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Please check garden owners' website (www.altontowers.com) to confirm opening dates
25th March-4th November; 10am - 4pm
Rockeries, rhododendrons, azaleas
Gardens form part of overall admission ticket - see website for details www.altontowers.com/tickets
Partial disabled access. Guide dogs only.
Theme park rides.
See: www.staffordshirebreaks for details of local accommodation
Alton Towers, the UK's number one theme park, consists of 500 acres of superbly landscaped grounds with original and spectacular gardens complementing the extraordinary collection of rides and entertainments. Leaving the enormously popular amusements aside there is much for the visitor to enjoy in the extravagant gardens created by the 15th Earl of Shrewsbury and his nephew John Talbot, the 16th Earl, in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The amazing Chinese Pagoda Fountain, the Bath Fountain with its
pond containing the figure of Triton blowing water through a conch
shell, the gilded domes, plate glass and galvanised iron structure of
the enormous Grand Conservatories contrast with the quaint thatched
Swiss Cottage and the restful Le Refuge. Scattered throughout the
gardens is a fine collection of statuary, much of it with classical
allusions designed to add to the cultural and artistic ambience.
The Dutch Gardens which were created for John Talbot in the late 19th century complete the formal aspect of the gardens and it is hoped that the water flow into the lion fountain at the rear of these gardens will again be fed naturally from the River Churnet.
Alton Towers was the site of eighth century fortress held by Ceolred, King of Mercia. The castle on the site was occupied by the Earl of Shrewsbury from 1412, when Lady Ankarat de Verdun married Sir John Talbot, and it remained in the Talbot family's ownership until the 1920s.
The 15th Earl, Charles Talbot, who was born in 1753, transformed the landscape surrounding the Towers. He employed hundreds of artisans, mechanics and labourers under the direction of the garden architects, Thomas Allason and Robert Abrahams, to build his dream, which was to create a completely original garden landscape. The lakes, pools and terraces were skillfully dug out to allow the Chinese Pagoda Fountain to throw water up to 90 feet high above the tree tops. The 300 feet long Grand Conservatories were designed by Abrahams for him and he had Le Refuge built as a place of rest and refreshment. He even built the Swiss Cottage for a blind Welsh harpist, whom he employed to fill the gardens with music. A cenotaph to Charles Talbot, who died in 1827, stands at the entrance to the gardens in the form of a copy of the famous Choragic Temple of Lysiscrates (Athens 344 BC). It houses a marble bust of him with the inscription He Made the Desert Smile.
His nephew John, who succeeded him, was another flamboyant character and continued his works to complete the formal gardens near the Towers and the valley gardens beyond.