The UK’s country houses are amongst its most treasured attractions, synonymous with beautiful grounds, intriguing history and impressive art collections. They have featured in numerous films and TV shows, with everything from James Bond to Tomb Raider included. Here’s a rundown of six of the most impressive country houses you can visit throughout the UK:
Set amongst expansive lakes, water terraces and acres of sweeping parkland in the picturesque Oxfordshire countryside, this Baroque masterpiece is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site. As the home of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, it’s also the only non-royal country house to hold the title of ‘palace’. This plush pad is also famous for being the birthplace of ex-prime minister Winston Churchill and is the family’s ancestral home. After exploring the house, don’t miss a chance to discover the palace’s gardens, created by esteemed garden designers such as Henry Wise.
Nestled deep in the Derbyshire Dales close to the hills of the Peak District, Chatsworth is one of the UK’s most visited stately homes, and it’s easy to see why. The home of the Cavendish family since the 1550s, it has evolved through the centuries and is now home to one of Europe’s most significant art installments, the Devonshire Collection. Each year, the house hosts an extensive range of special events, from horse trials to country fairs, and there are over 105 acres of stunning gardens to explore with extravagant water features and outdoor exhibitions at every turn.
Fans of the hugely popular Downtown Abbey may recognise this opulent country house, which featured heavily in both the TV show and the upcoming film. The home has been in the Carnarvon family since 1679, and it was built on an ancient site that has been recorded all the way back to the days of the Domesday Book. The house itself also has a significant connection to ancient Egypt, as the 5th Earl, along with Howard Carter, discovered Tutankhamun’s Tomb in the Valley of the Kings. To commemorate this event, Highclere now houses an exhibition that showcases ancient antiquities from the region.
If the sight of Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone wandering through this stately home last year in The Favourite didn’t make you want to visit Hatfield, then we don’t know what will. Playing host to Queen Elizabeth I all the way back in the late 16th century, the history on show here is utterly enthralling, with original paintings of Elizabeth, furniture and important documents throughout the centuries all visible. There are also extensive parklands, a delightful café, beautiful walled gardens and a series of ‘woodland walks’ which can be enjoyed with the dog. It’s situated right across from the train station, meaning you have easy access to King’s Cross within 25 minutes or so.
Located on the stunning North Norfolk Coast, Holkham is an elegant Palladian-style mansion surrounded by 25,000 acres of agricultural parkland. Upon arrival you’ll be astounded by the Marble Hall, a vast space dominated by a 50-feet-tall dome ceiling. Upstairs lie magnificent state rooms, each framed by tapestries and paintings by Van Dyck and Gainsborough to name but a few. Outside there’s a spectacular walled garden as well as cycle routes, woodland play areas and a nearby nature reserve, which plays host to rare birds and other wildlife. If you’ve made it here, don’t miss a trip to the sweeping sands of Holkham Beach, often billed as one of the most beautiful beaches in the entire of the UK.
Set right in the heart of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in North Yorkshire, Castle Howard is nothing if not picturesque. The magnificent 18th century house, home to the Howard family, has dramatic interiors filled with world-renowned collections of art, as well as extensive gardens. If you’ve come with the kids, they will enjoy taking the train to the adventure playground, and during the summer months, you can enjoy rowing across the Great Lake. The estate is also home to the Yorkshire Arboretum, a 120-acre garden of trees from all around the world, and the panoramic vistas from across the whole area are out-of-this-world.