5 years, 9 months ago
If we were ever in danger of forgetting that we can still be mystified and not everything is explicable, the magic of the maze is always there to remind us.
Whether it’s the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur or the political intrigue and literary inspiration of Hampton Court, a maze can always be counted on to chill and delight us in equal measure. But while the puzzle may be ancient, the art of maze making is still alive and well the world over.
Without the help of Ariadne or even a hint of golden thread we’ve found some of the best mazes to get happily lost in for hours on end. And they’re perfect for children. So step inside the legendary adventure of the maze and create an unforgettable adventure of your own.
Russborough House, Co. Wicklow, Eire
Without a doubt one of the most enchanting aspects of a maze is where you come across them. Russborough House in Co. Wicklow, Ireland is known as the longest house in Ireland and is certainly the country’s finest Palladian Mansion. Russborough is a house of secrets and mysteries (the diaries of the last owner, Sir Alfred Beit, are held in trust in Dublin until 21 years after the death of HRH Queen Elizabeth II). Fitting then that the 2000m² Beech Hedge Maze in the garden is a puzzle that needs a map and still has visitors wandering and lost. The ‘goal’ at the heart of Russborough Maze is a statue of Cupid enclosed in a diamond hedge symbolising The Beit Family’s role as pioneers in the ‘diamond trade’. It is possible to attempt solving the mystery of the Russborough Maze before you step inside – one window on the first floor of the house overlooks the entire design – but you should probably take a phone with you just in case.
Il Labarinto, Villa Pisani, Venice
On the Riviera del Brenta about 20 minutes from Venice and 10 minutes from Padua stands the magnificent Villa Pisani. Often called the ‘Queen’ of Venetian Villas, Villa Pisani is famous for its Rococo interior, the ‘most beautiful gardens in Italy’ and for Il Labarinto, still considered to be the most complex maze in the world. Napoleon Bonaparte got lost here in 1807, Hitler and Mussolini refused to venture in and today’s visitors regularly call for assistance from the depths – this maze does not come with a map. For the intrepid and those with a good sense of direction the reward at the heart of Villa Pisani’s Maze is a charming two storey tower with exterior spiral staircases. This is the perfect vantage point from which to observe the confused and to admire the long expanses of the villa’s formal gardens.
Reignac-sur-Indre, Indre-et-Loire, France
Created in 1996, Reignac-sur-Indre is the largest ‘plant maze’ in the world. Although the design is a classical labyrinth, the planting of the maze uses a sowing and re-marking technique to make a vibrant living sculpture that flourishes with sunflowers in summer and dies back almost to a shadow in winter. This isn’t too puzzling a maze but its sheer size is an incomparable adventure. Indre-et-Loire is also famous for its chateaux, medieval towns and villages, beautiful lakes, forests and rivers and for its hot air balloons. So once you’ve explored the maze and its landscape on the ground you can always sail gently over it and see everything from another perspective entirely.
Parc del Laberint, Barcelona, Spain
This 18 acre garden, part of the Alfarràs Estate on the edge of Barcelona, is the oldest in the city and unquestionably the most romantic. The centrepiece of the garden is a maze of 2m high hedges devised to almost exactly replicate the Minotaur’s mythical Labyrinth at Knossos. Not content to mirror the classical design, the maze also uses statuary, art and friezes to capture every detail of Theseus and Ariadne’s love story – the prize at the heart is, of course, a statue of Cupid. The great romantic idyll is celebrated in the rest of Parc del Laberint too. But all the Temples of Ariadne and statues of Echo pale by comparison with a monument created simply to commemorate, ‘one splendid afternoon’.
Cawdor Castle, Nairn, Scotland
With its crow stepped gables and steeply pitched roofs, Cawdor Castle is at once fairy tale and intrinsically Scottish. Often called the Highlands’ most romantic castle and forever linked to Shakespeare through his wildly inaccurate tragedy Macbeth, Cawdor also has one of the finest walled kitchen gardens in Britain and at its heart lies the immaculately groomed Holly Maze. Designed in 1981 by Lord Cawdor and based on the mosaic maze in the ruined Roman Villa of Conimbriga, Portugal, Cawdor’s maze is not a conundrum or a place to get lost, but it is very beautiful and tracing its intricacies passes some very peaceful time.
Vizcaya, Biscayne Bay, Miami, Florida
In 1916 the agricultural industrialist James Deering built his summer retreat overlooking Biscayne Bay in Miami. A huge, Italianate villa with dozens of rooms and over 10 acres of garden, today Vizcaya is one of the most glamorous museums in the world. Deering’s passion was planting – when he realised Miami’s climate wouldn’t fulfil his desire for abundant orchids he created a ‘secret garden’ specifically for their cultivation. He had orchards built, woodland tamed and, of course, inspired by the true spirit of 18th century Italy he made a maze. Not one of the largest or most confusing, but Vizcaya hosts many elegant evening events so it is one of the few mazes to explore by moonlight.
Featured image by Tim Green.