Stourhead is not so much a garden than a splendid piece of private landscaped Wiltshire countryside set around a huge lake, the result of damming the various springs and streams that make up the source of the river Stour.
The Hoare banking family purchased the estate in 1717 and proceeded to lavish huge expense on a splendid new mansion house in the emerging Palladian style. Next came the grounds, starting with the lake, then the adornments of miniature temples and grottos scattered around it's perimeter. Exotic trees and shrubs were then planted along the many woodland paths for the family guests to enjoy while 'taking the airs' on their country perambulations.
Today, Stourhead provides an excellent day out for the whole family in easily accessible countryside. Superb woodland walks open up to reveal breathtaking vistas across the lake - every facet providing a new perspective only achieveable in an estate of this magnitude. The planting are extensive and one reviewer even described it as 'living art'. We may not go that far, but it is a splendid example of man tinkering with nature to good effect.
There are some formal gardens and working, walled vegetable gardens, but these play a small part in the whole and are not of particular note. While fans of interiors can tour the house to marvel at the art and furniture collections of this family of 'English Medicis'.
Author: Bob Saunders.
There is a large visitor centre at the entrance providing a good array of snacks and meals along with the expected National Trust Shop which, as always provides a great selection of tasteful and informative souvenirs and everyday useful products. There a shuttle buses and wheelchair friendly paths, all well signposted, plenty of toilets and a charming little thatched cottage serves tea and coffee on the far side of the lake - just when you need one.
by carFollow brown signs off A303 (close to Mere or from Frome take the B3092 and follow brown signs.
by bus Take a bus to Zeals from Warminster and Shaftesbury. From Zeals it is about a 2m walk.