The visiting of great manor houses was a cherished pastime of the English gentry in the 18th and 19th century, well before the invention of TV, the advent of the Internet, and the development of couches that were actually comfy made it possible for ordinary people to gaze at the lives of the upper crust from the comfort of their own living rooms.
Because sometimes we long for simpler times when one could just knock at the door of a complete stranger’s house in the middle of the English countryside and an obliging housekeeper would show us around lavishly-decorated rooms, here is a top 5 list of gorgeous houses and palaces you would do well to visit.
1. Highclere Castle – At the moment, Highclere Castle is the new popular kid on the block. Everyone knows it, everyone wants to be its friend, everyone wants to come over for slumber parties. Easily recognizable as the famous Downton Abbey of the show of the same name, it would be all too easy to daydream about having tea with the Dowager Countess, go off riding with Lady Mary, or go down to the servers quarters while vising this beautiful Jacobethan style country house.
2. Chatsworth House – Another TV darling, Chatsworth House is famous for having “played” Pemberley in the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. The choice was not random, since Austen herself had used the stunning estate as the inspiration for Darcy’s home, and we must agree with the author that there is no other place “where nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste.”
3. Lyme Park – Chatsworth House may have been the most recent Pemberley, but it is by no means the only house to ever have been granted that privilege. In the 1995 BBC adaptation of the novel, Lyme Park played the part to perfection. The house is the largest in Cheshire, and is surrounded by charming formal gardens. Fans of the TV series also can’t miss a stroll along the pond – even if there’s little chance of finding Colin Firth swimming in it!
3. Château de Chenonceau – The English can surely build gorgeous stately homes, but incidentally so can the French. Pick up a car hire in France and discover this amazing château. Built over the river Cher, Chenonceau was home to at least two famous royal mistresses, Diane de Poitiers and Gabrielle d’Estrées, as well as one French Queen. An elegant palace, surrounded by lush gardens, it is nowadays the most visited chateau in the country after Versailles.
5. Château de Foix – The least known house of this list, Château de Foix is nonetheless a must-see! Pick up a car hire in Toulouse and you can easily drive to this medieval castle in Ariège. The castle houses a museum where you can learn much about the history of the region.
Are there any other houses you would like to visit, or have visit and would like to share with us? Drop us a line!