Events that changed the course of history have taken place in them. The great and the not so great have lived in them. Painted and photographed, admired and abused, they have survived the centuries
But how do you decide which to see? It’s not easy – they are scattered the length and breadth of the British Isles, from Lands End to John o’Groates, and a lot will depend upon how much time you have and how much of a fan you are.
Stately Homes of England – Hampton Court
A mere 32-minute train ride from Waterloo Station, when Hampton Court was built in 1514 by Cardinal Wolsey, it was intended to be the finest and most extravagant palace in Europe. Unfortunately for the Cardinal he was not to live in his luxurious home for long. He fell out with Henry VIII over political matters and in a vain attempt to regain the king’s favour gave him Hampton Court. It didn’t help him much, as within a year he was imprisoned for high treason and Henry moved in with his new love, Anne Boleyn, though they were not yet married.
Stately Homes of England – Hatfield House
Situated in Hertfordshire, Hatfield House is another “must” if you don’t want to travel too far afield. A 23-minute train journey from Kings Cross will bring you to this superb example of a Jacobeanhouse In the grounds are the remains of the old Hatfield Palace where Elizabeth I learned of her accession to the throne.
Stately Homes of England – Leeds Castle
Sometimes called ‘the loveliest castle in the world’ Leeds Castle is not, as you might think, in the northern city of Leeds but only about an hour away from London, near Maidstone in Kent. Set romantically in the middle of a moat, it was once the palace of Henry VIII and in the 13th century was known as Lady’s Castle, following its occupation by a number of Queens of England.
If you really want to get away from it all you might think about visiting Many are se This border county has its roots steeped in history and there are probably more castles here than anywhere else in England. It is an area of great natural beauty, with a superb coastline of golden beaches and rocky cliffs.
The history of the castles and battles of Northumberland is closely related. Most of the battles were between the English and the Scots and the nearer the castles are to the Scottish border the greater the emphasis on fortification.
Stately Homes of England – Alnwick Castle
Just over a half hour drive from Newcastle, Alnwick Castle is a magnificent border fortress dating back to the 11th century It stands in a prominent position above the River Aln and is still the family home of the Duke of Northumberland. Its rather forbidding exterior hides the richness of an interior full of fine paintings, priceless furniture and historical heirlooms. It was used as a location for the Harry Potter Hogwarts location.
Stately Homes of England – Lindisfarne
Located on Holy Island, just south of Berwick-upon-Tweed, and probably the most romantic castle in the north, Lindisfarne is a small fifteenth-century building perched on a pinnacle of rock, overlooking the tiny harbour. Holy Island is a magical, mysterious place, especially if you can go off season when there are few people around. It was here Christianity was first brought to England by St. Aiden in the year 635.
Stately Homes of England – Bamburgh Castle
Just a few miles south of Lindisfarne, is the most impressive , which legend says was the Joyous Garde of Sir Lancelot du Lac, one of King Arthur’s fabled knights. The majestic castle has stood high on a crag overlooking the North Sea since the 11th century.
The list goes on, there are so many more to see: Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, birthplace of Winston Churchill; Sissinghurstin Kent with its famous White Garden; and Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, one of England’s finest medieval houses, plus many many more.