Escape to this beautiful stately home and gardens within an hour of London for a change of scenery, a taste of regency Britain, and a tour of some incredible architecture. As well as being of the finest Jacobean homes in England, Audley End is also one of the most popular stately homes to visit in the UK, and for very good reason.
Here you’ll learn about all of the beautiful and unique things to do at Audley End, as well as the delightful shopping and eating options they have onsite. There are also a few things to do within the grounds of, and near to, the Audley End estate.
Tip: Audley End is free to enter for those with an English Heritage Membership which can save you a significant amount of money if you’re likely to visit three or more heritage sites within a year.
English Heritage Membership means you also get a handy book which lists all of the places you can go in England, as well as money off Welsh CADW sites and historic places in Scotland. It’s one of the best memberships I’ve personally purchased.
How to Get to Audley End Estate
Day trip from Cambridge: Audley End is just twenty minutes from Cambridge by train and a short walk from Audley End Station.
Day trip from London: You can catch the train from London direct to Audley End Station from London Liverpool Street and it takes just over an hour. It’s then a short walk from the station.
Read More: The Best Cultural Day Trips from London
A Brief History of Audley End
The house has a number of royal connections and an interesting history Audley End is built on the foundations of a 12th-century Benedictine monastery after Henry VIII’s reformation led to him handing the site to his chancellor Thomas Audley in 1538.
It was later rebuilt by his grandson Thomas Howard (a relative of Henry VIII’s wife Catherine Howard) who was treasurer to James I to accommodate the King who visited in 1614. Charles II agreed to buy the house as a ready-made palace but generally did not use and sold it back to the Howards in 1701.
It then passed through many hands and became smaller before finally having its Jacobean character restores in 1820 by Richard Neville.
What to Do at Audley End?
There’s enough to do at Audley End for two visits so get ready to make the most of the day and enjoy this special building. That said, a day trip to Audley End is more than enough, but you definitely have a reason to return at least once more.
Explore the Grand Interior of Audley End House
Audley End features an absolutely splendid interior full of classical art, an extensive collection of beautiful taxidermy, and Jacobean period furniture. Make sure to set aside at least an hour to walk through the house in order to really appreciate its decor. Here are just a few of our favourite spots within the house:
The Great Hall: The first point you’ll see within the house. This is a truly grand entrance to Audley End. It’s where guests were received and suitably impressed before moving on into the house. On the ceiling is a magnificent Jacobean oak screen, oak panelling on the walls, and a breathtaking fireplace.
The Saloon: A grand entertaining room. The large portraits in this room tell the story of the owners of the house through the years.
The ceiling, which is original and has hung there since the 17th Century, shows maritime scenes of sea monsters, mermaids, and ships which all reference Thomas Howard’s naval career, including his part in defeating the Spanish Armada in 1588.
Library and South Library: As book lovers, we’re always going to gravitate towards a grand library and Audley End’s library certainly does not disappoint.
The smaller library was the third Lord Braybrooke’s study and the larger South Library treats visitors’ eyes to floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, a fireplace, and huge bay windows; picture the library in Downton Abbey. It’s displayed as it would have been in the early nineteenth century.
Wander Mount Garden
There are extensive gardens to explore at Audley End. Mount Garden was modified to become a flower garden, and it’s the perfect place to sit and admire the east side of the house and the carefully chosen flower arrangements or go for a walk in the summer.
Most visitors will likely wander Mount Garden after having fully explored the Audley End interior, and that is exactly how it should be done! Exiting the house into the beauty of this flower garden is truly cathartic.
Explore the Organic Kitchen Garden
As someone with dreams of having my own vegetable and fruit garden one day, this was particularly impressive. Acres of planted soil, vines, and trees that you can stroll through.
Traditional pre-20th Century varieties of plants are grown, as well as a collection of rare varieties of East Anglian apples. Just next door you can also see the stables and say hello to the horses of Audley End.
Catch a Show
Check what’s on at Audley End before you go. During our day trip to Audley End, we missed out on seeing Victorian horse riding shows by a single day. They also frequently set up falconry, seasonal events, and other interesting displays throughout the year.
Marvel at the Elysian Pond and Gardens
Water features, parkland, and impressive flower arrangements can be found around the Elysian Pond of Audley End Estate. This whole area offers the same vibes as walking through a fairytale (we imagine) and is perfect for sitting with a book and a sandwich on a summer’s day.
Audley End Miniature Railway
Across the road from the house is the Audley End Miniature Railway which makes for a fun family day out in its own right, as well as an ideal spot if you’re looking to fill a few hours before or after exploring the house and gardens. Travel through the woods in the minute trains and enjoy a bite to eat and a drink at the Woodland Cafe.
Audley End Restaurant, Cafes, and Gift Shop
One of the highlights of visiting Audley End is having a traditional English cream tea, comprised of scones with jam and cream or a hefty slice of cake. We were surprised to find that the restaurant actually offers a wide range of hot meals and excellent accommodations made for vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free visitors.
Personally, I was able to have a big slice of gluten-free carrot cake which I wasn’t expecting, and gluten-free bread with my soup. The cafe also offers plant-based milk whether you’re after a flat-white or a tea. You simply grab a tray, order what you want and then take it away into the quiet seating area overlooking the grounds.
The shop offers the usual souvenirs as well as some products like chutneys and jams made from their organic garden supplies. They also have an adjoining garden shop which offers some excellent plants including herbs, vegetable plants, and flowers to take away for your garden at home a well as ‘cottage core’ and gardening items.
Tip: Find out more about the house and book on their website.