Day out: Burghley House, Lincolnshire

Burghley’s tree-peppered gardens are filled with enigmatic installations of rusty faces, silver spirals and turf mazes.

Burghley House, Stamford, Lincolnshire

Just south of the Georgian town of Stamford in Lincolnshire is one of the finest Elizabethan houses in England: Burghley House.

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This grand country building – comprising more than 100 rooms – was built between 1555 and 1587 for Sir William Cecil, who was chief advisor to Queen Elizabeth I for most of her reign. Burghley is now owned and maintained by the Burghley House Preservation Trust, although members of the Cecil family still live in the property. 

Vertical Face by Rick Kirby, Burghley House
Vertical Face by Rick Kirby, Burghley House ©Alamy

Tucked behind trees

Step into the grounds and you’ll discover another side to this magnificent estate, a landscape reclaimed from weeds and scrub woodland and transformed into an arboretum and contemporary sculpture display.

Guide to the best mazes in Britain

Castlewellan Maze

The Sculpture Garden

and adjoining Garden of Surprises are modern in comparison to the Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown-landscaped parkland. The Sculpture Garden was transformed into a quiet woodland space in 1997 to exhibit contemporary installations alongside permanent pieces, such as 2002’s Vertical Face by Rick Kirby sitting above the amphitheatre. Look out for Elicoide, a spiralling aluminium wheel designed by Michele Ciribifera, along with the fun Maze created by Peter Randall-Page, and Giles Kent’s Five Carved Oak Trunks sitting within Lancelot Brown’s serpentine lake. Choose your own route along the meandering garden trail, with artworks hidden within foliage around every corner.

Michele Ciribifera’s aluminium Elicoide
Michele Ciribifera’s aluminium Elicoide, Burghley House, Lincolnshire

New works and perspectives are introduced in annual exhibitions, too; this year, Treasures of the East shines a light on the fascinating objects collected by the Earls of Exeter in the 17th and 18th centuries.

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Be sure to visit the deer park, home to fallow deer since the 16th century, and the watery, Elizabethan-inspired Garden of Surprises – opened in 2007 – with its fountains, moss house and enchanting sundial. In the house itself, climb The Hell Staircase painted by Antonio Verrio in 1697, before seeking solace in the artist’s trompe l’oeil masterpiece, the Heaven Room.