For thousands of years, labyrinths have been confusing and entertaining humans; pretty much the only scenario in which getting lost for several hours is fun.
From a sculpted Italian maze from which Napoleon himself couldn’t find his way out, to the historic Hampton Court maze built in the grounds of Henry VIII’s pleasure palace, here are six of the world’s most thrilling and notoriously-complicated mazes.
Hampton Court, UK
Hampton Court Palace Maze in Richmond, London, has been baffling visitors for over 300 years
Possibly the most famous maze of all, and also the oldest in the UK, Hampton Court Maze was planted for William III in the late 17th century. It stands in the magnificent grounds of Hampton Court, a haunted red brick Tudor pleasure palace known as the seat of Henry VIII and his many wives. Containing half a mile of puzzling paths that take you round in circles and to dead ends, the maze has been baffling visitors for over 300 years; almost everyone enters with a gung ho attitude but the occasional hole in the historic hedges (where lost tourists have forced their way through to the centre) are a testament to how tricky it really is. In recent years, eerie sound effects have been added to heighten the experience and sense of confusion, with music, the sound of children’s laughter, and the rustling of silk skirts echoing throughout the old yew hedges. For added adventure, stay on board the Hampton Court Motor Cruiser moored on the River Thames minutes from the maze.
Longleat Maze, UK
A girl lost in Longleat Maze, built in 1757 on the grounds of British stately home, Longleat
Longleat holds the title for the longest hedge maze in the world, stretching for nearly 1.7 miles, with 16,000 English yew trees, raised bridges and a white observation tower in the middle. This enormous labyrinth was built within 8,000 acres of historic garden designed by England’s most celebrated landscape designer, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, in 1757. The backdrop is the stately home of Longleat itself, a masterpiece of regal Elizabethan architecture that’s still owned by the same family that built it in 1580. The current owner and 7th Marquess of Bath, Alexander Thynn, is known for his eccentricity, having installed a Safari Park on the estate as well as several additional mazes; the Lunar Labyrinth, the Sun Maze, King Arthur’s Maze and the Love Labyrinth. Just a 15-minute drive from Longleat, The Lighthouse is a 4-star listed property surrounded by lakes and woodland.
Villa Pisani Labyrinth, Italy
The maze of Villa Pisani Museo Nazionale was apparently too complex for Napoleon himself to navigate
Napoleon was supposedly unable to navigate his way through this complex north Italian maze, and rumour has it Hitler and Mussolini were too afraid to even go in. It was designed in 1720 for the Venetian Doge after whom the Villa Pisani was named, with nine concentric rings of medieval circular paths. It’s a disorienting experience with countless dead ends and intimidatingly-tall hedges (peeking over the top is impossible) but reaching the centre makes it all worthwhile. Here, victors are treated to a fantastic view of the 18th-century palazzo, canals and formal gardens; just climb up the double spiral staircase past the statue of the goddess Minerva to the top of the small, central tower. Stay at Hotel Casa A Colori, a renovated 16th-century convent that’s only a 10-minute drive from Villa Pisani.
Dole Plantation Pineapple Maze, USA
This botanical maze holds two world records for being the world's largest
Frequently described as the world’s most elaborate maze, Hawaii’s Pineapple maze has also won two Guinness World Records for being the world’s largest. Located on a fruit plantation and designed in the shape of a pineapple, hence the name, it covers three acres with two and a half miles of botanical maze constructed from thousands of native plants. With the scent of hibiscus wafting through the air, find your way to the centre as fast as you can – those who finish the challenge quickly get their names displayed at the entrance. On the island of Oahu, Lotus Honolulu is located just outside the Hawaiian capital and a 45-minute drive from the maze.
Ashcombe Maze, Australia
The hedges of Ashcombe are pruned to resemble fluffy clouds
Probably the world’s most high-maintenance maze, Australia's Ashcombe requires trimming several times a year to achieve its rare, manicured appearance. Made up of over 1000 Monterey cypress trees, these evergreen hedges are pruned to resemble fluffy clouds, with each trimming session lasting a whole month. The grounds also house a circular rose maze and the year-round flowering Lavender Labyrinth, containing over 4,000 lavender plants emitting a blissful aroma. Relax after escaping from the maze at nearby Tulum at Balnarring Beach, a beautiful property that’s a 2-minute walk from the sea.
The Peace Maze, Northern Ireland
This maze is a peace symbol to celebrate the signing of the Good Friday agreement
Planted in 2000 by volunteers from the local community, this 2.7-acre maze is a peace symbol in Northern Ireland intended to celebrate the signing of the Good Friday agreement and the end of the Troubles. It’s one of the largest permanent mazes in the world but is deliberately meant to be less baffling than most; the height of the hedges is notably lower than average to encourage interaction and collaboration between visitors completing the maze. Stay at the delightful seaside Slieve Donard Cottage just 20-minutes’ drive from the maze, or the stately and enormous Slieve Donard Hotel.