The UK has an enormous wealth of outstanding country houses, estates and castles, due mainly to our rich heritage and interesting history. For many people organisations such as The National Trust offer the opportunity to explore some of these fascinating places, and if this sounds like you, then here’s a suggestion – why not stay at one?
In fact, why not stay at one large country house or even a castle, and use that as a base for visiting a wealth of other properties nearby? Let me give you just one example to whet your appetite.
One of the magnificent properties on our list is Oxon Heath, which is based near Tonbridge. The benefits of this property mount up very quickly, from the fact that it can sleep up to 50 people in a sumptuously decorated 28 bedrooms (not forgetting the 20 bathrooms!) to the fact that it’s just a quick 20 minute hop from the M25, or even the sprawling 73 acres of ground which you can explore, Oxon Heath really is a grand country house.
But its location is perhaps what interests us as far as visiting other nearby properties is concerned, because being near Tonbridge means that there is exceptionally easy access to more than 8 different National Trust properties. Imagine walking around a large manor house or stately home and being able to draw comparisons with the home you’re currently living in! No longer will you have to admire the grand dining room before heading home to your own all too familiar and rather more modest surroundings. Instead you can live the grand life of luxury from dawn to dusk.
Of the nearby National Trust properties, we’d recommend considering Chartwell, Emmetts Garden, Ightham Mote, Knole, Old Soar Manor, Quebec House, Scotney Castle and Sprivers Garden.
Chartwell was bought by none other than Winston Churchill himself, and remains a fascinating insight into his life, both personal and professional. In Churchill’s private studio you can see many of his quite beautiful paintings, and there are talks and tours available most of the year.
Emmetts Garden is a stunning Edwardian estate which is a gardener’s paradise. Laid out in the 19th century the gardens include many rare and exotic examples of flora, and offers a beautiful and tranquil environment all year round, with Autumn colours being really quite astonishing.
Ightham Mote is truly romantic, and has been quoted by David Starkey as being ‘one of the most beautiful and interesting country houses.’ Almost 700 years old, Ightham Mote has a rich history which takes you from picturesque courtyards to crypts, from Tudor painted ceilings to the Great Hall. Outside there is a beautiful orchard, water features, a lake and plenty of woodland walks.
Knole is, as you may well know, the setting for Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando, and with 500 years of history to offer it’s a fascinating day out. The house is filled with classic Stuart furniture, including the original prototype of the Knole settee. The house itself is set in the middle of a Medieval deer park, and just recently a new Orangery was opened.
Old Soar Manor is a very rare example of a 13th century knight’s home, including a solar chamber, undercroft and chapel. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the life behind the chivalry and apparent romance of the medieval age.
There are plenty more properties within a short distance of Oxon Heath, but these alone show just how much fascinating history there is right on the doorstep. The only problem though is whether you feel able to leave Oxon Heath for long enough to visit other romantic and fascinating country homes!