The Great West Way is a 125-mile touring route that stretches across England from London to Bristol. Along the way, through idyllic countryside, quaint villages, and elegant towns, you’re guaranteed to come across a number of stately homes and castles. We’ve put together some of the ones you shouldn’t miss during your journey.
Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. It has been home to 39 monarchs and is an official residence of Queen Elizabeth II, who spends her private weekends there. Today, the castle is used for ceremonial and state occasions. St. George’s Chapel on the grounds of Windsor Castle has been the site of many royal weddings. At Windsor Castle, there are two routes to take - the ceremonial route will take you to the main State Apartments still used by The Queen and the historic route will show you rooms built for Charles II and his Queen, Catherine of Braganza.
Cliveden is an award-winning luxurious hotel, but it’s much more than that. The Grade I listed stately home has 350 years of history, built in 1666 by the second Duke of Buckingham for his mistress and in 2018, was where The Duchess of Sussex spent the night before her wedding. The house sits on 376 acres of National Trust grounds and provides plenty of things for guests to do. See the formal gardens, walk the fitness trail or Cliveden Maze, ride a vintage flotilla on the Thames, head to the spa, or have afternoon tea at The Great Hall.
Escape from the city and go back in time to the 1780s. Accessible from Central London by tube, this Georgian country estate in west London is one of the last surviving country estates in the capital. The house was built in the 18th century for the Child family and still retains the original look and feel. The gardens have also been restored to how they would’ve looked to the Child family and their guests more than 200 years ago.
One of the most iconic stately homes in Britain is Highclere Castle, also known as ‘Downton Abbey’ on TV. Sitting on 1,000 acres of parkland, the castle has been home to the Carnarvon family since 1679. The castle is open to the public at select times of year, where you can visit the recognizable state rooms, and walk on footpaths to gardens and parkland designed by the renowned landscape architect, Capability Brown. Special tours and events occur throughout the year, and the castle can be hired for private events and weddings.
Visit the home of the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne, Bowood House, which has been in the family since 1754. Discover the family’s history inside the Georgian House through exhibitions of artefacts and antiques. Outside are 100 acres of Capability Brown designed parkland, an Italian-inspired Terrace Garden, and a Private Walled Garden. The elements of this estate serve as a great filming location, notably season 4 of Poldark and the Downton Abbey movie. Also home to Bowood Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort, featuring an 18-hole PGA golf course makes this the perfect place for a little getaway!
Stonor Park has been home to the Stonor family for more than 850 years, and is currently home to three generations of the family but is still open to the public. Combine a tour of the home with a tour of the 13th century chapel, see the 17th century Italianate Pleasure Garden, spot fallow deer and rare red kite birds, or take a walking or cycling route. Stonor Park is also a wedding venue and hosts many events such as Easter activities for kids, vintage car shows, crafts and antiques fairs, and trail running races.
The house at Tyntesfield belonged to William Gibbs who in 1844 turned the house into what it is today - a Victorian Gothic Revival home just outside of Bristol. Four generations of the same family lived there, resulting in an accumulation of 60,000 paintings, furnishings, and other fine objects. Visit the home or venture into the 540 acres of land, part of which is a working estate for crop farming, a kitchen garden, and pasture with sheep and angus cattle.
Dyrham Park consists of an ancient deer park, where fallow deer roam freely across 270 acres of land, a 17th-century house, and a garden with idyllic ponds and a wildflower orchard. Take a guided walk outside and then tour the home, where you will be transported back to the 17th-century, with an orangerie, Victorian kitchen and servant’s bells in the basement, which has been converted into a second-hand bookshop.
In 1949, Longleat House was the first stately home in Britain to open to the public on a fully commercial basis. The 16th century house has been occupied by the Thynne family for 15 generations, now home of the seventh Marquess of Bath. Today, you can tour the Elizabethan building filled with exhibitions and art, stroll through the Capability Brown landscaped gardens including the idyllic Pleasure Gardens, and visit its most unique feature - the Safari Park. Hop on the Safari Bus with a knowledgeable driver and guide to see the resident monkeys, wolves, tigers, lions, giraffes, rhinos, and more. It’s also home to the enchanting Festival of Light and hot air balloon Sky Safari.