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Hundreds of open garden events take place in Britain every year, mainly during the summer and mostly, though not exclusively, in rural villages. The gardens belong to private homes and are often quite modest. The open garden event normally involves 10 gardens or so, sometimes more, sometimes less, and can either be a local event in its own right, or part of a larger village show of some kind. If you enjoy looking at gardens, a local open gardens can be an enjoyable way of spending an hour or three. Entry fees are usually just a few pounds. Check the UK National Directory for events near you.
Woburn Abbey is one of the great treasure houses of Britain. It began life as a Cistercian abbey. The estate was given to John Russell, later Earl of Bedford, by Edward VI in 1547 and his ancestors became the Dukes of Bedford. Woburn Abbey is still the home of the Duke and Duchess of Bedford, but has been open to the public since 1955. The Palladian mansion contains a world-famous art collection, including works by Canaletto, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Hogarth, Lely, Rembrandt, Tintoretto and Van Dyck, as well as collections of porcelain and silver. The estate also includes gardens, a deer park and the Woburn Safari Park.
Drum Castle was seat of the Clan Irvine and in the Irvine family for 650 years, from 1325, when it was granted to William de Irvine by Robert the Bruce, until 1975. It has a rich history, 17th and 19th century additions and alterations, and is surrounded by gardens and an arboretum.
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.
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'.
The charming garden of Tintinhull Hall, designed by an amateur gardener, Phyllis Reiss, who lived there from 1933 to 1961. The garden is divided into a series of 'rooms', each with its own character. Don't miss the swing!
The hall is not generally open to the public, but can be hired for self-catering breaks.
The Chalice Well is a natural spring, with a red hue to the water, now surrounded by peaceful gardens, at the foot of Glastonbury Tor. The spring has been in use for at least 2,000 years and, inevitably, has mystical and religious associations; it is popular with pilgrims of all sorts (remember, this is Glastonbury). According to one legend, Joseph of Arimathea hid the chalice that had caught the blood of Christ at the crucifixion in the Chalice Well.
There is no parking at the Chalice Well - park nearby and walk. It is on the A361 Chilkwell Street junction with Wellhouse Lane.
This was the home the Bankes family created after their castle at Corfe was destroyed in the Civil War. Designed to resemble an Italian palace, it is packed with treasures including works of art by Rubens Van Dyck, Tintoretto, Titian and Brueghel. The house also contains what is said to be the largest collection of Egyptian relics in the UK. Outside, there is a 3,500 acre estate with walks, plus extensive gardens, including a Japanese garden and Victorian kitchen garden.
Note: Entrance to house often on a timed visit; also, volunteer shortages mean that sometimes only a small part of the house is open - essential to check beforehand.
Anne of Cleves' House formed part of Anne’s annulment settlement from Henry VIII in 1540. Anne of Cleves was Henry's 4th wife - divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived. The house is a fine example of a late medieval timber-framed Sussex building, dating from the late 15th century with additions and improvements made over the next 200 years. Some of the rooms have been furnished in contemporary Tudor style. The house also contains the Museum of Lewes History and the Wealden Iron Gallery. There is a small garden, also inspired by the Tudor period, and a cafe. The house and museum is managed by the Sussex Archaeological Society.
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.