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Ever wondered what it would have like living in another era? The United Kingdom is steeped in history, and our rich heritage has left behind some incredible landmarks to remind us of the grandeur of our past.
Around the UK are an abundance of stately homes that are open to the public. Beautifully renovated and restored, these venues are perfect for a day out with the family, with your partner or with your friends, and many of them are easy to get to with South Western Railway. Here are our pick of the best stately homes in London and the south west.
The best stately homes to visit in London
London is a hotspot for some of the most incredible stately homes this country has to offer. These great houses often used to belong to members of British aristocracy, and each have their own varied history embedded in their walls.
From Somerset House to Spencer House, visit these incredible homes to get a glimpse into the lives of their elite former owners.
Somerset House has had many purposes over the years, from housing exiled Queens to being used by Parliament. These walls have seen it all.
Nowadays, a working arts centre has been built around these historic foundations and it’s home to an exciting creative community of fresh perspectives and new ideas. Despite the modern refresh, it’s still worth a visit for its fascinating history and beautiful architecture.
If you fancy a visit, just hop on a train to London Waterloo, and it is only a 15-minute walk away from the station.
With the prestigious address of No. 1 London, Apsley House is a key building in the city’s history. Originally built for Lord Apsley, it later became the residence of the first Duke of Wellington and later, his heirs.
If you are curious about this family’s varied history, the house now acts as a museum to its most famous resident and is most certainly worth a visit. You might even catch a glimpse of the current Duke of Wellington and his family, who still live in apartments in this grand residence.
Curious to see the house for yourself? Simply take a train to London Waterloo, followed by a 10-minute tube to Hyde Park Corner.
If you’re a fan of Princess Diana, this stately home should rank high on your list. Built under orders of her ancestor, the first Earl of Spencer, in the late 18th century, this iconic building remains in the Spencer family to this day.
Whilst the exterior is inspired by classic Greek architecture, the interior state rooms are the highlight of this grand abode. If you’re looking for a Sunday outing, eight of these rooms are open to the public for only £12 per person.
Simply hop on a train to London Waterloo, and this stately home is only a 10-minute tube journey away! Get off at Green Park, and you’ll be there in no time.
If you’re an art lover, this gorgeous residence is guaranteed to suit your tastes. As the former home of renowned artist Frederic Leighton, you’ll get the opportunity to marvel at Lord Leighton’s personal collection of Victorian sculptures, paintings and drawings in every room. Don’t miss the Arab Hall and its beautiful mosaic tile work!
The house now operates like a mini art museum, with contemporary exhibits lining the halls throughout the year too.
For a thoroughly enjoyable day out, jump on a train to London Waterloo. From here it’s a 15-minute journey on the tube to Kensington station.
The best stately homes to visit in the south west
We’ve all dreamed of living in a palace, and with an abundance of stately homes spread across the south west, you’ll find the perfect setting to play pretend.
Highclere Castle, Newbury
If you’re an avid watcher of Downton Abbey, you’ll recognise the iconic Highclere Castle as the home of the Crawley family.
It’s a must-see for fans of the show, but there’s also a rich history on the estate far beyond the allure of the silver screen. With records dating back to the year 749, there are plenty of stories to be unearthed on these grounds, with a variety of exciting tours and events taking place throughout the year.
To access this grand countryside abode, simply take a train to Andover, and take a 20-minute taxi to see the glorious castle for yourself.
Kingston Lacy, Dorset
This lavish residence in Dorset is overflowing with history. Inherited by William John Bankes in 1834, he reimagined it into the incredible Venetian palace that we see today. Bankes was one of the nineteenth century’s most extravagant collectors of art and antiquities, and this grand house is a treasure trove for history and art lovers alike.
Surrounded by 8,500 acres of unspoilt countryside, there are a great of variety of walks to enjoy around the estate, as well as numerous gardens to explore. With a variety of tours and activities taking place here throughout the year, a trip to Kingston Lacy is always a good idea.
Tucked away in the countryside, it’s a 20-minute taxi (or 40-minute bus journey) from Poole station, but it’s certainly worth the journey.
Lulworth Castle, Dorset
Another gem in the Dorset countryside, Lulworth Castle is a magnificent structure steeped in history. For centuries it acted as the family seat to the great Weld family, who remain the owners of the estate to this day.
Originally serving as a hunting lodge to entertain royalty, it was tragically destroyed by fire in 1929. However, thanks to a partnership with the English Heritage association, it has been partly restored to its former grandeur for the public to enjoy. With the tower offering views of the Purbeck countryside all the way towards the Jurassic Coast, you’ll wish you could move in yourself!
To get to this magnificent castle, hop on a train to Wool and it’s only a 10-minute taxi journey from there.
Bickleigh Castle, Devon
If you wish to truly travel back in time, this ancient water castle, which dates back to 600AD, is the one for you. It has an ever-changing structure – remodelled in the 15th century, damaged by fire in the 17th century, and restored to offer a historical day out for all.
Located on the banks of the River Exe, the vast history of the castle lays the groundwork for a fantastic day out. If you climb to the top of the tower you’ll be treated to some incredible views all the way out to the Jurassic Coast and beyond!
This castle is based in the Devon countryside but is accessible both from Pinhoe station, followed by a 20-minute taxi, or via Exeter St David’s, followed by a 40-minute bus or a 20-minute taxi.
Heale House, Salisbury
Perched beside the River Avon in Middle Woodford, Heale House and it’s accompanying eight acres of garden provide the perfect venue for history buffs and nature lovers alike!
Often known as the hiding place of King Charles II in 1651, this incredible house remains largely unchanged since then, transporting visitors back in time with its incredible interior. With its expansive and magical gardens, visit this sprawling paradise throughout the seasons to get a taste of its magic year-round.
To start your adventure, take a train to Salisbury, and Heale House is only a 20-minute journey away on the 201 bus.
So what are you waiting for? Get your historical adventure underway by exploring our flexible range of ticket types to find the best one for your journey. Make the most of cheap train tickets by going off-peak, and those with a Railcard could save even more.