Southern England is home to some stunning National Trust stately homes, castles and abbeys. Whether you are interested in history or just admiring the architecture, gardens and artwork visiting any of these National Trust’s houses and gardens provides a memorable experience as part of tour.
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Kingston Lacey, Wimborne Minster, Dorset – This palatial house is inspired by Italian design and is full of marvellous detail. The house has an internationally acclaimed art collection, with paintings by Rubens, Van Dyck, Titan and Velazquez. The Egyptian Room is home to the largest private collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts in the UK.
The south lawn is a perfect setting for family picnics and leads to the sunken Japanese Gardens and peaceful woodland walks. This impressive 3,500 hectare estate also includes an Iron Age fort, heathland, water meadows and the remains of a Roman road.
Montacute House, Montacute, Somerset – This spectacular estate in the heart of Somerset is built from the iconic golden Ham Stone. The house is in a commanding position in the picturesque village of the same name.
The famous Long Gallery is the longest in the UK and is home to an impressive collection of Tudor and Elizabethan portraits which are on loan from the National Portrait Gallery. With splendid gardens Montacute House is a fabulous day out for the family throughout the year, its charming location is ideal for peaceful walks in the surrounding countryside.
Tyntesfield, Bristol, Somerset – Tyntesfield is a quintessential family estate of Victorian Gothic revival with beautiful parks and gardens.
This once hidden manor house in the Somerset countryside is a monument to the remarkable story of the four generations of the Gibbs family who lived here. With the ornate Gothic carvings, flower filled terraces and expanses of woodland; Tyntesfield is a magical place to visit.
Petworth House and Park, West Sussex – Petworth is a beautiful 17thC mansion set in a landscaped deer park with glorious views of the South Downs National Park. The house and park inspired many artists, including England’s greatest landscape painter – JMW Turner.
In the opulent state rooms there is the National Trust’s finest collection of art and sculpture which includes paintings by Van Dyck, Reynolds, Blake and Turner. In the servants’ quarters you get a real insight into the life of those who worked ‘below stairs’ and see the contrast between the lives of those who lived upstairs.
The Capability Brown landscaped deer park is a wonderful place to walk and admire the views if the house.
Bateman’s, Burwash, East Sussex – The home of Rudyard Kipling is set in the wooded landscape of the Sussex countryside. This 17th C house was his personal paradise where he could write and enjoy family life.
The rooms in the house remain much as he left them. The beautiful secluded gardens are very tranquil and paths meander through lawns to wildflower meadows and the 17th C watermill on the river. With a lovely tea room it is a perfect place to enjoy a day out in Sussex.
Lacock Abbey, Chippenham, Wiltshire – Lacock Abbey which is nestled alongside the River Avon in Wiltshire has 800 years of history. Founded as an abbey in the early 13thC it later became a family home.
Once the home of William Henry Fox, it was here in 1835 that he created the first photographic negative and established Lacock as the birthplace of photography. In the Abbey is the Fox Talbot Museum which is devoted to William Talbot’s work and appeals to all age groups.
The Abbey is often used as a film set and most famously in the Harry Potter films and in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Chartwell, Westerham, Kent – Chartwell was the family home of Sir Winston Churchill, it was here that he lived with his family and the house is very much as it was then.
It was here that he was inspired to paint, and in the studio there is a large collection of Churchill’s paintings. The garden reflects his love of nature and includes the lakes that he created. The woodland estate offers plenty for a family day out, walks, trails and den building. For great views of the house and the Kent countryside there is a beautiful 8km circular walk which links Chartwell and Emmetts Garden.
The Vyne, Sherborne St John, Hampshire – This Tudor palace in the Hampshire countryside has had many famous visitors from Henry VIII, to Jane Austen and JRR Tolkein. At the moment there is a major roof renovation project and visitors are able to climb the 74 steps or take the lift to the top to view the conservation work and get great views of the estate.
The grounds that surround The Vyne are wonderful to explore with wildlife rich gardens, meadows and woods. The sweeping lawns which lead to the lake are great for a family picnic.
Polesden Lacey, Dorking, Surrey – Polesden Lacey was built as lavish Edwardian country retreat, where the famous Edwardian socialite, Mrs Greville entertained royalty and celebrities of the time.
There is an extensive collection of art and ceramics with a world famous collection of Dutch Old Master paintings, and an opulent collection of Faberge objects. The gardens blend Edwardian splendour with the majestic beauty of the ancient woodlands. The rose gardens are at their best in June, but the gardens offer something for every season with a beautiful herbaceous border and a winter garden full of yellow aconites.
Corfe Castle – The romantic ruins of Corfe Castle are perched on a hill with breathtaking views over the countryside. One of Britain’s most iconic and evocative survivors of the English Civil War the castle was partially demolished in 1646. There are over 1,000 years of history as royal palace and fortress to be discovered.
There are plenty of walks around Corfe Castle and the village of Corfe. Walk along the Purbeck Ridgeway from Corfe castle to the coast, this 15km walk takes in views over Poole Harbour and Old Harry Rocks. When you reach Swanage you can return to Corfe on the Swanage Railway.
For a gentler circular walk of 2.4km walk around Corfe Common which is south of the village of Corfe.