It’s hard to resist the appeal of a good maze and England has some stellar examples scattered throughout its lands. Within their winding, obscured paths you’ll encounter fascinating and sometimes mysterious stories surrounding their origins. The creation of some mazes dates back to at least Medieval times, while others have been built in the modern era, but sit within estates that have existed for many hundreds of years.
The five mazes we’ve selected are great for losing yourself in for a while, but just remember to find the centre of the maze – and then to find your way out afterwards, of course.
1. Hampton Court Maze
Hampton Court Maze is a yew tree maze measuring around half an acre. It forms part of the extensive gardens at Hampton Court Palace. Dating to the 17th century, it is the oldest surviving hedge maze in the UK and the first to have been planted in the country.
The maze is multicursal (also known as a puzzle maze), meaning there are multiple routes to the centre, as opposed to a unicursal maze, which features only one path leading to the centre.
The maze remains a hugely popular part of the Hampton Court Palace visitor experience and is still widely regarded as the most famous maze in the world. Visitors to the palace can also explore the other gardens alongside the maze, as well as touring the palace itself.
2. Julian’s Bower
Julian’s Bower is a Medieval turf maze that sits high up on a rural hilltop in in North Lincolnshire, England.
An air of mystery still surrounds this maze, the first record of which appears to be in the late 17th century, in the diary of antiquarian and historian Abraham de la Pryme, although the maze is believed to date back to Medieval times.
Julian’s Bower is an important historical landmark for the village of Alkborough, where the maze is located, and as it is set on public land, the maze can be freely visited by anyone to enjoy.
3. Hever Castle Yew Maze
There are two mazes within the 125-acre grounds of Hever Castle, in Kent, England: a yew maze and a water maze.
The Yew Maze is by far the most historic of Hever Castle’s two mazes, having been developed in 1906 for William Waldorf Astor, who purchased Hever Castle in 1903.
The main structure of Hever Castle itself was built in 1270 and was later the home of the Boleyn family, including Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife.
The Yew Maze and the rest of Hever Castle’s gardens can be visited with a ‘garden only’ ticket or as part of a trip to the castle.
4. Glendurgan Maze
Glendurgan Maze is a cherry laurel hedge maze and part of Glendurgan Garden, a large subtropical garden in Cornwall, England.
First developed in the 1820s, the maze is perhaps the most popular part of this extensive garden, which is comprised of three valleys full of lush vegetation and exotic plants and flowers.
The maze was conceived and built in 1833 and some sources claim its shape was modelled on a coiled serpent, although it was largely based on the labyrinth in Sydney Gardens, in the English city of Bath.
As well as the maze and varied flora found across the valleys, Glendurgan also houses a beach, olive grove, apple orchard, and cherry orchard.
5. Longleat Maze
Longleat Maze is a hedge maze located in the grounds of Longleat House, a stately home in Wiltshire, England.
Built in 1978, Longleat’s hedge maze is the largest in the UK and was once the largest maze in the world, built from over 16,000 English yew trees.
In 1949, Longleat House became the first stately home to open to the public, and it continues to be a popular attraction today. There are 900 acres of grounds attached to the house (envisaged by English landscape designer Capability Brown) with various beautiful gardens on show. The maze is still an essential part of the Longleat experience for many visitors.