Stowe Landscape Gardens is one of my favourite National Trust properties that I rarely visit. Not that I don’t want to but it’s just outside of the ‘easy to get to’ range and harsh experience has taught me that showing up late can make parking a challenge and you are forced to battle an army of cream tea seeking pensioners for that last remaining space (they will win, they’ve been at this longer). Go early, take Werther’s Originals as distractions.
The gardens themselves are a masterpiece of Georgian landscape gardening, first created in the late 1700s but not the responsibility of any one architect, I’m no historian but the National Trust has a nice potted history on their website should you feel the need for a full list of designers and architects. As with many centres of nobility, there’s a fascinating social history behind it all as well, but again, I am not a historian but I’ve popped some links down below should you be interested.
I love a formal garden (not quite as much as an abandoned wasteland) I always find them a slightly surreal experience. The attempt to coerce nature into doing your bidding, generally fairly successfully (nature doesn’t care). Stowe has the undercurrent of surreality bought closer to the surface by dint of its islands of architecture: a gothic temple here, a little square of baroque statues there, some Palladian columns around the corner.
The follies, temples and set pieces are all spaced apart to give you a good solid walk and in several visits, I’m not sure I’ve ever covered all of them, but it doesn’t matter it’s just a fascinating experience to wander from one slightly mystical region to another. In my mind, I imagine it was pulled together by some Doctor Who evil genius pulling bits of history through time and assembling them for their personal amusement.
Also, there’s a cafe which means tea, which is always welcome.