Our heritage sites and stately homes are starting to open up again and welcome guests. If you’re planning a summer day trip, why not stop by one of these homes steeped in history, stunning to look at and surrounded by beautiful gardens? Here are ten of our favourites from around Britain.
1. Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
The sprawling Blenheim Palace boasts more than three hundred years of history, including being the birthplace of Winston Churchill. It’s built in the short-lived English Baroque style that continues to divide opinion even today, but the formal gardens are what really set it apart. They are designed to reflect different styles through the ages. Be sure to head to the secret garden, once the private garden of the 10th Duke of Marlborough.
2. Montacute House, Somerset
If you’re a fan of art, Montacute House is a great place to explore. It’s home to more than 60 Tudor and Elizabethan portraits loaned to the house by the National Portrait Gallery. Displayed in the Long Gallery, it’s grand and imposing. But you shouldn’t overlook the outside either: it’s a masterpiece of Elizabethan Renaissance architecture that led to it being used as Greenwich Palace in the TV show Wolf Hall.
3. Hatfield House, Hertfordshire
Hatfield Palace was owned by King Henry VIII and his children are known to have lived and played here. It’s even rumoured that it was here that the then-future Queen Elizabeth I found out she would ascend to the throne. However, when Robert Cecil acquired the home, he rebuilt it as Hatfield House in the Jacobean style. You can still see the Rainbow Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I that has overlooked the Marble Hall for centuries.
4. Highclere Castle, West Berkshire
If you’re a fan of Downtown Abbey, Highclere Castle is a must-visit. As well as acting as the home of the Crawley family in the show, it’s the family seat of the Earls of Carnarvon. The house that stands on the grounds today was remodelled in the early 1800s in the Jacobean style. The house even boasts an Egyptian exhibit to explore, linking it to the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922.
5. Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire
Built on a former nunnery, Lacock Abbey offers some stunning architecture, including beautiful cloisters to stroll down. You might recognise some of the sights if you watched the TV adaptation of Wolf Hall as it was used to film the family home of the Seymours. It’s now owned by the National Trust and includes a museum on-site, which celebrates the achievements of former resident William Henry Fox Talbot, inventor of the photographic negative.
6. Llancaiach Fawr Manor, South Wales
Built around 1550, this house is a great example of a semi-fortified home. While many of the other homes on this list have been remodelled and rebuilt, Llancaiach Fawr Manor largely stands the same as it has for 400 years, truly taking you back in time. It’s best known as being the home of Colonel Edward Prichard who hosted a visit by King Charles I during the English Civil War. It now includes a living history museum to learn more about the local history.
7. Wentworth Woodhouse, South Yorkshire
Did you know Wentworth Woodhouse has the longest façade of any country house in England? It even beats Buckingham Palace by some way. Dating back to the 18th century, it’s surrounded by a 180-acre park and restoration work is currently taking place to bring it back to its former glory. The home was once owned by statesman Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Stafford, who advised King Charles I and was executed during the English Civil War.
8. Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute
On the east coast of the Isle of Bute, you’ll find a Gothic revival country house built in the late 1870s. The house is the seat of the Stuarts of Bute, the direct illegitimate descendants of the first Stuart King. The interior is filled with art to take in, including a map of the stars painted on the ceiling of the Marble Hall. You can also find an early telephone system and what’s believed to be the world’s first domestic heated swimming pool here.
9. Mellerstain House, Scottish Borders
Mellerstain House is known as being the only remaining complete building designed by Scottish neoclassical architect Robert Adams. The library ceiling, in particular, is considered one of his finest works. Visiting here is a chance to look back on the stories of Adams and the Baillie family that resided here. The formal gardens were designed in 1910, adding terraces in the Italian style and offer a place to stroll around too.
10. Chatsworth, Derbyshire
Set in the heart of the Peak District, Chatsworth is surrounded by glorious views and has been in the Cavendish family since 1549. With expansive parkland and wooded area, there is plenty to explore outdoors here. However, it’s the interior that often makes Chatsworth famous. It’s home to a spectacular art collection and lavishly decorated staterooms. Several films have used Chatsworth as a set, including The Duchess and Pride and Prejudice.