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Recommended places to visit for a countryside experience

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We are looking at putting together a vacation to England but would like to spend the majority of the time getting the country estate life experience. Where should we stay? I'm sure we will visit London for a few days but after that we'd like to visit historical homes and see places we've read about in literature. What would you recommend as far as 1) what are the absolute must see places in and around London from a historical POV... and 2) which country area would you stay in, where, and why? We'd love a bed and breakfast with full service for meals but still a decent commute to some historical landmarks and lush gardens... Thoughts?

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