Sandringham from across the lake
Sandringham house from across the lake
There are really several attractions at Sandringham; the house, the royal museum, the gardens, the parish church, and the country park. Of these, the gardens were the first to be opened to the public, when Edward VII made them available to visitors in 1903. George V opened the Museum to the public in 1930, and Elizabeth II opened the house to visitors in 1977.

The house was built in 1870 by Edward, Prince of Wales, and Princess Alexandra (later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra). You might be forgiven for imagining that a royal residence would be grandiose and overwhelming. Sandringham is just the opposite; it is rather cosy, and the rooms quite charming and inviting, a reminder of its role as a country retreat, rather than a state residence; a role it has fulfilled for generations of royals.

The ground floor rooms, which are regularly used by the Royal family when at Sandringham, are open to visitors. The rooms showcase art objects, notably ceramics, collected by the royal family over the years. In addition, there are portraits of many past and current royals. There are regular special exhibits in the ballroom, the final room visited on a house tour.

Sandringham Museum is housed in the old stable buildings
Sandringham Museum is housed in
the old stable buildings
I must make mention of the excellent guides at Sandringham house; there are very knowledgeable and friendly tour guides in each of the main rooms of the house, and they are very informative and helpful to visitors. They told us how several of the current royal family enjoy their leisure time at Sandringham, an even what several family members enjoy having for breakfast!

The gardens are superb; there's really no other way to describe them. There are a lovely variety of trees, shrubs, and flowering plants, which combine with a lake and gently flowing stream to set off the manor house beautifully.

The nearby church of St Mary Magdalene is a gem. It is located an very easy walk from the gardens, and features beautifully carved memorials to royal family members. The church was built in the 16th century on the foundations of an earlier building, and the royal family and staff of the Sandringham estate worship here regularly.

The Museum, which is situated in the historic stable buildings, boasts a wealth of royal memorabilia, including a number of motor cars used by the Royal family, plus the old estate fire engine, and quite a number of photos of past and present royals at home at Sandringham over the years. You will also see some of the many gifts given to Her Majesty the Queen on her overseas state visits over the years.

The house is set in a huge estate of 20,000 acres, of which 600 acres makes up Sandringham Country Park. The Country Park is open to visitors year round, at no charge. There are two signposted nature trails and a large number of woodland paths to explore. Or, if you don't fancy the exertion, you can take one of the regular tractor tours throughout the main tourist season (charge applies).

Visiting
I'm not a 'royal-a-holic', but I thoroughly enjoyed our visit. I thought Sandringham house was a delight, with lovely rooms and a very welcoming, low-key atmosphere. I really got the impression that people enjoyed working there. The gardens are an absolute pleasure, with lovely walks and a combination of formal and informal areas to enjoy. It is best to check opening days with the official Sandringham website, as the house may be closed when the Queen or other family members are in residence.

The lake frontage of the house
The lake frontage of the house
The main house entrance
The main house entrance
St Mary's church at Sandringham
St Mary Magdalene church at Sandringham