Stowe Gardens

Your visit starts at the New Inn visitor centre outside the gardens. This is a mixture of modern and restored 18th-century buildings where visitors in the past were welcomed to Stowe. The New Inn has the Parlour Rooms, which give an indication of what life was like in a Georgian coaching inn. The inn was on the original Ratley Ridgeway which was once a public road from Towcester to Bicester. The road’s closure caused the demise of the Inn in the 19th century.

The modern buildings comprise the small visitor centre, the Nevillery Cafe and the National Trust shop. Stop by the light and airy cafĂ© for a snack and the shop for products inspired by the gardens, We had a pleasant light lunch.  Note that the main toilets are in the Visitor Centre (there is only one toilet facility in the actual gardens).

A short walk (c.500m) or a ride in a buggy from Visitor Centre through the parkland along Bell Gate Drive brings you to the entrance to the gardens. This is the original walkway that tourists 300 years ago would have used to enter the gardens. Along the route you will catch views of the main house, and  views over the parkland. A lot of work appears to be happening to upgrade Bell Gate Drive. The National Trust are also putting up boxes for bats and owls to nest in and are planting a variety of wildflowers. Once you reach the gate at the end of Bellgate Drive you will see a small bell to the left of the gate – this would have been rung by Georgian visitors to request access to the gardens.

view from the road

Stowe House - now a school

The Gardens
The scale and beauty of Stowe have attracted visitors for over 300 years. Beautiful views, winding paths, lakeside walks and temples create a timeless landscape, reflecting the changing seasons. Full of hidden corners and secret trails, the gardens were originally intended to represent an earthly paradise, and they still cast their spell today. The sheer size and space is perfect for those who love the outdoors and enjoy walking.
Once you have entered the gardens, turn left and walk about 50m along Peggs Terrace so that you are half way between the Western and Eastern Lake Pavilions. From this spot you can see what many visitors consider to be the best view in all of the gardens – Stowe House across the lake framed by trees and landscaping.

The Palladian Bridge - classical bridge built in mid eighteenth century and wide enough to take carriages doing a circuit of the gardens

The Palladian Bridge

There are a variety of trails to help explore the gardens (make sure you pick up a free map from the visitor centre, when you arrive). There are 250 acres and 40 temples to discover.  And there is a lot of new work going on.

Some of the highlights include:-
The Cascade – set between two lakes with great views.

The Palladian Bridge - classical bridge built in mid eighteenth century and wide enough to take carriages doing a circuit of the gardens

Don't forget the less illustrious Wooden Bridge

Rotunda and Sleeping Wood – the garden in the wood was modelled on a similar garden at Versailles.

Lamport 'secret' Garden – in the process of being restored, this 19th-century rock and water garden contrasts quite significantly to the landscaping of the rest of the gardens. Don't miss the waterfall.

The list above barely scratches the surface of the things to see on a visit to Stowe Gardens – there are too many temples and classical style buildings to mention. Such is the layout of the gardens a visit can take anything from an hour to half a day or more

One thing to note is that Stowe House is now a school so although it is possible to visit the state rooms, they are not always open so check in advance of your visit.

the wooden bridge

The gardens at Stowe were created by Lord Cobham an 18th. century aristocrat and politican, whose family was reputed to be richer than the King. The gardens were designed as a statement of this wealth and soon became one of the country's first tourist attractions. Stowe was a pioneer in moving away from well-ordered flower gardens to a more natural landscape full of views, temples and lakes.

The formal gardens were swept away by 'Capability' Brown in the 1740s, the gardens retained the picturesque ideas of the temple and the monument. These buildings were framed by long vistas down which to view them. But with the softened edges of the lakes, the opening of the views and the building of even more elaborate temples, Stowe became celebrated as the most beautiful landscape gardens in Europe and its influence was felt as far away as Russia. Tourists were welcomed into the gardens as early as the 1730s and the first guidebook, written by a local book-seller, came out in 1744. Further development work was carried out in the 1770's and Stowe was definitely the place to be for the rich and powerful – during the 18th. and 19th. centuries royalty from across Europe were frequent visitors to Stowe.

How to get there: Leave Ampthill on A507 heading towards J13 of M1 and just before J13 join the A421 heading in the direction of Buckingham. Stay on A421 until you arrive at Buckingham and then simply follow the brown signs to Stowe (MK18 5EG). It is 26 miles and should take about 40 minutes depending on traffic conditions.

If you approach the Stowe estate from Buckingham you will drive up the Grand Avenue. The look of the avenue changes throughout the year – but whatever time of year you visit it’s really an impressive sight and certainly shows off just how wealthy the family were to be able to have such a long and grand drive. At the top of the drive is the majestic Corinthian Arch, which frames a superb view of Stowe House

Arrival: Follow the signs and you will find the large car park, which is about 150m from the entrance.