Fabulous country houses to see in the summer
Art historian Jacky Klein visits five country houses and grounds and shares the backstories of these grand venues, all perfect for exploring in the summer sun.
Broadcaster and art historian Jacky Klein travels the length and breadth of the UK to present a taster of five of her favourite country houses, all open to the public during the summer months, all either free or half-price with a National Art Pass.
From Queen Victoria's holiday getaway on the Isle of Wight to a Georgian mansion set within a 300-acre deer park, the Romantic home of Sir Walter Scott to the Elizabethan grandeur that inspired Jane Austen, this quintet of palatial residences give a unique insight into British aristocratic history. Once you have toured the interior of these spectacular stately homes, take in the beauty of their grounds and gardens.
Located on the banks of the River Tweed and renamed by its new owner, poet and novelist Sir Walter Scott, this grand structure started out as a small farmhouse with few intentions of grandeur, Scott being more concerned with extended the acreage and planting trees.
As time went on and his success grew, rooms were added and the need for a library addressed, and the small farmhouse was eventually demolished. After Scott's death in 1832, within months the historic parts of the house were opened to the public and have stayed open ever since.
Originally created by Elizabethan, Bess of Hardwick, Chatsworth is the ancestral seat of the Cavendish family, the Dukes of Devonshire, although now the property of the National Trust. The magnificent building houses artworks spanning 4000 years, from Ancient Roman sculpture to newly commissioned contemporary art.
As well as the perfectly manicured grounds, there is also a working farmyard, set up in 1973 to help educate young people about farming and the land, and is now home to some rare breeds of horse and cattle.
Jane Austen fans will be interested to know that Chatsworth is believed to be the inspiration for Pemberly in her novel 'Pride and Prejudice' and indeed doubled as Mr Darcy's house in the 2005 film adaptation.
Designed by Thomas Cubitt, the master builder who created the façade of Buckingham Palace, this royal holiday home was where Queen Victoria and her family spent their summers and sometimes entertained state visitors. Victoria died at Osborne House in 1901, and it was subsequently given to the nation by Edward VII.
English Heritage has recently restored it to how it appeared during the Queen's lifetime. Here you can wander through their private apartments, paddle on the private bathing beach and stroll around the beautiful terraced gardens with views across The Solent.
The garden of this stately home has been restored to its former glory after being neglected and even used for growing potatoes in the First World War when the 121 room Georgian Mansion was transformed into a military hospital. These days one can enjoy a walk round the beautiful grounds punctuated by landmarks such as the orangery and the Rose Garden.
Inside, Dunham Massey houses a large collections of furniture, paintings, textiles and ceramics, not to mention an extensive display of handcrafted Huguenot silverware.
Looking like it might be more at home in the Loire Valley than its native Buckinghamshire, this mansion was built in the 19th century by banker and art collector Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild. Created to resemble a French Renaissance chateaux and inspired by the style of Louis XIV this overwhelmingly opulent 'second home' was a place for Rothschild to entertain his circle of friends in luxurious surroundings.
During the summer months the building and grounds are open to the public, and you can explore the extensive art collection instigated by Baron Ferdinand and added to by further generations of the Rothschild dynasty.
The more you see, the more we do.
The National Art Pass lets you enjoy free entry to hundreds of museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, while raising money to support them.