In an attempt to take you all out of your comfort zones, our Secret London series uncovers little-known locations in the city and beyond.
This week, we explore Kenwood House, an architectural stunner in the mammoth expanse of leafy Hampstead Heath.
An Instagrammable stately home in London?!
Tranquil gardens, wonderful views and a stunning art collection. Where would you find all three? Well, Kenwood House.
Built sometime in the early 17th century, snazzy go-to Scottish architect (back in those days, anyway) Robert Adam transformed a tired, old and boring Kenwood into a stunner of a neoclassical villa for William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield. The reason? It needed to be the 'it' place in London, obviously. Murray, a former Lord Chief Justice, and his wife Elizabeth used to visit the red brick house as their weekend country villa and naturally, the more they visited, the more they wanted done asked Adam to pimp up the place.
Over the years, Murray's status and power grew – he was an Earl after all – eventually making the lucky bugger richer by the day. Accordingly, dreamy drawing rooms, lush and luxe attic-storey bedroom chambers, swirling great staircases, a showstopping parlour, bloomin' beautiful gardens and a grand, refurbished, giant pedimented portico are the grand old man's parting gift to us 'gram-obsessed Londoners.
Sounds epic. Tell us more.
A few lords and viscounts later, the house eventually amassed a formidable art and furniture collection, which can still be seen in the mammoth house today. Everyone from Vemeer to Gainsborough, Reynolds, Van Dyck and even a self portrait of Rembrandt (one of the most valuable pieces of art in the entire country) are on show along with a very old, very pretty chimney piece, several antique clocks and glittering french chandeliers. It might sound a bit la-di-dah, but trust us, your 'gram will get so many likes that you'll try and steal all of it for more.
If you love books, you're in for a treat, too. Kenwood's Library is one of the most incredible examples of Neoclassical English design in the land. Antique books, marble busts, and intricate ceiling paintings line ever nook, cranny and crevice the eye sees. In a nutshell, it's a stonker of a room: all completely ostentatious, but totally worth the millions that went into it.
Just have a look at this:
Aside from all the art and luxury on show, meandering floral paths, beautiful sculptures and ancient trees await on the glorious 112 acres of parkland which surrounds the house.
Anything else we should know?
There are two knock-out cafes run by Searcys (very posh, if you've never heard of them). All the usuals, including soup, finger sandwiches, cakes and chic afternoon teas are on offer – it's a very glamorous British affair. Once you're stuffed, a walk on the massive heath taking in the wondrous views of the capital will hopefully help you burn off all those calories.
Kenwood House is at Hampstead Lane, Highgate, NW3 7JR. Free entry. For more information on opening times and to book tickets visit the English Heritage website