Many visitors forego the house altogether, concentrating on the gardens instead – an understandable decision given the predictability of the assorted baubles accumulated by the family over the centuries. Nonetheless, amongst the maze of grandiose rooms and staircases, there are several noteworthy highlights, including the ornate ceilings of the State Apartments and, in the State Bedroom, the four-poster bed in which George II breathed his last. And then there are the paintings. Amongst many, Frans Hals, Tintoretto, Veronese and Van Dyck all have a showing and there’s even a Rembrandt – A Portrait of an Old Man – hanging in the chapel.
Back outside, the gardens are a real treat and owe much to the combined efforts of Capability Brown, who designed them in the 1750s, and Joseph Paxton (designer of London’s Crystal Palace), who had a bash seventy years later. Amongst all sorts of fripperies, there are water fountains, a rock garden, an artificial waterfall, a grotto and a folly as well as a nursery and greenhouses. Afterwards, you can wend your way to the café in the handsomely converted former stables.