While emptying the many leaflets from out hiking bags, I came across one for Shugborough Estate. The name rang a bell and I slowly remembered that I had read about it in the magazine that comes with our National Trust membership.
Shugborough Estate has only been in full possession of the National Trust for two months having been run by the Council in the past. Unfortunately during which time, the buildings had become slightly worn and tired meaning that the Trust has some work to carry out to bring it back to their usual standard. What makes Shugborough so amazing, though, is that it is the complete estate. That means that it has all of the major buildings including the mansion, walled garden, servants’ quarters and working farm. This is quite rare as many of the estates saw external buildings sold off or knocked down through their lifetime.
Making a road trip of it
As you are more than likely aware by now, we live in Manchester. And Shugborough Estate is down in Staffordshire which is around an hour and fifty minute drive in good traffic. It was over the bank holiday weekend that we visited and it was actually more off the cuff than we had anticipated. We originally set out to go to Llandudno but with the holiday traffic, the journey time increased ridiculously as we got further down the road. When it hit the three-hour mark, it was time to reconsider and Shugborough Estate was the first on our list of places to go. So with a shift in the sat nav we were on our way. Surprisingly for us without lunch though!
We arrived after a pretty uneventful two hours of driving to a long green driveway to the car park. Before heading in we enjoyed some tea (of course we brought our flask, you didn’t imagine otherwise did you?)
Into the Shugborough Estate
The drive into Shugborough Estate gives you a glimpse into the scale of the site and when we spoke to the ladies at the welcome office we discovered that it covers around 900 acres! Anyway, once we managed to put our jaws back in place we headed towards the pathway to the mansion. Feeling the rumble in our tummies we also decided to take a blimp at the cafe in the hope of grabbing a bit to eat too.
As you can tell by the photographs, the weather was a good example of the UK bank holidays with some sunshine, clouds, ferocious winds and then some rain and sunshine again. I have to say, it was pretty chilly when the winds picked up on the walk through the grounds to the mansion, but of course with our blind optimism, we continued on with our coats still tucked away in my bag! (we did concede in the end though when our goose pimples had goose pimples!)
Lunch in the cafe
So if you have been following the blog for a while, you will know that Jit and I
are tight prefer to bring our own food to picnic when we are out. So having to eat out at Shugborough Estate was a new experience for us. We checked out the small cafe en route to the mansion, but slightly disappointed by the selection headed down to the one further into the grounds.
To be totally honest, the experience left us feeling hungry. Although the cafe is beautifully decorated, it was quite messy. There wasn’t much choice in the sandwich department and the tart we had, although different and delicious was cold and didn’t come with any sides. We also noticed other people were opting just for scones and jam, which is a rather unusual lunch. We were also surprised to see the freshly cooked sausage rolls going into the fridge display! We finished our quiche and crisps and headed to the other cafe in hope of a cheese sandwich to fill the remaining gap.
The second lunch
Unfortunately our second lunch wasn’t much either. After snagging the final cheese sandwich, and only available vegetarian option, and a bag of Pombear we sat at a table piled with used plates and rubbish. The cafe design is lovely, a combination of traditional and modern with industrial chairs at the timber tables looking out over the courtyard. However, the prices and portions were a little disappointing. Overall we spent over £20 for two mini quiche, a sandwich, two bags of crisps and two drinks only to remain hungry and reluctant to spend more (there were also no veggie options left either)
Back to the Shugborough Estate
After our somewhat disappointing and expensive lunch and our decision to make sure we always have a picnic to hand, we headed back out to explore the estate and discover the mansion. The mansion currently only had one floor open to the public while the restoration work is carried out. Even though there is only part of the building, it is worth having a look around. Not only for the glimpses of the design, colours and wallpaper in the Lichfield Apartments.
You are welcomed into the building by the most stunning view of the main room with the most glorious of bay windows overlooking the formal gardens. Even though the rooms aren’t yet laid out as they will be you do get a feel for them all the same. The large banners sharing the information about the family and inhabitants helps to spark your imagination for the rest of your exploring too.
Inside Shugborough Hall
The mansion is currently set for free roaming with some information cards and banners. It can be a bit confusing at times with not knowing how to travel through, but the volunteers are wonderful with helping you and sharing their vast knowledge of the property and of the family too. We are definitely the people who get chatting to the often overlooked volunteers and I urge you to speak with them too. Not only do they know a lot about the history, you can find out some lesser known facts about the set up and running too.
Considering the property is under renovation, the rooms that we were able to explore were fantastic! Of course, that is all to the untrained eye. They have done a fantastic job of creating internal exhibitions of the monuments from the garden too and a rare and enjoyable chance to see the oil paintings close up too.
Patrick Lichfield, photographer of the Royal Family, inherited the Shugborough Estate in the 1960’s. During the time that the property was maintained by the County Council, Lichfield leased his apartment from them. On our visit, it was undergoing some safety restoration, but I believe that it might now be open for exploring.
As such, we only got to have a sneaky peek through the doors. The wallpaper and paint colours were enough to whet my appetite to return though. And the fact that I studied Lichfield’s photography when I was back in high school art class.
Into the Shugborough Estate grounds
As the sun disappeared behind the clouds we headed out to explore the estate and gardens. Yes, we did it totally in the wrong order, but we are hardcore and love a bit of rain! Besides, I heard that there was a cat monument, so we just had to get out there no matter what the weather!
Out into the estate you will find beautiful, paved, tree-lined avenues winding you through the grounds towards the monuments collected and displayed by the family.
Obviously we made a beeline for the cat monument! But be careful to keep an eye out for the signposts as we (along with many others looking for the cat!) missed it and had to be directed by a volunteer. I still don’t know where the sign is, but apparently it is still there…
The buildings, Monuments and Bridges
There are nine buildings, monuments, sculptures and bridges to discover in the estate grounds, along with many other surprises too, including an abundance of wildlife and beautiful plants. The map that you receive on entry will show you where they are. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to see all of them on this visit, but did get to have a jolly good wander around, even circling ourselves at times when getting lost on the island!
Just a minute or two of watching meant that I could catch a crow in flight from the Ruin monument in front of the mansion. (pretty chuffed, I have to say!)
As the light began to fade into clouds and feeling a bit chilly, we decided to head back to the car for some tea before the journey home. Already having decided that we will revisit once more of the mansion and the apartment is open. However, we will be bringing a picnic on the next trip – safer all round and saves the pennies for our other travel plans too.
Although it seems like a long drive from Manchester to Shugborough Estate for just one day, it really is worth it. There is so much to do that you will be pushed to get it all done in one day. We visited with only part of the estate open and we didn’t clear half of it, let alone adventure through the 900 acres of countryside. (AONB actually)
If you’re around that way, make sure you stop by. Perhaps bring some food with you though, especially if you’re veggie.
Looking forward to more National Trust adventures this year and now planning on a bit of a roundup post for the summer months! Amazing where ideas come from.
Have you visited Shugborough yet? Which is your favourite National Trust property?
Let me know in the comments below.
Milford, near Stafford, Staffordshire, ST17 0XB