This evocative estate in Wiltshire, once used to house wounded soldiers in the First World War, offers something for all the family.
As you enter the leafy driveway of the Bowood estate you get a sense of the relief soldiers that had been repatriated must have felt as they were brought to these aristocratic surroundings amid one of Capability Brown’s most beautiful parks during WWI – it really couldn’t have been a bad place to wait out the war.
Bowood was turned into a Red Cross Hospital at the request of the Marchioness of Lansdowne following the death of Charles Mercer Nairne, the younger son of the 5th Marquis of Lansdowne, killed in action at Ypres only three months after the start of the war.
From now until 2 November this period in the estate’s history will be explored in the For King and Country Exhibition in the main house.
In true Capability Brown style the vast 100 acres of beautiful parkland include a lake, arboretum, pinetum and cascade, all of which helped it earn the accolade of Garden of the Year 2014 from the Historic Houses Association (sponsored by Christie’s). Meanwhile, inside the house you’ll find a fascinating collection of memorabilia, from Queen Victoria’s wedding chair to Napoleon’s death mask and an extensive art collection.
What you’ll get out of your visit to Bowood largely depends on when you choose to come: visit in spring and you can take the Rhododendron Walks in all their vibrant glory, while this autumn there are beautiful golden trails to follow, plus a number of activities to keep little ones entertained this half-term. You can take the Spooky Halloween Trail, on the hunt for the Golden Pumpkin; listen to ghost stories in the Haunted Pirate Galleon, or be turned into a ghoul yourself with some scary face-painting.
Half-term or not, Bowood is great for all the family – the new Tractor Ted section allows little ones to try their hand at riding mini tractors or controlling their own crane, plus they can get hands on with some of the farm’s animals. Bowood is also home to the best adventure playground we have ever seen – oh to be eight-years-old again.
The house has remained in ownership of the Lansdownes for 250 years; a prominent family who were not only wealthy but also politically minded – indeed the First Marquess of Landsdowne was also Prime Minister Lord Shelbourne who was instrumental in negotiating peace with America at the close of the War of Independence, while the 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne became Chancellor of the Exchequer at the young age of 25 and was a confidante of Queen Victoria.
You can’t stay in the house itself – although there is a nice cafe – but the relatively new Bowood Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort offers all the modern comforts of a luxury boutique hotel with a healthy dose of English refinement. From the moment you enter the warm reception (alongside which there is an elegant and calming morning room, the perfect place to sit and have a coffee and plan your day) everything is organised for you.
In your comfortable room you’ll find home-cooked cookies and dressing gowns and slippers (they even provide sets for children), and when you’re ready to venture downstairs for drinks both the bar and restaurant are family friendly and serve up traditional dishes with many of the ingredients sourced from the Bowood Estate. And if you do manage to pack the kids off to bed, the library next door to the bar is ideal for after-dinner drinks.
The next morning you can take the kids for a swim in the infinity pool during set hours, or book yourself in for a restorative treatment, ready for another fun-filled day of activities.
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