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Mere, Wiltshire

Featured Location Guide

A World-famous 18th-century landscape garden and Palladian mansion with enchanting temples, monuments and rare planting around a lake, part of a 2,650 acre estate near Mere in Wiltshire. It has been in the ownership of the National Trust since 1946. Originally the home of the Stourton Family for 700 years when they sold it to Henry Hoare I in 1717.

Stourhead in Wiltshire, sits in its own valley and is one of the finest landscape gardens in the world. The garden was laid out between 1741 and 1780 and designed by Henry Hoare II as a place to entertain. Its magnificent lake is central to this garden which also includes displays of classical temples and follies. The lakeside paths which take you around the whole of the lake meanders through a backdrop of colourful rare and exotic trees. The garden seasons change in beautiful succession, and are a joy to visit any time of the year, but particularly during the autumn months when the tress are a magical site of yellows, golds, russets, reds and other striking colours. At many points around the garden you can get in view both the lake and the woodland and there are many opportunities for reflections of the trees and temples and magical mist affects throughout the changing seasons.

See Larger Image Reflecting Stourhead

As well as the gardens there is also the Palladian mansion which was originally home to the Hoare family and is filled with Georgian treasures, Chippendale furniture and many paintings as well as a Regency library. There are also waymarked walks across the chalk downland and woodland of the wider estate, which is managed for nature conservation. Also on the estate amongst the woodlands there are two Iron Age hill forts to be discovered Whitesheet Hill and Park Hill Camp, and an Obelisk. Three and a half miles away there is the 50m-high red brick triangular folly of King Alfred's Tower where from the top you can get spectacular views across three counties.

The Gardens

The garden was created by Henry Hoare II in the 1740s. The River Stour was dammed to form the great lake and around this he laid out a landscape to entrance with stunning views and to provide a walking pleasure. As it developed classical features were added around the lake such as temples, grottos, a bridge and more. The temples were the Temple of Flora, the Pantheon, the Temple of Apollo and other Gothic ruins. Today, it is still essentially the same as Henry’s vision and the 350,000 annual visitors do get to enjoy the experience as Henry envisaged it now that the garden has matured and blossomed into full splendour.

The garden changes with the light levels and position of the sun. A cavalcade of breathtaking vistas from around the garden surprise and inspire you. While at one moment the Pantheon may catch your eye, then as the clouds move to reveal the sun then it may be the tulip tree on the island is bathed in light or the Temple of Apollo which draws your gaze. From the Pantheon views across the lake will include the Palladian bridge, Temple of Flora the Bristol Cross as well as the parish church of St Peter’s which is set against a back drop of trees.

The Follies

Temple of Apollo

Stands high on a hill at the western end of the garden, it was built in 1765 and inspired by the circular temple of Baalbec in Syria. It is dedicated to Apollo, the sun god. It can be admired from many parts of the garden and can be reached either by a twisting rock arch bridge built from volcanic lava, or through a dark, concealed rockwork passageway near the Palladian bridge. Once you get there you can get panoramic views of the garden and lake below.

   See Larger Image Gold Reflections

See Larger Image Joe Dunckley

The Temple of Flora

The Temple of Flora stands above a natural spring and is dedicated to the Roman goddess of flowers and spring. It is situated on the lakes edge and is surrounded by trees.

The Grotto

The Grotto's main room is a circular domed chamber with a flooded niche, fed by natural springs, in which a statue of  the reclining 'Nymph of the Grot' lies. Beyond this chamber is another niche with a statue of a river god who points the way to the Pantheon. There is an opening which overlooks the lake and from here you can get some good reflections of the temple of flora and Palladian bridge reflected in the lake.

See Larger Image A view from the Pantheon See Larger Image Angus Kirk

The Pantheon

The Pantheon is a grand structure and is the largest structure in the garden. It was built in 1753-4 and sits on a mound at one end of the lake and when you enter the garden you cannot miss its magnificence before you. Inside it also has a fantastic interior of marble statues and relief's set around a circular hall. It is impressive. From the front you can also get views back across the garden from where you have come.

The Palladian Bridge

Was built in 1762 and although totally ornamental it does give an impression that the lake is a river flowing from the village down into the valley. It is a link which allows you to walk around the lake and is carpeted with grass.

Joe Dunckley

Bristol Cross

Originally built in 1373 and erected at a main crossroads in the City of Bristol. Originally it was guilded and contained four kings statues of Edward III, Edward IV, Henry II and King John. In 1633 it was altered and repaired and four more monarchs were honoured with statues for Kings Charles I, Queen Elizabeth I, Henry VI and James I being added. By 1733 it was considered an obstruction and moved to College Green, but it was not a popular move and in 1768 it was donated to Stourhead and moved to the garden as an ornament. Within the garden it is on a grassy mound at the head of the lake near the entrance and stands 40ft high.

Gardens Seasonal Highlights

Stourhead is a garden which changes with the seasons, but with it's large number of trees and woodland it is probably at it's most spectacular in the autumn. Towards the end of August the maples begin to turn to their scarlet red colour and by October it is full of russets, yellows, gold's and more. However throughout the rest of the year you will also have other highlights to see, such as January and February a carpet of snowdrops in the grasslands, March and April sees first the yellow daffodils followed by the colourful rhododendrons and bluebells on the woodland floor which make their way into May and June along with the colour and scent of the camellias and magnolias rolling into July. August sees the garden at its greenest and September the Hydrangeas reign before the spectacular autumn colours set in.

  Dave Watts

Further information Grid



Stourhead, nr Mere, Wiltshire

Ceremonial County: Wiltshire

Grid Reference:


Map Link:


Aerial photo:

Google Aerial Photo



Best Times to Visit:





National Trust

Other useful websites:

Stourhead on Wiki   King Alfred's Tower on Wiki   

King Alfred's Tower (own)

Nearby Locations:  
Other Relevant pages:  


Planning Grid


Stourhead, nr Mere, Wiltshire

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

Off B3092 at Stourton. King Alfred's Tower 3.5 miles by road from Stourhead House


From car park you walk down a meandering slope into the valley and across the main village road into garden.


Free car parking. Disabled parking in main car park.


NT shop, plant centre and farm shop, restaurant.

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Gardens, follies, house, lake

What to take:

long lenses, wide angle lens, polarizer, grads.

Nature highlights:



Stourhead Estate Office


BA12 6QD


01747 842005

Opening times:

Gardens: Daily ALL year 9am-6pm. Closed Xmas Day

House: 12 Mar-19 Jul Fri-Tues 11am-5pm; 22 Jul-6 Sep Daily 11am-5pm; 9 Sep-11 Oct Fri-Tue 11am-5pm; 14 Oct-6 Nov Daily 11am-5pm; 2 -18 Dec Fri-Sun 11am-3pm

King Alfred's Tower: 12 Mar-30 Oct Fri-Tue 11am-5pm

Gardens and Tower close at dusk if earlier than times listed.


FREE to NT Members.

Garden and House - Adult £12.10; Child £6; Family £29

House or Garden - Adult £7.30; Child £4; Family £17.40

King Alfred's Tower - Adult £2.90; Child £1.50; Family £6.50

Photo Restrictions:


Other Restrictions:  
Special Needs Access: Partly accessible, hard gravel paths, steep slopes, undulating terrain. Map of accessible route. 1¼ ml path around lake is mostly level, but steep in places. 13 steps to entrance.
Special Needs Facilities: Toilets near visitor reception and in Spread Eagle courtyard and restaurant
Children Facilities: Baby-changing facilities. Hip-carrying infant seats for loan in house. Children's guide. Family trails and activity packs. Pushchairs admitted to garden only. Children's activity area.
Dogs Allowed: Not allowed in King Alfreds Tower or the house. Can walk the landscape garden on short lead (1st Nov-31 Jan)

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By: Tracey Park Section: Nature/Flora/Countryside Key:
Page Ref: stourhead Topic: Gardens & Follies  Last Updated: 03/2011

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