As the days shorten, we Londoners are drawn to the comforts of metropolitan hearth and home, and less inclined to take long trips out of town.
The good news, if you’re looking for a day out that includes delicious architecture and interiors, and a good tea, is that some of the most magnificent stately homes in the country are inside the M25. Syon House is a shining example.
Syon is the London home of the Duke of Northumberland, and not a bad second residence at all. Though, located in Brentford, it could be more central, and one imagines the lawn takes a lot of mowing.
It has a 200-acre park that includes a great garden centre (well worth a look for Christmas decorations as well as the usual bulbs and pots), and the house itself is the most delightful castellated mansion, with interiors by Robert Adam.
The first Duke and Duchess of Northumberland brought the celebrated Scottish architect to London to completely redesign the house, and invited designer Capability Brown to remodel the park, so the neoclassical decorative scheme and glorious landscape at Syon are the absolute apex of mid-18th century fashion.
Highlight of the house is undoubtedly the Great Hall, a fabulous 18th century take on the Roman Senate, with chequered marble floor and white marble classical statuary.
In the ante-room, next to the Great Hall, an opulent gold and marble space, tricked out like a deluxe classical temple, there are 12 columns that were, in family legend, dredged from the bed of the Tiber, and set up to support the series of gilded classical statues around the octagonal room.
The Long Gallery is a delightful pink-and-mauve drawing room for the Syon womenfolk, with views of the greenery of Kew, just across the river.
If Syon House sounds just the ticket for a day's outing, there is no time to lose: doors close for its annual winter break at the end of October. But events continue outdoors.
The arboretum will be transformed, from 23 November until 9 December, into a dramatically lit enchanted woodland.
You can wander the public areas of the grounds, or book up to join one of the small groups led on tours of the Duke of Northumberland’s private woodland garden, to see the autumn colours (30 people will be admitted to each tour; for further information, email email@example.com; entry is £5.00 for adults and £3.00 for children or concessions).
Syon Park, Brentford, Middlesex, TW8 8JF (020 8560 0882; www.syonpark.co.uk). Syon House is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays until 31 October (11am-5pm).