Tuesday 10 April 2007

Stowe Landscape Gardens, Buckingham, Buckinghamshire

Once a private estate encompassing 750 acres of rolling green parkland dotted with more than 40 monuments, temples, follies, columns, bridges and other eye-catching historical stone structures, Stowe is today both a lavish public school and a major draw for daytrippers. Managed by the National Trust, Stowe's Landscape Gardens were laid out by Lancelot "Capability" Brown in the eighteenth century to offer dramatic and idyllic views from many vantage points and in many directions. Most of the monuments and temples are worth exploring, but the intricate Gothic Temple and the elegant Palladian Bridge are among the highlights, as is the view from the steps of the house across the lake to the Doric Arch right in the distance. Unfortunately, the hulking neo-classical stately home lacks the beauty and subtlety of many of the smaller satellite temples and statues. Moreover, the overall effect is marred slightly by the addition of a handful of unsightly modern school buildings, a golf course and astroturf pitches. But Stowe is big, varied and picturesque enough to easily justify the £5.90 entrance fee. 8/10