Historical houses opening
Peek inside some of England's grandest properties
pring doesn’t just bring daffodils and Easter bunnies you know. It’s also when England’s historic houses throw off their dustsheets, open their shutters and let the sunlight stream onto their priceless heirlooms. Of course, country houses do tend to have their own timetables, so it’s always worth checking with individual properties for opening details.
in Northumberland, run by English Heritage, you get two houses for the price of one. There’s a 14th-century castle – complete with medieval wall paintings and lookout tower – and the 19th-century Belsay Hall next door. Inspired by the ancient temples of Greece, you can’t walk into a room without spotting a Doric column or scantily-clad goddess. But then, who says that’s such a bad thing?
you’ll find plenty of priceless treasures inside the mansion (Gillows furniture, a Kirckman harpsichord, and a Van Dyke painting or two), but it’s the gardens that we really love – and there are plenty of them. Lose yourself in the yew tree maze, or soak up the tranquillity of the Japanese garden – or how about picking up some gardening tips of your own in the glasshouses of the Walled Garden and the Orangery? If all this gardening talk is giving you green fingers, then the best time to visit is in July when this National Trust property holds the prestigious
RHS flower show
Chatsworth’s charms, on the other hand, are on a very different scale. This is one of the largest country estates in England, and amazingly is still home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire – as well as being part of the Historic Houses Association . Its grand façade has been seen in various films, including Pride and Prejudice, The Duchess and er, The Wolfman. By all means, get lost in the drama of the marble gallery and 300-year-old Cascade waterfall but, please, please, leave your corsets at home…
Psst... Handy hints
Historic houses host everything from firework displays to open-air concerts so be sure to ask about any special events when you're there.
Many historic houses have their own farmhouse shops, so how about taking home some tasty produce?
...with its ornate chandeliers and exotic wall paintings.Royal Pavilion
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