Visit a stately home or country estate this summer and, after tea and a stroll around the gardens, you may find yourself faced with the challenge of a beautifully pruned hedge maze.


Evolving from the decorative knot gardens of Renaissance Europe, these amusing creations began to be seen in the grounds belonging to 16th-century European royalty, who built them to provide merriment for guests, as well as private places for clandestine meetings.

Over time, the designs became increasingly complicated, with higher walls, more twists and turns and extra dead ends, designed to deliberately cause confusion and thus earning the name ‘puzzle mazes’.

Adrian Fisher, internationally recognised as the world’s leading maze designer, has created traditional hedge mazes for some of the finest historic buildings and private gardens, including Alnwick Castle, Speke Hall, Blenheim Palace and Longleat House.

‘Hedge mazes are amongst the loveliest of garden features,’ he says. ‘They provide a playful setting for the whole family to join in, where the fun of solving the maze is heightened by discovering its hidden meanings.’

Check out our recommendations of the best stately home gardens to visit in the UK.

Best mazes in the UK

1. Hampton Court Palace Maze

Mazes to visit
Skyscan Photolibrary / Alamy Stock Photo

The oldest surviving puzzle hedge maze, found at Hampton Court Palace, is referenced in Three Men in a Boat, a popular Victorian novel in which three friends end up lost among the hedges and have to be rescued. Designed and planted by George London and Henry Wise for King William III in the late 17th century, it was fashioned after a ‘royal garden’, or French bosquet, with high hedges providing privacy for members of the royal family. Its unusual trapezoid shape makes an eye-catching feature from above, and the maze remains one of the most popular attractions of the palace and gardens.

Visit Hampton Court Palace maze

2. Glendurgan Garden Maze

Mazes to visit
Apex News and Pictures Agency / Alamy Stock Photo

Set above the Helford estuary in Cornwall, this subtropical garden is home to a hedge maze designed in 1833 by Alfred and Sarah Fox to entertain their 12 children. Planted with cherry laurel, the maze has a thatched summerhouse at its centre and is shaped like a coiled serpent, said to be inspired by Sydney Gardens in Bath. Its sloping position makes it even more of a challenge, with a total of 173 steps, many of which were deteriorating after almost 200 years of use; these and its well-trodden paths were recently the focus of a four-year restoration.

More like this

Buy Glendurgan Garden maze

You might also like a history of garden parterres and where to see them

3. Traquair Maze

Mazes to visit
Iain Masterton / Alamy Stock Photo

The boxy beauty of Peeblesshire’s Traquair Maze – the largest hedge maze in Scotland – can be attributed to its position on what was previously a parterre garden in the 18th century. Nowadays, the high terrace walls give parents a viewing platform from which to help their children navigate the maze, which contains no dead ends but does include four sub-centres that must be reached before the centre. It was originally planted in 1981 with 1,500 Leyland cypress trees that didn’t make it through the harsh winter of 1983, and later replanted with hardier beech trees.

Visit Traquair Maze

4. Hever Castle Yew Maze & Water Maze

Mazes to visit

Nestled in the gardens of Hever Castle are two mazes: the Yew Maze and the Water Maze. Built during the Edwardian era by William Waldorf Astor, the Yew Maze is one of the few traditionally designed mazes left, created using eight foot hedges. Their second offering, the Water Maze, is an interactive take on the classic garden structures. The maze is created using concentric stepping stone walkways surrounded by water, but if you step on the wrong stone, it will tilt and squirt water at the unsuspecting visitor.

Visit Hever Castle Mazes

You might also like a history of Victorian garden cemeteries

5. Blenheim Palace Maze

Best Mazes

Within the walled gardens of Blenheim Palace is the Marlborough Maze, a two mile long attraction created using yew trees. The maze depicts an image of the 1st Duke of Marlborough's trappings of war, and in the centre, you can see the word Blenheim spelt out in the maze, a celebration of the Duke's victory. It's the largest maze of its size that has been designed and constructed this way, the intricate hedging forming a piece of art that can be seen best from the bridges within the maze.

Visit Blenheim Castle Maze

6. Leeds Castle Maze

Best Mazes

Created in 1988 by designer Adrian Fisher, Leeds Castle Maze has a square exterior and a circular interior, making it not only unique, but also more difficult to complete. In fact, when the designer went through the maze during the opening, he too couldn't find his way out!

The castle's maze also has a distinctive way to exit the maze. Once you reach the middle, head underground to their grotto, filled with incredible creations made from wood and shells.


Visit Leeds Castle Maze