Visit to UK Historic Estate/ Homes?

May 9th, 2012, 09:29 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2004
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Visit to UK Historic Estate/ Homes?

My very active 80 year old Mother and I will be visiting London in July for the Olympics. We will have a car and two free days (not consecutive) for travel out of the city. On our Saturday we would like to visit one of the historic country homes/ castles/ estates. We are from NY and have visited several American North Eastern estates, (Vanderbilts’, Roosevelts’, etc..) and find architecture, interior design, fine art, and gardens very enjoyable. After much research I have narrowed our choices to Burghley House, Waddesdon Manor, or Blenheim. I was hoping someone would have first hand experience at these estates to suggest the best choice.
We are not traveling with small children so we would rather not visit a house/ estate that is geared more for the enjoyment of children/ families. A lovely afternoon to enjoy the country, view some art, and have a nice meal is what we would like.
gaill3 is offline  
May 9th, 2012, 11:38 PM
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If those are your 3 choices, I'd probably rate them 1) Waddesdon, 2) Blenheim, 3) Burghley House.

Not because that is necessarily my preference but because you are doing it by car from London. All are wonderful bldgs (you won't think so once flanner sees this and tells you his opinion of Blenheim )

From where you are staying, Burghley House would take probably 2.5 hours just for the drive up. double that for the return journey and that is a LOT of car time for anyone, let alone an 80 yo.

Waddesdon will take maybe a 90 minute drive. Blenheim is farther than Waddesdon but would take about the same time to drive it. Waddesdon has a very nice restaurant on site. Blenheim has one too, but there are better places to eat in the village.
janisj is offline  
May 10th, 2012, 01:42 AM
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The crucial difference between English stately homes and the piles erected by the Rockefellers, Astors etc in the Eastern US is that virtually all the English ones are centuries old, and their charm lies to a very large extent in the constant flow of messing about by the stream of owners they've been subject to over the ages.

Burghley is just such a place, and the power obsessions of the Cecils that have owned it for 450 years have been a constant in English life and make it seriously historic. By English standards, both Waddesdon and Blenheim are highly unusual: both relatively new and built all as a piece.

Waddesdon could almost be a Newport zillionaire's "cottage", but with less fine art. Even more unEnglishly, the Rothschilds, whose ancestor commissioned it, continue to fund it lavishly, so it's in terrific condition. Blenheim is "historic" only in the deluded minds of the Churchills whose lifestyle is funded almost exclusively by the profits from theme park they've created there (apart from Winston Churchill, no descendant of the first Duke has ever done an honest day's work).

If you're not interested in history, either Waddesdon or Blenheim will do, and janisj's absolutely right about the time it takes to get to Burghley (Hatfield House is a lot handier). Neither is in particularly interesting countryside.

I'm no fan of the gardens at either (though Blenheim's many admirers always point out that it was landscaped by Capability Brown, so was most of England - and practically every municipal park in the English speaking world looks as if he designed it too). But there's more other odds and ends at Blenheim than at Waddesdon.

There are three serious gardens within easy reach by car of Blenheim: Rousham, Kiftsgate and Hidcote: a visit to one of them complements Blenheim perfectly and easily fits into a day (FWIW, I'd choose Kiftsgate, but only because it's what my garden would look like if I had a hundred times more space, talent, cash and propensity for hard labour).

The gently undulating Cotswolds start almost the instant you pass the Blenheim estate boundary: the drive from Blenheim to either Rousham or Kiftsgate/Hidcote (they're only a few hundred yards apart) is far, far nicer than the OK but utterly unbreathtaking drive from London to Woodstock (the town next to which Blenheim is situated)

Which (janisj please note) was awarded the status of town before anyone in the civilised world even knew America existed. Keep on calling it a village and you'll doubtless be happy if we call your country "that empty mass of ocean"
flanneruk is offline  
May 10th, 2012, 09:32 AM
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OK --flanner -- I do KNOW Woodstock is a town.

I was just trying to convey the size of the place. When some Americans hear/read 'town' they imagine a big/big-ish place. I was talking atmosphere . . . not official status.

And I 100% agree that Blenheim + plus Hidcote/Kifsgate or Rousham gardens would be a wonderful day. But it would be a lot of driving - certainly doable, but easier if you could spare an over night.
janisj is offline  
May 10th, 2012, 02:16 PM
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Kent is considerably closer to London than any of the 3 houses you mention and those I list below are all beautiful places, much easier going for a day trip. England is so full of houses to visit you need not go so far. Blenheim was a particular disappointment for me, an awful place in my opinion. But I can recommend any of those below.
MmePerdu is offline  
May 10th, 2012, 02:37 PM
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to Mme Perdu's list, I'd add the following:

Hever - not least because it's owned by the Astors, and supposedly has connections with Anne Boleyn.

Nearby Chiddingstone Castle - and the village is lovely with lots of Oast houses

also Chartwell, Churchill's home - not very old, but very interesting perhaps to americans of a certain age, a lovely garden, and american connections, [national trust]

Penshurst - definitely historic.

Westerham [Squerrys Court and General Wolfe] is also worth a stop.

once you get past Croyden, the countryside becomes increasingly beautiful, and the Weald of Kent is beautiful.

more than enough for 2 days or so.
annhig is offline  
May 10th, 2012, 07:56 PM
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That's why I prefaced my post w/ >>If those are your 3 choices, . . .<<

I agree there are many other terrific options, and some even accessible by train. But I assumed since gaill3 posted "After much research" there are reasons they chose Burghley, Blenheimn and Waddesdon
janisj is offline  
May 10th, 2012, 09:09 PM
Original Poster
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Thank you all for your insight and I look forward to extending my research.

Re: the distance in driving, yes I know the time it will take for the drive and really anything under 3 hours is good for a day trip. I’m from NYC, my 4 mile commute is an hour each way and a day trip to the beach 15 miles away takes over two hours and three trains so travel is NOT a problem for us.

Thanks again!
gaill3 is offline  
May 10th, 2012, 09:27 PM
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Driving the the UK is nothing like driving in the States. Just be forewarned . . .
janisj is offline  
May 11th, 2012, 01:10 AM
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The advantage of Burghley House is that it is on the edge of Stamford, a charming stone town with many easy to walk streets of medieval and Georgian houses, churches and almshouses. Think Cotswolds with any tweeness. The George is an ancient coaching inn with good food, and Jim's Yard in Ironmonger Street in the centre of the pedestrian area is a lovely place for lunch.
tarquin is offline  
May 11th, 2012, 01:12 AM
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North of London to Stamford is a straight run up the A1, takes less than 2 hours.
tarquin is offline  
May 11th, 2012, 01:46 AM
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Have you considered Windsor Castle? Beautiful place and lovely village as well, very close to London... about an hour on the train.
LakesideChick is offline  

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