“Completely and perfectly and incandescently happy” – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
It was a sort of spur of the moment adventure. A “grab your camera, we’re driving for a couple hours” kind of a day, my favourite kind of all.
Driving in the south of England is beautiful, with rolling hills and sheep and endless skies. We drove past Stonehenge, past big trees and through winding roads before ending up at our destination, Stourhead House and Gardens.
Stourhead House is a grand palladian mansion built in the 1700’s in Wiltshire. The house, filled with a beautiful library and art galleries was the home to Henry Hoare, a wealthy banker and royalist in the 18th Century. The house and gardens are now operated by the National Trust.
The house itself was and is a beautiful and warm mansion-house that had beautiful light as we strolled through. The staff located in each room were knowledgeable and friendly and the house felt cozy even though it was expansive and each room was filled with heirlooms, artifacts, and enormous paintings.
The mansion while itself striking and fascinating is nothing compared to the impressive and beautiful garden estate that lies next door. Fans of the 2005 film Pride and Prejudice will recognize several of the structures that were used in filming.
The park itself is massive and filled with temples, grottos and other features that are placed in strategic locations to entice the visitor to continue along the pathway around the lake. The temples, inspired by scenes of the Grand Tour of Europe are impressive replicas and contain intricate statues of Hercules, Isis and Neptune.
My favourite spot was the grotto, tucked on the opposite side of the Temple of Apollo, it was a large domed room with statues of a nymph and Neptune surrounded by small waterfalls and a perfectly framed view of the lake and surrounding temples.
After you’ve explored the house and gardens there’s a nice restaurant and pub tucked in the property. A short drive away is King Alfred’s Tower, a folly tower built-in the 1700’s as a memorial tribute to the end of the Seven Years War against France.
If you’re ever in Somerset visiting nearby Glastonbury or Bath, a stop in Stourhead is definitely worth a visit!
Entry Fee: £15