I’ve been wanting to spend a day exploring Stourhead in Wiltshire for absolutely ages. We were looking for somewhere to spend the day last weekend, and after discounting a couple of options I managed to persuade the OH that this would be worth the drive. It would also mean my son could get another National Trust stamp for his passport. So off we set bright and early, it was a frosty morning but with bright sunshine, just the perfect sort of winter day to get outdoors and have some fun.
It seemed that everyone else had the same idea as us as the car park was overflowing. The ticket office, toilets and restaurant are next to each other, so we decided to have a quick refreshment stop after the long drive, look at the map and plan our time exploring Stourhead.
Top tip; if everyone is heading into the garden turns left, turn right, and you’ll have a quiet walk around the grounds until well past the halfway point! We much prefer getting away from crowds, and this plan worked well for us.
The main rooms of the house don’t open until March, but really this particular visit was all about being outdoors, so we weren’t disappointed. I also have a feeling that we’ll be back later in the year to see the property in a different season.
There are clearly designated pathways to walk along as we spent time exploring Stourhead. It reminded me a little of our favourite haunt, Stowe, as there are a number of follies dotted around the estate. There’s also an Ice House which thrilled my son. As regular readers will know, my son has a bit of a thing about Ice Houses so he was very happy to find another one.
As we walked along the main pathway away from the lakeside we made another discovery. This time instead of being something hidden from view, the Obelisk stood rose high above us, topped with a gleaming sun. We had it all to ourselves on our visit.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an outdoor adventure with my son if he didn’t find a stick or two along the way.
From there we traced our way back along the paths leading down to the lake and decided to walk up to St Peter’s Pump along the parkland, which is at the furthest point to the main gardens. Although the sun was shining, there was still signs of frost in the shade.
But in the sunshine, it felt like we were somewhere else entirely at times.
Stiles no longer hold any hesitation for my son these days, but he did have to slow down a little just to make sure his sticks made it over too.
Now he’s ten my son thinks he’s rather invincible, but even he had to concede that he wasn’t strong enough to move this tree trunk!
We didn’t realise until much later in the day, but once we’d reached St Peter’s Pump we could have carried on up to King Arthur’s Tower. Noted for our next visit. The Pump, dating back to 1474 is the source of the River Stour.
We retraced our steps in the January sunshine and headed on around the lake.
I would imagine by now that the snowdrops are out in force.
On this side of the lake you walk through the Grotto,
and can visit the Gothic Cottage and look back over the water at one of the iconic views of Stourhead.
Even on a January day, it was clear to see the beauty of the place, and I can only imagine how wonderful it is as the leaves turn in the autumn.
The Pantheon boasts another good view over the gardens and is clearly a popular stop for visitors.
We went slightly off track after this point which meant we got to see the water wheel and cascades, but also meant we couldn’t figure out how to get back into the main grounds without retracing our steps again. If anyone knows a quicker way back, please let me know!
On our walk back we stopped to look at the ice still present on the pond.
Once back inside we walked around the lake looking over to the Temple of Flora. As we’d walked along the woodland walk on that side of the lake earlier in the day, we hadn’t got to see the temple up close, something for another visit.
We crossed over the Rock Arch and up through the woodland to the Temple of Apollo. Another great vantage point.
There was a tunnel to walk through next as we spent time exploring Stourhead.
And we all deserved a little break to enjoy the view for a minute or two.
The light was fading by the time we reached the Turf Bridge, so I couldn’t capture the best view of that or the Bristol Cross.
Although not part of the National Trust site, it seemed a shame not to pop into the church which is just over the lane from Stourhead. We got to see some more snowdrops in bloom along the way.
We’d reached the end of our time exploring Stourhead, but although we knew we couldn’t climb up King Arthur’s Tower we still were intrigued to see what it was like from the outside I’ll be sharing more about that in a post soon.
Have you spent time exploring Stourhead? If so, when would be you suggest is the best time of year to visit?