If you’re in the mood to explore, you’ll find many surprising and charming historic curiosities at our sites.
Rushton Triangular Lodge, Northamptonshire
Sir Thomas Tresham designed the Triangular Lodge in the late 16th century while serving a 16-year prison sentence for being Roman Catholic in Protestant Elizabethan England.
The building is a remarkable statement in stone of his beliefs and represents the Holy Trinity he had refused to deny: each of the three walls has three windows and is exactly 33 feet long; it is three storeys high and has a triangular chimney; and Latin text of 33 letters adorns each façade.
The building is also covered in mysterious numbers: 1580 has been identified as being the date of Tresham’s conversion, but others – 3509 and 3898 – remain undecoded.
Fittingly for such an object of devotion, visitors must make a mile-long (1.6 km) pilgrimage through countryside, as the nearest parking is in the town of Rushton.
Don’t miss: the carved panel of a pelican, representing Christ, on one of the gables.
For more information on Rushton Triangular Lodge
The Pet Cemetery, Wrest Park, Bedfordshire
Wrest Park is truly magnificent - and beyond the formal parterre and rectangular long water, there are many intimate nooks and crannies in the woodland garden.
Perhaps the most atmospheric is the 19th century pet cemetery. Tucked away in a clearing, this wooded enclave got its first monument in 1829 and was used to bury many of the estate’s dogs. The unusual names on some of the headstones – Douran, Freuha, Phedra and Tiger – often amuse adventurous visitors who navigate their way to the cemetery.
Don’t miss: the elegant dog statue atop the main monument.
For more information on Wrest Park
The Hermitage, Warkworth Castle, Northumberland
Many visitors to Warkworth never make it to the Hermitage, as it lies half a mile (0.8 km) upstream of the castle and can be reached only with the help of a local ferryman.
The fact that we don’t know who built it - or when - only adds to its mystery. It might originally have been a place of religious devotion.
Once across the river, follow the signposts until you reach a stone staircase that descends into the hermitage – a chapel carved out of the rock.
Records from the 1530s show that the ‘hermit’ was in the pay of the castle and acted as the 6th Earl of Northumberland’s agent. His salary was 12 cattle, a bull, two horses and 20 loads of fire wood a year!
Don’t miss: the carving of a reclining woman and child – it may be the Madonna, or evidence that the ‘hermit’ didn’t always live alone!
For more information on Warkworth Castle
Grime’s Graves Prehistoric Flint Mine, Norfolk
One of the oddest experiences in the English Heritage portfolio is the 30-foot (nine metre) descent into Grime’s Graves – which are neither grimy nor graves, as the name would suggest.
The shallow depressions in this Norfolk field date from the age of Stonehenge and are the remains of 433 Neolithic flint mines. Flint from here has been used in tools found scattered across the country.
As each new shaft was made, the debris was used to fill the previous shaft, leaving an indent at the top to mark the removal of the booty.
The shafts were dug using antlers as picks, and once the miners had found a seam, they then fanned out horizontally, digging eerie galleries to chase the flint.
Don’t miss: the Grimshoe mound to the south east of the site.
For more information on Grime's Graves Prehistoric Flint Mine
The Swiss Cottage, Osborne House, Isle of Wight
In the middle of Osborne’s Italianate gardens lies a tiny Swiss chalet, built as a special playhouse for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s children.
Here, they could spend a few hours as ‘ordinary people’, even tending their own vegetable patch. The children used their produce to cook meals for their parents in their scaled-down kitchen. Prince Albert was keen that the young royals learnt the value of produce, and Edward VII later wrote that he spent a great deal of time in the cottage.
Don’t miss: the miniature furniture made by the estate carpenters to fit the miniature rooms.
For more information on Osborne House
The Grotto, Old Wardour Castle, Wiltshire
In the grounds of the ruins of this medieval castle lies a slightly peculiar 18th century addition.
A local maker of garden ornaments, Josiah Lane of Tisbury, was commissioned to build an artificial cave, complete with dripping water and fossils. It was made using stones from the castle itself and volcanic lava found at nearby Bath.
Don’t miss: the nearby stone circle, a genuine 4,000-year-old monument moved by Lane to the castle as another folly.
For more information on Old Wardour Castle