Spring is in the air, and so too is the scent of spruced-up English Heritage homes and National Trust coffee shops. From this month, and throughout the season, many auspicious London properties fling their doors open to the public for 2014. We’ve handpicked a few to get you in the mood.
2 Willow Road
In his time, architect Ernő Goldfinger was as contentious and non-compromising as Richard Rogers. That’s apparent at his former Hampstead home, 2 Willow Road; the modernist pile was loathed by its neighbours, and even the National Trust faced stick for adding it to its roster. Critics have since simmered down, and learned to appreciate 2 Willow Road for the progressive building it is. Reopens: Now (Wed-Sun). For the first half of the day, it’s guided tour only (first come, first served). After 3pm you can potter about on your own.
Ham House and Garden
The Thames’ banks are bejewelled with stately homes, and Ham House is one of the most dazzling. This redbrick Stuart mansion is stuffed with a 400 year-old trove of paintings, furniture and textiles, while the 17th century garden makes for an agreeable afternoon’s stroll. Just watch out for the Duchess of Lauderdale, who allegedly haunts the premises with a ghost dog by her side. Reopens: Now (daily, except Fridays. The garden, café and shop remain open on Fridays).
575 Wandsworth Road
Of all the National Trust’s properties, the humble 575 Wandsworth Road is likeliest to take your breath away. In 1986, civil servant and polymath Khadambi Asalache decided to nail floorboards to his kitchen wall, covering a damp spot. Over the next 20 years, he continued on his DIY crusade, eventually covering the entire interior with hand-carved fretwork. No wonder they close this place over the winter – dusting must be a nightmare. Reopens: Guided tours are now fully booked until the end of May. Booking for June to August opens on 1 May. We highly recommend you put this date in your diary, as spaces disappear quickly.
Eltham Palace and Gardens
The 1930’s Art Deco chic of Eltham Palace has played host to everything from episodes of Poirot to pretentious perfume ads. For fans of The Great Gatsby, this is closest you’ll get to West Egg while staying put in London. Plus, there’s a bonus Tudor palace tagged on the end. The gardens are ideal for a spring picnic too. If you visit at the weekend, be prepared to run into the odd wedding party. Reopens: 1 April (Thurs-Sun). The gardens are already open on Sundays.
The scaffold and dust sheets have finally been shrugged off – Hampstead Heath’s Georgian mansion Kenwood House is back in business once more. Among the highlights here are the Robert Adams-built library, a Rembrandt self portrait and the blissful gardens encircling the house. Entry is free, so spend your pennies instead at the Brew House Café. Reopens: Now (daily).
Marble Hill House
Letting the King of England get his leg over you, can in turn help you get a foot on the property ladder: As George II’s mistress, Henriette Howard was given enough wonga to build Marble Hill House in Twickenham. Frequent visitors to Howard’s Palladian villa included wits Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift. For stately home bingers, a pedestrian and cycle ferry takes you over to Ham House, on the opposite bank of the Thames. Reopens: 1 April (Sat-Sun, guided tour only). The surrounding park will be open every day.
And a fruity number…
Strawberry Hill House
Horace Walpole’s pearly-white turreted castle isn’t National Trust or English Heritage, but it’s still rather magnificent. Losing yourself inside Strawberry Hill House’s extravagantly-spooky interiors is one of the highlights of west London. Prep your visit by reading Walpole’s The Castle of Ontranto – the first ever Gothic novel, which was set within these very walls. Reopens: Now (Wed-Sat). The gardens are open daily.