One glance around Stourhead will open your eyes to the nature, architecture, and history of an entire county. The gardens overflow with points of interest such as the Pantheon classical temple, the Turf Bridge, Stourhead’s magnificent lake and its fascinating grottoes. Flocks of visitors come every year to admire one of the finest 18th century landscaped gardens in the whole of England.
The real gem of Stourhead is the Palladian mansion that the gardens gravitate around. Make sure not to miss the sumptuous Regency Library or the house’s extensive art collection. Climb to the top of King Alfred’s tower for an unbeatable panorama over Wiltshire, Dorset, and Somerset – arguably the best view in the county. With a National Trust shop, restaurant, pub, ice cream parlour, and farm shop, all on-site, a visit to Stourhead really does have everything to offer.
Stourhead,Stourton, Wiltshire, England, +441747 841152
Bowood House is a true snapshot of history. Visitors need simply wander through the lavishly decorated rooms for a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the 18th century English upper classes. The house even offers a unique insight into Georgian life with genuine period costumes on show and rooms preserved as if in original working order.
The estate’s gardens are not to be missed either, having been designed by the famous “Capability” Brown, England’s most celebrated landscape architect. The abundant woodland makes for a perfectly tranquil place to sit and take in Bowood’s magnificent architecture. An adventure playground will keep children entertained all day long, or alternatively young visitors can take a trip to Tractor Ted’s Little Farm to cuddle and pet the friendly farm animals to their heart’s content.
Bowood House and Gardens, Derry Hill, Wiltshire, England, +44 1249 812102
Also an ideal family option, the Longleat estate not only boasts of a magnificent stately home and breathtaking gardens, but also one of the UK’s best safari parks. This family home of the Marquis of Bath provides a one of a kind opportunity to explore a 450-year old country house, and feed giraffes by hand – all in one day! Be blown away by the palatial interior, terrified by the house’s fascinating ghost stories, awestruck by the stunning garden (another exquisite example of the landscaping talents of “Capability” Brown), made speechless by the 40,000 books in the library’s collection (one of the biggest private collections in Europe), and nuzzled by exotic creatures. The excitement of Longleat has something for everything.
Longleat, Warminster, Wiltshire, England, +44 1985 844400
This 450-year old house has been chosen to feature in many films and period dramas including both Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility. Wander through its grand halls, doing your best Elizabeth Bennett impression, and who knows, you might even find your own Mr Darcy, tucked behind one of the priceless pieces of antique furniture. Wilton’s staterooms are legendary, containing the notorious Double Cube Room – the most sumptuous example of 17th century staterooms to have survived in England. The room is a true haven for art lovers as it houses one of the greatest collections of Van Dyke paintings in their originally intended setting.
The gardens provide equally stunning sights not to be missed. Visitors should ensure they find time to wander round the water garden, rose garden, and Palladian Bridge. Wilton’s idyllic location by the River Nadder simply completes the experience of a visit to this wonderful stately home.
Wilton House, Salisbury, Wiltshire, +44 1722 746714
River Barn, near Malmesbury, is a lesser known destination, ideal for tourists seeking a little peace during their visit. The jewel of the River Barn estate is its dazzling 3 1/2 acre garden. The luscious green parklands offer a unique experience to discover the fascinating wildlife of Wiltshire with their wildlife pond and wild flower meadow. Forget the hustle and bustle of everyday life and let yourself be lulled by the idyllic tranquility of River Barn’s gardens. Its proximity to Malmesbury also gives visitors the perfect opportunity to visit this quaint English market town.
Lydiard House and Park is another 18th century gem. The beauty of this home was notorious in its heyday, and even today the estate still retains all the glory of its Georgian past. Family portraits, original furnishings, and an ancient church, give a realistic impression of 18th century life. Extensive parklands offer unprecedented opportunities for relaxed strolls, glimpsing local wildlife, and awe-inspiring views.
Lydiard Park, Lydiard Tregoze, Swindon, Wiltshire, +44 1793 466664
Larmer Tree Gardens
Not strictly speaking a stately home, the Larmer Tree gardens earn themselves a place in this list thanks to their lavish displays of Victorian extravagance. The magnificent flowerbeds, sprawling lawns, and diverse range of plant life, are sure to wow even the most discerning of visitors. When first created, the pleasure gardens were dubbed a source of “public enlightenment and entertainment” and the same is still true today – a fact supported by English Heritage, who designated Larmer Tree a garden of national importance.
Larmer Tree Gardens, Tollard Royal, Wiltshire, England, +44 1725 516225
Combine a trip to the unmissable Wiltshire landmark of Salisbury Cathedral, with a visit to Mompesson House. The house is a fantastic example of the Queen Anne style and the courtyard garden has great charm too. Don’t miss: Mompesson’s splendid oak staircase, one of the finest of its kind. The excellent preservation of this house’s period character meant it also featured as a location in the film Sense and Sensibility. Sip tea and nibble on a slice of home-made cake in the house’s outdoor tearoom for the true genteel English experience.
Mompesson House, The Close, Salisbury, Wiltshire, +44 1722 420980
Arundells is another masterpiece of architecture situated in the vicinity of beautiful Salisbury. Book onto one of the guided tours of this Grade II listed house to discover the home of former British Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath. Get to know this icon of British history by exploring his intriguing private collections of sailing and musical memorabilia. The riverside location and 2 acres of garden are the perfect complement to your sure-to-be memorable visit to the Arundells estate.
Arundells, 59 Cathedral Close, Salisbury, Wiltshire, England, +44 1722 326546
Wiltshire truly can cater to all: for those whose tastes tend towards the more exotic, take a trip to Iford Manor and its gardens, known as “little Italy” for their fantastic European style and the chance to escape a little further from home.
Iford Manor, Iford, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, England, +44 1225 863146