Perhaps I’ve watched too much Downton Abbey — but lately, I’ve found myself wanting to experience England in a more traditional sense. I suppose because we’re always there to see family, our visits are often centered around just that. Instead, I’ve been envisioning a trip that involves a stately home, roaming the beautiful countryside via horseback, adorned in proper attire, followed by afternoon tea with scones (pronounced: scons) slathered with an obscene amount of clotted cream and a touch of jam. There’s a hunting dog curled up by my feet and to my side is a pile of books that I’ll read by a fire, once I’ve finished stuffing my gob… I guess what I’m trying to say is, it’s time we do a few touristy things too!
This past summer we decided to brave the nightmare, errr… I mean nuisance of driving in England and a find a stunning estate where I could pretend to be Lady Mary. My father in-law (who is always up for anything) recommended Waddesdon Manor — a gorgeous, country house in Buckinghamshire, about an hour and half drive from Cambridge.
This Renaissance-style manor was built for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in the 1870’s. Essentially a French chateau in the middle of the English countryside, it’s much like those found in the Loire Valley. It’s surrounded by various gardens, wooded forests, an aviary, a dairy, playground, stables, summer houses and much more. Inside, Waddesdon Manor is an impressive home made for entertaining guests; with ornate rooms, wine cellars containing 15,000 bottles of historic wine and a vast collection of antiques, art and treasures.
The floors are adorned with the reddest carpet and the walls are covered with English and Dutch masterpieces.
The drawing rooms are all richly decorated.
An austere dining table in the wine cellar is juxtaposed with an extravagantly dressed table on the main floor.
There are separate areas in the house for men and women. Above are some of the weapons displayed in the armory of the Bachelor’s Wing.
Downstairs, there’s an unusual, musical elephant automaton.
A grand staircase and billiard room.
One of the small rooms off a bedroom. Perhaps this is where I shall take my tea and scones?
A lady’s bed and (wooden) loo. I’ll pass on reading by that fireplace, though!
Back outside, there are parterre gardens and fountains with views of the countryside.
The children enjoyed the walk through the wooded forest towards the playground areas and stables. Be sure to find all of the hidden play areas.
While I didn’t exactly live up my original fantasy, visiting Waddesdon Manor was definitely an afternoon well-spent. It was so interesting to see firsthand how the noble families lived. This just means that next year I’ll find have to find a horse, some riding apparel and an endless, green countryside…
England, HP18 0JH
Tel: 01296 820414
- Driving is not permitted on the property. However, they provide a shuttle bus or there’s a footpath, if you’d prefer to walk in.
- Expect to visit for at least 2-3 hours.
- Tickets for visiting the house are twice as much and have a timed entry, but include visiting the grounds.
- Although we did not eat on our visit, there are several different places to purchase food and drink, if needed.
- If you’re traveling with children, be sure to seek out all of the playground areas including a giant slide and zipline.
- Prams/strollers are not allowed inside the house.