Join Albion on their journey through Waddesdon Manor in the latest post describing a luxurious day out visiting the English-French-chateau. Planning a trip to the UK to visit more National Trust properties or English country homes? Learn more about our tour partner Albion’s trips offered throughout 2016 and 2017. Make sure you pack your Royal Oak membership before your travels to receive unlimited access!
By Melodie Robson, Heritage Product Manager
When you visit Waddesdon Manor you don’t just step back in time, it feels as though you have traveled to a whole other country. Built to look like a French chateau in the late 19th century by the banker and politician Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, it is easier to imagine this impressive house being situated in French Bourges rather than rural Buckinghamshire. Nothing can quite prepare you for your first glimpse of Waddesdon, its scale and stunning exterior is just the start of many surprises that await you when you visit. On our arrival we took the lazy option and hopped onto the visitor bus to make the short journey from the car park to the house, but there are some lovely parkland walks to enjoy if you are feeling energetic.
The architect who designed the manor, Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, had previously restored many chateaux in the Loire Valley, and the building that he created at Waddesdon looks and feels like a really authentic French chateau. However, as we discovered on our tour, when it was built the house included a few touches of luxury that its continental counterparts lacked. The tower windows at Waddesdon were fully glazed, unlike many of their French cousins which featured window spaces open to the elements, and the structure at Waddesdon was built around a steel frame, making it far more stable. Waddesdon also had the luxury of hot and cold running water in all bathrooms, central heating and an electrical bell system for calling the many servants to order. We learned that when Queen Victoria visited Waddesdon she was so enthralled by the electric lights that she spent quite a long time watching them being turned off and on!
This luxury does not just limit itself to the outside of the house, the interiors are equally impressive. On entering the house, the sumptuous hallway gives a wonderful introduction of what is to come as you explore further. Not only are the rooms full of beautiful decorative touches, but there are interesting collections of carpets, ceramics and paintings to discover. It feels as though each glass cabinet holds a wealth of hidden treasures. When we visited, the house was dressed up for Christmas and it felt as though every room we visited was luxuriously decorated with great attention to detail. Rather than just trying to create a Victorian Christmas style, the team at Waddesdon had mixed traditional styles and modern touches very effectively, and ended up with something truly unique.
Waddesdon Manor was originally designed as a weekend house for entertaining the Baron’s many friends, and the occasional member of the royal family, and this element of the property has not been lost in its present day incarnation, with an amazing restaurant and wine cellar. On our visit we treated ourselves to a wonderful three-course lunch, in a restaurant that overlooked the picturesque gardens (well, it was almost Christmas!). The food was fantastic and the restaurant staff really looked after us. We also took part in a tour of the wine cellar that finished with a wine-tasting. The cellars were created during Waddesdon’s Centenary restoration and opened in 1994 with a visit by Her Majesty the Queen. More than 10,000 bottles of wine are stored in the vaults, documenting over 150 years of the Rothschild family’s ownership of two of the most famous Bordeaux vineyards: Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Mouton Rothschild. Inspired by sampling these fantastic wines, we were able to pick up a couple of reasonably priced bottles in the wine shop in the house. The people in the shop were really helpful and gave us lots of good advice.
Feeling that we ought to try to walk off some of our lunch we undertook a walk back to the car park, taking in the stables, gardens and stunning light sculptures in the park. We left Waddesdon Manor with the feeling that we had experienced a little taste of the Baron’s luxurious lifestyle, and regardless of where this chateau is situated, we will certainly be back!