew trees. Follow the path that leads around to the back of this temple and head downhill. Continue down the path until you reach an open area. Head across the grass and go under the large yew trees on your left.

    Show/HideWalking yew trees

    A yew tree that has grown into the ground and sprouted again, creating a room under the canopy. Probably pre-dates the garden and was part of Stowe village, which stood in the area.

  6. Sleeping Parlour. Leave the trees and head straight, rejoining the path. Follow this with the lake and the bridge on your left. Continue along – Stowe House will be on your right. Turn right when you are opposite the Lake Pavilions to enter the Sleeping Wood.

    Show/HideSleeping Parlour

    The Sleeping Parlour within the Sleeping Wood would have been based upon Charles Perault's The Tale of Sleeping Beauty in the Wood. The garden was designed by Charles Bridgeman, modelled on a similar garden at Versailles. Above the door to the sleeping parlour an inscription would have read, 'Because of all things uncertain, indulge yourself'. The house was built around 1720, and removed by 1760.

  7. Ice House. Take the well-defined path that is the second exit from this space: you should have Stowe House on your right and another path between you and the house. Follow to the end and turn left onto the path. Take the first path on your right and turn right when you reach the water. Follow the path along with the water on your left. You will pass the Rotunda. Take the grass path on your right for Queen Caroline’s Statue. When you reach the statue, take the path on the left and follow it round to the back of the statue, where you will find the Ice House.

    Show/HideIce House

    The Ice House is a bit of a mystery. Hidden beneath the statue of Queen Charlotte, the door to the Ice House was re-discovered by the gardeners only 20 years ago. No one holds a key to the door, meaning the interior has not been seen for…

  8. Lower Cascade. Head back the way that you came and turn right when you reach the sign for Queen Caroline’s Statue. Take the next path on the left. When you can see the Ruins on the Cascade across the lake from you, take the grass path on the right. Go through the gate and follow the path down to see the Lower Cascade. You can also follow the path just before the gate (with the fence on your right) to see the wheel.

    Show/HideLower Cascade

    Wonderful site that most of our visitors usually miss. There’s a tunnel behind the cascade that leads into the centre of the lake. Resident bats reside here. Can look into and see the pump – which uses water power from the lake to pump spring water around the garden.

  9. Venus Suntrap. Head back out and turn right to rejoin the main path. You will see the Temple of Venus on your right. Head through this or follow around to the back. From here you can follow the path on your right to get back to Bell Gate.

    Show/HideVenus Suntrap

    Hidden behind the Temple of Venus is a wonderfully secluded area where the morning sun is collected. It's like entering another world as it’s hidden behind the temple, so most of our visitors miss it. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to see into the parkland and possibly see the sheep and cattle grazing.

    Find the hidden place behind the Temple of Venus © National Trust

End: Bell Gate, Stowe, grid ref: SP 67791 36909

In partnership with

Cotswold Outdoor logo © Cotswold Outdoor
  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Distance: 3.2 miles (5.1km)
  • Time: 2 hours
  • OS Map: Landranger 165
  • Terrain:

    Walking mainly on a mixture of grass and hoggin paths and including gentle gradients at certain points. Some parts accessible via steps only. Paths may be uneven in places and not suitable for pushchairs, especially in muddy conditions. Certain viewing points may require you to leave the path and walk down grassy slopes towards water. Route across narrow bridge optional. Dogs on leads welcome in gardens and parkland.

  • How to get here:

    By train: Bicester North 9 miles, then take X5 bus heading to Cambridge, stop at Buckingham and walk; Milton Keynes Central 14 miles, then take X5 bus heading to Oxford, stop at Buckingham and walk.

    By road: off A422 Buckingham to Banbury road. From M40 take exits 9 to 11, from M1 exits 13 or 15a.

    Parking: £2 for non-members, members park for free.

    Sat-Nav: Use postcode MK18 5EQ.

    On foot: 1½ miles from Buckingham.

    By bus: X5 bus, Cambridge to Oxford, stops Buckingham, 1½ mile walk to entrance.

    By cycle: 1½ miles from Buckingham Sustrans.

  • Facilities:

    • Enjoy freshly produced, seasonal meals in the café
    • Gift shop with local products and a range of National Trust gifts
    • Spaces to lock bicycles and motorbikes in the car park
    • Toilets, baby-changing and feeding facilities at the New Inn
    • Normal admission charges for Stowe apply


  • Contact us