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Stately homes and palaces
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.