- Bowood House and Gardens is owned by the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne and is near to the village of Derry Hill.
- Explore the House, with its converted rooms ready to show off the fascinating history of the building.
- Walk through stunning gardens and enjoy a picnic out on the grass overlooking the views.
- Have a quick break at one of the four eateries, or run around the playground.
Bowood House and Gardens in Wiltshire is a historic Grade I listed country house adjacent to the village of Derry Hill, halfway between Calne and Chippenham. It is privately owned by the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne. Explore the stunning heritage that has managed to survive since the 1700s. If you like Burghley House or Knebworth House, you'll probably love Bedwood House.
The first Bowood House was built in 1725 on the site of a hunting lodge. In 1754, it was sold to the first Earl of Shelburne, and the house was extended by architect Henry Keene. John Petty's son became prime minister from 1782 to 1783 and was made Marquess of Lansdowne after he was able to negotiate peace between the United Kingdom and America. He added several paintings and sculptures to Bowood, adding to the grandness of the site. An orangery was added, as well as a menagerie of birds; an orangutan and leopard were also kept there for a small amount of time. In the 1770s, a huge drawing room was built to bring together the Big House and Little House at Bowood. The site was home to a hospital during the First World War, as well as a school and RAF base during the Second World War. It was demolished in 1955 by the 8th Marquess, and F. Sortain Samuels was employed to make the Little House a home. The dining room was auctioned off and re-installed by Lloyd's of London in their buildings. Although called the Little House, Bowood is still large and has plenty to explore. It was even the place Joseph Priestley discovered oxygen, and there's a hidden village under the lake which was discovered by divers in 2007.
The most impressive part of Bowood House is the staterooms depicting the life of Bowood. Find the Orangery, originally the home of fruit trees but now an art gallery. Can you spot Napoleon or the Clarkson Stanfield canvasses? Inside the Library are over 5,000 books acquired by the 3rd Marquess. The library was the hub of after-dinner fun, and the books inside are many different genres. The Sculpture Gallery is where the menagerie once sat. Find 16th-century tapestries, Roman copies of Greek statues, and Dorothea, a sculpture by John Bell, all collected over the many years that Bowood has stood. The Chapel was designed in the early 19th century by C.R. Cockerell and is still used throughout the year. Discover the laboratory where oxygen was discovered in 1774, though sadly much of the laboratory equipment is gone, after being sold after the death of the 1st Marquess. In the Exhibition Rooms is a changing myriad of pieces. Napoleon's death mask and handkerchief, a gift chair from Queen Victoria after her wedding, clothes from Albania originally belonging to Lord Byron, and much more.
The Bowood House Gardens are particularly impressive, and there's so much to see throughout them. The Arboretum has over 700 species of trees to discover, including champion trees which are very tall or large trees. Going through these will lead you to the Doric Temple, which overlooks the lake, as well as the Cascade, Hermits Cave, and the lake. There are even paths laid out for children to discover lots of different aspects as they go through the garden. The Woodland Garden is over two miles of pathways, and each week a new one is chosen to be the Walk of the Week. There's also the four-acre Jubilee Garden, home to hybrids which were thought to be extinct. The Terrace Gardens are also fascinating to look around. Spanning almost every period of garden design since the Georgians, it's a unique way of looking at history and the changing styles that occurred when it came to landscape gardening. From every angle, you have beautiful views too, created by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, an 18th-century garden designer who landscaped the parkland from 1762 to 1768. At the end of the many walks throughout the Bowood House Gardens, there's even the Bowood Adventure Playground, perfect for spending a few hours running around in.
Bowood House Events happen throughout the year, with everything from tours to exhibitions. For example, in recent years there have been exhibitions like Destruction and Revival: The ‘Big House’ at Bowood, outlining why the house was destroyed. You can also tour the Private Walled Garden, home to flowers, fruit and vegetables. See everything from honeysuckle to wisteria, and Osmanthus Birkwood, planted by Sir Harold Hillier over forty years ago and over 18 feet high. You can also be taken on a tour by one of the head gardener's of the estate through the Bowood House Gardens, to get a unique insight into their care. This and much more can be discovered, so there'll always be something to do, no matter what day you go.
There are several places to get food at Bowood. The Noshox serves cakes, treats, and hot and cold drinks. There is also the Adventure Playground kiosk, which is perfect if you're looking for a quick ice cream near Bowood Playground. There is also the Treehouse Cafe, with lovely lunches to get you through your day, as well as the Stables Restaurant for dinners or a cream tea. Fruit and vegetables are used in the Stables restaurant directly from the Lord and Lady Lansdowne’s Private Walled Garden. Picnics are allowed at various points around the site, so if the weather is nice why don't you bring a picnic? If you'd prefer somewhere else to eat more locally, there are plenty of restaurants in Derry Hill serving classic British bites. You might like Shelburne Restaurant, The Lansdowne Arms, or The George Inn. If you'd like something different, you might like Nepalese dishes at Gurkha Baynjan, or Indian food at The Haveli Indian Restaurant; there's even Jollys Irish Cafe.
Want to take home a taste of Bowood? The Bowood Terrace Gift Shop has a variety of local food products, as well as books, souvenirs, and plants. There's something for everyone at the Gift Shop, and you can take home some very unique items. Enjoy preserves and chutneys using produce from of the Bowood gardens, as well as honey from Bowood's beehives. You can also bring home some great facts from the day with one of the books sold inside.
If you need longer than a day to enjoy Bowood, there are plenty of places to stay in Derry Hill. You can stay on-site at the Wiltshire Bowood Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort if you'd like to enjoy a luxurious trip. There's also The Lansdowne, a traditional-looking hotel with modern interiors. There's also The White Horse Inn, an 18th-century pub, or Beechfield House, a country manor with sprawling gardens to make you feel like a Marquis or Marchioness yourself.
What to know before you go
- Bowood House and Gardens opening times are 11am to 5pm, but this is subject to change throughout the year.
- The ground floor of Bowood House is accessible to wheelchair users.
- The upper floors and exhibition rooms of Bowood House are accessible by stairs only.
- Accessible toilets are available inside the Treehouse Cafe and Bowood House.
- The paths around the House and Grounds are gravel; therefore, wheelchairs and buggies may find it difficult. Wheelchair access is limited if trying to access remote areas of the park.
- Dogs that are non-assistant are only allowed in the Woodland Gardens, a separate attraction on the Bowood House and Gardens estate.
- Members of staff can assist visitors in finding baby changing facilities.
- The entrance to Bowood House and Gardens is just off the A4, through White Gate. Bowood Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort is through the Golden Gates, but the house and gardens can't be reached through this entrance. The Woodland Gardens also has a separate entrance, located off the A342.
- Parking at Bowood is free opposite the Treehouse Café and main Admission point.
- Bowood House is a 14-minute drive from Calne and a 17-minute drive from Chippenham.
- By bus, Bowood House Wiltshire can be reached using the 33 and X33, Chippenham to Devizes. The 55 stops on the A4 close to Derry Hill village, and then it's a one and a half-mile walk.
- The nearest mainline station is at Chippenham, and then you'll need the 55 bus.