Friday 13 April 2007

Beningbrough Hall, near York, North Yorkshire

An elegant, red-brick Georgian stately home now given over primarily to displaying 200-year-old portraits of men in wigs, Beningbrough Hall is one of the few National Trust properties that really caters for children. High-tech, interactive technology has infiltrated the historic baroque interior. One of the upstairs rooms, for example, has a touch-screen computer that can take photos of visitors and incorporate them into a tailor-made digital 'painting', which is displayed on the wall for 90 seconds and emailed on for posterity. The same room has cloaks, hats and other props that visitors can use to dress up as one of the characters in the paintings on display, while a nearby pre-school room contains lots of brightly coloured mats and beanbags. Although the succession of stiff portraits in the rest of the house is repetitive, there are several rewarding rooms with eye-catching four poster-beds and other striking period furniture and pleasant rural views from the huge windows. Outside, there is a walled garden and an all-wood children's playground, while the self-service restaurant offers good-value traditional English dishes, such as cottage pie. 7/10