The Prior Park Landscape Garden is a short distance to the southeast of Bath’s city centre. The garden, which surrounds the Prior Park estate, is Grade I listed and is considered to be influential in defining the English landscape garden style that became popular in continental Europe during the 18th century.
When Prior Park was being constructed during the 1720s, the poet Alexander Pope played a major role in designing the garden, which measures 11.3ha (28 acres), and over 55,000 trees were planted and fish ponds were formed at the bottom of the valley. Later on, during the 1750s and 1760s, Capability Brown, the 18th century’s leading landscape gardener, further refined the garden, introducing exotic plants that had only recently arrived in Britain.
The garden was acquired by the National Trust in 1993 and opened to the public in 1996.
What to see at the Prior Park Landscape Garden
The garden’s highlight is the Grade I listed Palladian bridge, which is a copy of the bridge at Wilton House near Salisbury. This is one of only four remaining bridges of this design in the world. The bridge features on the cover of the Swedish metal band Opeth’s album Morningrise.
Other points of interest in the gardens include Serpentine Lake and the Sham Bridge, Mrs Allen’s Grotto and the 19th-century summerhouse.
The higher points of the garden provide a lovely vantage point offering panoramic views over Bath. The garden is also just a short walk from Bath Skyline, a circular walking trail where trees and hedges are cut specifically to maximise views of the city.
Although the gardens were built around the Prior Park mansion, the mansion is part of Prior Park College and it is not accessible by the public.
Visiting the Prior Park Landscape Garden
The Prior Park Landscape Garden is set in a small steep valley around 2.5km (1½ miles) southeast of Bath’s city centre.
You can walk here from the centre of Bath in around half an hour or you can catch bus route 2, which runs every half hour. If you’re walking you should note that it is located up a fairly steep hill. Car parking is not available at this site and all visitors must either walk to take public transport.
The garden is managed by the National Trust and it costs £5 to visit (free for National Trust members).
Drinks and snacks are available from The Tea Shed at the top of the garden, however, it is not always open and it is best to bring your own picnic lunch just in case it is closed.
It is quite a large garden and it is easy to spend a couple of hours here, although you should also allow for travel time to get here from the centre of Bath.