Wondering what the most magnificent Country Houses in England are? From one of the largest privately owned Country Houses in the world, to one of TV’s most iconic homes, here is my top 10 list of what I consider to be the grandest, and most incredible Country Houses and Stately Homes in England.
10. Harewood House
Kicking things off is the spectacular Harewood House, situated close to Leeds in West Yorkshire. I’ve visited Harewood a number of times over the past few years, and it never fails to impress. Built between 1759 and 1771 by Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood, Harewood House has a bit of a dubious past.
The Lascelles were wealthy plantation and slave owners, whom having accrued a magnificent wealth, invested it in the construction of Harewood. Designed by the celebrated architect John Carr, the house is certainly pleasing on the eye and sits within one of the most beautiful landscapes in England. The interiors too are utterly magnificent, with Robert Adam working his usual magic. In fact, these are recognized as some of his finest interiors, and the luxurious Long Gallery is certainly a sight to behold.
What makes Harewood so impressive is its beautiful design. The exterior of the house is done in the Palladian style, and unlike many other Georgian Period Houses in England that appear quite similar, Harewood has a certain panache about it and is one of my favorite examples of English Palladianism.
9. Hardwick Hall
Next up is the imposing Hardwick Hall. I actually only visited Hardwick for the first time in 2020, and to say that I was blown away would be an understatement. Built as a Prodigy House, this means Hardwick was built with the sole intention of showing off, and was designed to showcase its owners magnificent wealth and influence.
The house was built by Bess of Hardwick, whom having married no fewer than 4 times, amassed a ginormous wealth, second only to that of Queen Elizabeth. Of course she required a house worthy of her status, and completed in 1597, Hardwick Hall left no one in any doubt about its provenance.
Built to the rules of symmetry, and said to contain more glass that wall, the National Trust’s Hardwick Hall is one of the finest examples of Elizabethan architecture in England. The Hall is indeed very striking, and you may recognize it as Malfoy Manor in Harry Potter.
Hardwick’s tapestry hung interiors are equally as impressive. Again, clearly designed to impress, the interiors are literally fit for Royalty, with the spectacular Long Gallery serving as the largest surviving Elizabethan Long Gallery in England. The internal spaces at Hardwick are so vast that they absolutely have to be seen to be believed.
Hardwick Hall is perhaps the grandest Prodigy House in England and was also home to one of England’s greatest women. It is truly a house worthy of recognition.
8. Highclere Castle
Highclere Castle is likely most recognizable as the home of Crawley Family in the hit TV series Downton Abbey. Although Downton is set in Yorkshire, This architecturally spectacular house is actually situated in Hampshire and sits within a stunning 1000 acre estate.
The Highclere estate has a long history, dating back to Anglo Saxon times. The house we see today however was built in 1679 when it was purchased by Robert Sawyer, attorney general to Charles II, and also great grandfather of the current Earl of Carnarvon.
Highclere however owes its current striking appearance to Sir John Barry, the architect responsible for designing the Houses of Parliament, who in 1842 Transformed the house into the spectacular castle we know and love today.
The Castle is particularly beautiful and like many other great houses, features a stunning landscape designed by the legendary Landscape gardener, Lancelot capability Brown. The grounds feature no fewer than six 18th century follies and temples, and the 1000 acre parkland has grade 1 listed status.
7. Longleat House
Longleat House is a beautiful Elizabethan period home situated near to Warminster in the South West of England. This stunning Prodigy House is another historic home purporting to be one of the finest examples of Elizabethan architecture, and is the Seat of the Marquis of Bath.
Built by Sir John Thynn between 1568 and 1580, Longleat was the first of the so called prodigy houses to be built in England, and allegedly the first to be built with the sole intention of wooing the monarch. It’s a spectacularly beautiful Country Home, and its architect Robert Smythson was one most celebrated architects of the time.
The house is quite exceptional and is set within 900 acres of beautiful Capability Brown landscaped parkland. Longleat is famous for being the first Stately Home to open to the public, and also home to the first safari park outside of Africa.
Amazingly, Longleat has remained in the hands of the same family since its inception nearly 450 years ago, and today is home to 7th Marquis of Bath.
6. Lyme Park
Lyme is an absolutely glorious Country House and park nestled on the edge of the Peak District in Cheshire. Lyme was home to the ancient Legh family for over 550 years, with the current house being constructed in the mid 16th century by Piers Legh vii.
Although piecemeal modifications were made in the 17th century, it was in 1725 that the house underwent a massive transformation that resulted in the splendid Neo-Classical Palladian masterpiece we see today.
Lyme is wonderfully beautiful house, combining its Tudor core, with Georgian Palladian architecture and stunning 19th century interiors. And if this wasn’t enough, the house is further complimented By its surrounding moorlands and formal gardens.
Lyme is a truly magnificent house, and you might recognize it from the BBC’s 1995 TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Lyme stands in as as Mr Darcy’s Pemberley estate, testament to its incredible reputation.
Now in the care on the National Trust, Lyme is one of the most impressive houses in the Trust’s portfolio, and a very popular tourist destination.
5. Burghley House
Like Hardwick Hall, Burghley House is a stunning example of an Elizabethan Prodigy House. Built for, and largely designed by William Cecil, Lord high treasurer to Queen Elizabeth, this incredible structure is one of the finest 16th Century Houses in existence today.
Situated in Stamford in Lincolnshire, construction of this spectacular house was begun in 1555 with the erection of the East Range. It took around 32 years for building work to be fully concluded however, with the North front not being completed until 1587.
Like so many other great Prodigy houses, Burghley was designed to impress, and with Cecil being one of the most powerful courtiers in the land, absolutely no expense was spared on this spectacular home. Furthermore, with hopes of one day housing the monarch herself, Burghley was certainly grand enough, and large enough, to entice the queen and her enormous entourage.
The scale of Burghley is quite amazing. Featuring 35 major rooms, and 80 smaller ones, this enormous palace of a house is like nothing else of this period. Burghley also features one of Capability Browns finest landscapes, with him invested 23 years of his career in its development.
Burghley is likely the finest house to have been constructed during Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Architecturally spectacular, and featuring decorative chimneys that dominate the skyline, Burghley is one of the most magnificent Country Houses in England.
It’s clear to see why Burghley serves as such a magnificent filming location, and the house has starred in the likes of Pride and Prejudice, The Davinci Code, and Elizabeth the Golden Age.
Still lived in by descendants of Lord Cecil today, the house is currently cared for by a trust and open to the public for much of the year.
4. Blenheim Palace
No top list would be complete without the inclusion of the mighty Blenheim Palace. Situated in Oxfordshire, Blenheim is the historic seat of the Dukes of Marlborough, with the estate being gifted to the 1st Duke, John Churchill, following his military success in the War of the Spanish Succession.
The palace has remained in the hands of the Dukes of Marlborough ever since, and was significantly the childhood home of British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill.
Built between 1705 and 1722, Blenheim is the only non-royal house in the UK to bare the title ‘Palace’, and also enjoys UNESCO Word Heritage Site status. Like Castle Howard, Blenheim was designed by architects Sir John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor, and serves as one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture anywhere in England.
In addition to the colossal house, Blenheim also features 2000 acres of parkland, designed by Capability Brown, and 90 acres of spectacular formal gardens.
Its no wonder Blenheim is so popular with visitors, and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Britain.
3. Chatsworth House
Nestled in the Derbyshire Dales sits one of England’s grandest and most famous homes.
Likely recognized as the home of Mr Darcy in 2005’s film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Chatsworth serves as the seat of the Duke of Devonshire, and has been home to the Cavendish family since Bess of Hardwick and her husband William Cavendish purchased the estate in 1549.
Cavendish was Bess’ second husband and had amassed a small fortune as a commissioner for the dissolution of the monasteries. Having purchased a number of properties together in Bess’s home county of Derbyshire, it was Chatsworth where they chose to construct a magnificent Elizabethan House. Little of this remains today however, with the house being completely remodeled in 1707 by the 1st Duke, and further expanded and modernized by the 6th Duke in the late 18th century.
The result is one of the most opulent and easily recognizable homes in the world, and one of the UK’s most visited tourist attractions. One of the reasons why visitors keep coming back is the magnificent interiors. The Painted Hall for example is one of the most exquisite indoor spaces, rivaled only by the Great Hall at Castle Howard, and the magnificent Library is recognized as containing the largest private collection of books in the UK.
The grounds too are absolutely exceptional with key features being a monumental Victorian rock garden, and a magnificent 300 year old cascade.
Chatsworth is a truly breathtaking house and is well worth its status as one of the UK’s most spectacular stately homes.
2. Castle Howard
Castle Howard is one of the largest, grandest and most iconic stately homes in the UK. Situated in the Howardian Hills in the Ryedale Region of North Yorkshire, this colossal country home has been in the hands of Howard family for over 300 years.
Built for Charles Howard, the 3rd Earl of Carlisle, the house was Dramatist John Vanbrugh’s first ever commission and largely constructed in the Baroque style. With construction beginning in 1699, the bulk of the house was completed in just 10 years. That said, it took around 100 years for the house to be considered finished.
Castle Howard sits at the heart of a near 9000 acre estate, which in addition to the house comprises Parkland, Farmland, temples, monuments and mock castle walls. The estate is vast indeed, and truly extraordinary.
Castle Howard is particularly iconic as it serves as the home of Sebastian Flyte in the film and TV adaptations of Brideshead. More recently however, the house featured as the country home of the Duke of Hastings in the popular Netflix production Bridgerton.
What makes Castle Howard so spectacular is its extravagant architecture and opulent interiors. The Great Hall for example serves as one of the most elaborate and magnificent indoor spaces anywhere in the UK, and is truly a sight to behold.
Castle Howard is my personal favorite Country Home in the UK, and is bested only in size by my number one entry.
1. Wentworth Woodhouse
Coming in at number one is the gargantuan Wentworth Woodhouse. Situated in Rotherham in South Yorkshire, and currently undergoing a multi million pound restoration, Wentworth Woodhouse is one of the largest houses in Europe, and features the longest façade of any house in England.
Largely built by Thomas Watson-Wentworth, the first Marquis of Rockingham, this incredible structure replaced an earlier Jacobean house that had served as the historic seat of the Earl of Stafford.
Thomas had inherited the Wentworth estate and fortune from his father who had in turn inherited it from his maternal uncle, William Wentworth, 2nd Earl of Stafford. This was something that had been bitterly resented by the earls cousin Thomas Wentworth who had fully expected to inherit the family fortune, and titles when the earl died childless in 1695.
Thomas Watson Wentworth then, found himself in possession of the Mighty Wentworth Woodhouse, and not to be outdone by his jealous Wentworth cousins, who were busy at work creating the nearby Wentworth Castle, set about creating the most magnificent house England had ever seen.
Built in two campaigns, the Baroque styled West range took shape between 1725 and 1735. The paint had yet to dry on this however, before Thomas turned his eye to the erection of an even larger and grander East range. Built in the more fashionable Palladian style, this new range was completed in around 1750 and was considered the first great Palladian house in England.
The interiors of Wentworth Woodhouse are considered some of the finest Georgian period interiors anywhere in the country, and it is reckoned has the house has around 365 rooms. The standout piece has to be the breathtaking marble saloon, featured not so long back in the Downton Abbey Movie.
Wentworth is truly colossal in every sense, and when it’s restoration is complete, will likely serve as one of the finest country houses open to the public anywhere in the world. The prospect of bringing this great home back to life is truly exciting and I can’t wait to see the results.
I really hope you have enjoyed my list of top 10 most magnificent Country Houses. Obviously, any top list is going to be subjective, and you are perfectly entitled to disagree. Please let me know what your favorite Country Houses in England are, by using the comments box below.
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