The Great West Way is a 201km 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, it was where the Duchess of Sussex spent the night before her wedding. The house sits on 152 hectares 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 into the 1780s. Accessible from central London by tube, this Georgian country estate in west London is one of the last surviving country estates in 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 more than 200 years ago.
One of the most recognisable stately homes in Britain is Highclere Castle, also known as ‘Downton Abbey’ on TV. Sitting on 404 hectares s 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 recognisable state rooms, and explore 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 Bowood House, the family home of the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne since 1754. Discover the family’s history inside the Georgian House through exhibitions of artefacts and antiques. Outside are 40 hectares 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 four of Poldark, and it’s also home to Bowood Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort, featuring an 18-hole PGA golf course.
Stonor Park has been home to the Stonor family for more than 850 years. Currently home to three generations of the family, it is still open to the public to explore. Combine a tour of the home with a stroll though 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, crafts and antiques fairs, in addition to trail running races.
The house at Tyntesfield belonged to William Gibbs who in 1844 made the building 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 218 hectares 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 109 hectares of land, a 17th-century house, and garden. Take a guided walk outside and then tour the home, where you will be transported back to the 17th century, with a 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, and is now the 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, 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, giraffe, rhino, and more. It’s also home to the enchanting Festival of Light and hot air balloon Sky Safari.