In a country of superlative gardens and gardeners, Stourhead is the most celebrated example of 18th-century English landscape gardening. More than that, it's a delightful place to wander -- among its trees, flowers, and colorful shrubs are tucked bridges, grottoes, and temples. Although Stourhead is a garden for all seasons, it is at its most idyllic in summer, when rhododendrons are in full bloom.
A neoclassical house, Stourhead was built in the 18th century by the Hoare banking family, who created 40 hectares (100 acres) of prime 18th-century landscaped gardens. Henry Hoare II (1705-85), known as "Henry the Magnificent," contributed to the development of the landscape of this estate.
The Temple of Flora was the first building in the garden, designed by the architect Henry Flitcroft in 1744. The Grotto, constructed in 1748, is lined with tufa, a water-worn limestone deposit. The springs of the Stour flow through the cold bath, where a lead copy of the sleeping Ariadne lies. The Pantheon was built in 1753 to house Rysbrack's statues of Hercules and Flora and other classical figures. In 1765, Flitcroft built the Temple of Apollo, the route that takes the visitor over the public road via a rock-work bridge constructed in the 1760s. The art-filled house at Stourhead, designed by Colen Campbell, a leader in the neoclassical revival, was built for Henry Hoare I between 1721 and 1725.
Henry Hoare II's 18th-century redbrick folly, Alfred's Tower, is another feature at Stourhead. It sits 48m (160 ft.) above the borders of Wiltshire, Somerset, and Dorset and has 221 steps. The Obelisk was built between 1839 and 1840 of Bath stone and replaced the original of Chilmark stone constructed by William Privet for Henry Hoare in 1746.