History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
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.
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 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 make 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).
VisitingI'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.
Address: The Sandringham Estate, Estate Office, Sandringham, East Anglia, Norfolk, England, PE35 6EN
Attraction Type: Historic House
Location: On the B1440, signposted from the A148 and A149, 3 miles south of Dersingham. Plentiful parking available.
Historic Houses Association
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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