With all the distractions and digital dazzle of 21st century life, you’d think the humble puzzle would have lost its appeal. But mazes, riddles, and brain-teasers are becoming more popular all the time – just look at the viral success of Gergely Dudas’ ‘There’s a panda amongst them’ cartoon.
When our attention is under ever-greater demand, there’s something almost meditative about getting lost in a good brain-teaser. Not to mention that regularly puzzling your way through a variety of mental challenges may help ward off dementia and keep your brain ‘fit.’
Pair a puzzle with a good healthy walk and what do you get? Perhaps one of Britain’s garden mazes. Labyrinths and mazes have appeared across a number of cultures around the world, but a ‘maze craze’ among England’s well-to-do in the 18th century has made the UK particularly famous for them. So, here we present realistic renders of 6 mind-boggling garden mazes across the UK.
1. Marlborough Maze – Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, England
The Marlborough Maze at Blenheim Palace is both picturesque and symbolic. The Palace was built to celebrate the Duke of Marlborough’s triumph at the Battle of Blenheim, and a bird’s eye view of the maze reveals a cannon firing a ball, banners, and trumpets, inspired by Grinling Gibbons’s Panoply of Victory carvings on the roof of the main building.
Winston Churchill, who was born at the palace, also gets a hat-tip in the form of “V”-shaped hedgerows.
The maze is made up of over 3,000 yew trees covering nearly 2 acres; it takes a team of six people one week to prune the thing once a year. And it’s not just hedges, as a pair of symmetrical bridges provide a piece of the puzzle and a viewing point over the gardens.
2. Castlewellan Peace Maze – Castlewellan, County Down, Northern Ireland
Created by a community of over 5,000 people, mostly children, and formed of over 6,000 yew trees, the Peace Maze was the largest permanent maze in the world until the Pineapple Garden Maze in Hawaii stole the title in 2007.
A family adventure, the Peace Maze is a symbol of peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. Surrounded by trees, shrubs, mountains, lake, castle, and the sea, the area is more than a day out – even if you do navigate your way out of the maze in good time.
And if you make it to the middle, you get to ring a special bell!
3. Heatherton Hedge Maze – Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Heatherton is a good one for kids, since an adult can see above the tops of the trees (at least for now!).
Beech trees and fences divide Heatherton’s 2,880 m2 maze into pathways – and some of the fences contain gates, so that the designers can make the puzzle tougher if too many people are acing it quicker than the suggested 15-minute duration!
The maze was created in 2015 as part of Heatherton’s commitment to ecotourism. A nature trail, 18-hole golf course, fishing lakes, and eco ‘glamping’ accommodation are likewise designed to nurture surrounding habitats rather than leave a negative footprint.
4. Traquair Maze – Innerleithen, Scottish Borders, Scotland
There’s a handy terrace wall overlooking Traquair Maze; concerned parents have been seen atop it guiding their kids out of the labyrinth of Leylandi Cyprus and beech trees down below.
While the maze contains no dead ends, it’s still a puzzler. Visitors have to find four stopping points on the way to the heart.
Once there they may get a surprise: one gent dropped to his knees to propose to his girlfriend when they found it. Fireworks flew and champagne arrived on a silver tray when she said yes. Lucky the waiter didn’t get lost!
5. The Cornish Maize Maze – Saltash, Cornwall, England
Another corncob-based maze, like York the Cornish Maize Maze changes up its route every agricultural year. In 2018, they went for a dinosaur-themed ‘Jurassic Jumble.’
Set on a working farm amid the sprawling hills of the Duchy of Cornwall estate, it’s a great place to catch some summer rays and fresh air. Families can also sleep over in the attraction’s farmhouse bed-and-breakfast accommodation.
Warning: real live pixies have been spotted on-site. Allegedly.
6. Noah’s Ark Maze – Bristol, England
There’s more than one maze at Noah’s Ark Zoo. The beehive maze, for example, is a 3D structure across four levels – perfect, perhaps, for those charmed by the M.C. Escher puzzle at the end of Labyrinth.
We’ve illustrated the outdoor Mega Monster Maze, which is all the trickier for becoming muddy when it rains. Around 14,000 beech trees line the way, and seven of Noah’s animals can be spotted en route.
Questions and clues along the way support kids (and adults) in solving the maze with their brain, rather than trial-and-error or – as some of may have considered – a chainsaw.
Bonus – York Maze – York, North Yorkshire, England
Britain’s largest maze covers an area greater than the size of eight football pitches. In case you didn’t think it could get any more amazing – it’s actually made of maize.
And if a maze made out of corn-on-the-cob doesn’t already sound fiendish enough, regular visitors will note that the puzzle is completely redesigned every year with the appearance of the new crop.
Previous incarnations have included Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and a Doctor Who maze in celebration of the show’s 50th anniversary.
Now you’ve solved all the mazes on their own why not put your solving skills to the test and take on the ‘mega-maze’.