Ten country houses and gardens

  • 1 April 2013

From gorgeous gardens to awesome architecture, we've hand-picked our favourite country houses for the perfect day out.

Our top ten have been lived in by poets, painters, princes, and each house takes on some of its owner's unique character. Best of all, they're all free or reduced price with your National Art Pass. Vote for your favourite country house and we'll enter you into our competition to win a Harrods hamper to take on your next visit.

1. Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire
Free entry with National Art Pass

From bedrooms to the butler’s pantry, most of this 18th-century Palladian mansion is open for you to explore, don't miss the extraordinarily detailed 18th-century doll’s house and Robert Adam library.

2. Compton Verney, Warwickshire
Reduced price entry with National Art Pass

Displaying a marvellous collection of works including 16th-century German painting, 17th-century Neapolitan art and British portraiture, featuring work by Sir Joshua Reynolds, one for lovers of the canvas indeed!

3. Ickworth House, Park and Gardens, Suffolk
Free entry with National Art Pass

With over 1,800 acres of parkland designed by Capability Brown, the house and its grounds were created as an homage to Italy – and you can tell. There's also a fantastic painting collection including works by Velázquez, Titian and Poussin.

4. Audley End House and Gardens, Essex
Free entry with National Art Pass

More than 30 lavishly decorated rooms are open to the public, with paintings by Holbein and Canaletto and an outstanding series of 16th to 19th-century British portraits.

5. Ham House and Garden, London
Free entry with National Art Pass

We're possibly cheating by including this impressive mansion on the banks of the River Thames in Richmond, but it's too striking to miss out. Delight in the magnificent collection of 17th-century furniture, explore the photogenic Cherry Garden, or simply enjoy freshly baked cake in the café.

6. Powis Castle and Garden, Powys
Free entry with National Art Pass

The impressive castle started life as medieval fortress and was transformed into the home of the rich and powerful Herbert family. Don't miss the treasures from India in the Clive Museum including the Tent of Tipu Sahib, Sultan of Mysore.

7. Osborne House, Isle of Wight
Free entry with National Art Pass

Thomas Cubitt, who built the façade of Buckingham Palace, was charged with creating a holiday home for Queen Victoria. The interior is a mixture of the opulent and homely and gives a unique insight into the lives of the Royal family at that time.

8. Temple Newsam House, West Yorkshire
Free entry with National Art Pass

The 'Hampton Court Palace of the North', and home to the Ingram family for three centuries, Temple Newsam is one of England's greatest country houses. A fine museum and gallery in its own right, around 350 paintings are on show around the house, while the home farm has over 400 animals, with Europe's largest collection of rare breeds.

9. Lyme Park, Manchester
Free entry with National Art Pass

Surrounded by rolling hills and inspired by the soaring architecture of Italy, Lyme Park is a step back in time to the Golden Era of the Edwardian period. Treasures on show include the Sarum Missal, the only surviving copy of a Caxton book printed in 1487, bought with help from the Art Fund in 2008.

10. Brantwood, Cumbria
Free entry with National Art Pass

If the three things that matter in a property are location, location and location, then John Ruskin's home in the Lake District might be the most desirable house in Britain. Visitors to Brantwood can explore treasures from the life of the art critic sometimes referred to as 'the greatest Victorian'. 

Tags: Great days outMuseums and galleriesWhat to see