“Those stately homes of England, How beautiful they stand! Amidst their tall ancestral trees, O’er all the pleasant land”. Felicia Hemans
Harry Potter and Downton Abbey have planted England’s stately homes into the world’s consciousness.
There are a lot of them. Just about every county has its own roll call of country residences, by some estimates totalling over 20,000. Some of them still house old families, while others have been converted to museums, but most are open to visitors. Some are open all year round, others only at certain times.
These places aren’t dreary. Not only grand to look at, they’re also beautifully decorated. Many have immaculate gardens which burst into colour in the warmer months. The various organisations which maintain them offer guides and exhibitions, to help you uncover the houses’ histories.
The houses speak to England’s long aristocratic past. Unlike in other European countries, England’s lords and ladies never lost their titles or went under the guillotine. Their estates survive in all their beauty, crossing different architectural styles. For better or for worse, the country still feels their influence – including on the tourist trail!