Considered one of the grandest houses of the Elizabethan age, this architectural masterpiece is celebrated for its rooftops bristling with pepper-pot chimneys and slate-roof towers. It was built between 1565 and 1587, to the design of William Cecil when he was Elizabeth I's high treasurer, and his descendants still occupy the house. The interior was remodeled in the late 17th century with treasures from Europe. On view are 18 sumptuous rooms, with carvings by Grinling
Gibbons and ceiling paintings by Antonio Verrio (including the Heaven Room and the Hell Staircase—just as dramatic as they sound), as well as innumerable paintings and priceless porcelain. You can tour on your own or join a free 80-minute guided tour beginning daily at 3:30. Capability Brown landscaped the grounds in the 18th century; deer roam free and open-air concerts are staged in summer. Brown also added the Gothic Revival orangery, where today you can take tea or lunch. A more contemporary addition is the Garden of Surprise, filled with imaginative sculptures, water jets, and a mirrored maze. The house is closed for a week in late August or early September, when it hosts the international Burghley Horse Trials. Burghley is a mile southeast of Stamford.