There aren’t many National Trust places near us, so on a year when we’re not travelling round England, we tend to visit the local places several times. Stourhead is one of these, and although I’ve done the gardens a couple of times, I’ve only just visited the house. These are my thoughts on whether it’s worth the visit…
I’d say it definitely is. You often get places that split the cost, so if you only want to do the garden, you don’t have to pay full price; well this is one such place. A family ticket is £30, and to see either just house or garden, it’s £20. So not really a cheap place to visit either. The garden and house are situated quite separately too, so it actually seems quite natural to do one or the other. If you’re not a member, and you have young children, I really would save the £10 and just to the garden. There is loads to see – you walk round a large lake and dotted around are various statues, follies, grottos, summer houses and other strange things that will actually keep kids entertained more than the house – especially if they’re imaginative and like magical things. We went in the hot spring this year and just had a picnic by the lake and didn’t do anything else. It was one of our favourite family outings!
The house is fine. A good one for those who don’t like stairs as all the rooms were on one level. We were greeted by a friendly volunteer who explained the family history and who the portraits in the entrance hall were of. There were photos of the family in the garden as recently as the 1940s – which I find bizarre. Only Victorians or older are allowed to live in houses like that! The rooms were sumptuously decorated and you saw several principal reception rooms. However, the house lacked variety. They’d put a bed in one of the downstairs rooms, but I’m sure it was never a bedroom. So it actually felt a bit like an art gallery, going from one room to the next. I do like to see the bedrooms, dressing rooms, nursery and kitchens so you can really imagine how the household in the past lived. It was a large house, with a couple of floors above and a floor below completely out of bounds, and from what the member of staff said, I gather the family no longer occupy the house, so why couldn’t more rooms be opened? We were round in half an hour and we lingered quite a bit, especially in the library. The journals of a previous owner (I forget which one), who had traveled around Italy a lot, were placed here and there and were a nice touch. I also like how National Trust now allow photography without flash inside their houses – much more friendly.
NB It is a long steep walk from the carpark to the gardens, with ice cream for sale in the middle. There’s a very large cafe and loads of plants for sale.
King Alfred’s tower is not far away. A good climb – good for the thighs – to a great view from the top.