Visit to Longford Castle and Arundells – 14th September 2016

Few of us were aware of Longford Castle, just beyond Salisbury, prior to this visit but we certainly won’t forget it now. On a hot and sunny day we had an almost magical tour of the Castle and its stunning art collection. Enjoyed all the more, thanks to our superb guides, Alexandra and Peter.

Dating from the reign of Elizabeth1 but substantially re-imagined in Victorian times, the Castle is built to an unusual triangular plan with round towers at the corners. We were entranced by the castle with its beautiful gardens and setting by the river, its unusual construction, its grand yet intimate rooms and subtle blend of interior design styles from different eras.

For 300 years Longford has been the family home of the Earls of Radnor who amassed the most magnificent collection of furniture and art in all its many forms. Avercamp, Brueghel, Rubens, Van Dyck, Frans Hals, Gainsborough, Reynolds and Claude Lorrain are just some of the artists represented while more paintings are on loan to the National Gallery. Among the many outstanding pieces of furniture, sculpture and ceramics, the most extraordinary was a C16th steel armchair decorated with 130 reliefs from the history of the world. It was a delight to see such a collection of paintings and objects in the settings for which they were acquired or created. Inspiring too to see how the present Earl continues the family tradition of discerning art collecting.

Reluctantly, tearing ourselves away, we headed back to Salisbury for an afternoon in the beautiful Cathedral Close. Most people chose to tour Arundells, the former home of the late Sir Edward Heath. A charming house and garden, originating in the C13th but largely dating from the C18th, it reflects Sir Edward’s wide-ranging interests in art and ceramics, music and sailing as well as his political career, The visit gave us new insights into his life, interests and character and several members said it had changed their perspective of him.

Two contrasting but thoroughly worthwhile, enjoyable visits made it a day to remember.

See more photographs here.