Grand Homes and Gardens

 

Mile-long driveways, sweeping parkland grazed by herds of deer and grand architecture reflected in sparkling lakes - this is a scene that has inspired countless TV costume dramas. It is where our favourite romantic novels are set and where artists paint majestic pictures. It is a scene that is not uncommon in the UK, with many grand houses and gardens adorning our countryside, but if you would like to combine your walking holiday with a visit to a grand house, here is a selection of our favourites.

Chatsworth House - White Peak Way


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Chatsworth House is one of the most popular and best-loved stately homes in the UK. Set in 1000 acres of sprawling Peak District countryside, it is easy to see why. Its warm coloured stone seems to glow amid rolling fields while the River Derwent sweeps by, bringing with it our White Peak Way walks.

Inside the house, there are over 30 magnificent rooms to explore, all of them so opulent that it is nearly impossible to take everything in. The house is also home to one of the most significant art collections in Europe, a feature that extends into the gardens. Here, over 100 acres of carefully tended flowers, rare trees, waterfalls, mazes and ponds are intercepted by sculptures and art installations. If you manage to see everything with time to spare, there is also a farm shop, restaurant and extensive parkland to explore before continuing along your walk through the surrounding countryside.

Chatsworth House Trust is a registered charity and all funds from visitor admission go directly to the long term protection of the house and gardens. The house is open every day from March to December and there are frequent events and exhibitions held throughout the year. Please check opening times for more information.

 

Osborne House - Isle of Wight Coast Path


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When Queen Victoria first visited Osborne House on the Isle of Wight Coast Path, she was compelled to state 'it is impossible to imagine a prettier spot.' She went on to live at Osborne House, using it as a retreat from the stresses of court life. Today, the house provides a wonderful insight into the personal lives of royalty. You can explore the private rooms, royal apartments and even stroll along the beach where the queen would spend hours, watching her children learn to swim and bathing in the sea with her 'bathing machine.'

Osborne House is also famed for its formal gardens, where there is a collection of rare and unusual plants. The gardens of Swiss Cottage were used by Prince Albert to teach his children to grow vegetables. Exploring this charming location, maybe even glimpsing the flash of red from a resident red squirrel, is a memorable addition to your walk along the Isle of Wight Coast Path.

Osborne House is open from April to November, with reduced opening hours during the winter. Please check directly with Osborne House for the most up to date information.

 

Muckross House - Kerry Way


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Muckross House is a nineteenth century Victorian mansion built for the Herbert family of Muckross. It lies at the heart of the Killarney National Park and is ideally situated for spending extra time at the end of your walk along the Kerry Way.

For an insight into traditional Irish farming techniques, Muckross House also has three separate working farms that you can explore while there are also craft workshops featuring traditional spinning and weaving techniques. When you get a little peckish, the Garden Restaurant provides meals in wonderful garden surroundings.

Muckross House is open all year, 7 days a week, but please check opening times before planning your visit.

 

Blenheim Palace - Shakespeare's Way


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Blenheim Palace is recognised as one of the grandest buildings in the UK. It was built as a gift for the First Duke of Marlborough, who led a successful victory over the French at the Battle of Blenheim. Subsequent dukes have introduced formal gardens and parkland designed by Capability Brown, but by far the most famous resident of the palace was Sir Winston Churchill, grandson of the 7th duke. There are guided tours, exhibitions and countless things to discover about this fascinating building, as well as tranquil lakes, rose gardens and a range of shops, cafes and restaurants. The palace opens daily (except for Christmas day), but please check the opening hours before planning your visit.

As if one palace was not enough to explore on a single walking holiday, Kew Palace is yet another house with strong royal ties. By royal standards, Kew Palace was considered small, but it still befit the growing family of George III, Queen Charlotte and their 15 children. When King George III went 'mad' in the 18th century, he was incarcerated at Kew and a stigma hung over the place until 2006, when a highly acclaimed restoration saw the palace reopened to the public. The first dinner was held in 200 years to celebrate Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's 80th birthday.

With some bedrooms having been left untouched for 200 years, Kew Palace provides a fascinating insight into the life of Georgian royals. Admission to Kew Gardens must be purchased to visit Kew Palace. The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew are open every day (excluding Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), but the Palace is closed from October to March. Please check opening times carefully before planning your visit.