They say an Englishman’s home is his castle. But for a very privileged few an Englishman’s castle is his castle, which doesn’t sound very fair to us! So in order to tip the balance somewhat, someone came up with the idea of Heritage Open Days – allowing free access to properties that are usually closed to the public, or normally charge for admission.
Established in 1994, Heritage Open Days is now England’s biggest and most popular voluntary cultural event, with last year’s event seeing around 1 million visitors to historic attractions around the country. This year’s events runs from 8-11 September and offers a wide-range of historic locations to explore. But if you fancy a more authentic experience of historic life then we thought you might be interested in viewing some of our more ancient featured properties.
You’ll see some of our more unique historic properties below, including castles, windmills, ancient towers and famous cottages! If you fancy living like a king, queen or one of the world’s most famous playwrights, then click on the pics to see the full listings and make a booking on our website.
Lendal Tower in York
Step into a piece of medieval history. With panoramic views over the beautiful city of York and the River Ouse, this spectacular 800-year old ancient monument offers a truly unique holiday experience. In a landmark setting on the eastern banks of the River Ouse, the 14th-century, Grade I listed Lendal Tower originally formed part of the city’s defences and played a key role in the daily life of the medieval city – from here shipping tolls were collected and all river traffic was controlled.
Hathaway Hamlet in Stratford-upon-Avon
A famously historic location! This very pretty listed cottage is only 200 yards from Anne Hathaway’s beautiful and famous cottage. It is of similar style and period, much smaller and one of a group. Situated in the quiet village of Shottery, about 1 mile from the centre of Stratford, with easy access to the many and varied attractions of this historic town catering for all interests, and in a quiet setting away from the bustle. Historic Warwick, Kenilworth, Evesham and the Cotswolds are all close by.
Watermouth Castle, Nr Ilfracombe, Devon
Watermouth Castle offers a rare combination of opportunities – for not only do visitors have the chance to live in a castle, but they also enjoy unlimited, free entry to one of the West Country’s premier tourist attractions during their stay. Within the splendid castle itself, there are six superb apartments, an indoor heated swimming pool, a museum, a choice of theme attractions, and some fascinating water displays.
Outside, the castle’s 50-acre estate features wonderful landscaped gardens, with plenty of space for strolling and relaxing, and glorious woodland walks. There are ducks and waterfowl to admire on the lake outside the walls, and beautiful views from the castle over Watermouth Bay and its harbour, where there are slipway facilities for visitors’ boats, as well as moorings for larger craft (by arrangement with the harbourmaster).
The Acton Scott Estate – Henley Cottage
Henley Cottage is a 19th- century former farm labourer’s dwelling, sympathetically restored to reinstate its original condition and located in a picturesque estate landscape which has remained unchanged for two centuries. This humble property, which sleeps up to five, has taken many a star turn on BBC TV, including hit series Victorian Farm and new for 2010, Escape in Time. Holiday visitors now have the opportunity to enjoy its simple and homely atmosphere and the unique opportunity to escape modern day living. Henley Cottage has been much written about and has been tipped by The Sunday Times’ Top 100 Cool Holiday Cottages (2010).
De Vere House in Lavenham, Suffolk
In the heart of the medieval village of Lavenham, this Grade I listed property is the east wing of De Vere House. Originally a 14th-century hall house, it was extended in the 15th century and then partially demolished and rebuilt in 1929. This unique property makes a perfect holiday destination. Lavenham has a good selection of restaurants, antique shops and galleries. Historic market towns of Bury St Edmunds and New Market are within an easy drive. Shops and pub 30 yards.
The Windmill nr. Aylesbury, Bucks
Enjoy a unique holiday in this detached windmill, built around 1800, now converted to provide comfortable spacious accommodation over 5 floors with spectacular views over the Chiltern Hills from the second floor sitting room. Used as a working windmill until 1900 and then the home of an actress and a music publisher, The Windmill, now minus its sails, is located in the historic market town of Wendover. Set in a quiet location, it has an attractive enclosed rear garden.
Wynnstay Hall Nr. Ruabon, Llangollen
A fine example of an historic hall in all its glory, this magnificent property has been completely designed around its key feature – the great hall. Set within a wing of the property, the holiday accommodation has been tastefully refurbished in a mix of traditional, streamline and contemporary style and its grandeur has such a presence upon the estate that was once the Welsh seat of the Williams Wynn family. The original hall burnt down in 1856, and a frieze which now surrounds the ballroom area tells of such a tale. The parkland that houses the hall was landscaped by Capability Brown, and is home to a communal tennis court and a five-a-side pitch. Grade II listed, the property also has strong connections with World War II.
Mockbeggars Hall nr. Ipswich, Suffolk
Be lord of the manor for a few days at Mockbeggars Hall, a Jacobean masterpiece with far reaching views over the Gipping Valley in the famous Suffolk countryside. Set in mature grounds, this imposing property will provide the perfect backdrop for a truly memorable holiday.
Enjoy a banquet in style in the magnificent dining hall, a champagne reception in the spacious drawing room with its incredible stone fireplace and French doors leading out to the terrace and gardens or just relax and unwind in the elegant living room. The left wing of the hall enjoys a large first floor balcony with splendid views of the garden and valley beyond. The spectacular grounds span some 3 acres including open lawn, a large stone paved terrace with garden furniture, and shady woodland copses.
Dunstan Hall in Craster, Northumberland
This exceptional, Grade II listed, ten-bedroomed country hall lies in an AONB, just outside the picturesque coastal village of Craster, on the coast of Northumberland. Parts of the existing pele tower may date from the 11th century, and the rest of the house was built in the early 14th and 18th-centuries, with the 18th-century wing rebuilt in the early part of the 20th century. The pele tower was rebuilt around 1310 as a watchtower for the nearby Dunstanburgh Castle, which was then being constructed. The unusual crowstepped top floor of the tower was created in the 16th century, when the then owners were no longer worried about maintaining defensive strength, and it was converted into a pigeon loft.