Things to do | Posted 22 Feb 2013

The UK is home to hundreds of country houses. Whether home to ghosts, famous costume dramas or royal family members, lots of these homes have histories that are just as rich as the people lucky enough to live in them. Here is our pick of a few famous houses in the UK and why they are worth a visit.

Borley Rectory, Essex

Once thought of as ‘the most haunted house in Britain’, Borley Rectory was built in 1863 for the Reverend Henry Bull. Unfortunately for the Reverend and his family, the house was built on the site of an ancient monastery, and was regularly visited by the ghost of a nun who used to stroll sadly around the grounds. Apparently, she was from a nearby nunnery and had fallen in love with a monk from the Borley Monastery. When the two were caught trying to elope together, the monk was beheaded and she was bricked up in the monastery cellars.

Constant reports of hauntings from the nun were common, right until 1939 when the house burnt to the ground. It’s said that eleven months earlier, a ghostly communication from beyond the grave claimed that this was going to happen.

Even though nobody lives in the house today, sightings of the nun are still reported to this day.

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

This famous house has the distinction of being the only palace in Britain that isn’t owned by the royal family. Blenheim Palace was constructed between 1705 and 1724, and was intended as a gift to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, for a military triumph against the French and Bavarians. Although the Duke wasn’t given the house because of political infighting, his descendent Charles saved the palace in 1892. Charles was grandfather to another war hero, Sir Winston Churchill, who was born and raised in the house.

Today, the palace still remains home to the Duke of Marlborough, and the park and gardens are open to the public for an entrance fee. What’s more Blenheim Palace is under 6 miles away from our Oxford hotel.

Saltford Manor House, Somerset

Saltford Manor is thought to be the oldest continuously occupied house in England. There is no exact date for its construction, but it was definitely some time before 1150. A grade II listed building, the house was refurbished in 1990 and sold for a cool £1,275,000 in 2010.

Cragside, Northumberland

Thiscountry house in the civil parish of Cartington was built in 1863 and was the home of famous inventor Lord Armstrong and his family. The house is famous for being the first house in the world to be lit using hydro-electric power. Cragside has been in the care of the National Trust since 1977 and is open to visitors, with many of Armstrong’s inventions still working in the house. This fascinating world of invention is only 39 miles from our Newcastle hotel.

Audley End, Cambridge

Audley end was granted to Sir Thomas Audley in 1538 by King Henry VIII. Its royal history continued after King Charles II bought the estate in 1668 and used it as his home when he attended the races at Newmarket. The house is known in modern times for its involvement in World War 2, where it was used as a holding camp by the Special Operations Executive.

In recent times, the house and gardens have been restored to how they would have looked in Victorian times.

Other country houses that get a small mention due to their part in popular culture are:

Highclere Castle
– Home of the massively successful ITV series Downton Abbey.

Harewood House
– Scenes from the ITV soap Emmerdale are regularly filmed here.

Chatsworth House
Home of Mr Darcy in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, and former home to Kathleen Kennedy, sister of John F Kennedy.

Alnwick Castle –
This castle was a filming location for the Harry Potter movies.

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