In addition to the famous gardens and the less well known house there are a number of other places of interest around the estate.
In theory, staying at the Spread Eagle Inn in Stourton village would be a good option because free entry to all the attractions is included in the, not inconsiderable, price.
If, that is, you can put up with leaking cafetieres, net curtains that fall down at a touch, a broken shower screen, draughty windows and twin beds pushed together to form a double. I have to say that I cannot really recommend it.
King Alfred's Tower
King Alfred's Tower was built by Henry Hoare II and designed by Henry Filtcroft. It was completed in 1772
and is 49 metres (161ft) tall.
Inside, in one of the corner turrets are 205 steps leading to a parapet around the open core of the tower. The circular staircase is narrow and poorly lit, and is not recommended if, like me, you are late, it is near to closing time, and you are being followed by a group of people who are much fitter than you.
Still I made it to the top and, once I had caught my breath, the view more than justified the effort.
When I first visited the tower back in 1977, before it was restored and opened to the public, I remember being annoyed that, like so many of the National Trust's viewpoints in Somerset, it was surrounded by trees which blocked out the view.
However, in this case, it now makes sense. Going along the enclosed ride through the trees then rising vertically above them into the open air must have been the nearest thing to the experience of flying that you could get back in the eighteenth century, and still have lived to tell the tale.
Standing just inside the formal gardens, according to the nearby plaque, the Bristol Cross was
Erected in 1375 to commemorate the granting of a charter by Edward III making Bristol the first provincial borough to be a county in its own right, it stood at the junction of Broad Street, Cork Street, High Street and Wine Street. The height was increased in 1633.
In 1733 a petition for its removal described it as "a superstitious relic and a public nuisance". It was then re-erected in College Green, but was taken down in 1762 after a complaint that it hindered people from walking abreast, the pieces were stored in the cathedral for two years, when they were given by the Dean to Henry Hoare, who reassembled the cross at Stourhead in 1765.
The statues of four monarchs are displayed in alcoves in the second tier of the cross, with four more seated in the third (the one added in 1663). They are respectively:
King John and Charles I - formerly facing north along Broad Street,
Henry III and Henry VI - formerly facing east along Wine Street,
Edward IV and James I - formerly facing south along High Street,
Edward III and Elizabeth I - formerly facing west along Corn Street.
The four older standing statues were replaced by replicas in 1980. The originals are now in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Hidden to the left of the path from the house down to the gardens is the Ice House.
Back in the late seventeenth century it became fashionable to serve cooled wine, and ice cream became popular.
Country estates started collecting ice during the winter and packing it between layers of straw in specially built Ice Houses where it would keep for up to two years.
The one at Stourhead was built in about 1800, and remained in use until 1934, when Fred Jones the last 'Ice Boy' was sacked for keeping a noisy dog. All together now: "Oh it's the rich what gets the pleasure, it's the poor what gets the blame ..."
It was originally built in 1746 by Henry Hoare II, and in 1815 Richard Colt Hoare added the Latin inscription as a tribute to his grandfather. In part it reads:
To the happy memory of Henry Hoare, bearer of arms, who first clothed these ridges of the estate with woods, adorned various buildings… He himself built the obelisk here as an example of the antique obelisks of Rome.
However the original decayed, and a replica was made in 1839 out of Bath stone, only for it to be struck by lightning in 1853 necessitating a further rebuild.
St Peter's Pump
St Peter's Pump stands about half-way between Stourhead House and King Alfred's Tower, and is supposed to mark the source of the River Stour.
Needless to say after one of the driest winters on record, there was no sign of flowing water this far up the valley at the time of my visit. In fact the name Six Wells Bottom seemed a bit of a misnomer.
Very much a folly of two parts: the base is made rubble limestone, probably left over from the grotto and underpass in the main gardens. Perched somewhat uncomfortable on top, is another bit of Bristol history.
St. Edith's Well, as it was originally known, was constructed in 1474 and stood at the west end of Peter's Street, Bristol in an area destroyed in the blitz. It was removed in 1766 by Act of Parliament and re-erected here in 1768.