Stourhead garden walk
Stourhead, Stourton, Warminster, Wiltshire, BA12 6QDRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
This is 18th century route taken by Henry Hoare II and guests. Explore Stourhead in any direction, using this trail to find highlights.
The paths through the shades at point 4 and up to the Temple of Apollo at point 10 are steep and not suitable for wheelchairs. Dogs are not allowed on all parts of the trail, but do have limited access around the lakeside between December and February. The South Lawn is open during summer months, but closed during winter.
- Bus stop
Start: Visitor reception, grid ref: ST 77838 34024
The first thing youll spot on your walk down the zigzag path is the walled gardens. These gardens once supplied fruit and vegetables to Stourhead house. Vegetables and flowers are still grown; some of which are used in our restaurant and sold at Stourhead farm shop.
The Pelargonium House is home to over 60 varieties of pelargonium. Richard Colt Hoare first introduced the plant to Stourhead in the early 19th century. By 1821, Colt Hoare owned more than 600 species.
South Lawn, to the side of Stourhead house, is its own tranquil garden. It is bordered by many species of rhododendron and is home to seven species of oak. South Lawn is home to one of the oldest tulip trees at Stourhead, planted in 1802 by Richard Colt Hoare. If you walk down the lawn, away from the house, youll discover beautiful views of St Peters church in the valley below.
St Peter's is the resting place for Henry Hoare I and II, Richard Colt Hoare and his wife Hester, who died young.
Just beyond South Lawn is the fir walk. This was the first garden project undertaken by Henry Hoare II. At the far end is the Obelisk, built in 1839 to replace the decaying original erected by Henry in 1746. At its base is a memorial tablet dedicated to Henry - added by his grandson - Richard Colt Hoare in 1815.
Obelisks were originally found in ancient Egypt, where they were built to symbolise the Sun. This makes them appropriate features for a garden.
This magical route through the shaded banks down towards the lake from South Lawn is beautiful. The many mature, deciduous trees give the feel of walking through a forest. The ground is a green carpet of ancient laurel shrubs. A perfectly-positioned gap in the trees gives a magnificent view across to the Temple of Apollo, which itself is surrounded by trees from around the world - including China, Japan and the Americas.
The planting along the shady paths here was the work of Sir Richard Colt Hoare. He created the beautiful, open glades with views over the lake.
As you cross the dam at the far end of the lake, you glimpse Six Wells valley stretching out into the distance. Out of sight are the streams feeding the lake. On either side are wooded slopes, known as Sunny and Shady hangings. Before the 18th century, the valley formed part of an enclosed deer park. Today you can see Limousin cattle grazing.
The valley is also home to St Peter's Pump, originally in Peter Street, Bristol. It was removed by an Act of Parliament in 1766 and was erected at Stourhead in 1768.
Henry Hoare II designed his garden as a series of carefully composed views, revealing its buildings and beauty. Nowhere is his concept more apparent than within the Grotto. Peer through its circular openings and you will see the Temple of Apollo and the Temple of Flora, beautifully framed by the Grottos volcanic rock.
For the Romans, grottos were shrines to the gods and the home of water nymphs. The Grotto contains a statue of a sleeping nymph, based on a famous classical figure of Ariadne in the Vatican Gardens.
The rustic Watch Cottage was first mentioned in 1785 but is likely to have dated from an earlier period. In 1806, Richard Colt Hoare added the Gothic seat and porch, hence its other name often used today, 'Gothic Cottage'.
The cottage is a popular resting point, situated half-way round the lake, with stunning views towards the Temple of Flora and Stourton village.
From the steps of the iconic Pantheon you can look back across the lake towards the Palladian bridge. The bridge was built in 1762 by Henry Hoare II to create the illusion that a river flows down through the village, under the bridge and into the lake. It is an essential feature within the gardens layout, offering beautiful views both to and from the Pantheon.
In the background you may spot the Bristol Cross, brought to Stourhead by Henry Hoare II in 1764.
Henry Hoare II 'The Magnificent' created the garden lake - the centrepiece of his design - by building a dam in 1754. As you walk across this dam, look beyond the laurel hedges and you will see Turners Paddock Lake, named after the famous landscape painter, J.M.W. Turner. He was inspired by Stourheads garden and paintings in the house. Although natural in appearance, Turners Paddock Lake was artificially created by another dam at the far end, built by Henry Hoare II.
The beautiful sound of flowing water comes from the cascade, added in 1766. It was designed as a decorative way of carrying surplus water down from the main lake.
Above the garden sits the Temple of Apollo. The circular temple was built in 1765. The temple is dedicated to Apollo, the Greek sun god without whom no garden can flourish. He observes the beautiful garden panorama from this hill-top position. One fantastic feature of this view is the large tulip tree on its own island in the lake.
There are many tulip trees at Stourhead. They turn a lovely butter colour in autumn and have a very distinctive leaf shape.
As you leave the garden, look back at the wonderful view out over the lake toward the Pantheon, with the Palladian bridge in the foreground. The Pantheon is the largest garden building at Stourhead and its name means a temple sacred to all the gods. It is filled with statues of classical deities.
One of the most iconic statues in the Pantheon is Rysbrack's marble Hercules, installed in 1757. Hercules has been associated with gardens since Roman times.
End: The Bristol Cross, grid ref: ST 77571 33968
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Easy
- Distance: 2 miles (3.2 km)
- Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- OS Map: Landranger 183; Explorer 142
Generally flat ground, across pathways and grassy areas, with some slightly steep and rocky climbs in places.
- How to get here:
By bike: Wiltshire Cycle Way runs through estate
By train: Gillingham 6½ miles; Bruton 7 miles
By car: At Stourton, off B3092, 3 miles north-west of Mere (A303), 8 miles south of Frome (A361)
By bus: Frome Minibuses 82 Warminster to Mere; First 58/158 Shaftesbury to Wincanton (passing Gillingham train station), alight Zeals, 1¼ mile
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