Hatfield House is one of my favourite places. Its a proper all singing all dancing historic affair, with everything you could need for a day out – quintessential historic house, picturesque mazes, landscaped gardens, one of the best kids play areas I’ve ever seen – with one of the best names – Bloody Hollow (my daughter loves saying this over and over and not being told off for swearing), a cafe with Tom Dixon furniture, an array of boutique shops and a cute little animal farm, complete with baby donkeys. It also plays host to a variety of events, markets fairs, operas, music festivals, plus outdoor cinema and theatre. Its been the setting of numerous films, including Tombraider, Batman and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. One of my most memorable evenings was watching The XX perform a couple of years ago as the sun set behind the house. I can understand why Queen Elizabeth I loved it so much…
Seriously if you haven’t been, its worth a day out during the Summer holidays, the kids will love it! Its a national treasure! Easy to get to by train from Kings Cross and just under an hour’s drive from London.
So first off I’ll admit that despite living nearby for the past five years, I hadn’t actually ever been inside the house… we’re frequently at the kids playground and lunching in the cafe, but I’d never quite got round to a full visit.
So we spent a couple of hours this weekend mozying around and taking in the full splendour of the house’s Jacobean interior and beautiful grounds. What I liked most about the house was the presence of the current family, the Cecils. You get a real sense that they still live there and are part of its ongoing heritage. Family photos and paintings hang throughout the house, alongside the famous Rainbow Portrait of Elizabeth I and a wonderful Van Dyck. The house has an impressive collection of artefacts, including a number of objects associated with Queen Elizabeth I, such as hand gloves and a pair of silk stockings that are believed to have been the first ones in England.
Parts of the house have been turned over as visitor attractions, such as the original Victorian kitchen, where children can use the interactive touch screens to learn more about life back then, especially when Queen Victoria paid a visit in 1846 and an elaborate ball was held in her honour.
It only takes an hour or so to look around the house, so no time for the little ones to get bored, and as much as we loved exploring the house, we’d picked a glorious sunny afternoon, so the gardens were even more fun! We did cartwheels galore on the manicured lawns (well the 8 year old did anyway), played hide and seek in the maze and chilled out on the numerous benches dotted around.
After all those cartwheels (!) it was time for some home made cake and coffee (which, as a coffee snob, I have to say was not at all bad). The cafe is so lovely, I have Tom Dixon furniture envy – and I need those chandelier lights….
Next stop was the courtyard shops. Its such a pretty area, reminds me of the village in Harry Potter. Theres a handful of shops selling antiques, gifts, jewellery, interiors – plus a slightly unexpected Dog Grooming parlour, but it sells lovely collars and blankets.
We perused the toy shop and I even had my eye on a very on trend Victoriana blouse, but decided against it as it did make me look too much like a scullery maid (will stick with Zara’s version).
Even if you’re a seasoned visitor at Hatfield House, keep an eye on their events and entertainment. They have an impressive schedule and its very varied. I’ve got the Christmas Frost Fair and open air Luna cinema on my to do lists.