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Explore the garden at Prior Park

A view of the Pasture towards the Palladian Bridge at Prior Park covered in snow.
Prior Park covered in snow | © National Trust Images/Dawn Biggs

The meandering paths around Prior Park reveal all sorts of flora, fauna and historical features. The 18th-century garden created by Ralph Allen was designed to delight and surprise. Today it offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, and a chance for you to explore nature, to play or just sit and enjoy the surroundings.

Things to look out for in winter

Winter and early spring is a wonderful time to explore Prior Park’s garden. The garden is surprisingly green throughout the winter, with glossy green laurels and other evergreen trees and shrubs.

The bare trees reveal views not possible with summer foliage and crisp days give way to clear still reflections in the lakes. Mist rising from the lakes, frosty grass and the occassional snow days are all possible during the winter at Prior Park. In January snowdrops start to pop up around the edges of the paths and in the Summerhouse Glade, these are replaced by daffodils and wild garlic as the season moves towards spring.

Family-friendly activities

Christmas advent trail returns

From 2 Dec to 1 Jan the popular advent trail returns to Prior Park. 24 doors have been hidden in logs around the garden, open the doors to see seasonal messages and riddles.

Scavenger hunt during February half-term

During February half term when opening hours return to seven-days a week, visitors will be able to collect a scavenger hunt sheet from visitor reception. See what you can discover in the garden.

Nature explorer packs

For little explorers you can borrow a seasonal back pack from visitor reception. The pack includes binoculars, a bug pot and of course a seasonal guide to creepy crawlies and animals you can spot during that time of year. In winter you might be able to find the kingfisher, robins and winter berries.

Brass rubbing trail

This is a permanant fixture around the paths of the garden. Just ask at reception on arrival for some paper and pencils and see how many you can do. Can you also spot the real plant or animal in the garden?

Play dens

Find the play dens tucked away in the Summerhouse Glade, use your imagination to create a game and look through the spy holes to see what you can find. As the seasons change the views will change from thick foliage to glimpses of the lakes.

The Wilderness: Serpentine Lake, Cabinet and Gothic Temple site

This area was restored, as part of a project funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant in the mid-2000s. The Serpentine Lake gives the impression of a continuous body of water, while the Sham Bridge marks the end of the water, but suggests that there might be water beyond.

Water plants keep the lake water healthy and give clear reflections of the bridge. Water from the Serpentine Lake flows over the cascade where it is carried underground to the lake above the Palladian Bridge.

In the 18th century guests would admire the cascade from the Cabinet – a circular expanse of gravel – when the flow of water was controlled by raising and lowering weir plates. The Cabinet is a great space from which to admire the summer blooms.

A close up of fresh snowdrops
Snowdrops at Prior Park, Bath | © National Trust Images/Dawn Biggs

The site of the Gothic Temple is marked out on the ground below the Cabinet. This feature was built around 1754 as Ralph Allen started experimenting with a different style of architecture. By the 20th century it had fallen into a bad state and was sold in the 1920s.

Mrs Allen’s Grotto

Alexander Pope, the 18th-century poet, built the grotto as a retreat for Mrs Allen. It was designed to show off rocks, minerals and fossils that decorated the floor and roof. When the National Trust started caring for the garden back in 1993 the remains of the Grotto were discovered in undergrowth. They are now protected by a covering structure.

Temporary closure

Please note that the Grotto is currently closed.

The summerhouse

Tucked away among the trees of the Summerhouse Glade is the summerhouse. This was a later addition to the garden, and was recreated in the 1990s using historical images as a guide. It’s now a relaxing place to stop and enjoy the sounds of nature.

Winter sun rising over the Pasture at Prior Park
A wintery scene over the Pasture at Prior Park, Bath | © National Trust Images/Dawn Biggs

The lakes at Prior Park

There are three lakes and dams to discover at the lower end of the garden. The water from the Serpentine Lake at the top of the garden flows down through cascades and under the Pasture to these lakes. The Palladian Bridge is one of only four like it in the world, and the only one that also acts as a dam.

In the spring and summer brightly coloured dragonflies and damselflies can be seen hovering above the lakes. Swans, ducks and even the odd kingfisher have resided on the lakes in the past.

The Palladian Bridge reflected in the middle lake on a frosty morning

Discover more at Prior Park Landscape Garden

Find out when Prior Park Landscape Garden is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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