Stourhead is a beautiful estate in the middle of the Wiltshire countryside, and is less than 10 miles from Dents HQ. The world famous landscape gardens are the main attraction for most visitors, sat alongside the stunning Palladian mansion. The 2,650 acres is now part of the National Trust, and is the perfect place to have a wander around with friends or family. I went not too long ago on a lazy afternoon, accompanied by my dog, it was a lovely day out for both of us!
Stourhead can quite simply be split into 3 sections; The House, Gardens and Village. When you park up, by-pass the shop and café, and head towards the house. The stunning Palladian mansion sits on a slope, and was built after the owner demolished the original house, but wasn’t finished until 1725.Take the ‘Grand Tour’ of the building, and you’ll feel like you’ve fallen into a Jane Austen novel. Chippendale furniture, beautiful pieces of artwork including some magnificent statues, are some of the gorgeous pieces you’ll see on the tour. My favourite, due to my love of literature and history combined, is the regency library. An exquisite room with an arched ceiling, stain glass windows and a wooden bookshelf staircase, are all so grandeur and traditional.
Stourhead comprises of farmland, chalk downland and landscape gardens. If you have a dog with you, check the website as you can only walk dogs around the gardens during the warmer months. However the farmland behind the house, which is scattered with friendly sheep, provided great fun for my dog. The gardens themselves were quoted as ‘A piece of living art’, and you truly see this as you explore. In the 1740s work began on the design of it, and as you wander through them you will see a distinct Greek mythology theme running through it. Temples are scattered over the landscape; Ceres, Apollo and Hercules. There’s even a grotto and a replica of the Pantheon, sat amongst the trees and plants. The walk around the lake is designed to evoke a journey, similar to which Aenea took to the Underworld. I’m not sure I felt this on my walk….but I did enjoy being immersed in this beautiful garden. You may recognise the temple of Apollo and Palladian bridge, if you’ve seen the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
The village of Stourton is a pretty little place, with vine covered cottages and an old pub, it’s the perfect place to sit and have a break. There is also a café, gift and garden shop back towards the car park, where you can treat yourself to locally made cakes and homemade produce. If you’re green fingered, Stourhead is most definitely a place you should visit. I would say the best time of year to go is in the spring, when the gardens are in bloom with the rhododendrons and azaleas. It’s a lovely day out for everyone, and again is another truly beautiful example of British tradition and culture.
Fun Fact 1 – Lady Penelope’s house in the TV series Thunderbirds, is actually a miniature replica of Stourhead house.
Fun Fact 2 – Stourhead has the tallest oak tree in the UK, at 40.4 meters high.