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Stately homes and palaces
Magnificent ruins of a late medieval/16th century royal palace, overlooking a loch. The 'pleasure palace' for several Scottish monarchs, it was also the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots. It takes little imagination to picture it as it was, full of the nobility in their finery, with its wide stairs, elegant windows, rich furnishings and a fountain running with wine. Was this Scotland's Hampton Court? It could have been.
Linlithgow has another claim to fame - it was the birthplace of Scottish Nationalist politician Alex Salmond, who also grew up in the town.
Dunrobin is the largest great house in the northern Highlands and has been home to the Earls and Dukes of Sutherland for more than 700 years. Though dating from the 13th century, the present house is largely Victorian, built in Scottish baronial style with a nod to a French chateau. It has been used as a hospital and school, but is still the Sutherland family and clan home. There are also extensive gardens and grounds.
The origins of Hampton court are medieval. However, it is famously the palace created by Thomas Wolsey, cardinal, Lord Chancellor of England and friend of King Henry VIII. The palace was 'acquired' by Henry and is often associated with him and Anne Boleyn. It has been a royal palace ever since and was extensively remodelled by Sir Christopher Wren on behalf of William and Mary in the late 17th century. Hampton Court is a highly popular visitor attraction which is also famous for its annual flower show.
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.
Part-ruined home to the Bishops of Bath and Wells for 800 years, the palace dates from 13th century and is surrounded by a moat, upon which swans glide gracefully. Croquet is played on the lawn. The highlight, though, is the gardens. These are a delight to wander in and include the well pools that give the city its name.
Scone Palace stands on a site of enormous historical significance. It was at the heart of the ancient Kingdom of the Picts, a meeting place, and traditionally where the kings of Scotland have been crowned, on the sacred Stone of Scone - stolen by King Edward I in 1296 and returned to Scotland in 1996 (it is now in Edinburgh Castle). The Moot Hill where kings were declared and crowned is opposite the palace, which is mainly 19th century, built near the site of the medieval Abbey of Scone - which itself replaced an early Christian church. The Palace contains an impressive collection which includes furniture gifted by Mary Antoinette, bed-hangings embroidered by Mary, Queen of Scots and rare porcelain and ivory. A particular feature is the painting of Dido Belle, whose mother was a slave, and her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray. The long gallery is where Charles II processed to his coronation and where Queen Victoria watched curling. In the 100 acre grounds are walks, gardens and a maze. Regular events are held. Scone Palace has been home to the Murrays, later the Earls of Mansfield, since 1600.
The ruins of the grand palace of the bishops of St Davids sit next to the Cathedral - the latter still very much in use. The palace dates from the 13th century though it is largely the work of Bishop Henry de Gower (1328-47). Even now, it is impressive, with decorative chequered stonework, carved faces staring down at you from the past and a grand banqueting hall. The rose window in the east gable is a peach. It must have been hard, being a bishop.
Enormous 18th century home of the Dukes of Marlborough. The estate was given to the 1st Duke, John Churchill, as a reward for his military victories against the French. Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim and has many associations with it. The estate is a World Heritage Site and one of the 'treasure houses of England."
The former Palace of the Archbishop of York stands on the site of a Roman villa, next door to the Minster and adjoining the present official residence of the Bishop of Southwell. It dates from 14th century, was wrecked during the Civil War of the 17th century and the house restored in the 19th century. Cardinal Wolsey stayed here on his last journey and Charles I was imprisoned here, having been captured in the town. Part of the building is now a choral school. There is public access to the ruins and an area of garden (including a sensory garden) and the restored state chamber.
The palace is used for functions so check opening before making a special trip.
Alnwick Castle dates from the 11th century and has been in the hands of the Percy family, the Dukes of Northumberland, since 14th century. The family still lives there. Their castle is one of the most visited in England, steeped in Percy history with gruesome discoveries to be made as well as magnificent state rooms. Alnwick is often used for filming and has starred in Harry Potter and Downton Abbey (to mention just two). The castle also houses a number of special exhibitions, including the Regimental Museum of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. Adjacent to the castle is the Alnwick Garden, a formal garden built around a huge cascading fountain.