Althorp

2467 Reviews

Star Travel Rating

5/5

Review type

Things to do

Location

Date of travel

2013

Product name

Product country

Product city

Travelled with

Adult family

Reasons for trip

It's hard to believe that it was in August 1997 that Princes Diana died and a visit to Althorp brings back many memories of her life and work.

On a glorious sunny day, the stately home stands majestic in many acres of land, and one has to imagine Diana as a child being brought up here, with a team of nannies and servants. A beautiful house, but not really a home; austere and formal and literally miles from the nearest neighbour.

Parking is in a field just across from the main entrance, and there is a minibus service for those who prefer not to walk to the house itself. Probably around 500m or so but just that bit too far for those less mobile, and this is a welcome touch.

The stately home is open for 6 weeks each year and a team of friendly and helpful staff are shipped in, many of whom have been working here for years and clearly love the house, the family and its incredible history.

Charles Spencer rules the roost, and as one wanders around the home (audio guide offered for a supplement of £3), it is incredible how many paintings are on display of the family through the years. It is said that the Spencers are more royal than the Royal family, and this collection is living proof of that. Recent renovations to the house necessitated the selling of a painting for a cool £11 million. A useful way to work really when you can trade an heirloom or two to pay the bills. Like an aristocratic e-bay.

Diana's presence is not really felt in the house itself apart from one beautiful portrait next to her brother. We are told that the house is used for guests who visit the literary festival, and for weddings and other events. Four poster beds abound, although I am not sure I would want to sleep in a room with quite so many paintings of stern looking nobility staring at me. Charles has juxtaposed 2 very modern paintings within the collection – like them or hate them, they are a talking point. Next to a line up of Charles' II mistresses is a painting of the actress Jaime Winstone looking like a rock chic / drug addict. It startles the senses, but that is the intention.

The stable block is dedicated to Diana with early footage of her childhood which is very poignant, as well as memorabilia such as a page from her diary (a reminder to go to lunch at the Savoy gives a flavour of her life). Other rooms show her work with the landmines and the Red Cross, as well as many of her clothes, including the original dress which looks fussy and dated all these years later. There is little mention of HRH Prince Charles, one assumes that is the decision of Charles Spencer.

The visit is completed by a beautiful stroll around the lake at the centre of which is an island where Diana's body was taken. It feels remote and isolated – a metaphor for much of her life one imagines.

A very nice café and gift shop complete the visit. The food on offer is varied and well priced, and a lovely courtyard was the perfect spot to enjoy an ice cream.

Those with limited mobility would not be able to visit the upper floor of the house, but the stables are very accessible, and a wheelchair user would easily be able to be pushed around the lake walk.

We found out that the stable exhibition is closing at the end of this summer, although it is not know where it will be relocated to. One would hope that it will be to else where in the house, otherwise the visit to Althorp would be sadly diminished.

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