Harewood is a fantastic place, with over 300 acres of immaculately and beautifully kept gardens and grounds for visitors to stroll through with their dogs, or romp wildly through the winding paths with their children or just sit and admire the Capability Brown fashioned landscape. This is all before you explore the architectural and artistic wonders of the house. The Lascelles family (the Earls of Harewood) have been avid collectors of fine art for over 250 years and most of it is on display for the public.
To keep the children amused there is a fantastic adventure playground, apparently spread over three acres - the kids love it, along with the bird garden, containing of all things penguins and flamingos.
Harewood's enduring appeal is its beauty, the wide range of experiences for young and old, all backed up with a magnificent events calendar.
Locals should take advantage of its membership - the Harewood card - which allows free entry throughout the year making it amazingly good value, the literature claims families can save upto £700 per annum on days out with the card!
Harewood, Leeds LS17 9LG
tel: 0113 218 10 10
Harewood House is 7 miles from Leeds and Harrogate, catch the number 36 bus, which drops outside the gate. Harewood lets you in half price with a valid bus ticket or if you are on a bicycle.
At Holkham in Norfolk you get two film locations for the price of one: Gwyneth Paltrow walked along the exhilarating expanse of the beach here at the end of ‘Shakespeare in Love,’ while Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes were among the cast of ‘The Duchess,’ which used Holkham Hall for interiors.
Ancestral seat of the Earls of Leicester, the Coke family has lived in Holkham since the 1750’s. It is still very much a family home: when I was there the present day Viscount’s wife and children were packing a silver caravan for their summer holiday. Visitors are encouraged to “walk on the carpets and get close to the ancient statues and treasures.”
The Hall is open for visitors from June to September. There is a café, shop and museum. A special exhibition shows costumes worn in “The Duchess.” The deer park is free and open every day except Christmas Day – visitors can walk around the 3000 acre grounds and are certain to see some of the 800 fallow deer. By the time we tore ourselves away it was early evening, just time to walk down Lady Anne’s Drive to the nature reserve and watch kite flyers on the beach until sunset. To spend more time in this designated area of outstanding beauty, stay in a lodge hideaway set in a folly on Holkham estate.
Basildon Park is a gorgeous stately home in Berkshire, which is owned by the National Trust. It was used a filming location for the 2005 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley. Basildon Park was transformed into Netherfield House and one if its room was used in the film's ballroom scene. It was also recently used as a filming location for Dorian Gray, which is out at the moment.
Lower Basildon, Reading, Berkshire RG8 9NR
Telephone: 0118 984 3040
Nearest station: Pangbourne
Country house previously owned by artist John Ruskin. Near to Lake Coniston, so, if it's a nice day, combine with a walk along the lakeshore or even up nearby fell Coniston Old Man.
Beautiful country house hotel in Scalby Village near Scarborough in North Yorkshire. Attended a small wedding here and it was absolutely stunning. Great rooms, great food, nice wines and some of the most beautiful uninterrupted views of Yorkshire you may ever see!
Wrea Head Country House Hotel in Scarborough
Barmoor Lane, Scalby near Scarborough
This is a beautiful and B& in the heart of the Lake District. Luxury accommodation and a superb attention to detail make it a weary traveller's paradise. The owners have put their life and soul into the restoration project of this beautiful old house and they have made the wise decision of choosing quality all the way.
The views are stunning, the breakfast excellent and the service second to none. I highly recommend a break away from the hectic life we all lead. I only spent two nights and have come back to Ireland ready for anything. Book ahead as this place is not going to be a secret find for long.
Summerhill Country House
Ambleside LA22 0PP
Carregfelen is a wonderful 14th century manor house situated on a private country estate, only 1 1/2 miles from the beach. Absolute tranquility and peace - even private fishing if required!
Tel: 01768 898071
This excellent small hotel used to be Beatrix Potter's holiday home. It is just down the road from Hill Top and overlooks Esthwaite water. There are lovely lounges to relax in or many walks to do from the door. Richard, the owner, is the chef and he produces superb, innovative meals.
Near Sawrey, Ambleside
Cumbria LA22 0JZ
On the B5285 between Hawkshead and the Windermere Ferry.
A delightful timepiece of gracious living plonked in the wilds of Connemara, the pink-washed country house has mature gardens with trails overlooking Bearnaderg Bay and the small mountains, the Twelve Pins of Connemara.
We received a warm wlecome, late at night, with soup and sandwiches brought up to our toasty room by a lovely old lady we wanted to adopt as our grandmother. This set the tone for our weekend...warm, friendly, chatty and not at all stuffy.
Tel: +95 41101
On top of a hill at the edge of charming Borders town, Peebles, sits the snub-faced Venlaw Castle where one can play the lord or lady and enjoy good food, fine views and a bar well stocked with excellent whisky.
The two 'romantic' suites have been refurbished to a high standard and offer a cosy warmth. From here, the eager explorer can find many things to occupy the time or, failing the will-power to face quaint towns and block stone homes, can climb a little higher for quietly breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.
Edinburgh Road, Peebles. EH45 8QG. www.venlaw.co.uk . Tel: 01721 720384.
A beautiful country house where you are not a customer but a guest. The house itself is very comfortable in the Strawberry Gothic style. There's a walled garden where, as well as flower beds and a tennis court, most of the veg and fruit you eat come from.
Its run by a Meryl, a formidable hostess. It is not suitable for children and there are dogs, so allergists beware. There are golf courses, horse races, the Japanese gardens and the national stud. Plus they do really good dinners if you tell them in advance.
Near Kildare town
This is an amazing place to explore the Blue Mountains from. We went there as part of our honeymoon and had an awesome time. It's a 5 star place in the style of an English country house, great food, excellent spa, the works.
We booked the hotel through www.austravel.com and flights through www.dealchecker.co.uk.
Lilianfels Blue Mountains
Tel: +61 (02) 4780 1200
Hotels like the Do Pozzi, which in the 13th Century was a convent, have gradually been subject to the ravages of decay as the waters of the lagoon have seeped into their foundations. Windows are no longer rectangular as walls have sunk, and floors slope in such a way as to give occupants a pronounced limp.
This collection of 360 tapestries was begun by Zygmunt I and continued by his son, Zygmunt August. The tapestries were commissioned for specific places on the walls of the Royal Castle on Wawel and, thus, were tailor-made to fit the exact dimensions of the area where they were to be hung. The themes of the tapestries range from biblical stories, animal and landscapes to mythical creatures, coats of arms and allegorical scenes.
Catherine the Great appropriated the tapestries for herself, having them transported to Russia. They were returned in 1921 but removed to Canada at the start of the Second World War. The tapestries were finally returned to Krakow in 1961.
They really are amazing pieces of art. Huge, intricate and finely detailed. The amount of work that must have gone into creating them is stunning. Examples of the tapestries can be seen in the State Rooms and Royal Apartments of the castle
Wawel Castle, Wawel Hill
This is the smallest of the three ‘out of town’ royal palaces and, from the outside, the least ostentatious. It was built for Catherine’s son Paul and is situated in the middle of a large, wooded park that seems very popular with the locals nowadays. Inside it’s decorated as lavishly as any of the others and includes a Grecian Hall, an Italian Hall and a Hall of War.
From St Petersburg Vitebsk station to Pavlovsk station. Then a 30 minute walk through the park or buses 370 or 383. Guided tours also available.
Standing in the village whose name it takes, this Muslim khan’s palace is one of the highlights of the Crimea. It was built in the 16th-century and became home to a succession of Tatar Khans. A complex of buildings sits in a walled enclosure including a mosque, a harem and the living quarters. Pleasant gardens surround the buildings and today it seems an incredibly tranquil place – as long as you visit outside of peak tourist times. T
he interiors of the living quarters are beautiful and one fountain in a small courtyard hides a sad story which so moved the Russian writer Pushkin when he visited here that he wrote a whole poem to it – The Fountain of Bakhchisarai.
This was my first encounter with an Islamic domain and I have to say that I found it a very beguiling one.
The village is on the Sevastopol – Simferopol road, equidistant between the two. Guided trips are fine, but beware the tourist hordes;
Built by Tsar Peter I as an imperial summer residence. From 1929 the palace has served as the residence of the Estonian head of state.
Weizenbergi Street. From the city centre, you can take tram No 1; www.ekm.ee/english/kadriorg
The castle of Ioannina was built in its present state by the legendary Ali Pasha, the Albanian-born, Ottoman governor of Epirus in the early 19th century, on the foundations of the old Byzantine fortifications of Ioannina.
The northeast end of the castle includes the madrassa, or islamic religious school, which today houses a lovely Museum of Weaponry, and the Mosque of Aslan Pasha, which today houses the Museum of the City of Ioannina.
The southeast end is the Its Kale, or Inner Castle, and was the main compound of the Ali Pasha administration and living quarters.
The castle of Ioannina is the core from which the city expanded to its present size, and included all the major civic monument and sites of the city, including the synagogue of the once mighty local Jewish community.
A sumptuous palace, more fit for a fairytale queen than the wife of Friedrich I. Replete with intricately networked galleries and stairwells, and a majestic cupola. Head west on the U Bahn and get schlosst in the imperial splendour of its labyrinthine interior. The lavish ballrooms and bedchambers serve as a seamless conduit to the late 1700s when Freddy built this Beckhamesque summer-home for his bride Sophie-Charlotte.
The highlight is the west wing; packed to its gilded ceilings with generous rococo detail that would have Mr. Llewellyn Bowen prostrating himself on the parquet floors in awe of the designer’s decadent lack of restraint. The audio guide is a must and its sophistication is in keeping with the rest of the grandeur.
There’s a stunning backdrop to boot; marbled lawns and immaculate hedgerows, good enough to eat. These evocative gardens, delectably manicured in French Baroque, are wistfully nostalgic. More magical Prussian history than you can shake a pretzel at.
Charlottenburg, Altes Schloss
Spandauer Damm 20-24
Tel.: 32 091-440
[Line U2, Sophie-Charlotte-Platz]
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