The best historic houses and gardens to visit over winter

Explore the best places across the country to use your card this winter.

As the days get shorter and temperatures drop, the winter season fast approaches with its signature crisp. Fortunately, long gone are the days where this means there may be a struggle to find places to use your Historic Houses card.

Haven’t you heard? The winter months are now often considered the best time of year to visit our member places. Christmas markets, festive light shows, and mulled wine are just some of things you’ll find at our houses at this time of year. So buckle up, get the gloves and hat on, and take a read of our list of houses, castles, and garden open over winter. ‘Tis the season.

East Midlands

Belvoir Castle is one of England's finest Regency houses

Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire

Crowning a hill in rural Leicestershire, Belvoir Castle has been the home to the Duke of Rutland’s family since 1067. With extraordinary views the castle remains as one of the most magnificent and beautiful Regency houses in England.

The brand new Adventure Playground is inspired by the iconic architecture of Belvoir Estate and its past and present explorers. It covers four acres and is a safe space for imaginations to run free. Featuring a giant timber castle, along with a ship and towers, it is perfect for children and teenagers of all ages to explore.

Belvoir’s Twelve Days of Christmas is the ultimate destination for a magical Christmas experience. Step into a world of wonder as they bring to life the enchanting theme of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Immerse yourself in the grandeur and festive charm of the castle, where the spirit of the season is celebrated in extraordinary ways.

Historic Houses members cannot use their card for the Twelve Days of Christmas, but can purchase heavily discounted tickets. Entry to the Adventure Playground is free for Historic Houses members.

Explore Belvoir Castle

Easton Walled Gardens, Lincolnshire

Easton Walled Gardens is Lincolnshire’s own ‘lost’ garden.

Since 2001, Ursula and Fred Cholmeley have restored this ancient garden from an overgrown wilderness to the nationally important garden it once was.

The restoration continues year on year with innovative new planting schemes and currently includes herbaceous borders, roses, sweet peas, spring bulbs, cutflower and vegetable gardens set off by limestone buildings and surrounded by beautiful parkland. Experience the winter magic of Easton Walled Gardens with extended opening hours in the run up to Christmas. Enjoy leisurely strolls amidst the tranquil beauty of the gardens, providing the perfect backdrop for relaxed Christmas shopping and coffee in the Courtyard. Half-price admission throughout November and December, and free for Historic Houses members.


Explore Easton Walled Gardens

Elsham Hall historic house

Elsham Hall Gardens & Country Park, Lincolnshire

Elsham Hall Gardens and Country Park offers beautiful lakeside gardens, a contemporary walled garden, an adventure playground, and a variety of animals and birds. Open throughout the seasons, the gardens and country park are home to a rich assortment of wildlife.

The park is open every day, closing at 4pm from November to February.

Explore Elsham Hall

West Midlands


Stoneleigh Abbey, Warwickshire

Stoneleigh Abbey is a magnificent stately home built on the remains of a twelfth century Cistercian abbey. Visited by King Charles I, Queen Victoria, and Jane Austen, it is a staple of Warwickshire culture.

The grounds at Stoneleigh Abbey were designed by Humphry Repton, the famous eighteenth-century landscape gardener. Grounds are open 10am – 5pm, Sunday to Thursday, while the tea room is open 10am – 4pm.


Explore Stoneleigh Abbey

Find out more about the West Midlands

If you’re looking for a day out in England, you should look no further that the West Midlands, which is home to some of the UK’s most impressive historic houses and gardens. From Eastnor Castle to Arbury Hall, the region is a heritage lover’s paradise.

Explore the best places to visit in the West Midlands

London and South East

Fulham Palace, London

Discover the historic home of the Bishops of London at Fulham Palace. The Palace sits beside the Thames in Fulham and reflects the 1,300 years of occupation by the Bishops.

Take a stroll through 13 acres of botanic garden, with a peaceful walled garden at its centre. Admire the 500 year old holm oak and the new Compton beds, grown with varieties originally brought to the Palace in the 1700s.

Explore Fulham Palace

Grove House in London during the winter

Grove House Gardens, Roehampton

Grove House is a stunning Grade ll listed Georgian mansion, set amidst beautiful landscaped gardens.

The house is closed to the public, but the gardens are open to the public free of charge.

Explore Grove House Gardens

The Charterhouse 2021 snow outside the historic house

The Charterhouse, London

The Charterhouse is a historic complex of buildings in Smithfield, London, dating back to the fourteenh century and home to the famous almhouse.

The museum is open all year round, Tuesdays to Saturdays.

Explore The Charterhouse

Hanging Sign at Benjamin Franklin House London

Benjamin Franklin House, London

Benjamin Franklin House at 36 Craven Street in the heart of London is a heritage ‘gem’ and the world’s only remaining home of the iconic Benjamin Franklin.

Today, the house brings Franklin’s time in London to life for visitors through the Historical Experience, Architectural Tours, and an engaging calendar of events.

Explore Benjamin Franklin House

View of Pitzhanger

Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery, London

Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery was the country retreat of Sir John Soane, one of Britain’s most influential architects.

Pitzhanger reopened in spring 2019 following a £12M three-year conservation project to return it to Soane’s original designs and now stands as a rare example of a spectacular Soane building.

Explore Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery

Painshill Park bridge

Painshill Park, Surrey

Painshill is an award-winning eighteenth century landscape garden in Surrey.

The 158 acre wonderland has something for everyone and makes a great family day out. Discover the mystical follies, historic plantings, the John Bartram Heritage Collection of North American trees and shrubs (Plant Heritage, NCCPG), and some of Surrey’s amazing wildlife.

Open daily, all year round.

Discover Painshill Park

chiddingstone castle front

Chiddingstone Castle Grounds, Kent

Chiddingstone Castle is set in 35 acres of informal gardens, with breathtaking views of the North Downs, conservation woodlands, laws, lake and intimate rose garden.

The grounds are open every day of the year (except when closed for private functions), providing enchanting woodland walks, a fishing lake and spectacular views across the Kent countryside for all.

Explore Chiddingstone Castle

Penshurst Place historic Kent estate

Penshurst Place Grounds, Kent

Penshurst Place is one of the best examples of a fortified medieval manor house in England.

Surrounded by 11 acres of walled formal gardens and housing one of the few surviving medieval Baronial Halls in England, Penshurst Place is an historical gem in the Weald of Kent countryside. The stately home and gardens were once used as a hunting lodge for King Henry VIII, and now feature beautiful staterooms and grounds that are frequently showcased in popular TV and film productions.

The parkland is free to visit and open all year round.

Explore Penshurst Place Grounds

Give the Gift of Historic Houses Membership

Have you considered Historic Houses Gift Membership for a friend or loved one?

Historic Houses membership is the perfect gift for a loved one who enjoys learning, visiting and, ultimately, supporting Britain’s wonderful historic houses, castles, and gardens. From free access to hundreds of heritage sites right across the UK, to monthly online lectures and a fabulous quarterly magazine, our membership really is the very best membership scheme for history lovers.

North East

Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland

With origins in the Anglo-Saxon period, Bamburgh Castle has dominated its volcanic outcrop and the surrounding countryside for centuries. From its humble wooden palisade to the impressive stone walls of today, it strikes an iconic pose on the Northumbrian coastline.

Open all year round, the castle welcomes visitors to enjoy the grounds and staterooms. From the medieval kitchen to grandeur of the Victorian Kings Hall, there are fourteen rooms to explore.


Explore Bamburgh Castle
raby castle

Raby Castle Deer Park, Co Durham

Raby is without doubt one of the most impressive intact castles in the north of England. Built in the fourteenth century by the powerful Neville family, it has a long history. Home to Cecily Neville, mother of two kings of England, it was also the scene of the plotting of the Rising of the North and a Parliamentary stronghold during the Civil War.

Today visitors can experience this incredible medieval fortress, set in two hundred acres of beautiful parklands. With a cafe, shop, and new adventure playground, it’s the perfect place for a family day out. The deer park is open all year round, while the castle can be explored between March and November.


Explore Raby Castle

Ushaw historic house, chapels, and gardens, Durham

Tucked away in beautiful open countryside near Durham City, Ushaw’s Historic House, Chapels & Gardens are open to all. Young or old, each corner of Ushaw is a curiosity, waiting to wow.

Lose yourself in the grounds, be amazed by beautiful buildings, or marvel at centuries of art, history, and heritage. All attractions are open daily, 11am till 4pm.

Explore Ushaw

Auckland Castle & Gardens, Co Durham

Auckland Castle & Gardens is the ancient seat of the Bishops of Durham, and now the subject of one of the twentieth century’s most ambitious restorations.

It forms part of The Auckland Project, a unique collection of heritage attractions, galleries, and gardens in the historic town of Bishop Auckland, County Durham. Attractions and venues are open to visitors all year round from Wednesday to Sunday.

Explore Auckland Castle


Explore the North East of England

If you love castles and stately homes, a visit to the North East of England ticks all the boxes. From Alnwick Castle – as also seen in the Harry Potter franchise, to Raby Castle, Brancepeth Castle and Chipchase Castle, among others, the North East of England is the perfect day out.


Explore the ten best places to visit in the North East



Abbotsford, Roxburghshire

Abbotsford is the extraordinary former home of writer Sir Walter Scott, sitting on the banks of the River Tweed in the glorious Scottish Borders.

Visitors can learn about Sir Walter Scott through visiting the historic house and free exhibition. Browse Abbotsford’s shop, enjoy seasonal food in Ochiltree’s café or simply relax in the beautiful Regency Walled Gardens and tranquil woodlands.

The house and grounds are open to visitors every day between March and December.

Explore Abbotsford

Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire

Balmoral Castle is the Scottish residence of His Majesty the King.

The foundation stone for the castle was laid by Queen Victoria on 28 September 1853 and can be found at the foot of the wall adjacent to the West face of the entrance porch.

The grounds are open to the public on specific dates over the autumn and winter months.

Explore Balmoral

Winterbourne House and Gardens Japanese Teahouse

The Japanese Garden at Cowden, Clackmannanshire

Once described as ‘the most important Japanese Garden in the Western World’, this historic garden was founded in 1908 by inveterate traveller, Ella Christie. Under the supervision of Professor Fukuhara (best known for his gold medal at Chelsea plus the restoration of the Japanese Gardens at Kew and Tatton Park), Cowden has recently undergone a five year restoration programme.

The garden features a large pond with perimeter path, zig zag and arched bridges, antique lanterns, and Japanese structures including the new thatched pavilion (based on the Katsura Imperial Pavilion, Kyoto).

Explore The Japanese Garden at Cowden


Wentworth Woodhouse, South Yorkshire

Wentworth Woodhouse is one of the grandest stately homes in the country and is at the beginning of an ambitious regeneration project. Run by Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, the team aim to use the restoration of the site as a catalyst for positive change in South Yorkshire.

Visit one of England’s most spectacular facades, explore the fifty acres of gardens, and pause for lunch at the Butler’s Pantry Café where you will find a selection of seasonal items, light-bites, and sweet treats from local suppliers.

Open Tuesdays to Sundays between November and March.

Explore Wentworth Woodhuse

Harewood House

Harewood House, Leeds

Harewood House, built in the 1760s by Edwin Lascelles, is renowned for its magnificent Robert Adam interiors.

It is also home to superb Thomas Chippendale furniture and a world class collection of paintings by, amongst others, JMW Turner, Joshua Reynolds, Tiziano Veccelli (Titian) and Domenikos Theotokopoulos (known as El Greco).

Explore Harewood House

North West

Elizabeth Gaskell's House

Elizabeth Gaskell's House, Manchester

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House in Manchester is the former home of the famous author and her family.

This beautifully restored family home has spectacular period rooms and re-imagined garden for visitors to enjoy. The House, combined with the story of Elizabeth Gaskell as a writer, public figure and private person, provides a unique and engaging experience.

Explore Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

Muncaster Castle Gardens, Cumbria

In an idyllic setting amongst the Western Lake District fells, Muncaster offers an unforgettable experience. With its historic haunted castle, Himalayan gardens and bluebell woods, Muncaster offers the complete day out.

Its gardens, tearoom, and outdoor attractions are open daily all year round.

Explore Muncaster Castle Grounds

South West

Athelhampton House and Gardens history

Athelhampton House & Gardens, Dorset

Athelhampton is one of England’s finest Tudor Manor Houses.

Historic Houses membership allows free entry at Athelhampton and a 5% discount in the shop and restaurant. It is open every season, until 23rd December when it is closed for two weeks.

Explore Athelhampton House & Gardens

Castle Hill Gardens

Castle Hill Gardens, Devon

Castle Hill Gardens is an eighteenth-century landscape garden surrounding a Palladian mansion, built in 1730 for the Fortescue family.

The steep walk up to the Castle reveals unsurpassed views to Exmoor, Dartmoor, and beyond. The gardens are open Mondays to Fridays, 11am – 4pm.

Explore Castle Hill Gardens

Chawton House, Hampshire

Built by the Knight family in the 1580s, Chawton House has undergone centuries of change and development as it has passed through different hands.

This makes it rich with quirky and fascinating features: from graffiti on paintings and ‘witch marks’ on walls, to heraldic stained glass windows and ornately carved fireplaces.

The house’s most famous association is with Jane Austen, whose brother Edward inherited the estate in the 1780s.

Explore Chawton House

Highcliffe Castle, Dorset

Highcliffe Castle is a Grade I listed mansion built in the romantic gothic style. It was built by Lord Stuart de Rothesay in the early 1830s and remained a family home until the 1950s. It is situated on the cliff top with beach access and spectacular views across to the Isle of Wight.

The grounds are open daily all year round.

Explore Highcliffe Castle

The Bishop's Palace Frontage

The Bishop's Palace, Somerset

The Bishop’s Palace & Gardens in Wells has been home to the Bishops of Bath and Wells for over 800 years and this stunning medieval palace is open for all to enjoy.

Surrounded by a breath-taking moat (with resident swans) visitors can cross a flagstone drawbridge, walk under the portcullis and experience a true hidden gem in the heart of the City of Wells.

The Palace and grounds are open seven days a week, from 10am to 4pm, in the winter months.

Explore Bishop’s Palace & Gardens

West Dean Gardens Walled Garden and Glasshouses

West Dean Gardens | West Sussex

Visit West Dean Gardens (part of West Dean College of Arts and Conservation) in West Sussex and escape to a beautifully rejuvenated historic garden rich in creative and social heritage. Explore the extensive grounds on a gentle walk or venture further to the unique arboretum.

Explore West Dean Gardens

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Forde Abbey in Somerset