Six miles east of St. Albans, this outstanding brick mansion surrounded by lovely formal gardens stands as a testament to the magnificence of Jacobean architecture. Robert Cecil, earl of Salisbury, built Hatfield in 1611, and his descendants still live here. The interior, with its dark-wood paneling, lush tapestries, and Tudor and Jacobean portraits, reveals much about the era. The King James Drawing Room is an exercise in ostentatious grandeur, with its gilded ceiling and portrait-covered walls. By contrast, the Chinese Bedroom is a rather charming example of the later, 19th-century infatuation with Far Eastern design. The Marble Hall, with its intricate carved wooden panels, is one of the most impressive rooms in the house, although perhaps the building's finest single feature is the ornate Grand Staircase, with carved wooden figures on the banisters. The knot garden, near the Tudor Old Palace, where the first Queen Elizabeth spent much of her youth, is a highlight of the West Garden.
Wednesday is the only day on which the East Garden, with topiaries, parterres, and rare plants, is open to the public. The Park has lovely woodland paths and masses of bluebells. There are various markets, theater performances, and shows throughout the season, including open air film screenings, and occasionally, Elizabethan banquets. Check the website for the schedule.
Great North Rd., Hatfield, AL9 5NQ, England