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I last wrote about Stowe Landscape Gardens a year or so ago, and returned last weekend without any major expectations of a different experience – we just wanted a woodland walk somewhere we hadn’t been for a while.
But oh my flippin’ days! I’d forgotten what an utterly incredible walk this is. The photos speak for themselves. It’s like a perfect picture opportunity every 100 steps, in one of the most naturally glorious settings England has to offer. I love to see the architecture and art when I’m out in nature, to me it’s the best of both worlds, and Stowe has it in spades.
My youngest child, 4 years old and not the sharpest walker on the block, was so entranced he marched for at least 3 miles on a wet Sunday afternoon. I’d never seen him so enthused about nature and we spent a good two hours or so walking around these grounds. In summer you’d easily spend a whole day here. It’s also dog friendly, as long as they’re kept on a leash.
You can pay a small additional fee to go into the main building, below, but we were a bit worried about getting the kids to walk all the way back so decided against it.
You can actually stay in the Gothic Temple, below, through the Landmark Trust. It’s an incredible spot if you’re looking for a romantic weekend, though it’s en route for walkers so you’d have to watch yourself coming out of the shower!
There’s also a lovely 12th century church in the grounds, very simple and peaceful, but with some gorgeous details, like these striking windows and a touching statue of a child at the foot of its mother’s grave. I guess she died in childbirth. The gravestone says she was 25. The dog signifies loyalty (I think).
This was an amazing stone mosaic early on in the walk.
Everything about Stowe Gardens as a visitor experience has changed since our last visit, when we cycled around the grounds during the 2011 summer. Since then the entrance has moved to the south, and so you get a fantastic drive up to the property going through a marble arch, a much grander announcement than from behind the house to the north.
There’s also a new cafe (well, it’s been there for a year but you know what I mean), with so-so service but willing staff and a fantastic building.
It took a good 45 minutes in the car from Thame/Haddenham – you’ll know yourself the rough distances from your own homes – but once you’re at Stowe you can either eat at the cafe or venture into Buckingham too, which is literally 3 miles down the road. Here you’ll find Gyre & Gimble, Muddy Stilettos’ Best Cafe 2013 (but be prepared,it’s tiny and doesn’t serve lunches etc so pop in for an espresso rather than a big meal), and a lovely interiors store at home….
I can’t vouch for any pubs and restaurants around here – please anyone who knows, comment at the bottom of this post!! – but you’ll be able to spend a good hour or two in Buckingham if you’re so inclined.
Otherwise, just hang out in Stowe. It’s timeless really, and magical, and somehow totally without pretension despite the self-conscious beauty of the buildings. A really lovely day out.
National Trust prices apply. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/stowe