When we started our lives in the UK, we used to live in London. This city is overwhelming, and it was straightforward for us to spend all of our time exploring it. To be honest, it was only when we moved out of London that we suddenly discovered the rest of the country, and the world of castles and stately homes, but that was our mistake…
Visiting a castle or a stately home is a great day out even for Londoners, and there are a couple of fantastic places you can explore in a day trip. Here are some of them:
Syon House: This hidden gem is located in Syon Park on the north bank of the Thames facing Kew Gardens. This house used to be a monastery until Henry VIII’s reformation when it became the house of some of the most influential people in the country. Henry’s fifth wife was held in it before her execution… and Lady Jane Grey heard here that she would become the next queen of England (for 9 days). Later, this house became the London residence of the Percy family. This house is an excellent example of a stately home. It is not the best place to explore with kids, but if you love history, art or architecture… do yourself a favour and go and visit it.
Hever Castle: Located a few miles south of the M25 near Royal Tunbridge Wells, this fairy-tale castle is famously known as the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the second (and probably most famous) wife of Henry VIII and the first English queen who got executed. The castle was bought at the beginning of the 20th century by William Astor, who was one of the wealthiest men in America. He spent a fortune bringing the castle back to life and restoring it into its Tudor days style. Hever grounds includes many attractions for all the family including an amazing climbing frame a maze and a museum.
Leeds Castle: Located near Maidstone, Leeds Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in the country. Visiting is not cheap, but it’s worth it. This castle has a very unique history because it used to be owned mainly by the queens of England: a tradition that started in the 14th century with Eleanor of Castile, the wife of King Edward I. 5 different queens owned the castle, and a sixth queen was imprisoned in it. Leeds Castle is an excellent place for the entire family, and it also includes two climbing frames, a maze (a difficult one) and an aviary.
Waddesdon Manor: If you are looking to explore a renaissance French Chateau in the middle of Buckinghamshire, Waddesdon Manor is the place you should investigate. This great house was built in the 19th century as the country house of the Rothschild family. This place doesn’t have a lot of history, but it does have a lot of space! Walking from the parking place to the entrance of the house could take you 20 minutes (or you could use the courtesy shuttle). Waddesdon Manor is packed with the original furniture and artworks that the Rothschilds commissioned which makes it one of the most amazing houses you will see in the country. Waddesdon is a great place to explore with all the family. It has large climbing frames, a gallery, an aviary and kids will love its ice cream shop.
Basildon Park: Located near Reading, Basildon Park is a house with amazing stories to tell (and you can read about most of them in our blog). The Baroness who had an affair with the future Prime Minister, the wealthiest man in the country with his unusual ideas on how to make a lot of money, and even the cook who became a TV celebrity. If the house seems familiar, it’s because it appeared in the movie, “Pride and Prejudice” or in its modern version, “Pride Prejudice and Zombies”. I kid you not, there was a movie with this title, and it was filmed in Basildon…
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