Best English Country Houses: A Guide to Visiting and Exploring

HomedestinationBest English Country Houses: A Guide to Visiting and Exploring

Are you looking for a place to unwind and escape from the hustle and bustle of the city? Look no further than the English countryside and its magnificent country houses. From historic castles to opulent estates, England has some of the most beautiful country houses in the world. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at the best English country houses, where you can go to see them, and what makes them so special.

1. Introduction

English country houses are a source of pride for the country, reflecting the country’s history, culture, and wealth. These magnificent buildings have been around for centuries, and they continue to draw visitors from all over the world. From the grandiose Blenheim Palace to the atmospheric Longleat House, each country house has its own unique story to tell. In this article, we’ll explore the best English country houses and everything you need to know to plan a visit.

2. What are Country Houses?

Country houses are large, grand homes set in the countryside, often surrounded by extensive gardens and parkland. They are typically the homes of the aristocracy and landed gentry, and many have been in the same family for generations. Country houses were built from the 16th to the 20th century, and their architecture and design reflect the styles and tastes of their respective eras.

3. The History of Country Houses in England

The history of English country houses dates back to the 16th century when the Tudor monarchs began building grand houses in the countryside. However, it was during the 18th and 19th centuries that country house building reached its peak. Many of the country houses we see today were built during this time, reflecting the growing wealth and power of the aristocracy. However, the decline of the British aristocracy during the 20th century meant that many country houses fell into disrepair, and some were even demolished. Today, many of these houses have been restored and are open to the public.

4. The Best English Country Houses

There are many beautiful country houses in England, but here are some of the most notable:

Blenheim Palace

Located in Oxfordshire, Blenheim Palace is one of England’s most magnificent country houses. Built in the early 18th century, it was the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The palace’s Baroque architecture, stunning gardens, and art collections make it a must-visit destination.

Chatsworth House

Located in Derbyshire, Chatsworth House is one of England’s most iconic country houses. Built in the 17th century, it is home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and features an impressive collection of art and sculpture. The gardens, designed by Capability Brown, are also a highlight, with a maze, water features, and stunning views.

Highclere Castle

Located in Hampshire, Highclere Castle is best known as the setting for the popular TV series Downton Abbey. This 19th-century castle has impressive Victorian architecture and gardens, and visitors can take a tour of the castle’s state rooms.

Castle Howard

Located in North Yorkshire, Castle Howard is a grand 18th-century house with impressive Baroque architecture and ornate interiors. The gardens and grounds are equally impressive, with fountains, temples, and a lake.

Harewood House

Located in West Yorkshire, Harewood House is a beautiful Georgian mansion set in 100 acres of gardens and parkland. The house has impressive art collections, including works by JMW Turner and El Greco, and the bird garden is a must-visit for families.

Woburn Abbey

Located in Bedfordshire, Woburn Abbey is a historic house with stunning architecture and interiors. The gardens and deer park are also a highlight, with plenty of opportunities for walks and picnics.

Burghley House

Located in Lincolnshire, Burghley House is a grand Elizabethan mansion with impressive architecture and art collections. The house is also known for its extensive gardens, including a sculpture garden and a deer park.

Holkham Hall

Located in Norfolk, Holkham Hall is a Palladian-style mansion with stunning interiors and art collections. The house is set in a vast estate with a deer park, lake, and beach, making it a great destination for families.

Longleat House

Located in Wiltshire, Longleat House is a 16th-century mansion with impressive Elizabethan architecture and interiors. Visitors can also explore the safari park and the house’s extensive gardens, including a maze and a lake.

Petworth House

Located in West Sussex, Petworth House is a grand 17th-century mansion with impressive Baroque architecture and art collections. The house also has extensive gardens and parkland, including a deer park and a lake.

Hatfield House

Located in Hertfordshire, Hatfield House is a historic Jacobean mansion with impressive architecture and art collections. The house’s gardens, designed by Gertrude Jekyll, are also a highlight, with fountains, topiary, and a maze.

Kedleston Hall

Located in Derbyshire, Kedleston Hall is a grand 18th-century mansion with impressive neoclassical architecture and interiors. The house is set in extensive parkland, with lakes, temples, and a sculpture gallery.

5. What to See and Do at English Country Houses

Visiting an English country house is not just about admiring impressive architecture and interiors. There’s plenty to see and do, no matter your interests. Here are some of the highlights:

Architecture and Design

English country houses are known for their impressive architecture and interiors, and visitors can admire the craftsmanship and design of these grand houses. From the ornate plasterwork of Chatsworth House to the neoclassical interiors of Kedleston Hall, each house has its own unique style and history.

Gardens and Grounds

Many English country houses are set in vast estates with impressive gardens and parkland. Visitors can explore the gardens, which often feature fountains, sculptures, and water features. The parks and woodlands are also great for walks and picnics.

Art Collections

English country houses often have impressive collections of art, from Old Master paintings to modern sculptures. Visitors can admire the collections and learn about the history of the art and the people who collected it. Some houses also have special exhibitions and events related to the art collections.

Family-Friendly Activities

Many English country houses offer family-friendly activities, such as nature trails, animal encounters, and adventure playgrounds. Some houses also have special events and workshops for children, such as art classes and storytelling sessions.

History and Culture

English country houses have a rich history and culture, and visitors can learn about the people who lived and worked in these grand houses. From the Tudor era to the present day, each house has its own stories and traditions to discover.

6. Conclusion

Visiting an English country house is a unique and enriching experience, offering a glimpse into the grandeur and history of these impressive houses and their surroundings. Whether you’re interested in architecture, art, or nature, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. With so many options to choose from, it’s worth taking the time to research and plan your visit to ensure you get the most out of your trip.

7. FAQs

Q1. Are English country houses open to the public?

Yes, many English country houses are open to the public for tours and visits.

Q2. How much does it cost to visit an English country house?

The cost of visiting an English country house varies depending on the house and the type of visit you choose. Some houses offer discounts for children, students, and seniors.

Q3. Are English country houses accessible for people with disabilities?

Many English country houses have wheelchair access and other facilities for people with disabilities. It’s best to check with the specific house before visiting to ensure accessibility.

Q4. Can I take photographs inside an English country house?

Photography policies vary from house to house. Some houses allow photography without flash, while others do not allow photography at all. It’s best to check with the specific house before visiting.

Q5. Can I bring my dog to an English country house?

Many English country houses allow dogs in the gardens and grounds, but not inside the house itself. It’s best to check with the specific house before visiting to ensure their dog policy.

Matteo Angeloni
Matteo Angeloni
Photographer, social media manager, close to master's degree. I wanted to open this blog out of a pure passion for travel, places and little stories.

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