Hudson’s Historic Houses & Gardens

The 2014 edition of Hudson’s Historic Houses and Gardens provides a wealth of ideas for days out at museums and heritage sites across Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

This is the 27th edition of the best-selling book, the lion’s share of which is a glossy directory listing the United Kingdom’s historic properties. Hudson’s Historic Houses and Gardens lists private attractions, members of the Historic Houses Association, those controlled by local authorities plus properties falling under the management of English Heritage, Historic Scotland, Cadw (the Welsh Government’s historic environment service), Churches Conservation Trust, National Trust and its northerly sister organisation, the National Trust for Scotland.

The organisation of the book

The book is neatly organised, with attractions listed by region. The information supplied ranges from the name and address of properties, with their telephone number and email address, to full-page spreads with photos and historical information. This includes admission prices, opening times as well as information about tours and special events planned throughout 2014.

A number of feature articles are published in the first quarter of this book. Baroness Young of Hornsey gives a thought provoking interview, discussing connections in the history of the slave trade and nation’s country houses. Fiona, the Countess of Carnarvon, talks about Highclere Castle, the Gothic style property which has been her family’s home since 1679. Many television viewers will recognise the building as the home to the Grantham family in the drama series Downton Abbey. Nick Ashley-Cooper, the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury, discusses the challenges posed by restoring St Giles House in Dorset.

Scottish clans and castles

A feature by Lucy Denton looks at the Scottish clan system and its connection with Scotland’s castles and country houses. This is a theme likely to be of increased interest in 2014, Visit Scotland’s Year of the Homecoming. 2014 marks the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, fought between armies led by Scotland’s Robert the Bruce and England’s King Edward II, and a new visitor centre is opening on the site of the battlefield. This and other new attractions – including the 10-minute long visitor shuttle ride at Stonehenge and events at Laugharne Castle, to mark a century since the birth of poet Dylan Thomas – are highlighted at the opening of the book.

The chapter on this year’s Hudson’s Heritage Awards lists Stockeld Park, a Palladian villa set on a 2,000 acre Yorkshire estate, as the ‘Best Family Day Out’. The estate hosts trails, interactive displays and events throughout the year. These include Nordic skiing, ice skating and an illuminated maze in the weeks ahead of Christmas. Kiplin Hall, also in Yorkshire, is awarded ‘Hidden Gem and Best New Discovery’. The Jacobean country home once belonged to George Calvert, the founder of Maryland in the USA.

Hudson’s Historic Houses and Gardens also lists the historic properties at which plants are offered for sale and those offering accommodation, including a selection recommended for their distinctiveness by Signpost.

Usefully, particularly given that it’s winter and several properties are currently closed until springtime, the book lists those grounds and buildings open throughout the year. These listings may well provide useful prompts for outings on fine but chilly days over the months ahead. Beyond that, there’s a calendar of special events planned over the next twelve months, ranging from the Burns Night Party at Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, on 25 January, to Dickensian Christmas celebrations at Kentwell Hall and Gardens, Suffolk, from 14 to 22 December.

Additionally, should you be planning an event, you can find chapters listing venues offering corporate hospitality and hosting civil weddings.

Hudson’s Historic Houses and Gardens provides plenty of fuel for thought and information if you’re looking to explore the United Kingdom over the coming twelve months.

Further information

Copies of the 2014 edition of Hudson’s Historic Houses & Garden cost £16.99. The book has 432 pages, 1500 colour photos and 28 pages of maps. It is available from retailers nationally and internationally, including Amazon, WH Smiths and Waterstones.

You can also order copies via the Hudson’s Heritage website. The site holds information on places to visit, things to do and events at museums and heritage sites around the United Kingdom throughout 2014. You’ll also find historic recipes and feature articles.

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