Jacobean high jinx
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I’ve been trying to visit Ascott, near Leighton Buzzard for absolutely ages. It’s like that sometimes with National Trust places don’t you think? You see the place on a map, read up on it, realise it’s only 40 minutes from where you are, and then spend the next few years trying to find the time to check it out.
I finally had my morning at Ascott with my kids one sunny morning last week. You can’t compare it to the likes of Waddesdon, Claydon House, The Vyne etc – it’s on a much smaller scale, with no tea room (a shame I think) and a very ‘drop in’ vibe. If I came again I’d bring a picnic, as others did, and sit and look at these gorgeous views.
As it was we had a very pleasant hour or two, walking around lovely gardens – big enough to create vistas and discover gorgeous nooks and crannies, but not so huge as to put off toddlers or older relatives.
The house itself is Jacobean but was extended massively by the Rothschilds – it’s a kind of English cottage meets Jacobean country house – and houses a fantastic collection of art, including pieces by Gainsborough, Romney, Reynolds and Stubbs. The dining room, decorated with what appear to be Dutch tiles but is in fact trompe l’oeil, contains a collection of small, mainly Dutch, paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries by such artists as Cuyp, van Ostade and Steen. And in the drawing room there’s a collection of blue Chinese ceramics with examples from the Han dynasty circa 206 BC, to the Qing dynasty which lasted from 1644 until 1911.
There are only a handful of rooms (all ground floor) that you can visit, including the sitting room, dining room and library, and then it’s pretty much all about the garden.
So you can see, the gardens are just gorgeous and well worth a walk around.
Also worth knowing that you’re within spitting distance of Newton Longville (not a pretty village but one that houses The Crooked Billet, a well-regarded pub with one of the most comprehensive single glass wine lists in the country), and also Woburn Sands, which is home to Doyles, one of the best fashion boutiques in the region, regularly mentioned in Vogue etc. So with a bit of forward planning, you can have a lovely few hours mooching about the North Bucks/Bedford borders.
Ascott, Wing, near Leighton Buzzard, LU7 0PR. Closed Mondays and from 7 September. Tel: 01296 688242.