Plan a Visit to Early English Masterpiece Stowe Landscape Gardens

One of England's Earliest and Most Important LandscapeGardens

Palladian Bridge and Gothic Temple at Stowe Landscape Gardens
Jon Bower / Getty Images

Stowe Landscape Gardens covers 750 acres and includes 40 listed historic monuments and temples. It is considered one of England's earliest and most important landscape gardens and the greatest names in English garden design were involved in its creation.

Begun in the 1710s by garden designer Charles Bridgeman, architect John Vanbrugh and garden designers William Kent and James Gibbs participated in shaping it.

Eventually the real star of early English landscape gardening, Lancelot "Capability" Brown had a hand in shaping it. He was head gardener there between 1741 and 1751.

The garden has been a visitor attraction from as early as the mid 18th century, In fact, it inspired a poem by Alexander Pope.

The History of Stowe Landscape Gardens

In 1731, Alexander Pope was so inspired by an earlier visit to Stowe that he wrote a poem about the new style of English gardening. In Epistle IV, To Richard Boyle, these lines appear:

Spontaneous beauties all around advance,
Start ev'n from difficulty, strike from chance;
Nature shall join you; time shall make it grow
A work to wonder at--perhaps a Stowe.

This work of wonder was the product of several centuries of social climbing and ambition on the part of one family. The Temple family began as sheep farmers, acquired the land in the 1500s and through strategic marriages and political maneuvering had become dukes by the 18th century.

Their garden, started by early English landscape gardener Charles Bridgeman, in the 1710s and 1720s, took decades to develop. Eventually, Capability Brown, the most famous of all English landscape gardeners, added his own magic. Tourists and daytrippers have been dropping in to look around for more than 200 years.

What to see in Stowe Landscape Gardens

  • Impressive main approaches including the Corinthian Arch, the Oxford Gates (restored with wrought iron salvaged from a German battleship) and the Ha-ha at Stowe built by Bridgeman. A ha-ha is a dry moat built to keep animals from roaming too close to a house. This one is said to be the longest ever built.
  • More than 40 listed 18th century monuments and temples including the Rotondo by Vanbrugh, The Temple of Venus, The Hermitage, artificial ruins, The Amelian Arch, The Octagon Lake and Lake Pavilions attributed to Vanbrugh.
  • A Grotto that was originally a banqueting house but was buried and encased in fossils and glass.
  • The Cook Monument, added in 1778 after Captain James Cook discovered the South Pacific.
  • The beautiful, classic Temple of Concord and Victory

The garden was designed to be viewed while strolling in the grounds rather than from a central viewpoint. There is a Grecian Valley, a Gothic Temple, a Palladian Bridge, statues of the seven Saxon gods who game their names to the days of the week - Sunna, Mona, Tiw, Woden, Thuner, Friga and Seatern - and dozens more surprises. The list of monuments, hidden temples and follies goes on and on, all connected by miles of walks through beautifully contrived vistas.

Special events at Stowe

Throughout the summer months, there are regular events at Stowe Landscape Gardens including guided walks, storytelling,dining at dusk picnic and music evenings, children's activities, crafts projects and more.

Read about More Great English Gardens to Visit.

Stowe Landscape Gardens Essentials

  • Where:Stowe Landscape Gardens,Buckingham, Buckinghamshire MK18 5EH, England
  • Phone: +44 (0)1280 817156
  • Opening times: The gardens are open year round.
    • March to the early November, Wednesday - Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
    • Mid November to the end of February, Saturday and Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    • Bank holiday Mondays
    • Last admission, 1.5 hours before closing.
    • The parkland is open year round, from dawn to dusk
  • See their Website for shop, and restaurant openings.
  • Admission £12.40, child £6.20, family £31.00.
  • Stowe House is not a National Trust property and is currently being restored. Parts are open to the public and house admission charges can be paid at the National Trust reception desk. You can also purchase a joint Stowe House and Landscape Garden admission from the National Trust.
  • Services for the disabled: The gardens are only partly accessible as they have gravel paths, steep hills and are hilly in areas. Mobility buggies are available and there is a suggested donation of £10 for their use. They can be booked in advance by phoning +44 (0)1280 825009. For further information and to discuss your access requirements, telephone +44 (0)1280 817156. Full access information for Stowe House is available on the Stowe House Trust website.

Getting to Stowe Landscape Gardens

By car: The gardens are 3 miles northwest of Buckingham via Stowe Avenue, off the A422 Buckingham-Banbury road. There is motorway access from the M40 (exits 9 to 11) and the M1 (exits 13 or 15a)

By train or bus: Bicester North Rail Station is 9 miles away. The Oxford to Cambridge bus stops in Buckingham town, 1.5 miles from Stowe. The Arriva X60 bus runs from Aylesbury to Milton Keynes, stopping in Buckingham town, 1.5 miles from Stowe. The 1.5 mile walk from Buckingham town up Stowe Avenue offers good views en route to the New Inn visitors' center.

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