The Arcadian ideal is the sort of background scene you see in many Italian Renaissance portraits, including the Mona Lisa; a landscape full of allegory in the form of carefully placed mock ruins and classical Greek or Roman temples and monuments. This is a vision of gardening where the garden is almost secondary to the philosophy of ordered nature (ordered and arranged by humans). Given the complexity of the design it is not surprising that Hoare did not complete his garden until 1780.
Henry Hoare's vision did not run to the rhododendrons, for which Stourhead is world-renown. These were added by Richard Colt Hoare between 1791 and 1838. Richard also was responsible for importing many American species, including tulip trees and swamp cypresses. The woodland walks are superb, moving through mature woods planted with a variety of exotic trees.
Best in: spring for rhododendrons, early summer for azaleas, and anytime for a truly wonderful landscape garden experience. One of the great gardens of the world, and my personal favourite among British gardens.
Stourhead for families
In a word, excellent! Our children, ages 5 and 11, very much enjoyed Stourhead. There is plenty of space to run around in, and interesting curiosities like the Grotto, and the various temples to explore. The National Trust has information packs for children to help them get the most out of their visit - and they might learn something about landscape gardening, too!
England, BA12 6QD
Attraction Type: Garden
Location: off B3092
Phone: 01747 841 152
Fax: 01747 842 005
National Trust - see also: National Trust memberships (official website link)
OS: ST780 340
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