9 Stunning Country Houses You Need to Visit

This summer, our favourite heritage sites are reopening with special measures in place so we can enjoy the historic environment safely.

Explore your local area and discover hidden gems near you!

Please check and follow the latest government’s social distancing guidelines before booking a visit to any historic house or garden.

Here are nine of our favourite country houses and gardens from around the country.

1. Layer Marney Tower, Colchester, Essex

Layer Marney Tower
Layer Marney Tower © Historic England Archive | PLB_K050179

The tallest Tudor gatehouse in the country, Layer Marney Tower was built in the 1520s by Lord Marney, friend to both Henry VII and Henry VIII. Layer Marney has been a family home for over 500 years and features an excellent tea room.

Layer Marney is open and is taking part in the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ offer.

Live in the East of England? Make sure you also take a look around these amazing sites: Helmingham Hall (Suffolk) and Holkham Hall (Norfolk)

2. Burton Constable Hall, Hull, East Yorkshire

Burton constable hall
Burton Constable Hall © Paul Harrop

Home to the Constable family for over 700 years, the hall has a long and complicated building history. The manor is mostly Elizabethan, although parts of the 15th century manor remain. Stephen’s tower is the oldest part of the house, built in the 12th century.

Don’t miss the park designed by Capability Brown, the cabinet of curiosities or the whale skeleton that features in Moby Dick.

The hall, grounds, stables, and kitchen are open, but please check their website for the latest times and to book your ticket.

Live in Yorkshire? Don’t miss Ripley Castle (Ripley) and Kiplin Hall (Richmond)

3. Dorney Court, Windsor, Buckinghamshire

Dorney Court
Dorney Court, photograph courtesy of Wiki Commons

Dorney Court is one of England’s finest Tudor Manors and has been the setting of many TV and film locations, such as Miss Marple and Inspector Morse to name a few.

The house remains the family home of the Palmers who have lived at Dorney for nearly 500 years. The gardeners at Dorney Court are celebrated as the first to grow pineapples in England, a feat accomplished in 1722.

Open to visitors from 1 August with social distancing measures in place, find out more on their website.

Live in the South East? You should also check out these hidden gems: Great Dixter (Northiam) and Houghton Lodge Gardens (Houghton)

4. Athelhampton House, Athelhampton, Dorset

Athelhampton House
Athelhampton House, courtesy of Wiki Commons

The Great Hall is a wonderful example of Tudor architecture, dating back to 1485. The beautiful award-winning gardens were designed by Inigo Thomas, including ponds, fountains and 12 world-famous topiary yew pyramids.

The gardens are open but pre-booked timed tickets are needed for the house.

Live in the South West? Check out these beautiful spots: Dyrham Park (Dyrham) and A la Ronde (Devon)

5. Eltham Palace, Greenwich, London

Eltham Palace
Eltham Palace, London © Historic England Archive | DP040506

Eltham Palace was founded as a medieval royal palace by Edward IV in the 1470s and was converted into a private house for eccentric millionaires, the Courtaulds, in the 1930s.

Take in the mix of styles, art deco and historical features all in the same building and spot London’s oldest working bridge hidden in the rose garden.

Although the house is not yet open, the gardens (all 19 acres) are. Make sure you book your timed ticket in advance.

Live in London? Don’t miss Forty Hall (Enfield) or Osterley Park (Hounslow)

6. Cragside, Rothbury, Northumberland

Cragside
Cragside, photograph taken by G Laird from geograph

The home of Lord Armstrong, Cragside is well-known for being the first house to be lit by hydro-electricity.

The original building consisted of a small shooting lodge which Armstrong built between 1862 and 1864. In 1869, he employed the architect Richard Norman Shaw to transform the house into a northern Neuschwanstein.

The gardens, woodland, Carriage Drive, tea-room and Crozier Kiosk reopened in July, you’ll need to book your visit in advance.

Live in the North East? Check out Seaton Delaval Hall (Seaton Delaval) and Chillingham Castle (Alnwick)

7. Witley Court, Great Whitley, Worcestershire

Witley Court
Witley Court © Historic England Archive | PLB_N060803

Witley Court is a ruined Italianate mansion with a rich and opulent history.

It was built in 1610-20 on the site of a former Norman manor and renovated by the architect John Nash in 1793 – 1833. Witley’s heyday was in the 1890s where the 2nd Earl of Dudley was known for regular lavish parties. The building is now a ruin due to a fire in 1937.

The dramatic ruins and gardens are open, but you will have to book your timed tickets in advance.

Live in the West Midlands? Make sure to take a look at Croft Castle (Leominster) and Himley Hall (Dudley)

8. Levens Hall, Levens, Cumbria

Levens Hall
Levens Hall © Historic England Archive | DP066624

Most of this beautiful house dates from the Elizabethan era and is the spookiest house on the list, reportedly haunted by a Grey Lady.

Don’t miss the beautiful gardens and deer park designed by Guillaume Beaumont. The topiary gardens are the oldest in the world!

Make sure you check opening times and book tickets before going.

Live in the North West? Check out these stunning house and gardens: Tatton Park (Cheshire) and Hutton-in-the-Forest (Cumbria)

9. Rockingham Castle, Corby, Northamptonshire

Rockingham castle
Photograph courtesy of Wikicommons

This former royal castle and hunting lodge was built on instruction from William the Conqueror, shortly after the Norman invasion of Britain, and has been occupied for nearly 1000 years.

The medieval fortress was transformed into a Tudor house when Henry VIII granted the castle to Edward Watson, whose descendants still live there today.

The Gardens are currently open and they are holding castle tours, check their website for the latest information.

Live in the East Midlands? You should also visit these lovely spots: Coton Manor Garden (Northampton) and Calke Abbey (Ticknall)

This summer, a number of historic sites are reopening with special measures – including museums, galleries, libraries, places of worship and community centres. Visit Heritage Is Open or follow #HeritageIsOpen on Twitter to find out more.

Please follow the latest government’s guidelines on social distancing and make sure you check the venues’ websites to book and find out their latest updates.

What have we missed? Let us know your favourite country houses and gardens in the comments below.

Further reading:

3 responses to 9 Stunning Country Houses You Need to Visit

  1. John Hartley says:

    Love the idea of the present owner of Rockingham Castle sharing it with his ancestors ….. surely the most haunted house in England – or perhaps the word should have been descendant?

  2. Tina Metcalfe says:

    Love this list – sad I only got it at the end of the month. Please keep sending me updates

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