Spectacular views over Bath.
The masterpiece is the Palladian Bridge dividing the two lakes.
From the ticket office, turn right and walk through the Wilderness, past the recently restored Grotto and along the stream. Stop and enjoy the magnificent views down the valley to the Palladian Bridge and the city of Bath beyond before heading towards the restored summerhouse.
Walk down the valley to the Palladian Bridge and lakes.
On your return walk on the other side of the valley, look out for the Cascade, the Cabinet and the site of the Gothic Temple.
Created in the 18thth century by Ralph Allen, Prior Park includes one of only four Palladian bridges of this design in the world. Set in a valley, the garden includes grottoes, a cascade, serpentine lake, a Gothic Temple and The Cabinet.
The gardens are usually open every day from February until the end of October and weekends only from November until January – check the website for details.
There’s no car park at Prior Park with limited street parking. Either take a bus or taxi from the centre or if you’re feeling fit, arrive at Prior Park from the Bath Skyline – a six mile circular walk taking in woodlands, meadows and an Iron Age Fort.
National Trust members visit for free.
Ralph Allen was born in Cornwall in 1693 and in 1710 became assistant to the postmistress in Bath. Allen revolutionised the postal system by creating a network of postal roads rather than sending all post via London.
Using his new found wealth, Allen bought the stone quarries at Coombe Down just as the building boom ignited in Bath.
In 1735, Allen appointed a fellow freemason, John Wood the Elder to design the Palladian house. A comment in the Bath Guide of 1778 noted that Prior Park was ‘A noble Seat which sees all Bath, and which was built, probably for all Bath to see’.
Allen laid out the gardens, taking advantage of the steep sided valley.
Garden buildings were a status symbol for many Whigs and although he did not have a similar background to his political friends, he had the money. In 1755, Richard Jones designed the stunning Palladian Bridge across the lake.
‘Capability’ Brown was owed £60 on Allen’s death. It’s not known what this was for but the amount does not suggest much involvement with the creation of the landscape.
With no heir, the estate changed hands several times and the gardens became overgrown.
In 1828, Prior Park is bought by Bishop Baines who bought the house as a seminary. It later became a school. It is not open to the public.
The Park is now managed by the National Trust.