Top 10 unique houses
Discover some of the most unusual houses in our care that you can visit. From the biggest to the smallest and from the scariest to the most innovative, every place has its own story to tell.
Winter house closures
Some of the historic houses in our care close over the winter months so we can carry out vital conservation work. Please check individual place webpages for up-to-date information on opening times.
- The biggest
- Formerly an archbishop’s palace, the house at Knole in Kent is notable for both its size and grandeur. There's a vast complex of rooms, staircases and courtyards and we’re still discovering hidden spaces as we carry out conservation work. Explore the showrooms for an insight into the house, which passed from royalty to the Sackville family who still live there today.Visit Knole
- The roundest
- Though the entire house isn't round, the iconic Rotunda at Ickworth House in Suffolk stands out from the crowd. The house was built as an 18th-century palace to showcase lots of treasures collected over generations. The Rotunda forms the centrepiece of the Ickworth estate, showcasing an internationally renowned art and silver collection, including the statue of The Fury of Athamas.Visit Ickworth
- A conservation triumph
- Explore the previously unopen rooms at Mount Stewart in County Down, which has been restored to its early 20th-century glory. A team of experts undertook extensive repairs and completely redecorated the neo-classical house, which was once home to Edith, Lady Londonderry. The three-year-long project cost £8m and involved 200 volunteers.Visit Mount Stewart
- Most innovative
- Created by Victorian inventor William Armstrong, Cragside in Northumberland is Britain’s original smart home – it has innovation at its heart. It was the first house in the world to be lit using hydroelectric power and was filled with the latest technology for efficient, modern living. This included a telephone system, hot and cold running water, hydraulic lift and water-powered spit.Visit Cragside
- Most romantic royal connection
- While kings, queens and other royalty have visited and stayed at several places we look after, Polesden Lacey in Surrey was a romantic royal getaway. The Duke and Duchess of York, later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother), spent part of their honeymoon there in 1923. Renowned hostess Mrs Greville also welcomed Edward VII and George V as visitors to her Edwardian country retreat.Visit Polesden Lacey
- The finest art
- Petworth House in West Sussex has many great works of art on display, including pieces by Turner, Van Dyck and Reynolds. You’ll also find treasures like the Molyneux Globe, thought to be the earliest English terrestrial globe in existence, and A Vision of the Last Judgment – a dramatic work of art by William Blake.Visit Petworth
- The smallest
- Clouds Hill in Dorset was the tiny rural retreat of TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). He rented the whitewashed cottage when he was stationed at the military base Bovington Camp. Lawrence described it as ‘a hut in a wood near camp wherein I spend my spare evenings,’ and later bought the cottage. Sadly, he died following a motorcycle accident nearby in 1935. His younger brother inherited the cottage and, realising its historic importance, he began talking to us about how we could look after it in the future.Visit Clouds Hill
- Most tranquil hideaway
- Tucked away in the idyllic surroundings of Charnwood Forest, Stoneywell in Leicestershire is a rare surviving example of an Arts and Crafts house with its original furnishings. The charming stone cottage was designed by architect Ernest Gimson as a holiday home for his brother. It remained in the Gimson family for four generations until it came into our care in late 2012.Visit Stoneywell
- The scariest
- With a history spanning 2,000 years, Treasurer’s House in York has seen more than its fair share of ghostly goings-on. The most infamous is the legion of Roman soldiers seen marching along the Roman road that runs beneath the cellar. People have also felt strange presences in other rooms and it’s said to be York’s most haunted house.Visit Treasurer’s House
- Most unusual collection
- Snowshill Manor in Gloucestershire takes the prize for the most unusual collection. It’s packed with extraordinary treasures collected by Charles Paget Wade – so many that he had to move into a cottage next door. The collection of 22,000 objects includes Samurai armour and whole rooms devoted to specific collections, such as ‘Seventh Heaven’, which is full of toys.Visit Snowshill Manor
Visit some of the places we look after that have inspired famous writers, playwrights and poets, including the homes of Beatrix Potter, Virginia Woolf and Thomas Hardy.
Discover the places we look after that have links to the Tudor period, from prominent figures like Henry VII and key events such as the dissolution of the monasteries. They’ve received royal visitors, hidden Catholic priests and witnessed important events.
Discover Arts and Crafts houses to visit. These fascinating and honest buildings showcase traditional craftsmanship, many featuring William Morris designs and interiors.
Have you ever imagined what life was like for a servant in a country house? Wander round sculleries, pantries and servants’ quarters to uncover their stories.
Discover the Tudor places in our care where you'll find priest holes – spaces where priests could hide and stay safe during times of persecution.
Learn about the houses, gardens and estates in our care with inspiring love stories. From romance at Erddig in North Wales to unusual symbols of love at Hughenden in Buckinghamshire, many of our places have a tale to tell.
Bring history to life when you uncover links to royalty through the ages at the places we look after and in their collections.