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Stately homes and palaces
The seat of the Duncombe family since 1711, when the house was built by Thomas Duncombe (born Thomas Browne). His descendent, Charles Duncombe, was created Lord Feversham in 1826. The house is not open to the public, but 450 acres of parkland, gardens and nature reserve are. There is also a bird of prey centre on site.
Castle Howard is an 18th century Baroque stately home in North Yorkshire, one of the grandest and most over the top in England, with 145 rooms and set in 1,000 acres of gardens and parkland. It is owned by the Howard family, and has been for over 300 years. The house was started for the 3rd Earl of Carlisle in c1699, designed by John Vanbrugh (his first commission) and Nicholas Hawksmoor, and took about 100 years to complete. It is built on the site of a ruined medieval castle and the original estate covered 13,000 acres - which included several villages. In addition to being able to tour the house and gardens, visitors can enjoy various exhibitions, and activities take place frequently.
Castle Howard was famously used for the 1980s TV series and 2008 film, Brideshead Revisited.
Tatton Park is the former estate and home of the Egerton family. Set in 1,000 acres of deer park are 50 acres of gardens, including a Japanese garden, the Tudor Old Hall, kids' playground and the 18th century mansion. There are extensive facilities, making it a popular place, and events are held regularly - including concerts featuring leading stars and the annual Royal Horticultural Show in NW England.
The estate was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1958 and is managed and financed by Cheshire East Council.
Enormous mansion, originally Jacobean, built on the site of an earlier manor house and castle, and packed with treasures, including a significant collection of silver and notable works of art. The estate was given to the National Trust by the 10th, and last, Earl of Stamford and includes a 300 acre park (with deer) and sumptuous gardens. The house was used as a hospital during WW1 and by the military during WW2, when there was a US training camp and then a POW camp in the grounds. Entry to the house is by timed ticket only.
One of the largest houses in England, Knole is allegedly a 'calendar house', with 365 rooms, 52 staircases, 12 entrances and 7 courtyards - though only a proportion of the house is open to the public. It was built as an archbishop's palace, but passed into the hands of the Sackville family during the reign of Elizabeth I, and it is still their home. Knole is also packed with precious artwork and furnishings.
In 2012, the National Trust launched an extensive six-year conservation programme. This has also opened parts of the complex previously unavailable to be seen by the public.
Knole is situated in the middle of a medieval deer park, which is open to all and is wonderful to wander in at any time of year.
The Jewel Tower is a small, but fascinating, remnant of the medieval Palace of Westminster. It was built in the 14th century and once housed Edward III's treasures. It was subsequently used to store records from the House of Lords - including notable Acts of Parliament - and went on to be the National Weights and Measures Office.
Buckingham Palace is the administrative HQ of the Monarchy and has been the Monarch's official London residence since 1837. The Duke of Buckingham acquired a house on the present site in 1698, which he replaced with a new 'Buckingham House'. This was acquired by George III in 1761 as a family residence for his wife, Queen Charlotte, and their children, and extensively refurbished and modernised. George IV commissioned John Nash to turn the house into a Royal Palace. The familiar east wing, with its central balcony, was added during the reign of Queen Victoria.
Visitors can see three aspects of Buckingham Palace.
1) The State Rooms. The 19 sumptuous state rooms, where guests are received and entertained, are generally open to the public during summer months. They include paintings, porcelain and furniture from the royal collection.
2) The Queen's Gallery, which hosts a programme of changing exhibitions of artwork, mostly from the royal collection, is open most days.
3) The Royal Mews is the stables responsible for the horses that pull the royal carriages as well as where state vehicles are kept and looked after. It is open most days, but closed in December and January.
All three venues have separate entrances on Buckingham Palace Road (the road running along the left of the Palace as you face it).
The Shugborough Estate in Staffordshire has been the seat of the Earls of Lichfield (family name Anson) since 1831 – the 6th Earl still has apartments there. Arguably, Shugborough’s most famous son was the 5th Earl, the internationally renowned photographer Patrick Lichfield, who died in 2005. His private apartments can be visited as part of a tour of the house. The mansion is set in 900 acres of idyllic parkland, there's a historic farm with rare breeds - and the garden is a peach. If you're a conspiracy lover, Shugborough is also famous for alleged associations with the Holy Grail. The property has been owned by the National Trust since the 1960s but leased to and managed by Staffordshire County Council. In 2016, the Council handed the property back to the National Trust, who decided to close it until March 2017 to enable upgrading works to take place.
Beaulieu is a stately home as well as home to the National Motor Museum. The estate has been in the hands of the Montagu family since the 16th century and is based around the ruins of the medieval Beaulieu Abbey. The National Motor Museum tells the story of motoring and the collection includes some 250 vehicles, old and not so old, cars, motor cycles and racing cars. As well as the museum and the abbey, a visit to Beaulieu can include the palace/house, the extensive gardens, at least two exhibitions - at the time of writing there are exhibitions of 'the World of Top Gear', featuring many original vehicles from the TV show, and an exhibition about SOE - the secret Special Operations Executive - who used Beaulieu for training during WW2. On top of that, there's a monorail and loads of things going on, like a vintage bus chugging about, offering rides.
Windsor Castle was built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror and is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. It has been used by the British monarchy for almost 1,000 years and is an official residence of Her Majesty The Queen, whose standard flies from the Round Tower when she is at home. Parts are open to the public, including the State Apartments and St George's Chapel. A further highlight is Queen Mary's Dolls' House.
However, because Windsor Castle is a working palace, opening arrangements are subject to change, sometimes at short notice, and you should check before making a special journey.