St. Michael’s Mount
Take a deep breath, smell the salt air, and take in the view. Here on the island called St. Michael’s Mount, you’re only about 400 yards from the southwest coast of Cornwall, the western-most county in England.
When the tide is low, you can actually walk across a causeway from the island to the coast. But when the tide is high, you’ll need a boat to get back and forth.
The British National Trust cares for St. Michael’s Mount, along with the Aubyn family, which has owned it since the 1600s. This piece of granite is a British treasure with a long history as a destination for religious pilgrims and an outpost for commerce and battle.
You could describe St. Michael’s Mount as a pile of granite that rises about 200 feet (60.6 meters) above sea level. Legend has it that a giant named Cormoran built the Mount, and you can almost imagine him tossing granite boulders out of his way, leaving them scattered about as you see them today.
According to the legend, a young boy named Jack tricked Cormoran into falling into a pit, killing him and saving the livestock on the mainland from the giant’s raids.
Church and Castle
Climbing to the top of St. Michael’s Mount rewards you with beautiful views and a look at an impressive church and castle. The island has been a destination for pilgrims since the first sighting, or vision, of St. Michael by fishermen here in the fifth century. The castle was built around the church in the 1400s, in part to protect the island from French pirates.
In addition to its religious importance, St. Michael’s Mount held strategic military importance. It survived the Wars of the Roses, the Spanish Armada, and the English Civil War. The cannons you see overlook the harbor.
Legend has it that cannon fire forced a Napoleonic French ship to the Cornish coast, where it was captured.
Kedleston Hall is a luxurious 18th-century palace surrounded by 820 acres of parkland. Located near Derby, about 50 miles southeast of Manchester, and owned by the British National Trust since 1987, Kedleston Hall displays the wealth and power of the Curzon family as it was in the 1700s.
(The family has owned the land since the 12th century.) The building is home to a big collection of valuable art; the grounds are home to both domestic and wild animals.
The 820 acres of park that surround Kedleston Hall were carefully designed by the Hall’s architect, Robert Adam. Rather than formal gardens, Adam decided to create what was called in the 1700s “a pleasure ground,” with walking paths and even man-made lakes.
Sheep and Cows
What’s this? A cow? On the grounds of a beautiful English castle? Yes, cows and sheep graze on the grounds at Kedleston Hall, keeping the grass short. The parkland is also home to an abundance of wildlife, including stoats (they’re a kind of weasel) and bats.
No one was ever meant to live at Kedleston Hall. Its owner, Sir Nathaniel Curzon, had architect Robert Adam design it as a place to show beautiful things—a “temple of the arts.” The hall was built in 1765, replacing Nathaniel Curzon’s father’s smaller house on the same site.
The younger Curzon used Kedleston Hall to display his collections of paintings, sculpture, and furniture, much as they are displayed today.
You’re standing on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour, just off the southern coast of England. It’s a small island (although it’s the largest of eight islands in the harbor)—only a mile and a half long and three-quarters of a mile wide (2.4 km by 1.2 km.)
The island has been under the care of the National Trust since 1962. The NT leases a large part of the island to the Dorset Wildlife Trust, which protects the local wildlife, both animals and plants. Brownsea Island is one of the few places in Great Britain where you can see red squirrels.
You get to Brownsea Island on a ferry that travels across Poole Harbour. You can catch the ferry from Poole, Bournemouth, or Sandbanks on the mainland.
During World War II, fires were lit on Brownsea Island to mislead Nazi bombers. The decoy protected the towns of Poole and Bournemouth, but drew attention to the village of Maryland on the island, which was flattened by bombs. Fortunately, Maryland was deserted at the time.
From Brownsea Island, you can see the Purbeck Hills. The chalk hills are part of Purbeck Island (it’s really a peninsula, not an island), which overlooks Poole Harbour, cradling Brownsea on the south.
St. Mary’s Church
Most of the buildings on Brownsea Island cluster around the dock area. Part of St. Mary’s Church (built in 1854) now houses flags from the Boy Scouts. The Boy Scouts was founded in 1907 shortly after a week-long camping program on the island. Brownsea is considered the birthplace of the Scouts.
Lyveden New Bield
Imagine visiting a house that someone started building more than 400 years ago but never finished. Well, here you are at Lyveden New Bield, in Northamptonshire, England. In the late 1500s, Sir Thomas Tresham began work on Lyveden New Bield.
Tresham was Catholic at a time when it was hard to be Catholic in England. He endured jail and fines for many years. Sir Thomas died in 1605 before the building could be completed, and it has stood unfinished ever since.
Sir Thomas Tresham had Lyveden New Bield designed to express his devotion to Catholicism, marking it with Catholic symbols.
It looks like no expense was spared in building the house. Notice the high-quality brickwork and the windows with stone mullions (the bars that divide the windows).
You can’t see them from where you stand, but decorative and religious touches mark the inside of the house—at least as much as was finished.
The grounds of Lyveden New Bield include grassy fields and, although you can’t see it, an orchard of apple and pear trees partially surrounded by a moat that was never finished. Remains of formal gardens still grace the property.
Stourhead House and Gardens
The Stourhead House was built in the 1740s by Henry Hoare II. Hoare’s family had amassed a fortune in banking. The house itself was one of the first in England to be built in the Palladian style, an architectural style based on the designs of the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio.
The gardens were equally innovative in their day. Hoare planned elaborate landscaped gardens, complete with a lake and many classical buildings in addition to the plants. The National Trust acquired the 2,650-acre property in 1946.
The Bristol Cross
Henry Hoare II didn’t build the tall plinth with cross on the grounds of Stourhead House—he moved it. That’s right. Hoare had oxen pull six wagons in order to carry the pieces of the cross from Bristol (hence its name) to Stourhead, where he had it reassembled.
Notice that the bridge crosses a bit of the lake at Stourhead. Henry Hoare II had the five-arched bridge built in 1762. You can cross part of the lake on the bridge, but Hoare put it there mainly for decoration. (You could easily walk around, rather than over, the lake.)
The lake at the heart of Stourhead House’s gardens reflects the classical buildings and beautiful foliage that surround it. The lake didn’t exist in nature: Henry Hoare II created it by building a dam.