Sunday 11 March 2007

Ightham Mote, Mote Road, Ivy Hatch, Kent

Postcard-perfect, moated manor house dating from the 14th century, Ightham Mote nestles in a rural valley only a few miles from the suburbia of Sevenoaks. Owned by the National Trust, the arched stone bridges across the moat, the cobbled courtyard and the ancient timber frames of the manor house quickly conjure up another era. The surrounding gardens are dotted with statues, fountains, ponds and medieval outbuildings. Inundated with visitors on fine weekends, the manor house's rooms, narrow lanes and paths can get crowded. Children love hurtling up and down the large green lawn, which is framed by steep, grassy banks and a deep lake. After 4pm, most of the families head home and the manor house begins to assume a tranquil beauty that just about justifies the £9.50 entrance fee. 8/10