This is not just a chance to explore some of our finest country houses. It’s an opportunity to consider the complexity of the English country estate – as we travel through a series of rural landscapes and examine the relationship between parkland, farms, kitchen gardens and recreational gardens. The houses themselves mark many decisive architectural shifts: from the long gallery and vast mullioned windows of Elizabethan Montacute, through the 17th-century Palladianism of Wilton, to Stourhead’s perfect 18th-century neoclassicism. There are important picture collections to be enjoyed, too, and acres of formal and flower gardens and picturesque parks.
The coach leaves Bath Spa Railway Station at 1pm. Enchanting Dyrham Park is in a mild Baroque style, and home to a collection of Dutch masters (and 200 fallow deer). A lecture at the hotel is followed by dinner.
The garden range of Wilton House is the masterpiece of 17th-century English Palladianism, the famous double cube room built to accommodate portraits by Van Dyck. Kingston Lacy is a generation later, and houses a celebrated collection of Old Masters.
Montacute House is one of the loveliest and least altered of all Elizabethan mansions, and is an outstation of the National Portrait Gallery. The home of Sir Walter Raleigh, Sherborne Castle is also Elizabethan, with Jacobean additions.
Longleat is one of the largest and architecturally most progressive of the big Elizabethan houses. By contrast, 18th-century Stourhead is little more than a villa, but the landscaped park with its temples and vistas is of global importance.
Corsham Court has an outstanding Old Master collection. Then it’s onto Lacock Abbey, an intriguing Henrician house, retaining the cloister of an Augustinian nunnery. Ends at Bath Spa Railway Station by 5pm.
A history graduate, and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Anthony has worked with and for the National Trust for almost thirty years. He’s the author of Victorian & Edwardian Country House Life for Batsford and regularly writes profiles of country houses for the Historic Houses Association magazine. He has also written many travel and guide books, and has contributed to over fifty newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, The Daily Telegraph, and the Financial Times.
£1,180 per person sharing in a double room or £1,305 for one person in a double room.
Accommodation and meals
The hotel: Best Western Leigh Park, Bradford-on-Avon (3 star), or similar.
Included meals: daily breakfasts and two dinners (with wine).
Our coach rarely parks near the houses, many of which have extensive grounds. Expect quite a lot of walking, and stairs.
There is no minimum number of clients required for this trip to run.
Maximum group size
Please check www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice before you book to make sure you are happy with the advice for the places you are visiting.