Visit to Longford Castle
Anywhere with a French connection, however tenuous, is a likely candidate for a visit by members of the SSTA. So it was no surprise that we ended up with a waiting list for tickets for our visit to Longford castle, a mere three miles from the city centre and home of the Earl and Countess of Radnor.
The Radnor family can trace its roots back to the Huguenots, and French craftsmen and artists are represented in the collection that fills the Castle.
Standing proudly next to the River Avon, the Castle has undergone radical changes since it was first built in Elizabethan times. Victorian architect Anthony Salvin was responsible for much costly alteration and restoration in the 1870s.
Our guides, Alexandra Ormerod and Paul Chapman, who work with the National Gallery, gave us the low-down on the history of the building and of its contents in the rooms we visited. Their erudition and wide knowledge meant they were well equipped to answer questions as we were led from masterpiece to masterpiece.
Whether we were looking at family portraits, romantic landscapes, porcelain or items of furniture commissioned for specific spaces, we were enthralled for almost two hours. Legendary painters' names cropped up, such as Reynolds, Gainsborough, van Dyck and Hals.
After touring the Castle itself, our party was encouraged to wander in the garden which was looking lovely on a perfect summer's day.
And if you missed out on a place for this memorable visit, remember the old saying: Lève-tôt attrape le ver, or, if you prefer, the early bird catches the worm.