Kingston Bagpuize

There is no pleasure to beat discovering a little-known gem in the English countryside, and Kingston Bagpuize house, near Abingdon in Oxfordshire, is just such a treasure
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Kingston Bagpuize house
It is the private home of Virginia Grant and her young children, Elizabeth and Alexander, which the family throws open to the public on 30 or so days each year.

The manor house was originally built in the 1660s but was largely remodelled in the 1700s. It looks truly impressive.

The east façade is an imposing pedimented affair, built in with red brick with smart white stone quoins, and several of the rooms – the panelled library, the entrance hall with its Scots pine cantilevered staircase – are rather grand.

But the real charm of the house is the low-key welcome that comes from being inhabited by a fond family.

Virginia, along with her husband, Francis, began restoring the house and gardens in 1995; the estate has been run by Virginia since Francis's death in 2003.

Virginia is a remarkably hands-on chatelaine, preparing for the small parties of visitors she welcomes on a few days of the year with an orgy of baking (there is a small tea room).

And, though the interior is charming, the garden and parklands are a real joy, with 300 species of plants, including many rare trees, shrubs and perennials.

Kingston Bagpuize, near Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX13 5AX (01865 820259)

Open 1,2,15,16 July or by appointment; admission £5 per adult for entry to the house and garden; £3 for garden only.

Before you head back

If you visit by car, you mustn’t miss the opportunity of rounding off your day with a few nearby attractions.

Pick up the southbound A420 and explore the lovely Vale of the White Horse, between Faringdon and Wantage. The famous chalk horse is carved into the landscape between Uffington and Woolstone.

A drive south on the A338 from Wantage (towards Junction 14 of the M4), takes you through the beautiful ancient landscape of the Ridge Way, a hiking hotspot

Stop and shop

If pretty drives and pleasant rambles aren’t your bag, there are a couple of places to shop worth going off the beaten track for.

Ten miles north of Kingston Bagpuize, in Witney, is Soames County Auctioneers (Unit 4, Two Rivers Industrial Estate, Station Lane, Witney, Oxfordshire, OX28 4BH; 01993 775650). This little auction house often has good second-hand and antique furniture at astoundingly good value: a button-back Chesterfield sofa and armchair, covered in Liberty print fabric, was estimated at £50 to £80 in the last sale. The next sale is on Saturday 4 August; view the catalogue on the website before you go.

Head further north, almost as far as Banbury, and you will find Trade Secret (Twyford Mill, Adderbury, near Banbury, OX17 3SX (01295 810110), a warehouse that sells good-quality brands, such as Marks & Spencer, Laura Ashley, John Lewis, Habitat and Next, at half-price.

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