The Wilderness

Wander through this treasure of the Hampton Court Gardens

Wander through this treasure of the Hampton Court Gardens


  • Open daily

Ticketing information

Entry to the Wilderness is free.

A Hampton Court Palace admission ticket includes entry to over 60 acres of historic gardens such as the Maze, Privy Garden and Kitchen Garden.


Nestled within over 60 acres of historic gardens is the Hampton Court Palace Wilderness. This beautiful space was once Charles II's formal pleasure garden and is now a wild meadow filled with wildlife all year round.

Spring flowers and cherry trees

The Wilderness is at its most colourful in early April, when a sea of over a million daffodils and other flowering bulbs springs into life. This spectacle is further enhanced by the beautiful cherry trees, which also blossom in the spring.

The area provides nesting sites for many of Hampton Court's common birds such as blackbirds, blue tits and robins.

The history of the Wilderness

Autumn in the Wilderness at Hampton Court Palace, showing trees that are turning orange in the autumn sunshine. A visitor can be seen walking through the trees.

Henry VIII's great orchard

The word 'Wilderness' first appeared in the Hampton Court records in the late 1600s, although before this time the area was used for Henry VIII's great orchard. The Tudor orchard was filled with pear, apple and cherry trees.

According to legend, it was here that Henry first learnt of the death of Thomas Wolsey, his former chief minister. By this time, Henry had taken over Wolsey's palace and gardens at Hampton Court and started remodelling them to reflect his own power and magnificence.

A formal Stuart pleasure garden

In the 1680s Charles II created a pleasure garden at Hampton Court in the French Bosquet style, where courtiers could take in the country air away from London. In England this formal style became known as a wilderness.

A wilderness typically consisted of several sections, which were often divided up by tall hedges and trees. The area was often set out with crossing geometric paths. An interesting feature, seat or statue could sometimes be found within each section.

In the original Wilderness at Hampton Court Palace, the paths were lined on either side with hedges of Hornbeam Carpinus betulus and large Elm trees.

The garden also contained the famous Hampton Court Maze, which is still one of the most popular parts of the gardens.

Two visitors walking hand in hand through the Wilderness at Hampton Court Palace.
Photograph of a family walking through the Wilderness at Hampton Court Palace

Changing fashions and a more natural appearance

As fashions changed, the pathways were gradually removed and the Wilderness lost its formal appearance. Many of the elm trees succumbed to Dutch elm disease in the 1950s and were removed.

The area was made even more natural with the massed planting of spring flowering bulbs, mostly daffodils, which began in the early years of the 20th century. The area is left un-cut for several weeks after the daffodils bloom in order for the bulbs to regenerate slowly in time for next spring.

The Privy Garden at Hampton Court Palace, showing bright planting and baroque architecture under a clear blue sky
Things to see

Explore the Privy Garden, now restored to its former glory and complete with its intricate Tijou Screen.

Open daily

Hampton Court Palace

Included in palace admission (members go free)

A visitor uses the DVG in Base Court at Hampton Court Palace
Tours and talks

Hold the stories of Hampton Court Palace in your hands and experience history where it happened with an audio guide tour.


Hampton Court Palace

Included in palace admission (members go free)

A guide shows a group of visitors the Throne Room in the State Rooms at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens. Two red and gold thrones sit at one end of the room and the walls are lined with green silk damask and the walls are lined with historical artwork.
Things to see Tours and talks

Discover elegant State Rooms still used by the royal family on a guided tour of Hillsborough Castle.

Open daily

Hillsborough Castle

Included in combined castle tour and gardens tickets (members go free)

Clock Court at Hampton Court Palace in the sunshine

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