Attractive garden and partially open 17th century red sandstone manor house. The estate at Acorn Bank dates back to the medieval order of the Knights Hospitaller. The main attraction now is the 17th century walled garden, with its fascinating medicinal herbs, pretty formal area, traditional orchard, woodland walks and industrial past complete with restored working watermill dating from the 16th century.
Sitting in acres of Northamptonshire countryside, Althorp has been the residence of the Spencer family for 500 years and is one of England's grand stately homes. It is packed full of treasures, including some fascinating portraits. The original Tudor house is still there, beneath the later restorations and refurbishments, but the overall feel of the place is distinctly 18th century. The gardens are lovely and regular events are held, including an annual literary festival. Althorp is, sadly, best known for the association with possibly the most famous Spencer, Lady Diana, whose last resting place is on an island in the Round Oval lake.
Althorp has limited opening - it is essential to check their website before making a special trip.
Baddesley Clinton is a picturesque and charming moated manor house and estate dating from the 15th century, set in lovely gardens and surrounded by beautiful Warwickshire countryside. For 500 years it was home to the Ferrers family, staunch Roman Catholics, and it comes complete with a priest hole hidden in the medieval sewer. Its survival is largely due to its eccentric Victorian owners, Marmion and Rebecca Ferrers and their very close friends, Lady Chatterton and Edward Dering, collectively known as 'the Quartet'.
Balliol is one of the colleges of Oxford University. It was founded by John de Balliol in 1263, has occupied the same site ever since and claims to be the oldest college in Oxford, and the world. Its attractive buildings are predominantly Victorian, however. Balliol's widow Dervorguilla of Galloway, established a permanent endowment and their son, John, was King of Scotland. Balliol has an impressive list of alumni, which includes writers, politicians and scientists. A few random examples: Boris Johnson, Robert Peston, Herbert Asquith, Harold Macmillan, Edward Heath, Aldous Huxley, Graham Greene and William Beveridge.
Visitors can tour the grounds and some of the buildings, except when college events take place.
Balmoral is a 50,000 acre estate and the private Scottish home of the British Royal Family. It was purchased by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria in 1852, close to the Highlands they both loved. The current castle is new - Victoria and Albert had it constructed between 1853 and 1856; the old castle was then demolished. There is limited public access to the grounds, gardens and exhibitions (including access to the castle ballroom only) between spring and early summer, when the Royal Family is not in residence. Apart from the ballroom, the castle is not open to the public. Cottages in the grounds can also be hired.
17th century farm, extended and refurbished in 19th. Its fame is as a hiding place for the future King Charles II following his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Charles hid in one of two 'priest holes' in the house, having first escaped detection by climbing an oak tree in the grounds and, before that, briefly at nearby White Ladies Priory. As well as the interior of a small Stuart farmhouse, there is a pleasant garden, stables, smithy and cowhouse. A descendent of the oak tree that Charles climbed is still there. And its a relatively painless walk to White Ladies Priory.
Brockhole was built in the late 19th century as a country house and estate for Manchester silk merchant, William Gaddum and his wife, Edith - a cousin of Beatrix Potter, who was a frequent visitor. Since 1969, it has been a Lake District National Park Centre. It offers a range of family activities, including a treetop trek, zip wire, adventure playground, boat hire, mini-golf, woodland walks and gardens. It also includes a cafe, exhibition area and shop.
Burghley is a grand 16th century house and estate on the edge of the charming East Midlands town of Stamford. The house was built by Elizabeth I's chief advisor and Lord High Treasurer Sir William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, and is still lived in by his descendents. The house contains an extensive collection of artwork and painted murals, including Verrio's 'Hell Staircase' (seen in 'The Da Vinci Code') and the hall has a magnificent hammerbeam roof. There are extensive gardens, statues and a fine park. Burghley is also famous for its annual Burghley Horse Trials, held in the autumn (best avoid visiting then!).