Stourhead Estate Walk starts at the National Trust Visitor car park, and is a woodland and estate walk around the outside perimeter of Stourhead Gardens. It is mostly woodland and open fields, following well used tracks. It can be very muddy in places after rain and contains a number of slopes, and one very steep downhill slope. Appropriate walking footwear required.
From the main car park, go through visitor reception. Take the zig-zag path down to the courtyard at the bottom of the path. Walkthrough the courtyard and exit onto the road and turn left, taking care of any passing traffic. Pass St Peter’s Church on your left and the cottages on your right. Continue along the road, high up on your left is the Temple of Apollo, with sporadic views across the lake through the hedgerow to your right. After you pass under an arch, take the path to your right.
As you walk along here the lower lake is known as Turner’s Paddock lake, with its waterwheel and waterfall coming into view shortly after you turn onto the path.
Keep following the path and pass through the kissing gate beside the cattle grid, and step to your right and up the slope. The end of the lake often has the resident swans in attendance, whilst the broader landscape is often home to grazing sheep. Continue along the main track for a short distance, then turn right just after the copse. Head towards and pass through the gate and continue gently uphill along the woodland track.
Keep to the main track until it levels out, when it bends around to the left, keep following the grassed track directly in front of you, don’t follow it around to your left. Continue along this path, until you reach a small bench on your right, with a Stour Valley Way arrow on a post. There is now a steep walk down, which starts with some steps, take extra care as this can be very slippery after rain.
When you reach the bottom of the hill, head to the gate and stile in front of you. Cross the stile and head almost directly ahead. You are now crossing Six Wells Bottom and as you take in the sweeping views, take a moment to explore the adjacent, medieval fish ponds for wildlife.
Six Wells Bottom
Six Wells Bottom is the source of the River Stour, as you look to your left, just a short distance over the horizon is St. Peters Pump, which marks the source, and is the only remaining well. This feeds the three medieval fish ponds, which go on to feed the main Stourhead lake.
Continue over the valley until you reach the gate and stile opposite. Climb over the stile and head up the track, you will find another gate and stile at the top, climb over and up a short slope to your left. You will now be in Great Oar Meadow at the foot of the Obelisk. With your back to the inscription on the Obelisk, head in a diagonal direction towards the left of the house in the distance. Pick up the track and follow this over a cattle grid, use the pedestrian route to avoid the cattlegrid. Follow the track around in front of Stourhead House and head downhill until you reach the Gatehouse and clock.
Stourhead House was originally built in the 18th Century, although the one standing today, is a copy after the original burnt down in the early 1900s.
Now cared for by the National Trust, it gives a fascinating insight into the Hoare family who originally built the house, and for whom we can thank for the beautiful gardens that are the hallmark of Stourhead.
The Gatehouse and lodge provide a beautiful backdrop of colour throughout the Autumn thanks to the glorious Ivy covering most of the frontage. Go through the arch and head down the road back to the starting point, where you will find the Spread Eagle Inn, or alternatively, cross the road and pick up the footpath to take you to the National Trust Visitor Centre, shop, restaurant and car park.