Driving southwest along the A592 road from Penrith, you can't miss the striking salmon-pink facade of Dalemain, a mile from Ullswater's northern tip. With a name deriving from the Old Norse for 'manor in the valley', this elegant country estate traces its roots back to the reign of Henry II. Inside it's the picture of an English country house – half Gosford Park set, half three-dimensional Cluedo board, with a bewildering maze of passages, spiralling staircases and interconnecting rooms.
Although the Georgian facade was constructed during the mid-18th century, behind its orderly frontage are the remnants of a 12th-century pele tower and an Elizabethan manor. Since 1679 the house has been owned by the Hasell dynasty.
Family photos and heirlooms are dotted around amongst the antiques, Chippendale furniture and priceless oil portraits. Highlights include the Chinese Room with its handmade oriental wallpaper, the Tudor Fretwork Room, with its oak panelling and ornate plaster ceiling, and the fascinating servants' quarters. Tea is served in the medieval Great Hall.
Outside, the grounds feature a Tudor knot garden and a wonderful rose walk. The 16th-century Great Barn houses two small agricultural museums, while in the base of the Norman pele tower is a museum dedicated to the Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry regiment, founded in 1819 and disbanded shortly after WWI.
The house hosts lots of festivals and events throughout the year, including country shows, tractor meets, classic car displays and a thoroughly British Marmalade Festival, held in March.
The Mansions, Boots & Boats Ticket (adult/child £20/7.90) also includes an all-day pass aboard Ullswater 'Steamers'. It can only be purchased online through the Dalemain website.