Knole

Sevenoaks Kent TN13 1HU

A convenient hop from Sevenoaks town centre, Knole is one of the finest old aristocratic estates in the country, romantic and a little melancholy, redolent of a long lost era, and slowly – if beautifully – decaying. Writer Vita Sackville-West, who grew up here, felt an almost visceral passion for this characterful estate, which, starting as a medieval manor house grew to become a royal residence and was expanded over the centuries before falling into the ownership of her family; the fact that, as a woman, she was never able to inherit it haunted her until death. Many people come here simply to walk through the extensive grounds, a thousand acres of them, grazed by five hundred or so deer, but the house, which has remained much as it did in Jacobean times, and is currently being assiduously restored by the National Trust, is well worth a visit. Around twenty of Knole's hundreds of rooms are open to the public, many of them in a state of dilapidation – something which only adds to the allure, and makes a fascinating setting for the house's show-stopping treasures –  in addition to amazing Renaissance sculpture and a wealth of Old Masters, there are a number of stunning beds on show, dripping with silver, gold and sequins, all rather tarnished and fragile today. If you're visiting on a Tuesday, it's worth paying the extra couple of pounds to see the private walled garden, which has a number of interesting medieval and Elizabethan features.

Places to stay near Knole