Known as ‘Hampton Court in miniature’, much haunted redbrick Ham House was built in 1610 and became home to the first Earl of Dysart, unluckily employed as ‘whipping boy’ to Charles I. Inside it’s grandly furnished; the Great Staircase is a fine example of Stuart woodworking. Look out for ceiling paintings by Antonio Verrio, a miniature of Elizabeth I by Nicholas Hilliard and works by Constable and Reynolds. The grounds slope delightfully down to the Thames and lovely 17th-century formal gardens await exploration.
The garden ticket also allows you access to the below stairs rooms. For spooky thrills, nocturnal after-hours ghost tours (£22) delve into Ham House's paranormal dimensions. A cafe (10am to 5pm) is open for light refreshments. Just opposite the Thames and accessible by small ferry is Marble Hill Park and its splendid mansion.