- The Oxfordshire National Trust site of Ashdown House is a curious Dutch-style home sitting in a scenic valley of the Berkshire Downs.
- Built in 1662, the house has a fascinating and royal tale of romance behind it that is waiting to be discovered during your visit.
- Ashdown is surrounded by a landscaped lawn and an enchanting woodland home to plenty of wildlife, nature trails and quiet walking routes.
- Guided tours allow public visitors to explore this remarkable building, much of which is still tenanted today.
- Look out for the intriguing lace maker at work on the grounds as well as the mesmerising woodland craft demonstrations that take place on site.
Ashdown House has a history straight out of a love story that dates back to the mid-17th-century. Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia, the daughter of James I of England, met William, 1st Earl of Craven when she was living in exile in The Hague. William was one of the richest men in England and was made an Earl by King Charles after financially helping him to win the Civil War in England. After Elizabeth's husband died, William fell in love with her and devotedly became her escort and head of the house when they returned to England. It was even rumoured that they had secretly married, and legend has it that when the plague hit London in the 1600s, Lord Craven wanted to build Elizabeth a safe haven away from the city. Her love of hunting brought Craven to choose Ashdown, but sadly Elizabeth died before the house could be completed in her honour. William never married and lived in Ashdown House surrounded by Elizabeth's papers, portraits and trophies until his death at 89 years old. The last family member left the house in 1926, and it was given to the National Trust in 1956 as a site of historical significance. Today, you can discover this romantic history and see the relics of Elizabeth and William on guided tours of the extraordinary house.
As well as the tragic love story behind it, the Ashdown House National Trust site is also remarkable for its unique architectural design. The tall, Dutch-style structure was most likely inspired by William and Elizabeth's time spent in the Netherlands, with the house being designed and built in 1662 by either William Winde or Balthazar Gerbier. Ashdown is uniquely tall and narrow with two low pavilions either side of it, and this fairytale-like building is noted as appearing like a unique doll's house perched amongst the Berkshire Downs. Sitting on top of this peculiar National Trust treasure is a domed cupola and golden globe, surrounded by a rooftop viewing platform that offers spectacular views of the countryside hills. This, along with the huge oak staircase that runs throughout the building, can be accessed by the public on the fascinating guided tours that take place at Ashdown House throughout the year.
A family visit to this one-of-a-kind National Trust near Swindon lets you take a small group, guided walking tour of the intriguing house and learn all about the exceptional history behind it. Step inside this 17th-century tenanted house on a guided staircase tour and discover the Queen of Bohemia artefacts and portraits that adorn the walls, seeing for yourself the unusual and iconic architecture that has stood out on this Berkshire valley for nearly four hundred years. Your tour will be led by a humorous and full-of-knowledge guide and will last around thirty minutes, taking you up the 100-step staircase (if you can brave it!) to the panoramic rooftop itself. Up at the rooftop viewing platform, you can marvel at the magnificent, gold-topped cupola that sits at the height of this National Trust landmark, and look out to the stunning, rolling hills of the Berkshire Downs and surrounding Oxfordshire countryside. During your tour, be sure to keep an eye out for the mesmerising lace maker who still works on site, as well as the woodland craft demonstrations that are put on within the grounds. Alongside the house runs the delightful Ashdown Park and Garden, which is a wonderfully maintained woodland area full of quiet walking routes and an abundance of enchanting trees. The parkland is cared for by the National Trust and is open throughout the year to the public (and their dogs!) to enjoy a tranquil stroll, some wildlife spotting, or charming children's games amongst the wide variety of trees. If you're feeling inspired by the romantic history of Ashdown House, then why not let your imaginations run wild in the woods and create your very own royal story on the grounds? Kids and adult alike will also love the landscaped, formal lawn that lies at the foot of the house, which is lined with swirling hedges, exquisitely-kept shrubbery and moat-like pathways surrounding the building.
Whether you're a history buff, lover of all things romantic or want to enjoy the picturesque scenery of the Berkshire Downs, Ashdown House and its surrounding woodlands offer a charming day out for all the family. Its convenient location just off of the M4 motorway makes the National Trust site a perfect stop-off if you're travelling to or from London by car and need somewhere to stretch your legs, entertain the kids and introduce a slice of romantic storytelling to your journey. Due to its ongoing tenancy, Ashdown House is however only open to the public on select afternoons throughout the week, so make sure you check ahead of your visit if you are hoping to venture on a guided tour of the grounds when you're passing by.
Around the scenic, hilly countryside of the North Wessex Downs AONB there are also many other old landmarks to be discovered nearby, such as Uffington Castle - White Horse and Dragon Hill, the rock formations of Wayland's Smithy, Alfred's Castle, and the popular walking routes of Ashdown Park and Garden. Further out around Oxfordshire and the surrounding Cotswolds, you can also find the 160-acre reserve of the Cotswolds Wildlife Park and Gardens, which features over 260 animal species for your kids to discover.
What to know before you go
- Ashdown House Oxfordshire is free for National Trust members. There are reduced rates available for children, and family tickets are also available.
- We recommend allowing one and a half to two hours for your visit to Ashdown House and the surrounding woodland. Guided tours of the house last for around thirty minutes.
- The National Trust site of Ashdown House is only accessible to the public via their guided tours, which run at 2.15pm, 3.15pm and 4.15pm. Tours take place with up to 25 people at a time.
- On busier days at the National Trust site, timed tickets for the guided tours will be handed out to visitors at the entrance gate on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Group tours are available for Ashdown House but must be pre-booked in advance of your visit.
- The Ashdown woodland is open to visitors from dawn until dusk.
- Visitors should bear in mind that Ashdown House is tenanted so access may be limited to just the roof, entrance hall and staircase (of which there are 100 steps), as many of the rooms remain to be private, lived-in property. Please note that the guided staircase tour is unfortunately not accessible for wheelchair users and that you will end up on the rooftop viewing platform during your tour.
- The house grounds are accessible via tarmac paths, plus some loose gravel pathways and flat grass paths.
- There is an induction loop system available from reception plus a portable system for guided tours.
- There are toilets on-site and an adapted toilet which are available during times that the house is open to the public.
- You can find information and artefacts about Ashdown House in the display areas at the visitor reception.
- There is a small shop area on-site selling postcards and guide books, as well as free walking trail maps and tree trail maps.
- Dogs are welcome in the woodland area if they are kept on leads.
- There are many family-friendly country restaurants around the venue if you want to fuel up before or after you visit, including farm-to-table pub Helen Browning's Royal Oak, The Plough Inn, The Brewers Arms, The Rose and Crown Inn or The Burj Indian restaurant.
- Ashdown House is located in Berkshire within the Oxfordshire civil parish of Ashbury.
- If you are travelling via car, Ashdown House is situated two and a half miles south of Ashbury and three and a half miles north of the village of Lambourn. The site is towards the west side of the B4000 not far from the M4.
- There is a free car park on site situated 150 metres from the house in Ashdown woods. You can walk to the main venue entrance along a tarmac paved drive.
- Accessible parking is available next to the house and can be pre-booked in advance.
- Ashdown House is accessible via the Swindon to Lambourn bus route, and there is a bus stop at the entrance to the venue.
- Swindon Train Station is 11 miles away and a 25 to 30-minute drive to the venue, or you can take the number 47 bus route in around 45 minutes.