Lose (or Find) Yourself in These Mystifying Mazes and Labyrinths

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Marlborough Maze at Blenheim Palace
©Aaron Fellmeth Photography/Flickr, Creative Commons
Blenheim Palace

The Marlborough Hedge Maze in the Gardens of Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, England, is one of the world's largest, made up of more than 3,000 yew hedge plants. Though the palace was built in 1704, the maze wasn't created until 1987 before opening to the public in 1991. Side note: the palace was the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill in 1874.

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Hampton Court Hedge Maze
Courtesy Historic Royal Palaces
Hampton Court Hedge Maze

The Hampton Court Hedge Maze is the world's oldest hedge maze and the first ever planted in England. King William III commissioned it around 1700 as part of a formal garden called The Wilderness. The yew hedges are seven feet high and three feet wide, and it takes about 20 minutes to reach the center.

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Dole Plantation
Courtesy Dole Plantation
Dole Plantation

Dole Plantation's Pineapple Garden Maze in Hawaii stretches over three acres and is made up of more than 14,000 Hawaiian plants. Eight secret stations give clues to guide you toward the center. Take your hiking shoes; it takes 40 minutes to make it through the maze's 2.5 miles of trails.

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Longleat Safari Park
Courtesy Longleat
Longleat

Hedge mazes were all the rage in 17th century England, and they are just as popular there today. The hedge maze at Longleat in Wiltshire, England, was created in 1975, though the house predates it by 395 years (it was built in 1580). The prize at the center of this maze is an observation tower which provides a spectacular view of the 16,000 manicured English yews and the two miles of paths snaking through them.

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Glendurgan Garden
©EmPemm/Flickr, Creative Commons
Glendurgan Garden

What's more puzzling than a hedge maze? Searching said maze for six hidden jigsaw pieces while solving word searches, crosswords and picture puzzles along the way. Glendurgan Garden in Cornwall, England, offers a delightfully perplexing afternoon for those willing to get lost in its cherry laurel hedges. But it's planted on a hillside, giving an awesome vantage point for watching the confusion of other puzzlers.

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Valsanzibio Monumental Garden Labyrinth
©Stefano Maruzzo/Courtesy Tenuta Valsanzibio
Valsanzibio Monumental Garden Labyrinth

The Italian Baroque Garden of Valsanzibio is one of the most historic gardens in Venice and perhaps Italy, established in the latter half of the 17th century. Many of the more than 6,000 boxwood shrubs that make up the labyrinth are 400 years old. The labyrinth is part of the garden's spiritual theme, and it is situated along the Road to Salvation, which includes the Cave of the Hermit, Rabbit Island and Monument to Time, all of which are filled with Christian symbolism.

 

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Villa Pisani
©be_am25/Flickr, Creative Commons
Villa Pisani

The maze at Villa Pisani in Stra, Italy, is allegedly so complex that Napoleon once got lost in it. It was designed in 1720 for a wealthy landowner. The concentric circles in repeating patterns and many dead ends, combined with the tall hedges that are impossible to see over, add to the difficulty in finding the tower at the center. A statue of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom and arts, watches from atop a tower in the center, where successful maze-solvers can shout directions to their lost cohorts.

 

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The Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle
Courtesy The Gardens Trauttmansdorff Castle
The Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle

A lone pomegranate tree stands in the center of the maze in the Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle in South Tyrol, Italy. Legend has it that lovers should enter the maze at different points and meet at the tree. The maze is made of yew trees and is one of the main highlights of the castle's water and terraced gardens. 

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Parc del Laberint d'Horta
©Nasty_N/Shutterstock
Parc del Laberint d'Horta

Parc del Laberint d'Horta, or Labrynth Park of Horta, is the oldest park in Barcelona. The garden takes its name from the circa-1792 maze made up of 750 meters of cypress hedges. Statues of the huntress Diana and the god Eros await in the center of the maze and statues of other mythological figures are scattered throughout the maze and gardens. 

By Lisa Kaylor

The words "labyrinth" and "maze" are often used interchangeably. They certainly seem similar, as a path from edge to center is cut into the turf, wound through hedgerows or mowed into a cornfield, but a true labyrinth is spiritual in nature and a maze is for amusement.

The labyrinth has its roots in Greek mythology. Legend has it that Daedalus built one for King Minos to contain the ferocious half-man, half-bull Minotaur. The path was so complex that Minos locked Daedealus in a tower to keep him from ever revealing its solution. Not much is known about how labyrinths were used in Greece, but they are well documented throughout France and Italy where they were built into tiles or carved into cathedral floors. The winding path from entrance toward the center symbolizes life or the Christian journey. You can't get lost in a labyrinth. You walk it slowly—barefoot to ground if desired—to calm the mind and spirit. 

Mazes, on the other hand, have been delightfully perplexing people for hundreds of years. They are puzzles to be solved and are full of wrong turns and dead ends. Sometimes they contain clues to help walkers finder their way. Mazes were widely popular in English formal gardens throughout the 18th century and some mazes in Europe, such as the Hampton Court hedge maze, are still in existence today. 

Here are some of the prettiest and most-perplexing mazes and labyrinths that are open to the public.

Lisa Kaylor
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