Britain’s best buildings are as remarkable inside as they are out, as Lauren Fraser discovers
With stately homes that date back centuries, Britain offers a wealth of outstanding historic properties to visit. Within this prestigious set, there’s room to discover every building and architectural style, from ancient castles to mansions. Here, The English Home travels the length and breadth of Britain to explore five stately homes that boast interiors as extraordinary as their facades.
Presiding over a rural view of woodland and fields, it’s hard to imagine that Grade I-listed Kings Weston House is so centrally located, and yet it is. The statuesque stone façade conceals a trove of interest within. From elaborate cornicing and cavernous halls to marble detailing, the interiors pay homage to the 18th-century craftsmanship that created them.
The house has now diversified to also include a wedding venue and bistro, but step into the pale blue Great Hall and you are once again among the ranks of the family and its history. Portraits and paintings catalogue generations past to dramatic effect. A sitting area drawn up around the wide stone fireplace and grand piano also offer well-timed reminders of the family life that continues within these walls.
It is a select collection of stately homes that retain their family connection. Bodhyrddan Hall counts itself among them, having been home to the family of Lord Langford for over 500 years. As such, the predominantly 17th-century house contains abundant interior interest, accumulated over centuries.
Walk through the atmospheric wood-panelled and wallpapered rooms and discover a covetable collection of coats of arms and armour. Such historic pieces embellish walls and create unusual vignettes on antique tabletops. There is even a 3,000-year-old Egyptian sarcophagus to be found!
The Baroque stone façades of Castle Howard are every bit as grand and imposing as you’d hope of a building bearing the castle name. The real spectacle, however, lies inside the property’s crowning Great Dome.
Inside, the lofty space showcases a series of statues set at the base of towering arches. These, in turn, reach up to ornate Corinthian-style columns and frescoed ceilings. There are also many exhibits over which to marvel inside the Howard family’s historic home. Interiors enthusiasts will particularly appreciate a display of William Morris designs, which were formerly featured in the castle.
Combine your visit with a wider tour of Yorkshire, taking in the impressive York Minster. In addition, literary-minded visitors will also enjoy exploring the Bronte family’s home in Haworth. Original dresses, soft furnishings and furniture from the family remains on display.
With a pleasing symmetry to draw you inside, this 17th-century Scottish stately home continues to be home to the Hope family. Hopetoun House opens its doors to visitors for a small fee during the spring and summer months. Visit and you can explore Hopetoun’s exquisite interiors, filled with period features, from furniture to fireplaces.
The house is particularly celebrated for its Georgian style – something that is exquisitely visible seemingly from floor to ceiling in some rooms. Gilded portrait frames, intricate cornicing and fanciful plaster designs on the ceiling are each mesmerising. They sit elegantly within a scheme of period soft furnishings and wallpapers, often in equally opulent patterns and tones.
Blair Castle, set in Perthshire in the Scottish Highlands, boasts an energetic heritage, having set the scene for 19 generations of the Stewarts and Murrays of Atholl’s pursuits. Visitors to the castle may explore 30 different rooms, but special attention should be paid to the Ballroom. Here, rich panelled walls are complemented by a staggering quantity of antlers, which frame the ornately beamed ceiling. Blair Castle’s armoury will particularly appeal to historians. This is because it houses a collection of weapons from the Battle of Culloden, which determined the decline of the Jacobite rebellion. Furthermore elsewhere many characters from the castle’s history are brought to life within the rooms through exhibits and information. As a result, there is a diverse appeal for visitors.
Find out more about the plasterwork that adorns so many of these stately homes in The English Home’s essential guide