Stately homes – 5 showstoppers you have to see this summer

To sort-of quote Dermot, your summer staycation starts right here.

Love a stately home? These are the big ones for every Brit’s bucket list. If you’re searching for something to do this weekend, look no further.

More grand living: Look inside this historic Scottish castle (and yes it’s got tartan carpets)

1. Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

Stately Homes Chatsworth HouseSir William Cavendish bought Chatsworth for a mere £600 in 1549. After being passed down through 16 generations, it’s now the family home to the Duke and Duchess of Derbyshire.

It’s the stately home that everyone’s heard of, possibly thanks to its star role as Mr Darcy’s Pemberley in the TV adaptation of Pride & Prejudice. Yes, the one with Colin Firth in the wet shirt…

You’ll need the whole day to do it justice. Start with its art collection including ancient Egyptian sculpture and masterpieces by Rembrandt, Renoir and Lucian Freud. Next, stroll the beautifully landscaped grounds complete with 300-year-old cascade, before moving on to the working farm. There’s loads to see.

Don’t miss the brilliant farm shop or the boutique stores specialising in interiors, gardening or children’s toys.

Nearby: In the heart of the Peak District, Chatsworth is surrounded by walking and cycling trails of outdoor types.

2. Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

Stately Homes Blenheim PalaceDid you spot it in the Bond film, Spectre? Blenheim starred as the Roman palazzo – a role it could pull off thanks to its magnificent Baroque-style architecture by Vanbrugh and Hawksmoor. Allegedly inspired by Versailles, it signalled the start of English Romanticism.

The palace was built as a gift from Queen Anne to the first Duke of Marlborough for his victory in the 1704 Battle of Blenheim. Yet it’s best known as the birthplace of Winston Churchill, and there’s an exhibition charting his life that celebrates our Greatest Briton.

For a sophisticated day trip, indulge in a smart Sunday lunch in the Orangery, or for a fun family outing, hop on the miniature train to the hedge maze and butterfly garden.

Nearby: Go sightseeing in Oxford. Visit the college, take a leisurely punt along the river or try a city tour on two wheels with Oxford Bicycle Tours.

3. Osborne House, Isle of Wight

Stately Homes Osborne HouseImagine being queen for a day in the once-upon-a-time summer home of Victoria and Albert. The Italian-inspured house reflects the more relaxed side of the usually austere Queen Victoria.

While it might be palatial, Osborne also embodies all the fun and charm of the English seaside. The Queen regularly bathed at a private beach. It’s worth the walk down there to see her private bathing machine and visit the ice-cream parlour. Enjoy a slice of Victorian life playing skittles or quoits, and watching and Punch & Judy show.

In the gardens you’ll find the poshest Wendy house ever – Swiss Cottage – designed between 1853 and 1854 by Albert for his children.

A space fit for a queen: She shed – how to create a chic retreat in a weekend

Nearby: Head to Blackgang Chine to see swashbuckling pirates and cowboys and dinosaurs, as well as rides and games.

4. Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire

Stately Homes Waddesdon ManorWith its Medieval maiden’s hat-sale turrets, Waddesdon looks like a fairytale castle. The vision of a banker, Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, it took 14 years to complete and hosted the creme de la creme of guests within royal, cultural and political circles at its glittering house parties.

The bachelor’s wing, with its billiard room, could have been a ‘man cave’ for the 19th century. Priceless paintings, porcelain and objets (as you’d expect from a family of fine-art collectors) litter the flamboyant decor.

Don’t miss the wine cellar, housing 100,000 bottles and charting 150 years of Rothschild wine-making history. Look out, too, for the Rothschild minah bird in the Rococo-style aviary.

Nearby: Stay at the boutique Five Arrows hotel , and pick up some designer bargains at Bicester Shopping Village on the way home.

5. Hatfield House, Hertfordshire

Stately Homes Hatfield HouseLooking for stately homes in London? This is one of the most accessible.

Elizabeth I learned she would become queen in the old palace (which you can still visit on the estate). When Hatfield was built by the first Earl of Salisbury, in 1611, the breathtaking marble hall was decorated with the famous Rainbow Portrait, depicting the new queen as the bringer of piece.

Get the look with these traditional living rooms.

The house is a great example of Jacobean architecture. Look out for the elaborate stone, marble and mosaic chimneypieces, and the beautifully carved Grand Staircase, complete with special gates, designed to stop the household dogs getting into the State Rooms. Yikes!

Don’t miss the blinging gold-covered ceiling in the Long Gallery. Or Hatfield Park Farm, where there’s a mini version of the house in the kids’ play area and rare-breed animals to see.

Nearby: Visit the stunning gardens at specialist horticultural college, Capel Manor.

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