Houghton House today is the shell of a 17th-century mansion commanding magnificent views, reputedly the inspiration for the ‘House Beautiful’ in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.
It was built around 1615 for Mary, Dowager Countess of Pembroke, in a mixture of Jacobean and Classical styles: the ground floors of two Italianate loggias survive, possibly the work of Inigo Jones.
Information panels describe the house, its owners and the surrounding hunting estate.
Before You Go
How to Find it: The lane to the property entrance is off the east side of the B530, about a mile north of Ampthill town centre, and is marked with a brown tourist sign. After having turned into the lane, turn left immediately and the car park is about 500 metres north east along the lane.
Parking: The car park is on the left hand side of the lane just before Houghton Park Cottages which are on the right. Please be aware that there is only limited car parking and, if it is full, please park in Ampthill and walk from there (about a mile away). It is important not to obstruct the lane from the B530, or any passing places or field gates on it, as local residents and farmers need constant access to their homes and fields. .
The walk from the car park to the house ruins is about 400 metres and please be aware there is no turning area nearer to the property than the car park. Also, as there is no pavement on the section of the lane from the car park and the lane is narrow, please be aware that there may be traffic (there is a pavement alongside the section of the lane from the B530 to the car park).
From the car park, walk onwards up the lane, with a view of the ruins to the left, and after about 200 metres look for a gated gravel path on the left with some signage near it. Please use the small pedestrian gate to the right of the large locked gate and walk down the path through the avenue of trees. The ruins are 200 metres along the path.
Access: There is no disabled parking nearer the house than the car park. Users of mobility aids may find it difficult to access and open the pedestrian gate. The path from the gate down to the house is uneven gravel. Once at the house, the ground can be muddy in wet weather. A small part of the ruins are accessed by a set of wooden steps but most of this area can be viewed from ground level. There are a few small sets of steps, some raised thresholds and uneven surfaces around the ruins but much of the ground floor is accessible to users of mobility aids. The house is surrounded by grass, and the central area is kept closely mown.
Facilities: There are no facilities on site but there are grassed areas that are lovely for a picnic and taking in the views. Please be aware that there are no litter bins so visitors need to take rubbish home with them. The town of Ampthill is just over a mile away with a variety of shops and places to eat.
Dogs: Dogs on leads are welcome.
Please be aware: English Heritage does not permit drone flying from or over sites in our care, except by contractors or partners undertaking flights for a specific purpose, who satisfy stringent CAA criteria, have the correct insurances and permissions, and are operating under controlled conditions.
Plan a Great Day Out
If you are looking for things to do in the area, five miles away, in the pretty village of Silsoe, lies Wrest Park. Previously home to the De Grey family, with dazzling parterres and fragrant borders, sweeping views and woodland walks, it's a real treat for the senses. Once you've explored some of its 90 acres and 300 years of garden history, treat yourself to something tasty at the café, learn more about Wrest at War in the exhibition, or let the kids run off some steam in the playground.