A few miles outside Northampton, in opposite directions, both Althorp, family home of the Spencers and the burial place of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Stoke Bruerne, an intriguing canalside village, make good stop-offs. Further out is the delightful village of Fotheringhay, where Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned and executed.
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AlthorpThe Spencer family lived at the lavish country home and estate of Althorp for centuries, which was of little interest to anyone else until one of the tribe, Diana, married Prince Charles in 1981. The disintegration of the marriage and Diana’s elevation to sainthood is a story known to millions, and the public outpouring of grief following Diana’s death in 1997 was quite astounding. Momentarily, Althorp became the focus of massive media attention as the coffin was brought up the M1 motorway from London to be buried on an island in the grounds of the family estate. Today, visitors still troop round the grandiloquent rooms of Althorp house, drop by the Diana exhibition in the old stable block, and then take the footpath that leads round a lake in the middle of which is the islet (no access) where Diana is buried.
Hard to believe today, but pocket-sized FOTHERINGHAY, a delightful hamlet nestling by the River Nene about thirty miles northeast of Northampton, is where Mary, Queen of Scots came to her untimely end. The castle where she was imprisoned and died has long gone, and the village has been left to its own devices for centuries, but its medieval heyday is recalled by the magnificent church of St Mary and All Saints, which rises mirage-like above the green riverine meadows.