Britain's best mazes
Fun, challenging and beautiful – mazes are the eccentric heart of many a country estate. We recommend the best mazes in the UK to put your sense of direction to the test
While there's much to be admired in Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown's natural landscaping of British gardens, in order to achieve his sweeping views he did away with many formal – and quirky – garden features, including mazes. Mazes flourished in Britain up until the 18th century, many of them planted on grand estates to entertain illustrious guests and, perhaps, have secret rendezvous in shaded corners.
Fortunately Hampton Court's famous 17th-century maze survived the national demise and many more impressive ones have been established over the decades, particularly in the Victorian period, planted with beech, laurel and, mostly, yew (Taxus baccata). Yew is an ideal maze plant, forming dense hedges that can be easily clipped into shape.
Fun, challenging and beautiful, mazes are a wonderfully eccentric feature of country gardens. Plan your next day out with our guide to the best mazes in Britain.
The best mazes in the UK
Mazes in the south east
Hever Castle, Kent
Hever Castle was Anne Boleyn's childhood home, and among the award-winning grounds you'll find an Italian Garden, a Rose Garden and a Tudor Garden, laid out as it might have been during the time of Henry VIII and his doomed second wife.
Hever's yew maze was created in 1904 by William Waldorf Astor, and is one of a few remaining traditionally designed mazes in the UK. There's also a water maze, where weighted paving slabs control the flow of water to the fountains. The aim is to reach the stone grotto in the centre without getting wet – not an easy feat. Remember to bring a towel!
Hever Castle, Hever Rd, Hever, Edenbridge TN8 7NG, hevercastle.co.uk
Leeds Castle, Kent
This maze is set in a square, yet when viewed from the air the pattern is circular (part of it resembles a queen's crown). This is unique to Leeds Castle and adds to the challenge of solving. If you manage to make it to centre, you can then escape via an underground grotto decorated with sculptures of mythical creatures.
Aside from the maze there are 500 acres of gardens and parkland to explore, including the Culpeper Garden (named after the family who owned Leeds Castle in the 17th century), which blooms with roses, lupins and poppies.
Leeds Castle, Broomfield, Maidstone, Kent ME17 1PL, leeds-castle.com
Hampton Court Palace, Surrey
Hampton Court's famous maze was designed in the late 17th century, and is believed to the oldest hedge maze in the world. It contains half a mile of pathways, renowned for confusing its visitors with its many twists, turns and dead ends. The maze was originally planted with hornbeam but was later replanted with yew (Taxus baccata).
Be sure to explore the palace's 60 acres of spectacular gardens and 750 acres of parkland, all set within a loop of the River Thames. The gardens include a record-breaking grape vine, three National Plant Collections and the descendants of Henry VIII’s deer herd.
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Hampton Court Palace, West Molesley, Surrey KT8 8AU, hrp.org.uk
Crystal Palace Park, London
This peaceful green space in southeast London features the capital's largest maze. It's laid out in a circular shape and is nicknamed the 'tea maze' because it's ideal for a teatime stroll. As you walk the maze path you can read information boards that tell the fascinating story of how the Girl Guides are linked to the park.
Elsewhere in the park keep your eyes peeled for the scarily realistic (but deemed inaccurate by modern standards) dinosaur sculptures, which were unveiled in 1854 as the first dinosaur sculptures in the world. They are now Grade I listed.
Crystal Palace Park, London SE20 8DT, crystalpalaceparktrust.org
Cliveden Maze, Buckinghamshire
The most recently planted maze in our shortlist – Cliveden's is a recreation of a maze designed and built for Lord Astor, the former owner of the estate in 1894. Covering one third of an acre with 500 metres of paths, it's the same size as Hampton Court's maze. It was officially opened in 2011 by Alan Titchmarsh.
Cliveden also has glorious gardens and woodlands overlooking the River Thames, so there's plenty to explore for a fun day out.
Cliveden Road, Taplow, Maidenhead, Buckinghamshire, SL1 8NS, nationaltrust.org.uk
Stanhill Farm Maize Maze, Kent
Every July to September, Stanhill Farm welcomes visitors to explore their maize maze, which has a different theme every year. This year's theme is the Queen's 'Jubeelee', for which your mission is to search the maze for the Queen Bee's missing jewels from her crown.
You're welcome to bring a picnic or there is a cafe onsite selling hot and cold drinks, toasties and ice cream. The farm also has PYO fields of strawberries, raspberries, courgettes, sunflowers and pumpkins.
Stanhill Farm, Birchwood Road, Wilmington, Dartford Kent, DA2 7HD, stanhillfarm.co.uk
Mazes in the south west
Glendurgan Garden, Cornwall
Glendurgan's cherry laurel maze was first laid out in 1833 and has undergone a four-year restoration project. The sloping maze is dotted with palm trees, in keeping with the lush, subtropical garden, and a cute thatched summerhouse sits in the middle. Close to the maze is the Giant's Stride – a newly installed rotating rope swing that's fun for children and grownups alike.
Once you've completed the maze, take in the 300 acres of coastal garden and stroll down the exotic valley to the beach.
Glendurgan Garden, Mawnan Smith, Falmouth, Cornwall TR11 5JZ, nationaltrust.org.uk
This fine Elizabethan house is home to the 8th Marquess and Marchioness of Bath, and the Capability Brown-landscaped grounds are home to a renowned safari park, where over 500 animals roam freely.
A prominent feature of the grounds is the mighty yew maze, planted in 1975, with a path almost two miles long. You can climb the observation towers and raised bridges for views of the maze's stunning layout.
Longleat, Warminster, Wiltshire BA12 7NW, longleat.co.uk
Mazes in central England
Hampton Court Castle, Herefordshire
Not to be confused with the better known Hampton Court in Surrey, Hampton Court Castle in Herefordshire boasts beautiful gardens that include a 150-year-old wisteria arch and a Dutch Garden admired for its stunning symmetry and water features.
In the castle's yew maze, visitors must make their way to the Gothic tower at the centre, where you can climb up to the top for panoramic views of the gardens. Under the tower is an underground tunnel leading to an aquatic surprise.
Hampton Court Castle, Hope under Dinmore, Herefordshire HR6 0PN, hamptoncourtcastle.co.uk
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
In the Walled Garden of this spectacular palace you'll find the Marlborough Maze, which covers over half an acre. The paths are two miles in length and inside you'll find putting greens and a giant chess set.
As you wander the maze you can work up an appetite for fresh pizza at the nearby pizzeria, and be sure to visit the Butterfly House, where you'll find species of butterfly from all over the world.
Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire OX20 1PX, blenheimpalace.com
Planted in 1962 with 1,290 English yews, Chatsworth's maze is compact but challenging, and features a human sundial at the north end. Stand on the relevant month on the flat stone and your shadow will fall on the time of day. Flower beds in and around the maze include lupins, Michaelmas daisies, tulips, dahlias and late-summer flowers.
Chatsworth, Bakewell, Derbyshire DE45 1PP, chatsworth.org
Mazes in the north of England
Lakeland Maize Maze, Cumbria
From July to September, Lakeland Maze Farm Park invites visitors to explore their maize labyrinth, which has a different theme every year. This year the maze will be in the shape of a sunflower. As well the main maze they have a smaller one for younger visitors to complete.
The maze is on a working farm where visitors can enjoy tractor rides and feed some of the animals.
Lakeland Maze Farm Park, Raines Hall, Sedgwick, Kendal, Cumbria LA8 0JH, lakelandmaze.co.uk
Mazes in Wales
Penpont's maze is one of the largest representations of the Green Man in the world. It was planted to commemorate the new Millennium; the Green Man being a symbol of rebirth and renewed hope. All of the materials for the maze were gathered locally – the beech and yew saplings from the estate's woodlands, the pebbles from the River Usk and the standing stone quarried from the Black Mountains.
The maze is only accessible to visitors via prior arrangement or if you're a guest in Penpont's self-catering accommodation or campsite.
Penpont, Brecon, Powys, LD3 8EU, penpont.com
Mazes in Scotland
Scone Palace, Perthshire
Scone Palace was the crowning place of Scottish kings, including Robert the Bruce and Charles II. Among the sprawling grounds are woodland gardens and nature trails, a Victorian pinetum and a Kitchen Garden.
Scone's Murray Star Maze was planted in 1992 with 2,000 beech trees – half green, half copper, designed in a tartan five-pointed star by the world-famous maze designer Adrian Fisher. At its centre is a bronze statue designed by David William-Ellis, representing the water nymph Arethusa.
Scone Palace, Perth, Perth and Kinross PH2 6BD, scone-palace.co.uk
Traquair House, Peebleshire
Traquair is Scotland oldest inhabited house, dating back to 1107 and lived in by the Stuart family since 1491. It's also home to the world famous Traquair House Brewery – you can sample their fine ales in the brewery shop and museum.
Traquair's maze is the largest hedged maze in Scotland, and was originally planted with Leylandi Cyprus trees, but they suffered during the harsh winter of 1983. The maze was later replanted with hardier beech trees, which brings extraordinary colour across the seasons. A very popular Easter Egg Hunt is hosted in the maze every spring.
Traquair House, Innerleithen, Peeblesshire EH44 6PW, traquair.co.uk
Find more inspiration for days out with our guide to Britain's best sculpture parks and 25 English gardens to visit.
Abigail is a freelance writer and editor based in Hereford.
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