Summer days out: Stately Homes and Ruins

20 ideas with an historic theme. Ruins are generally a better bet than stately homes, there being a limit to the joy a seven-year-old can extract from the pleasing proportions of an Adam fireplace. Let them just romp and imagine in a castle or an old abbey. English Heritage keeps the nation's best ruins; the National Trust and the Historic Houses Association the best houses, many of which have rompable grounds.

1. La Ronde, Exmouth, Devon

Quirky 18th-century house with 16 sides, built by two spinsters on return from Grand Tour. Interior includes feather frieze and shell-encrusted gallery. Booking essential. Open: Sun-Thur, 11am. £4.50; child, £2.20. (01395 265514).

2. Batemans, Etchingham, East Sussex

Rudyard Kipling's home, including the study where he wrote, reflecting strong associations with India. The grounds run down to a river with watermill. Open: Sat-Wed, 11am. £5.90; child, £2.95; family (two plus three), £14.75 (01435 882302).

3. Birmingham Back-to-Backs, Birmingham

Court of restored back-to-back housing, whose story is told through the experiences of people who lived here. Open: Tues-Sun, 10.15am. £4; child, £2; family (two plus three), £12.

(0121-666 7671).

4. Blickling Hall Garden and Park, Blickling, Norwich

Spectacular long gallery and superb plasterwork ceilings in house; lake and woodland walks outside. Open: Wed-Sun, 1pm. £7.30; child under 16, £3.65; family (two plus three), £18.60. (01263 738030).

5. Breamore House, near Fordingbridge, Hampshire

House and unspoilt village, with museum featuring farm worker's cottage, blacksmith's shop, dairy, wheelwright's, brewery, saddler's, cobbler's etc.

Open: Tues-Thur, Sat, Sun in July, 1pm; Tues-Sun in August, 1pm. £6; child 5 to 15 years, £4; senior, £5; family (two plus two), £15. (01725 512468).

6. Calke Abbey, Ticknall, Derbyshire

Famous time-capsule of a house, with interiors unchanged since the 1880s. Open: Sat-Wed, 11am. £6.30; child, £3.10; family (two plus three), £15.70. (01332 863822).

7. Dover Castle and Secret Wartime Tunnels, Dover

Underground tunnels used during the Second World War. Other exhibitions include one reconstructing Henry VIII's visit in 1539 and another of the 1216 siege experience. Open; daily, 10am. £8.95; child 5-15, £4.50; family (two plus three), £22.40. (01304 211067).

8. Dunham Massey, Altrincham, Cheshire

Country estate including mansion with "below stairs" areas, impressive garden, deer park, orangery, Victorian bark-house and well-house. Garden open: daily, 11am. £6.50; child, £3.25; family ticket (two plus three), £16.25. (0161-941 1025).

9. Eltham Palace, south London

Plenty of inspiration for little lovers of home makeover shows here. Check out the pink leather-upholstered chairs and silver ceiling in the dining room, or the gold-plated taps and statue of the goddess Psyche in the bathroom. Open: Sun-Wed, 10am. £7.30; concessions, £5.50; child, £3.70; family (two plus three), £18.30. (020-8294 2548).

10. Glendurgan Garden, near Falmouth, Cornwall

Subtropical garden running down to tiny village of Durgan and its beach. Plus laurel maze. Open: Tues-Sat, 10.30am. £4.50; child, £2.20; family (two plus three), £11.20. (01326 250906).

11. Greys Court, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Tudor house, beautiful courtyard, plus wheelhouse, walled gardens, maze and ice-house.

Open: House: Wed-Fri, 2pm. Garden: Tues-Sat, 2pm. £5.20; child, £2.60; family (two plus three), £13 (01491 628529).

12. Goodrich Castle, near Symonds Yat, Herefordshire

Ruined fortress dating from the 12th century, perched on a commanding crag overlooking the river Wye. Also home to a restored keep and the "Roaring Meg" cannon used in a battle in 1645. Open: daily, 10am. £4.50; child, £2.20; concessions, £3.20; family (two plus three), £10.80. (01600 890538).

13. Grimsthorpe Castle, Bourne, Lincolnshire

Thirteenth-century castle with interesting interior, unusual ornamental vegetable gardens and nature trail. Open: Sun-Thur, 1pm. £7; child £3.50; family (two plus two), £17.50. Also evening candlelight supper tours. (01778 591205).

14. Linlithgow Palace, near Edinburgh

Set in a park beside a loch, this castle has many nooks and crannies to explore.

Open: daily, 9.30am. £4; child 5-15 years, £1.60. (01506 842896).

15. Melford Hall, Sudbury, Suffolk

Queen Elizabeth I woz 'ere. Panelled banqueting hall, Regency library, and spectacular trees and walks in grounds. Open: Wed-Sun, 2pm. £4.70; child, £2.35; family (two plus two), £11.75. (01787 379228).

16. Penrhyn Castle, Bangor, Wales

Restored Victorian kitchen and servants' rooms reveal the preparations for a banquet marking the Prince of Wales's visit in 1894. Model railway and dolls' museum in stable block.

Open: Wed-Mon, 11am. £7; child, £3.50; family (two plus three), £17.50.

(01248 353084).

17. Powderham Castle, Kenton, Devon

Historic home of Earls of Devon, set alongside river Exe. Rides to see deer, plus Secret Garden with guinea pigs, rabbits, pygmy goats and friends. Open: Sun-Fri, 10am. House and garden: £7.45; child, £4.10; family (two plus two), £19.90. Grounds only: £4.90/£3.10/ £14.90. (01626 890243).

18. Sizergh Castle and Garden, near Kendal, Cumbria

Medieval castle with footpaths providing short walks to dramatic viewpoints over Morecambe Bay and Lake District.

Garden open: Sun-Thur, 12.30pm. £5.80; child, £2.90; family (two plus three), £14.50. (015395 60951).

19. South Foreland Lighthouse, St Margaret's Bay, Dover

Victorian lighthouse was first to display an electrically powered signal. Open: daily, 11am. £2.40; child, £1.20; family (two plus two), £6. (01304 852463).

20. Stanford Hall, Lutterworth, Leicestershire

Site of death in 1899 of Percy Pilcher, the first man to fly in England when his Flying Machine, The Hawk, crashed there. Full-size replica of The Hawk is on view in the stables. Open: Sun and bank holiday Mon only, 1.30pm. House and grounds: £5; child age three to 15, £2. Grounds only: £3/£1 (01788 860250).

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