Another beautiful day and another beautiful location. As usual we arrive early in order to beat the majority of visitors, in fact, we were so early that we managed to beat some of the staff to work. The car park was empty when we drove in and therefore had a choice of places to park, not the same story when we left, the car park was jammed and the attendants were directing people to the overflow car park in the field next door. However, don’t let that put you off, try and get there a little earlier than the crowds and you will be rewarded with a pleasant day out.
The majority of the visit for us was wandering the extensive gardens. Being gifted with such a stunning day we were fortunate, it is clear that if you arrived on a rainy miserable day you would be a little more limited. That is of course if you are like me, if you are quite happy wandering about in your wellies, wrapped up warm and under an umbrella, well, have a good one!
We had decided, or I should say, Esra had decided that we would visit Kingston Lacy on this particular Sunday. I often give him the choices, as quite frankly I don’t really mind where we visit. I am there for blogging and photos, he is the history buff, so it needs to appeal to him, I can get a pretty picture and a few words at most places. Actually, scratch that, we did once visit a Roman fort which was high on his list, it turned out to be a row of stones in the ground, not much photo opportunity there! So, as I was saying, Esra had decided we were going, and on the morning of the trip out I hopped on the National Trust website to find out what time they opened. Gardens at 10am, House at 11am, this is quite usual for these properties and was no surprise, however, what was a surprise was the following statement…The house runs on a time ticket system. Please pre-book your tickets at least 24 hours before the day you wish to visit. ARGGHHH, nightmare, queue yelling downstairs at Es (who is making his wonderful wife breakfast in bed) “we need bloody tickets!” He, in his usual languid manner, sashayed upstairs and enquired “what?” then ensued a brief conversation, a tut and a strop. I proceeded to book tickets for the next weekend and pondered where we would go this one.
As he brought breakfast up he announced, “you know what? sod it! we will go anyway and see if we can’t get a ticket on the door if we ask nicely”. Surprisingly, with his foreign accent, if he feigns ignorance and I let him do the talking, we do get places or get much nicer responses than I would get on my own. Now that might be because I have a Northern accent, or it may be just because I am British and I should know better. So we went. And we did. As it happens, Es didn’t need to flutter his eyelashes, they do have a very limited number of ‘on the door’ admissions, which they don’t really publicise for obvious reasons. So at 11am we stood at the entrance to the house and were allowed straight in. I say straight in, Es had to put his back pack in a store around the corner, so he wouldn’t break anything in the house. How did they know my husband was a clumsy oaf? they didn’t, its just company policy, and for very good reason, the house is stuffed full of priceless objects. The last thing they need is some hapless visitor knocking the crystal off the table using an ill swung rucksack.
The house itself is beautifully preserved, and delightfully I was allowed to take as many photos as my heart desired. The house was busy, so don’t plan on getting something without fellow visitors in view, I think I managed by pure luck on a couple of photos, but in the main you will be with a large number of other visitors. Each room tells a tale, from the Spanish Rooms leather clad walls (recently restored) to the tented bedroom and each is bedecked with finery, antiquities and paintings. The house itself was owned by the Bankes family, who, reading the National Trusts own literature, were one of the most powerful families in Dorset and owned huge chunks of the county, 8,000 acres to be precise, for over 400 years. The Banks were the occupants of Corfe Castle and it was Mary Banks who defended it against two sieges before it finally fell to the Parliamentary forces. When the restoration of the monarchy occurred in 1660, rather than go back to Corfe they commissioned Sir Roger Pratt to design a new house, which is what we know today as Kingston Lacy. As a side note, the keys to Corfe Castle are displayed in the library of the house and will be pointed out to you by guides.
If you have an interest in fine art the house is chock full of early influential painters works collected by the family. It is the oldest established collection of gentry paintings and contains Rubens, Titian and Tintoretto, to name but a few. If you peruse National trust collections, there is a full inventory of artifacts belonging to the house, from swords to stuffed toy elephants.
Unfortunately the top floor of the house was not available to visitors at our visit, on account of a lack of volunteers. This statement I found a little irksome, I understand that the National Trust have charitable status and have a large portfolio of properties to manage, however, I think if a visitor is paying to view the property, bar some awful outbreak of mange, the property should be available to view. So after our wander, with me lying on the main staircase so I could get a good photo of the frescoed ceiling, we went back out into the sunshine to wander the remainder of the gardens.
The gardens were established at the same time as the house, and they range from the fernery (a personal favourite) to the Japanese garden. There are a large number of established trees which were planted at the creation of the gardens and like all good garden designs you wander from ‘room’ to ‘room’. The Japanese garden is quite authentic but is closed to the casual visitor. You can however book yourself on a garden tour and get access to this pretty area and wander around its delights. From arboretums to kitchen gardens, buried family ponies to obelisks and even pigs, they are all there to be discovered for the interested.
Finally, after all the walking and photography, take a visit to the huge tea rooms located near the entrance in the old stables. Grab yourself a large slice of cake and a cup of tea and find yourself a comfortable seat in the courtyard in the sun. The staff seemed to be struggling with the intricacies of the coffee machine and the queue for coffees was extensive, so we grabbed some lovely smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches, a slab of lemon drizzle cake and made do with some bottled water we had in our bag.
This visit was one of the more extensive locations we have been to and certainly a half day, if not all day venture, depending on what time you arrive. If you do go, tell me what you think?