If Stourhead is an unexpected outcrop of Italy in Wiltshire, the African savannah intrudes even more bizarrely at Longleat. In 1946 the sixth marquess of Bath became the first stately-home owner to open his house to the paying public on a regular basis, and in 1966 he caused even more amazement when Longleat’s Capability Brown landscapes were turned into England’s first drive-through safari park, with lions, tigers, giraffes and rhinos on show, plus monkeys clambering all over your car. Other attractions followed, including a large hedge maze, a Doctor Who exhibition, high-tech simulators, and the seventh marquess’s saucy murals (children not admitted). Beyond the razzmatazz, there’s an exquisitely furnished Elizabethan house, built for Sir John Thynne, Elizabeth’s High Treasurer, with an enormous library and a fine collection of pictures, including Titian’s Holy Family.
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