9 of the World’s Coolest Mazes You Can Visit
It’s one of the most memorable scenes in film history: an ax-wielding Jack Nicholson chasing his son through a hedge maze outside the Overlook Hotel during the climax of 1980’s The Shining. But the building that inspired the Overlook (and the Shining story in general)—the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado—never actually had a hedge maze until this summer, when its owners finally gave in to public expectations and installed one. Visitors expecting the towering greenery of the film will be disappointed, however—the Stanley’s maze is only three feet high, to prevent children from getting lost, let alone attacked by psychos.
Hedge mazes have been a fixture of imposing estates for centuries, and have more recently been joined by corn mazes, straw mazes, and other confusing adventures in vegetation. Below, a selection of the most interesting and eye-catching from around the world.
1. LONGLEAT MAZE, WARMINSTER, WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND
Constructed from more than 16,000 English yews, the maze at Longleat is the longest hedge maze in the world, stretching for close to 1.7 miles. It’s part of 8,000 acres that have belonged to the various Marquesses of Bath since the 16th century, 900 of which were beautified by famed landscape designer Lancelot “Capability” Brown (so nicknamed for his tendency to describe landscapes as having “great capabilities”). The estate also now includes a Safari Park, said to be the first outside Africa, as well as three smaller garden mazes.
2. MASONE LABYRINTH, PARMA, ITALY
The world’s largest maze, the Masone Labyrinth, is located in an Italian town better known for giving the world Parmesan cheese. It’s also the result of a dare, made between Italian publisher Franco Maria Ricci and author Jorge Luis Borges after Ricci declared he wanted to build the world’s largest maze and Borges said it couldn’t be done.
The star-shaped maze, which opened in May 2015, was constructed using 200,000 bamboo plants and stretches for 20 acres. The septuagenarian Ricci used fast-growing bamboo, as opposed to more traditional trees and shrubs, so he could see the maze completed before his death.
3. ANDRÁSSY CASTLE, TISZADOB, HUNGARY
Located along the Tisza River near the Hungarian-Slovakian border, the hedge maze at the Andrássy Castle is supposed to resemble a squid. The castle itself was constructed in the 19th century for Count Gyula Andrássy, complete with the boxwood maze decorated by yew trees.
4. DOLE PINEAPPLE MAZE, WAHIAWA, HAWAII
The world’s largest permanent maze until the Masone Labyrinth came along, the Pineapple Maze at the Dole Plantation includes 14,000 varieties of Hawaiian vegetation (many deliciously fragrant) crafted into two-and-a-half miles of paths. Not surprisingly, there’s a pineapple at the center, as well as eight “secret stations” and awards for those who travel through it the fastest.
5. VILLA PISANI LABYRINTH, STRA, ITALY
Often said to be the most difficult maze in the world, the Villa Pisani labyrinth is also among the most photogenic—and the most historic, having been constructed in 1720. Even Napoleon has tried to complete it, after he seized the estate in 1807. (Rumor has it that Napoleon was stumped by the winding paths and their many perplexing dead ends, and he gave up.) Hitler and Mussolini also had their first official meeting at the villa, but had other things on their minds besides mazes. Visitors who successfully navigate the labyrinth are rewarded with lovely views from an 18th-century turret.
6. RICHARDSON CORN MAZE, SPRING GROVE, ILLINOIS
The world’s largest corn maze involves not one, but five, separate “a-maize-ing” mazes inside 33 acres of live corn. The design is rebuilt each year—2013 was a portrait of the Beatles, 2014 a tribute to the “Star Spangled Banner,” and 2015’s design celebrates NHL Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks. The maze is also part of an adventure farm that features rides, treats, and of course, a gift shop.
7. PEACE MAZE, CASTLEWELLAN, IRELAND
At 2.7 acres, Northern Ireland’s Peace Maze is one of the largest permanent mazes in the world. It also has one of the coolest backstories—it was planted in 2000 to celebrate the signing of the Good Friday agreement and the end of the region’s “Troubles.” The hedge height is lower than normal for mazes, in order to encourage interaction while the maze is completed. The maze has two halves, and completing the maze requires crossing both. Those who finish are encouraged to ring the “Peace Bell” in the center.
8. ASHCOMBE MAZE, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA
The unique soft textures of Australia’s Ashcombe Maze are provided by more than 1000 Monterey cypress trees, maintained with careful trimming several times a year (each trimming session lasts an entire month). Visitors must traverse two halves, each with a separate layout, and there are no straight lines anywhere in the maze. The grounds also boast a lavender labyrinth constructed out of more than 4,000 lavender plants—which sounds like one of the most relaxing places in the world to get lost.
9. HAMPTON COURT PALACE MAZE, SURREY, UK
Commissioned by William III around 1700, the Hampton Court Palace Maze is the oldest surviving hedge maze in the United Kingdom. Its original hornbeam has been replaced by holly and yew, but that hasn’t made it any less difficult—it’s known as a puzzle maze, and has a reputation for being devilishly difficult to complete. Supposedly, the key is to turn left on entering, and then stay to the left, even through the apparent dead ends.