21 Jun 10 UK Mazes Designs That Actually Exist
The middle English word ‘maze’ more or less translates as ‘delirium’ or ‘delusion’. Back in the sixteenth century, hedge mazes were embraced by European royalty as a means of entertaining guests (as well as providing sneaky spots for clandestine meetings). Since then we’ve continued to get a kick out of feeling disorientated, solving the giant puzzle before us and reaching that elusive center. As a family day out, mazes seriously tick a lot of boxes – they’re time-consuming enough to keep the kids occupied, they’re outdoor, and low ticket prices make them good value for money. From a hardcore stone labyrinth to the longest maze in the world, we’ve rounded up the best places to get lost in the UK.
1. Blenheim Palace Maze, Oxfordshire
Opened in 1991, Blenheim Palace’s Marlborough Maze famously includes a ‘V’ sign in honor of Winston Churchill, who was born at the palace. History buffs will recognize various military symbols included in the convoluted design, including cannons and bugles – these refer to the 1st Duke of Marlborough’s triumph at the Battle of Blenheim.
4. Glendurgan Garden, Cornwall
Planted over 175 years ago, the maze at Glendurgan was created by the garden’s former owners, Alfred and Sarah, to entertain their 12 children. Race to the middle and solve the zig-zags of the hedges, to see who can reach the center first. With the coils of the maze stretching over three-quarters of a mile from the entrance to exit, it’s not hard to get lost in the spiraled labyrinth.
5. Leeds Castle Maze, Kent
The maze at Leeds Castle is large and elaborate, having been constructed using 2,400 yew trees. Looking out from the very center visitors will notice that part of the design resembles a queen’s crown (perhaps inspired by the six medieval queens to have called Leeds Castle home over the years). Best of all – and assuming you actually make it to the center – an exit is provided via a creepy underground grotto, featuring mythical beasts created from wood, minerals, and shells. It’s all very ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’.
5. Hever Castle, Kent
This 13th-century castle was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn and its extensive grounds boasts three very different mazes. Children will love making their way around the Tower Maze in the castle’s adventure playground, while visitors of all ages can enjoy the 100-year-old Yew Maze and the unusual Water Maze, where concentric stepping stones lead over a pool of water while hidden water jets and tilting stepping stones attempt to hamper visitors’ progress even further!
6. Scotland, Traquair House
The Traquair Maze was planted in 1981 and is the largest hedge maze in Scotland, covering over half an acre. With a 1/4 mile from the entrance to the center, the maze at Traquair House is the largest hedge maze in Scotland. Designed by a Traquair craftworker, John Schofield, the maze doesn’t have any dead ends but visitors must reach four sub centers before coming to the center. After a third of the original Leyland cypress trees were lost following a harsh winter in 1983, the decision was made to replant the maze with hardier beech trees.
7. Molesey, Hampton Court Palace
The inclusion of a hedge maze in English gardens became popular in Tudor times. Perhaps the most famous of all is the one at Hampton Court Palace. The oldest surviving hedge maze in England, it was originally planted with hornbeam in around 1700, commissioned by William III. Now it is made up of yew, covering one-third of an acre.
8. Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm Maze, Wraxall
The longest hedge maze in the world, the Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm maze in Wraxall, Somerset, is 3.2km long and features 14,000 beech trees laid out in the shape of Noah’s Ark and seven monster animals. It’s laid out mainly in green beech to feed the resident camels and giraffes, with the animal outlines in copper beech.
The educational monster maze is set out in 15 sections – each path has a letter and each section has a question, with the correct answer leading children to the shortest route towards the next clue. The 15 correct path letters are an anagram of a creature.
9. Minotaur Maze, Kielder Castle, Northumberland
Inspired by the Greek minotaur myth, this stone maze is set in the grounds of Kielder Castle and has special features including stairs that take visitors above the walls so they can look for alternative routes. The final goal is a small glittering room formed from rocks of recycled glass where visitors can quietly contemplate escape routes.
10.Chatsworth House, Derbyshire
Sited in the stunning grounds of Chatsworth House, which is believed to be the inspiration for Pemberley in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, this traditional yew maze is an excellent choice for lovers seeking a romantic turn.