Out And About: Are we nearly there?

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The Independent Online
On Monday `The Independent' broke the news that the Royal Family may plan to hand over Buckingham Palace to the people. It's by no means Britain's only palace. There's a variety. Some are dazzling. All are worth exploring.

Buckingham Palace, St James's Park, London. Currently the Royals entertain 40,000 people here yearly. Originally known as Buckingham House, it was built in 1705 for the Duke of Buckingham. King George III bought it in 1762 and moved there with Queen Caroline, then George IV remodelled the house; much of the present structure and decoration are a result of his work. The Royal Standard always flies when the Queen is in residence. The changing of the guard occurs at 11.30am daily (alternate days in winter). Opening: 9.30am-4.15pm. Prices: adults pounds 9, children pounds 5, under-fives free (0171-839 1377).

Holyroodhouse Palace, Edinburgh. This has its origins in an abbey supposedly founded on a fragment of Christ's cross. Holyrood became a home for Scottish monarchs, including Mary Queen of Scots. Many of the startling events of her short reign happened there, for example the murder of her secretary, Rizzio. The palace later became a shrine to her cult. It's also recognised as the key monument in the history of Scottish architecture, renowned for its virtuoso fretwork ceilings. Members of the Royal Family often stay while carrying out engagements in Scotland. Opening: April to October, 9.30am-5.15pm; November to March, 9.30am-3.45pm. Prices: adults pounds 5.30, senior citizens pounds 3.70, children under 17, pounds 2.60, family ticket (two adults, two children) pounds 13 (details, 0131-556 7371).

Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey. Advertised as the "eighth wonder of the world", it lies 12 miles from central London. It's so grand that, like Blenheim, it merits a whole day's visit. It originally belonged to Thomas Wolsey but, after falling from favour with the king, he was forced to give it to him. Henry spent today's equivalent of pounds 18m in developing the palace to the limits of his imagination: bowling alleys, pleasure gardens, hunting grounds, maze. Opening: March to October, Tuesday to Sunday, 9.30am-6pm; mid-October to mid-March, Tuesday to Sunday, 9.30am- 4.30pm; Mondays, 10.15am-4.30pm. Prices: adults pounds 8.50, under 16s pounds 5.60, under-fives free, family ticket pounds 25.40. Season tickets also available (0181-781 9500).

Scone Palace, Perth. This is the home of the earls of Mansfield. It was the ancient crowning-place of kings, including Macbeth and Robert the Bruce. Indoors you can find ivories, clocks and French furniture; outside there's a forest of giant redwoods, sitka spruce and Douglas firs, some of which are more than 150ft high and still growing. There are pleasant walks through the Wild Garden with its displays of daffodils, rhododendrons and azaleas. Other outdoor attractions include a picnic area, an adventure playground and peacocks. Open daily 28 March to 13 October, Monday to Sunday, 9.30am-5pm. Prices: adults pounds 5, children pounds 2.80, family ticket pounds 15 (details, 01738 552308).

Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire. This enormous pile was the birthplace of Winston Churchill. You can take a look at his curls kept in a frame, and wander all the corridors - Blenheim's so big that no one can live in it. Outside there's a butterfly house, a park landscaped by "Capability" Brown, and the world's largest hedge maze, in which it's almost impossible not to get lost for a while. You may prefer to go for a row on the lake, with its swans, herons and grebes. Opening: daily, 10.30am-5.30pm, mid-March to the end of October. Prices: adults pounds 7.80, children five to 15 pounds 3.80, family ticket pounds 20 (01993 811091).

The Brighton Pavilion. This extraordinary building resembles a fairy palace. It began as little more than a "modest farmhouse" which George, Prince of Wales, rented when he first began visiting Brighton in 1783. Through the centuries, monarchs developed it to its present splendour. It is said that Hitler planned to use it for his HQ after invading England - but, of course, he never reached these shores. Opening: June to September, daily 10am-6pm; October to end of May, 10am-5pm. Prices: adults pounds 4.10, children pounds 2.50, students and senior citizens pounds 3 (01273 290900).