Leeds Castle Maze
Photograph: Shutterstock

The 9 best mazes in the UK

Whether you love a puzzle or simply appreciate a bit of good topiary, these are the best mazes to enjoy this summer

Contributor: Aarna Raj
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The Middle English word ‘maze’ more or less translates as ‘delirium’ or ‘delusion’, and when you imagine clambering through labyrinthine pathways, surrounded by towering hedges it does sound like a rather confusing, but enticing, adventure.

Back in the sixteenth century, hedge mazes were embraced by European royalty as a means of entertaining guests (and to provide sneaky spots for clandestine meetings) – hence why so many of them are nestled away in castle grounds. But that’s not the only place they’re found – there are some belter mazes dotted all over the UK, including at the likes of Longleat and Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, as well as at Leeds and Hever Castle, respectively. So, grab your map (or don’t, if you’re feeling bold) and get ready to lose yourself in some of the most a-maze-ing mazes the UK has to offer.

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9 amazing mazes across the UK

1. Hever Castle’s Mazes, Kent

This fourteenth century castle is home to two mazes. Yew Maze is your classic hedge-lined adventure, but if you’re after a maze with a difference, Hever Castle’s design also necessitates towels and a change of clothes. The fiendish (and aptly named) Water Maze is located on Sixteen Acre Island, and consists of a series of concentric stepping stone walkways that hover over water. Tread with caution, as some of the stones tilt, prompting jets of water to shoot out (hence the need for towels). Few maze-goers succeed in reaching the stone grotto in the centre without receiving a good dousing – maybe save this one for a hot day. 

2. Cornish Maize Maze

There’s no maze quite like a maize maze, eh? Situated on a working farm forming part of the Duchy of Cornwall Estate, the Cornish Maize Maze appears annually from July through to September. You can grab a post-maze pasty or cream tea from the on-site cafe and those not suffering from ‘Signs’-induced panic attacks might fancy attending one of the maze’s ‘Torchlight Nights’. The farm even hosts a Halloween ‘Maze of Horrors’ event for particularly zealous chill-seekers. 

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3. Hampton Court Maze, Surrey

Officially the UK’s oldest surviving hedge maze, Hampton Court’s design was commissioned around 1700 by William III. Covering a third of an acre, this bad boy is referred to as a ‘puzzle maze’, and takes around 20 minutes to crack. As the one time home of Henry VIII, Hampton Court Palace is a must-see for any Tudor aficionados, and a regular day ticket will ensure access to palace, maze and gardens, as well as exhibitions, historical reenactments and activity trails.

4. Dragonfly Maze, Gloucestershire

Allow yourself a cool 30 minutes to complete Bourton-on-the-Water’s Dragonfly Maze. The twist is that, far from simply trying to find the centre, players must spot the 14 clues that are dotted around each pathway. There’s even an ‘extra puzzle’ if you find it all too easy, or are a repeat visitor. With a cute, classic Cotswolds gift shop to nip into afterwards, the Dragonfly Maze is a pocket-friendly way to kill an afternoon. 

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5. Marlborough Maze, Oxfordshire

Opened in 1991, Blenheim Palace’s Marlborough Maze famously includes a ‘V’ sign in honour of Winston Churchill, who was born at the palace. History buffs will recognise various military symbols included in the convoluted design, including cannons and bugles – these refer to the 1st Duke of Marlborough’s triumph at the Battle of Blenheim. The grounds are seriously vast, so allow for enough time to explore, and perhaps bring a picnic in case you run out of steam before reaching the café

6. Longleat Hedge Maze, Wiltshire

With almost two miles of paths to choose from, Longleat Hedge Maze is one for the brave – it was once the biggest maze in the world and remains the largest in Britain. It can take between 20 and 90 minutes to complete, depending on your navigational skills. That’s right – an hour and a half of head-scratching. At least you know that once on familiar terrain you can soothe yourself with a bit of animal interaction (and refreshment, in one of the park’s cafés or restaurants). 

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7. Leeds Castle Maze, Kent

The maze at Leeds Castle is large and elaborate, having been constructed using 2,400 yew trees. Looking out from the very centre visitors will notice that part of the design resembles a queen’s crown (perhaps inspired by the six medieval queens to have called Leeds Castle home over the years). Best of all – and assuming you actually make it to the centre – an exit is provided via a creepy underground grotto, featuring mythical beasts created from wood, minerals and shells. It’s all very ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. 

8. Minotaur Maze, Northumberland

Veering away from nature (but still set in picturesque countryside), Northumberland’s Minotaur Maze doubles as a sort of art installation, made from basalt stones caged in wire mesh. Built in the pretty grounds of Kielder Castle, it was designed by architects Nick Coombe and Shona Kitchen in 2003, who devised a glittering room made from recycled glass as the final finishing post.

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9. Noah's Ark Maze, Somerset

One for the kids, this cute maze is a beloved addition to Noah’s Ark, a working farm just outside Bristol. Obviously there are many creatures to encounter – it is the largest zoo in the South West. Indeed, the hedge maze itself is the longest in Europe, and includes questions to further befuddle visitors. Wellies are encouraged for this one – it is a farm, after all. 

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