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Seven South Carolina Labyrinths for Meditative Walking

Libby Wiersema Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.
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When things get complicated, many people unwind with a meaningful meander through a labyrinth. These circular walkways, rooted in ancient traditions, are symbolic of life's many expeditions - the journey from outer turmoil to inner peace. South Carolina is home to several of these meditative spots, many of them open to the public. But before you set out on your mini-pilgrimage, it's a good idea to review the fine points of labyrinth design and etiquette.

  • A labyrinth is a spiral path that takes you to the center and back to the perimeter again, not a maze with dead ends designed to create confusion.
  • Labyrinths are typically laid out in circuits - the number of concentric rings you must walk to arrive at the center. While 11 circuits are sometimes seen, most are composed of seven - considered a mystical number that represented the pathway through the heavens.
  • Pause before embarking on the path to encourage a sense of contemplation.
  • At the center, spend a little time in stillness before your return journey.
  • If you meet others along the way, it is proper to quietly pass them.
  • Travel at your own pace, be it a leisurely walk, energetic stroll or a joyful dance.
  • Call your labyrinth destination before you go, as hours for public access are subject to change.

Here are seven labyrinths to get you started on your journey toward relaxation and self-reflection.

Hopelands Gardens, Aiken

Hours: 10 a.m. to sundown
Type: Medieval, 11 circuits
Installed: 2007
Admission: Free

This labyrinth is situated amid 100-year-old live oaks on a 14-acre public garden bequeathed to the city by the late Mrs. C. Oliver Iselin, who had made her winter home on the property. It consists of a granite center and series of brick pavers arranged within an octagon, much in the style of the 13th-century labyrinth in France's Amiens Cathedral.

Inn at Middleton Place, Charleston

Hours: Open to the public on Sundays; open to inn guests every day
Type: Medieval, seven circuits
Installed: 2003
Admission: $5

Designer Stuart Bartholomaus took inspiration from the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral in France to create this contemplative pathway. This grassy labyrinth is a natural fit for Middleton, the nation's oldest landscaped gardens where something beautiful is always in bloom.

Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston

Hours: Always open
Type: Classical, three circuits
Installed: 2017
Admission: Free

Designer Holly Bendz used grass and stone pavers to create this labyrinth, an inviting circuit for visitors wishing to walk for relaxation, peace and contemplation. A project of the MUSC Office of Health Promotion, it is a key component of a comprehensive effort to promote good health and wellness throughout the community.

Maxcy Gregg Park, Columbia

Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Type: Medieval, 11 circuits
Installed: 2003
Admission: Free

This labyrinth was created to honor the journey of those facing long-term illness and cancer. The concrete and inlaid stone design makes it easy to traverse via wheelchair for those with limited mobility.

Springbank Retreat, Kingstree

Hours: Daylight hours, but call before visiting
Type: Classical, seven circuits
Installed: 2003
Admission: None, but "love" offerings accepted

Though the path, built by Marcy Walsh, is a simple construction of stone and plantings, its positioning beneath shady giant live oaks makes for a stunning sight. A visit to the 80-acre retreat is a contemplative journey. A walk on this labyrinth deepens the experience.

Mepkin Abbey, Moncks Corner

Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., daily
Type: Medieval, seven circuits
Installed: 2004
Admission: None, though donations are welcome

Tall grasses, blooming plants and other foliage create the walls of this labyrinth, located on the gorgeous, ethereal grounds of Mepkin Abbey. Designed by Stuart and Mary Bartholomaus, this series of circuits measures approximately ½ mile to the center - plenty of time to quiet the mind and absorb the peaceful vibe.

Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet

Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily
Type: Medieval, seven circuits
Installed: 2009
Admission: Included in park admission; adults $16, seniors $14, children $8, and children 3 years and younger, free

Another design by Stuart Bartholomaus, this labyrinth is composed of rock and garden features that complement the grounds of this iconic sculpture park. Located near the north end of the Trail Beyond the Garden Wall and alongside a creek, it seems as natural an addition as any of the foliage, flowers or artwork.

Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.