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Leave modern living behind and head to one of these stately homes
From Baroque masterpieces to Tudor dwellings, the UK has a wealth of extraordinary historical houses that are open to the public and ready to explore.
It’s the perfect way to spend a weekend …
Osborne House, Isle of White
The summer residence of Queen Victoria, and the site of her death in 1901, she described it as “impossible to imagine a prettier spot.” Designed by Prince Albert to resemble an Italian palazzo, the views of the Solent, Queen Victoria’s private beach, are a highlight, as are the Swiss Cottage, where her and Prince Albert’ children played, and the state rooms.
For more information visit english-heritage.org.uk
Chiswick House, London
Home to one of the best eighteenth-century interiors and set in beautiful historic gardens, this west-London villa was decorated by William Kent. Built by Richard Boyle, the third Earl of Burlington, in 1729, to display his collection of paintings, many of which remain today. The gardens are the birthplace of the English Landscape Movement and was the inspiration for New York’ Central Park. While you’re there, check out the Chiswick Table, which are some of the best examples of English neo-Palladian furniture and the two iconic statues of Andrea Palladio and Inigo Jones by the famous Flemish sculptor Michale Rysbrack.
For more information visit chgt.org.uk
Possibly the birthplace of Anne Boleyn, rumour has it, on May 19, the anniversary of her execution, her ghost arrives at the estate carrying her own severed head. Blickling Hall also holds one of the country’s most valuable collections of books and manuscripts, as well as extensive gardens to explore. The Estate has 500 acres of woodland as well as a cycling trail and its own pub, The Buckinghamshire Arms.
For more information visit nationaltrust.org.uk, photo: ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler
Syon House, Brentford
One of the few stately properties in the region that is still used as a residence by the Duke of Northumberland, who’s family has occupied it for 400 years. With Robert Adam interiors, including the grand Roman hallway in black and white marble and the Red Drawing Room with crimson silk walls and Roman statues, and sweeping Thames-side gardens, it pops up in a lot of films and TV shows too (including Downton Abbey and Gosford Park). Children will love the restored nineteenth-century Great Conservatory, with its huge iron and glass dome.
For more information visit syonpark.co.uk
Ham House, Surrey
Nestled on that lovely stretch of Thames between Richmond and Twickenham is Ham House. Dating back from the early 1700s, it’s imposing exterior conceals centuries of Royal and political secrets. The fine interiors and historic gardens make it a great place to visit.
For more information visit nationaltrust.org.uk , photo: ©National Trust Images/Beata Moore
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire
Home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and the location for the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Chatsworth House is known for its art, which spans 4000 years, from ancient Romand and Egyptian sculpture, and masterpieces by Rembrandt to Lucien Freud and Edmund de Waal. There are over 30 rooms to explore, including the painted hall and sculpture room, or head out into the 1,000 acres of parkland.
For more informatino visit chatsworth.org
Montacute House, Somerset
With its towering walls of glass, ham stone and surrounding gardens, Montacute is a masterpiece of Elizabethan Renaissance architecture and design. Built in 1601 by Sir Edward Phelips, under the instruction of William Arnold, the house holds over 60 Tudor and Elizabethan potraits on loan from the National Portrait Gallery. The beautiful gardens surrounding Montacute are constantly changing and are a great place for children to run around or for a walk.
For more information visit nationaltrust.org.uk, photo: ©National Trust Images/John Millar
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Built in the early 18th century and surrounded by 2,000 acres of parkland, Blenheim Palace is the birthplace of Sir Winstone Churchill and a masterpiece of baroque architecture. With a beautiful collection of portraits, furniture, tapestries, and letters written by the Prime Minister, discover the water terraces, rose gardens and secret garden. Children will love the pleasure gardens, which are reached by a miniature train, with a giant hedge maze, butterfly house and an adventure playground.
For more information visit blenheimpalace.com
Barrington Court, Somerset
Set in the heart of Somerset, with breathtaking gardens and working orchards, when it comes to the house you’ll have to use your imagination. The Tudor manor is free from collections and furniture. Saved from ruin by the Lyle family in the 1920s, stroll through the Gertrude Jekyll inspired gardens planted with a varieties of plants and colours. The stone-walled kitchen garden produces a variety of fruit and vegetables which is served in the Strode House restaurant, and to celebrate the success of the BBC drama series Wolf Hall (which was filmed here) eight costumes are displayed in the rooms where the filming took place.
For more information visit nationaltrust.org.uk, photo: ©National Trust Images/Neil Campbell-Sharp