Painshill Park's Crystal Grotto

Useful Information

Location: Portsmouth Road, Cobham.
A3(M) exit Cobham, A245 to Cobham, on the right side.
(51.328498, -0.430545)
Open: Park: APR to OCT daily 10-18, last entry 16.
NOV to JAN daily 10-16, last entry 15.
FEB to MAR daily 10-17, last entry 16.
Closed 25-DEC, Boxing Day.
Crystal Grotto: All year Tue-Sun 10:30-16.30.
Fee: Adults GBP 9.90, Children (6-17) GBP 5.50, Children (0-5) free.
Classification: SubterraneaGrotto
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: self guided, aiudiotour download from website
Address: Painshill Park, Painshill, Portsmouth Road, Cobham, Surrey KT11 1JE, Tel: +-1932-868113.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1738-1773 landscape garden created by Charles Hamilton, a member of the Irish aristocracy.
1773 Hamilton ran out of money and sold the estate to Benjamin Bond Hopkins.
1807 bought by Henry Lawes Luttrell, 2nd Earl of Carhampton.
1831 sold to Sir William Cooper, High Sheriff of Surrey.
1873 rented by the English poet, literary and social critic, Matthew Arnold.
1904 purchased by Charles Combe of Cobham Park.
1948 estate was split up and sold in separate lots for commercial uses, fell in decay.
1980 Elmbridge Borough Council bought 64 ha of Hamilton's original estate and began restoration.
1980 Painshill Park Trust founded as a registered charity.
2012-2013 restauration of Crystal Grotto completed.


Painshill Park is a landscape garden which is the life’s work of Charles Hamilton (*1704-✝1786). He was a member of the Irish aristocracy and wealthy, he travelled around Europe and was so impressed, he was inspired to reproduce it around a beautiful lake he owned. But he was also quite eccentric, and so the result was a weird collection of Renaissance architecture, bridges, valleys, a Gothic Tower, an amphitheatre, statues, a water wheel, a vineyard, and an artificial cave. Grottoes are quite normal for parks of the 18th and 19th century, but this one is still exceptional. While other grottoes were more or less collections of shells, snails, mirrors and pottery shards, this cave is a quite realistic reproduction of a dripstone cave. Even the stalactites are almost realistic, which is quite impressive as the workers most likely never have seen one in real.

Visitors during the 18th century were amazed and filled with wonder at the beauty of the cave. German landscape designer Friedrich Ludwig von Sckell (*1750–1823) described the grotto as “The finest of its type ever built”.

The Crystal Grotto is a classical grotto which was built above ground using bricks, which were covered by a lime based mortar. It was built on an island in the lake and an arm of the lake goes through the structure, like an underground cave river. The structure was covered by natural rocks, a limestone which was eroded and has numerous small holes. The thick walls create a cave like temperature and humidity, despite the fact that shafts of light pierce the interior through carefully placed openings in the ceiling. The crystals on the walls and ceiling sparkle in the sunlight and the light is reflected in the pools inside the cave. Over 10,000 pieces of crystals were used to create the grotto, mostly calcite and selenite crystals. But there are also specimens of amethyst and quartz.

The cave has a winding passage with numerous bends, this was intend so the visitor would see a different view every view steps. The center is a huge chamber with stalactites. This is actually a reconstruction, as the roof was removed in the late 1940s and as a result the ceiling collapsed. The result was an open crater with piles of rocks and crystals on the ground. There was no funding at that time for a restauration. The roof was replaced in the 1990s, but the interior with all the crystals was restored between 2012 and 2013, financed by the Heritage Lottery Heritage Fund. Painting from the 1770s were used to make the design as original as possible. An electric pump moves water from the lake through the pools in the cave, originally this was done by manual labour.

The vast park has seven kilometers of trails, we guess you should plan a full day for a visit.