Home to one of only four Palladian bridges left in the entire world (more on what this means later), Prior Park Landscape Garden in Bath, England is an interesting place to explore – especially for history lovers.
To help you make the most of your visit to Prior Park, we’ll tell you all about what you can expect to see during your visit and how to get there.
Naturally, our tips are based on what we experienced during our time there. But first, let’s have a quick look at Prior Park’s history.
A Brief History of Prior Park Landscape Garden
Ralph Allen began work on Prior Park Landscape Garden in 1734. But what you’ll see today is vastly different from his original design.
Allen initially adopted a formal landscape design. Interestingly, the iconic bridge that we know and love today wasn’t part of his original plans.
He adopted a more relaxed landscape design in later years and added the Palladian bridge that Prior Park is now most known for in 1755.
When you visit Prior Park today, you can follow the steep sloping path down to the bridge to walk across it and admire it up close – including the centuries-old graffiti engraved into its stonework!
While the garden and estate once belonged to the mansion that still sits at the top of the hill overlooking the gardens, this is now a private boarding school, so you can’t see inside it. Unless, of course, you or someone you know goes to school there.
Still, you can take photos of it from the pathway leading down to the iconic bridge. And of course, the mansion will likely feature as a backdrop in many of your photos.
How To Visit Prior Park Landscape Garden
You’ll find the entrance to Prior Park Landscape Garden on Ralph Allen Drive. It’s roughly 1.5 miles from the centre of Bath up a steep hill.
There’s no parking for Prior Park Landscape Garden (only limited spaces for those with accessibility issues), so you’ll need to either walk or use public transport to get there.
Conveniently, there’s a bus stop directly outside the entrance to Prior Park. You’ll want to catch the number 2 bus from Dorchester Street in Bath.
Of course, you could also walk from the centre of Bath, which would take you roughly 45 minutes. Note the hills are very steep in Bath, though, so you’ll likely be puffing by the time you reach Prior Park.
When To Visit Prior Park Landscape Garden
Given the bridge’s history, Prior Park is a popular place to visit.
Granted we visited on a Wednesday at the end of August during the summer holidays, we didn’t expect it to be quite as busy as it was.
But I have to say this bridge was most popular with Instagrammers and TikTokers who insisted on taking hundreds of photos and videos of themselves on the bridge.
We actually wandered across the bridge at about 10.30am, so we didn’t have to wait or queue to get across it. We just happened to see influencer after influencer while we were eating our picnic.
Our advice? Head here early (before 11am) to avoid the Instagram crowds – especially if you’re visiting during the school holidays or on a weekend.
The park opens at 10am, so you could aim to be one of the first to arrive!
On a similar note, Prior Park is also supposedly a popular place for destination proposals and wedding photo shoots.
The National Trust website actually mentions this and says: “Photoshoots must be booked in advance”.
I’m not sure what kind of effect that might have on your visit if the photoshoot was booked for the day you arrive. I guess it depends on how long a photoshoot is allowed to be at any one time.
I would hope the staff at the entrance would tell you if there’s a photoshoot going on before you wander down, though.
Prior Park Walking Trail
When you arrive, the staff should show you a map of Prior Park and tell you which way to walk.
It’s important to follow their advice because the walk down to the bridge has a 25% gradient. This can be tough on your knees, but it’d be even tougher if you had to walk back up this way.
Instead, the walk back up is via a different path, which curves up and around. And it doesn’t feel half as steep as the path leading down to the bridge.
These paths are clear tracks through the woodlands that surround the estate, so you can also admire old oak trees, rhododendrons, ferns and more on your way up or down.
If you simply follow the route around Prior Park Landscape Garden without stopping for a picnic or to take too many photos, then it’d probably take you roughly 60-90 minutes to complete the full route.
However, given you’re visiting such an impressive historic sight, you’ll probably want to take things at a slower pace.
We’d suggest you spend around 2 or 3 hours here – especially if you’re planning on taking a picnic with you.
Another great thing about Prior Park Landscape Garden is that it’s one of National Trust’s dog friendly places, so your pet pooch can join you here as long as you keep him or her on a lead.
Prior Park Landscape Garden Tickets & Entry Fees
As Prior Park is looked after by the National Trust, members can visit for free as part of their membership. Just show your card at the entrance and they’ll scan it for you.
If you’re not a National Trust member, then you’ll need to pay for your ticket at the entrance. There’s no need to book in advance and you can check current ticket prices on the National Trust website.
You might also want to check out our detailed review of a National Trust membership as there are so many benefits to being a member – beyond gaining free entry to lots of amazing places around the UK.
- National Trust Membership Review – How To Get Your Money’s Worth
- National Trust Bucket List: Fancy A Challenge?
A Quick Note About Palladian Bridges
When I was first researching our visit to Prior Park, I saw a few comments from people saying something along the lines of: “I thought there’d be more here, it’s just a bridge.”
While I can see where they’re coming from, one of the biggest things about Prior Park Landscape Garden – and why it’s so popular – is that it’s one of only four Palladian bridges left in the world.
Let that sink in for a moment: just one of four. That makes it pretty darn rare eh?!
But what is a Palladian bridge?
Palladian bridges are a part of the Palladian architecture style, which became very popular in England during the 18th century.
This style of architecture was influenced by the 16th-century Venetian architect, Andrea Palladio and his many churches, villas and buildings found throughout Italy.
Interestingly, the Palladian bridge at Stourhead isn’t covered, yet it’s still considered a Palladian bridge.
Meanwhile, Pulteney Bridge in Bath isn’t counted as one of the four Palladian bridges left standing, yet it looks more like it than the one at Stourhead.
As per my research, it’s said that Pulteney Bridge is in a Palladian style but not actually classed as a Palladian bridge. Oof, my head now officially hurts.
Other Things To Do Near Prior Park Landscape Garden
If you’ve got longer to spend in the area, or you live nearby, then here are some more top things to do near Prior Park Landscape Garden that you’re sure to enjoy.
Follow the Bath Skyline Walk
Prior Park Landscape Garden actually runs alongside part of the six-mile Bath Skyline walking trail.
If you’re visiting with your dog, then you can enjoy a longer walk before or after your visit and enjoy Bath’s cityscape from above.
And if you can time your visit with a sunset, then the views will be even more beautiful!
See the sights in the City of Bath
If you’ve never visited the city of Bath before, then you’re in for a real treat if you combine your visit to Prior Park Landscape Garden with a day (or longer!) in the main part of Bath itself.
From the Roman baths that gave the city its name to the infamous Royal Crescent you’ll almost always see in period dramas, there’s so much to see and do in Bath – especially if you love history.
READ NEXT: How To Spend The Perfect One Day In Bath
Visit more National Trust places in the Cotswolds
Of course, if you’re a National Trust member and you enjoy your visit to Prior Park Landscape Garden, then you might want to find even more fabulous National Trust places in the Cotswolds.
From country estates and manor houses to beautiful gardens and ancient Roman sites, there’s plenty to discover in this area.
In particular, Dyrham Park is about a 30-minute drive from Bath. This beautiful 17th-century manor house and its surrounding 270-acre estate are well worth exploring.
Admire the prettiest Cotswolds towns and villages
Of course, we can’t talk about the Cotswolds without mentioning all the stunning towns and villages that are well worth exploring in this area.
If you’re short on time, you might enjoy a road trip around the Cotswolds to see several towns and villages in one day.
Or if you prefer a more relaxed approach, then you could easily spend an entire day wandering around just one town.
Some of the closest towns and villages to Prior Park include Castle Combe and Malmesbury, while the pretty village of Lacock sits on the fringes of the Cotswolds.
Visit Farleigh Hungerford Castle
Here, you’ll find the ruins of a fortified mansion, which dates back as far as the 14th century. Not to mention the views surrounding this estate are pretty spectacular!
Enjoy a day trip to Frome
You’ll also find the beautiful and historic town of Frome in Somerset within a 30-minute drive of Prior Park Landscape Garden.
Frome is home to many cobblestone streets (some of which were used as a Poldark filming location), as well as various independent shops and boutiques, a heritage trail, a popular market and much more.
READ NEXT: 11 Unmissable Things To Do in Frome
If you’d like to tick off even more UK bucket list things to do, then take a look at this mammoth list for some ideas!
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