There’s nothing new about visiting grand or historic houses, but that doesn’t mean our interest and enthusiasm has waned any. As well as being a fascinating glimpse into another era, they’re very often full of inspiration we can bring to our own interiors and gardens. Historic Houses has brought together a whole host of properties perfect for gathering ideas from, many of which are still well-kept secrets. From impressive castles to down-to-earth family homes, here’s our pick of which ones to head to this year – and how you can get in to take a look around.
Emery Walker’s House, London
Part of a row of tall townhouses built on the edge of the Thames between Hammersmith and Chiswick, 7 Hammersmith Terrace has some of the best-preserved Arts & Crafts interiors in the country. Once home to printer and entrepreneur Emery Walker, the house’s rooms are filled with original Morris & Co wallpapers and fabrics (Walker was a close friend of William Morris), furniture designed by Philip Webb and the family’s collection of objects from around the world.
How to visit: the house is open between 5th March and 28th November 2020 on Thursdays and Saturdays. You’ll need to book onto one of their tours online to take a look around, which are at 11am, 1pm and 3pm. emerywalker.org.uk
While you're there, visit a local Neptune store, whether it be Chiswick, Fulham or Wimbledon.
Markenfield Hall, Ripon, North Yorkshire
As grand as Markenfield looks as you approach across the moat and under the Tudor gatehouse, and as steeped in history as it is (built in 1230 and an important part of the Rising of the North) it’s very much a real home – don’t be surprised if you spot the family’s dogs padding around. It’s also wonderfully tranquil, found down a farm track and along a mile-long drive.
How to visit: there are thirty open afternoons in May and June this year, which you don’t need to book ahead to visit on, or you can join in with one of their guided tours at markenfieldhall.com
Markenfield Hall's local Neptune store is York - do come and visit us if you have time.
Iford Manor, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire
One to visit for the gardens (the manor is, sadly, not open to the public). House or not though, these really are worth the trip. Grade I listed and with sweeping views across the valley, they were designed in the Italianate style by Harold Peto. 2020 looks set to be a good year to visit Iford too – Troy Scott Smith (formerly of Sissinghurst) has just been chosen as head gardener, the gardens themselves will be playing a starring role in The Secret Garden film come spring, and the newly-restored cloister and Georgian summerhouse will be open once again.
How to visit: Iford will be opening this year from April to September on Wednesdays–Sundays and bank holidays. You don’t need to book ahead, but you’ll find everything you need to know about visiting at ifordmanor.co.uk
While you're in the are, visit our Neptune Bath store, just 15 minutes away.
Lennoxlove, Haddington, East Lothian
Brimming with history, this impressive keep has been a Roman stronghold, home to Mary Stuart’s uncle (Lennoxlove is still filled with her artefacts) and even an RAF satellite station. Art lovers will be happy too, thanks to the collection that includes pieces by Van Dyke, Raeburn and Kneller, as will walkers with the wider parkland. And like all the best castles, there’s even a dungeon to explore.
How to visit: you’ll need to book on a guided tour to look around Lennoxlove, which take place between 12th April and 29th October this year on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. lennoxlove.com
Pop by Lennoxlove's local Neptune store, Neptune by Richard F Mackay, Edinburgh
Kentwell Hall, Long Melford, Suffolk
A good one to head to if you’ve got little ones in tow (although don’t be put off if you don’t), Kentwell is a Tudor manor that plays host to various events throughout the year, helping to bring its history and setting to life. Look out for ‘Wellie Walks’ this February half term and the Tudor May Day Festival, complete with costumed processions, dancing and plays. The hall itself is still a family home, so you’ll spot the owner’s own decorating mixed in amongst the historic, while outside there are giant cedars, walled gardens and water features to discover.
How to visit: Kentwell is only open on certain dates throughout the year, starting from 15th February when the snowdrops are at their best. Visit kentwell.co.uk to find out more.
If you have time, do pop into Bury St Edmunds - the local Neptune store.
Winterbourne House and Garden, Edgbaston, Birmingham
You’ll find this Edwardian Arts & Crafts suburban villa on a quiet and leafy corner of the University of Birmingham’s Edgbaston campus. Winterbourne is probably best known for its botanical garden – there are seven acres to explore, even though it’s just a few minutes from the city centre – but don’t miss the house, with its light and airy rooms, use of local materials and hand-crafted designs, and relaxed atmosphere.
How to visit: Winterbourne is open all year round (except over Christmas and New Year), seven days a week. Fridays are a good time to stop by though, when volunteers will be demonstrating the 19th-century printing presses. winterbourne.org.uk
Neptune Edgbaston is nearby if you have time to make a short visit.