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A country escape with stunning decor, classy art, beautiful parkland, weekend markets and historic Elizabethan credentials
Built by the son of Elizabeth I’s chief minister, Hatfield House is a grand Jacobean mansion set on parkland where Henry VIII once had a country palace. Indeed, it was during her stay at the Old Palace at Hatfield that Queen Bess got the news she had acceded to the throne.
Traces of the Tudor heritage remain at Hatfield House, including the famous ‘Rainbow Portrait’ of Elizabeth I. However, it’s the ornate early seventeenth-century decor that dominates – heavy wooden and marble staircases and rooms, sumptuous dining rooms and the kind of library a bookworm could hide away in for years.
Some parts of the Old Palace still stand, too, so you can see where Elizabeth was kept virtually under house arrest when her sister Mary was still alive. (Check in advance of your visit if it’s open on the day you plan to go.)
There’s a lot to explore outside at Hatfield House, too. Whatever time of year you visit, from spring’s first flowers to winter’s hoar frosts, there’s always something beautiful to discover out of doors here. Take a walk through the ancient woodland with its mature beech and oak trees and paths through the wild flowers, stroll the formal East Garden, take a romantic promenade through the pleached Lime Walk and check out the pretty West Garden. There are three marked trails too, for more energetic walkers.
For families, Hatfield Park Farm and Bloody Hollow Children’s Play Area are an unmissable part of the estate. There are traditional farm breeds to look at and feeding stations for little visitors who want to get closer. And for running off steam, there are sand pits, tractor tyres and climbing games. With the Sundial Garden and the striking new water sculpture in front of the main house, there’s lots to see for anyone with an eye for architecture and design, too.
|Transport:||Rail: Hatfield rail|
|Price:||House, West Garden and Park £19, £18 senior, £9 under-16, free under-five, £49 family; West Garden and Park £11, £10 senior, £7 under-16, free under-five; Hatfield Park Farm £5, £2.50 under-16, free under-five.|
|Opening hours:||For 2017 Hatfield House, Park and Gardens open Apr 15-Sep 30. Hatfield Park Farm and Bloody Hollow open Tue-Sun, bank holiday Mondays and Mondays in Hertfordshire school holidays.|
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