Europe

The English Country Home

My bed, I mean, bathroom...
My bed, I mean, bathroom...

The Brits have always loved their countryside. Ask a visitor what the best parts of the UK are, they’ll mention London, Stonehenge, Edinburgh… Ask a Brit and it won’t take long for the Lake District, the Highlands and the rest of the countryside to come up. We love the country. And when I say country, I mean everything that isn’t a city more or less…

Hardwick House

Hardwick House

Before World War I, country house estates filled the land especially in the South, owned by families who probably had other homes in London and a full-time staff for each. Here in the UK, one of the latest hit shows is Downton Abbey which just finished its second season. It started out as a ‘happy’ (it’s a drama, so obviously they weren’t happy for very long) aristocratic family living in the country outside London, going in to the capital for the ‘season’ i.e. when all the coming-out balls occur. In the second season, WWI has happened, and ended (quick war it would seem…) and everything is changing.

Do you have billiards room? Because we did...

Do you have a billiards room? Because we did...

Fast forward to now and the idea of having a country estate is, more or less, history except for the lucky few. But the British obsession with these houses hasn’t ended. The ones that still stand have largely turned into places to visit, or hotels in themselves. Much to the dismay of their original owners I’m sure. I spent a weekend in one such a place, called Hardwick House in the Cotswolds. Stone-laid outdoor pool, endless grounds, a billiards room, bathrooms I could live in and too many staircases to count.

My bed, I mean, bathroom...

My bed, I mean, bathroom...

The thrill of staying in these houses now is definitely connected to some love of the past, I think. My friends and I ran up and down hidden servant staircases, swam laps in a pool surrounded by stone walls and dined at a table long enough to fit all 20 of us in a row under the candlelight. I think we may have started speaking in rather old fashioned language too darling…

Hardwick House is a stunning example of these houses, and there are plenty of them dotted around the country. The best way to experience them is by hiring them out in full, with friends or family, in my opinion. Then you too can have the chance to live like Lord and Lady. Even if it’s only for the weekend…

McPhee
McPhee was born in London where she lived until age 11 clocking in some early travel experiences around Europe. After that, she was off to the USA with her parents, living in New York, Maryland and Massachusetts. Post university, staying in one place didn’t work, so after a summer back in London, she headed to Thailand to become an English teacher. When she finished teaching she travelled through Laos and Cambodia where she discovered her love for travel writing. In November, 2009, after getting a one way ticket for £10 through STA Travel’s Anniversary celebrations, Marianne headed to Australia where she travelled across the East Coast and at one point found herself living in the Outback. Now that life has returned her to London, she has grabbed the chance to learn more about her home country. See her monthly updates on exploring the UK here, and read more of her musings, including her challenge to run around the world for charity at http://fillingthepages.com.

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