After he saw the first Egyptian labyrinth in the 5th century BC, the Greek historian Herodotus allegedly proclaimed, “The pyramids surpass description, but the labyrinth surpasses the pyramids.” Over the centuries, mazes have wound their way into popular culture. They function as a means of achieving spiritual peace, as works of art, and, most commonly in modern times, as interactive garden attractions. For those in need of a puzzling way to spend an afternoon abroad, here are 10 of the most enchanting, perplexing mazes across the globe.
Away from the bustle of central Barcelona, this neoclassical garden is an oasis at the foot of the Collserola Mountains. Built in 1791, it’s the oldest garden in the city. It contains 135 acres of woodlands, ponds, statues, temples, and terraced gardens—the lowest of which features the cypress-hedge labyrinth. Another noteworthy garden attraction is the Torre Soberana, a 14th-century country house donated to the city by the Desvalls family in 1967.
Hampton Court Maze
Commissioned in the early 1700s by William III, this trapezoidal labyrinth is the oldest surviving hedge maze in the UK. If you hear whispers or fragmented laughter as you work your way through the maze, you’re not going crazy. To help enhance the labyrinth experience (and mislead poor, unsuspecting visitors), Hampton Court installed an audio exhibit called “Trace” in 2005. This system plays audio clips that work to lure maze-goers in the wrong direction. A ticket to Hampton Court Palace includes admission to the maze.
Step aside, every other maze in the world: This giant juniper labyrinth is a triple threat. In 2018, it made the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest maze, largest hedge maze, and containing the largest network of pathways in a hedge maze in the world. In terms of numbers, that’s over 383,100 square feet and nearly six miles of pathways. (So it’s understandable if you get a little lost!) The main portion of this maze, which opened in 2017, is planted in the shape of an elk. The garden also includes a variety of smaller mazes, rest areas, bridges, and lookout towers.
When it comes to family-friendly outings, it’s hard to beat a visit to Springmount’s picturesque botanical maze. The six-foot-high hedges feature an array of climbing, flowering shrubs that change according to the season. In addition to the maze, the farm includes a miniature golf course, synthetic ice rink, indoor play area, and café.
In 1833, a man named Alfred Fox created this quaint Cornwall haven as part of his private garden. Its maze, which was originally constructed to occupy Fox’s 12 children, is made up of cherry laurel hedges that twist and coil like a snake. A thatched hut nestles cozily in the middle. Elsewhere in the garden, visitors can enjoy exotic plants collected by Fox on his travels around the world.
Green Man Maze
To celebrate the new millennium, Penpont Mansion commissioned a local artist to design a maze in the shape of the Green Man—a Pagan symbol representing the cycle of life. The maze is a masterpiece composed entirely of local plants and materials. Beech and yew from the estate’s woods make up the maze’s hedges. Pebbles and quartz come from the nearby Rivers Usk and Wye, and the stone originated in the Black Mountains. In addition to its labyrinth, the maze includes quiet, glassy ponds, tunnels, secret gardens, and fragrant clusters of lavender.
Want to master a maze that Napoleon couldn’t? The labyrinth at Villa Pisani in Stra, just a half-hour by car from Venice, is quite possibly the most difficult in the world. Created in 1720, the maze features soaring hedges that form nine concentric rings full of perplexing pathways and dead ends. At the center of this circular labyrinth is an 18th-century turret with a spiral staircase leading to the top.
Andrássy Castle Maze
Situated along the Tisza River on near the border with Slovakia, this squid-shaped labyrinth is among the most beautiful in Europe. It’s one of the key features of the grounds of the Andrássy Castle, which was built in the late 19th century for the country’s first prime minister.
With 1.7 miles of twisting paths covering 1.5 acres, the Longleat Maze is among the longest of its kind in the world. It comprises 16,000 English yews and features six raised bridges to help give participants the semblance of bearings. The maze is so vast that it takes a team of six gardeners more than a month to trim the eight-foot hedges by hand. They must repeat this task every six months.
Castlewellan, Northern Ireland
Until Hawaii’s Dole Pineapple Maze came about in 2007, the Peace Maze was the largest permanent maze in the world. Planted in 2000, this 2.7-acre labyrinth commemorated the signing of the Good Friday agreement that ended the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland. The maze is part of an 8,000-acre estate that has been home to the Marquesses of Bath since 1541. The hedges, which comprise 6,000 yew trees each planted by a citizen of Northern Ireland, are kept short to encourage interaction between maze-goers. Other aspects of the labyrinth prompt a certain level of reflection. Stepping stones inspire us to take life one step at a time, while a rocky path reminds us that the road to peace will not always be smooth. There’s also a bridge that symbolizes crossing the divide and understanding another’s point of view. Be sure to ring the Peace Bell when you reach the center.
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