5 STATELY HOUSES IN ENGLAND WORTH VISITING: Harewood House; Osbourne House; Killerton House; Hatfield House; Kensington Palace
HAREWOOD HOUSE (LEEDS)
Once you visit one stately home you seem to have a drive to go and see more and more. They do seem addictive. So when I had a chance to visit Harewood House when up staying near Leeds, I leap at it.. And I was very pleased to have done so. Harewood House has won a number of tourist awards, including the “visitor attraction of the year” based on the volume of visitors it gets.
The Harewood family still own and live there. It seems they made their money through activities like the slave trade and commerce, and in more recent years were associated with royalty when one of Queen Victoria’s relatives (Princess Royal Mary) married into the family. In the house is an exhibition of some of her effects including her wedding dress
There is so much that is amazing about the Harewood House. The house itself is huge and very impressive. It is even more impressive as both the outside and inside are in amazing condition and as the owners are still resident (though mostly on upper floors not accessed by the public) the place is full of personal touches and feels very much alive. One of the reasons the whole place is in good condition is through a combination of well thought out facilities and events to attract a lot of visitors, and Lottery Fund and other grants to help restore historically significant fixtures, furniture and buildings.
The grounds are sprawling and well landscaped. You drive up a long 1 mile driveway to the house and parking area. The house is grand and imposing with a huge lawn that people play games on. The other side of the house is even more grand, with a large veranda and then incredible sculpted gardens. You can have light meals and tea looking over the gardens across open space and to the hills beyond. Also in the grounds is a large lake full of birds, that people walk and picnic around. There is also a large bird sanctuary with large collection of birds from around the world including an ostrich and then a penguin house and pool (where you can watch them being fed at 2pm). You can also visit a Planetarium, play in a large children’s adventure ground (if you are a child!) And of course visit the house.
The house tour is in 2 parts. The “under stairs” where you can visit the kitchens, and some other exhibitions is included in the ticket to the grounds. The main house visit means paying slightly more than a grounds only ticket. It is well worth it. There is an audio tour or a guide book (for about 5 pounds). You can visit all the ground floor rooms which are breathtakingly intricate and full of furniture, artwork and stunning furniture. Even if you do not buy the guidebook in each room there is usually someone to explain or there are laminated cards telling you about the room and contents. The rooms are quite something, especially the libraries, state bedroom and the grand hall. The old stables have been turned into a restaurant and gift shop, with fudge as their big thing. A great day out. Highly recommended.
OSBOURNE HOUSE (ISLE OF WIGHT)
You can probably spend most of a day here if you wanted to. Osborne House was the home that Queen Victoria spent a lot of time at, and eventually died at. Situated in massive and very beautiful grounds, the house is both impressive and beautiful.
It costs about ten pounds per adult to visit. On arrival you go through a bright and interesting shop to buy tickets. Then you can walk or catch a horse buggy to the house.
No member of the Royal Family used the house after Queen Victoria died. The house was used as a convalescent home for military and then more recently been renovated and more and more rooms opened. You get to see some fairly private rooms like bedrooms, nursery and sitting rooms. It is full of furniture and ornaments etc. Really fascinating. You can then stroll through the beautifully laid out gardens and to various areas right across the property.
There is a restaurant. There are a lot of stairs to be climbed up and down in the house and we saw many a pensioner struggling, so be warned!
KILLERTON HOUSE, DEVON
This National Trust property is described on the guide book as follows: Killerton is not a grand mansion, but the welcoming home of the Aclands, who have lived in Devon since the sixteenth century. They created the famous garden rich in rare trees and shrubs, and framed the huge agricultural estate that is now also in the care of the National Trust”.
This pretty much in this short paragraph pretty much sums up the property. Though maybe it does undersell the place as one to visit. But I guess when you consider some of the huge, grand and very ornate properties that the National Trust in the UK manages they do probably under-estimate how interesting and entertaining a visit here can be.
The ten sqaure mile estate had been in the family for 350 years, until it was given to the National Trust in 1944 by Sir Richard Acland.
In addition to the massive grounds and house, the estate also has a massive (9000 plus) items collection of clothing, shoes and accessories dating right back to the 1700s. The massive collection is only exhibited in a fairly small series of exhibitions across the year in the upstairs of the house.
Killerton is situated off the M5 motorway fairly close to Exeter in Devon, and as there seems to be fairy few National Trust and large staley homes in this neck of the woods, is a very popular place to visit.
The property is on a hill with great views. When you arrive, there is a fairly large parking area and there is a eduacation/ discovery centre and you go down to the entrance to the property. You can visit the garden centre which has a large collection of plants and garden ornaments (for some reason), there is a second hand book shop, a tea-room/ restaurant (which is airly costly) and a very large gift shop with local crafts and a huge book section – mostly about cooking and baking.
You can pay to just visit the open lands (where dogs are allowed), or the open lands and gardens or those and the house. Dogs on leash are allowed only into the park. This is huge with a lot of sheep ambling about. It costs £8.40 for full access for adults, and £6.20 for access without the house.
The house, as per the description in the guide book, is not of the scale of many staley homes and is more of a large mansion than a staley home. Saying that, it is pretty large and pretty impressive. Though, unlike the huge cold houses with long halls, this does feel like something that people can live in. The rooms are large and impressive, but the decor is homely and a bit like visiting an elderly relative in taste. I guess that is beacuse the house was pretty much put on pause after the war and it was handed to the National Trust.
The house also has an added on feel, like houses where people have added to as their families grew and they tag on extra rooms. It all works though. The house is full of furniture, books, pianos and the such downstairs. It is very grand though.
Up the impressive staircase, the upstairs is more like a museum as this is where they have the displays of the clothes. The rooms have been converted to have glass displays and the such. There are dressing up and activity sections to keep kids happy and engaged.Considering the size of the collection, you did feel the displays could have been greater. But saying that, they had on display a range from the 1700s through to the 1960s. And maybe less is more does work!
There is some added history about the house related to the Second World War which they are trying to restore and link back to, as two schools were moved to the house and gorunds when children were evacuated from regions being heavily bombed.
In the house is another tea-room/ restaurant that seems to have a larger selection than the one at the entrance.
The gardens are of the restaurant. They are large and sprawling and very beautiful.
Killerton clearly try and engage with the local communities, and there is are many functions and events held across the summer like theatre, treasure hunts and so on. They also hold farmer’s markets on Saturdays through summer.
See all my photos of Killerton House on Flickr: click here
HATFIELD HOUSE, HERTFORDSHIRE
|The Gift Shop at Hatfield House|
|Hatfield House and Gardens|
|Hatfield House and Gardens|
|Hatfield House: The Old Palace (the original property on the site)|
Hatfield House often has a familiar air about it for visitors. The reason being that it has been used extensively in films and TV, including Batman, Laura Croft and Sherlock Holmes.
The house and grounds are quite stunning. Huge, sprawling and very impressive. The same family has lived here for over 400 year (Earl of Salisbury) and still do, but it is also known as the original property and grounds where the children of Henry VIII grew up. It is also here that Queen Elisabeth I heard she was to become queen (you can visit the tree she was supposed to be sitting under). The original Old Palace still exists and today is a large hall that is used for events and functions.
Over 400 years ago the family that own it today started to build the new house. Over the years it has evolved and grown, and is a huge complex with impressive front face and gorgeous gardens. The house has a long history associated with Royalty and Politics due to the family connections. Some of the rooms were designed to be used by King James who succeeded Queen Elisabeth on her death.
You can pay to just visit the gardens or the house and gardens. As you cannot take photos and video inside the house, the photos and video i have are of the outside – but the inside of the house is breath-taking and very much worth visiting. You can do an audio tour or stroll about and read about the house using the guide book (£6.50) or the signs in each room.
The tour let’s you see the main reception rooms and these are fantastic and include: The Marble Hall (ornate and dramatic); Grand Staircase; King James’s Drawing Room (bright, high ceiling and huge fireplace); Chinese Bedroom (which had been designed to be the King James bedroom); The Long Gallery (a very long room with gold ceiling); Winter Dining Room; The Library; Chapel; Armoury and Kitchens.
In the grounds there is a complex that has a number of interesting shops that include sweet shop, garden centre, antiques and then a large tea shop and restaurant with great cakes and very tasty food.
Hatfield House is very popular for weddings and the day we were there, there were two going on.
The house is about an hour drive from London and also can be reached by train. The station is opposite the entrance to the grounds.
A great day out, it is also worth checking out on their site as they have many events (mostly from April – September, at around Christmas). The house is open from April to September.
See all my photos on Flickr of Hatfield House: click here
Watch my video tour of the house and grounds:
KENSINGTON PALACE (LONDON)
|Orangery at Kensington Palace|
|Orangery at Kensington Palace|
Probably best known as the place that Princess Diana was living when she tragically died, and had been since her marriage and separation from Prince Charles, Kensington Palace is actually a massive complex with some 700 rooms and many parts of the Royal Family have or are living there. So it is not so much as a palace as a gated housing development!
When people live in the Palace it seems they have a number of rooms, and the residential parts are the ones that cannot easily been seen from the gates and boundaries.
The Palace itself is extremely old, not surprisingly, and in addition to being known as the home of Princess Diana was also the home of Princess Margaret ( whose very 60s style decoration is apparently still in place and the rooms are going to be open to the public as part of a major Kensington Palace 2012 revamp currently under way. Some of Queen Elizabeth’s cousins qnd their families live there still.
The grounds of the palace are not huge, but in a great location surrounded by Kensington Gardens. In the actual grounds is a beautiful formal garden and then large lawns with a large and very beautiful Organery building that houses a restaurant that as well as serving lunch, serves various afternoon tea options.. These involve tier holders with sandwiches, cakes and scones and different teas. We were given gift vouchers as a birthday gift which gave us entry to the “Enchanted Palace” exhibition and champagne afternoon tea at the Orangery.
As the pictures show, the room is fantastic, large, bright and stylish. The afternoon tea great. Though you cannot reserve a time and table and the line to get in can be slow and involve hanging about a great deal.
The exhibition in the Palace takes you through about 30 rooms and is themed around the story if princesses and enchantment. You get thus hand drawn effect sheet to guide you round. And to be honest I think it was all a bit too arty. It was hard to get to understand the history and what we were seeing and looking at – which seems crazy when there is so much history in the place with kings, queens and other royalty having used or lived here for hundreds of years. Inyerstingly I had tweeted we were there and I got a message on the Monday and responded that this was a miss and they thanked for the input – so at least they trying to engage and find out what visitors looking for as they work on the revamp.
The one thing that did help, was the staff. In some of the rooms we asked some of the people to tell us more and they were Very enthusiastic and happily chatted away and told us anecdotes and stories about the place and rooms, which was brilliant and needed as standard like other places do on cards or guide sheets.
It is easy to spend a few hours in the house if you do that and find out more. Overall though think the enchanted theme is a bit too arty and obscure for most tourists looking to immerse in British Royalty and pomp. But either way, the place was well organised, beautiful and worth visiting.
The gift shop has many unusual and interesting gifts and items that is worth spending time in. We came away with china mugs, a book on the palace, jams and managed to resist most of other personalised bits and pieces!
A good afternoon out, and do the afternoon tea!
Official website: http://www.hrp.org.uk/kensingtonpalace/
|Orangery Kensington Palace|
|Teas and Cakes at Kensington Palace|
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