An imposing 17th-century mansion set on 101 hectares (250 acres) of wooded park, Kingston Lacy was the home of the Bankes family for more than 300 years. They entertained such distinguished guests as King Edward VII, Kaiser Wilhelm, Thomas Hardy, and George V. If you have an hour -- better yet, 2 hours -- the time could be spent exploring this attraction and its grounds. The house displays a magnificent collection of artwork by Rubens, Titian, and Van Dyck, as well as an important collection of Egyptian artifacts.
The present structure replaced Corfe Castle, the Bankes' family home that was destroyed in the civil war. During her husband's absence, while performing duties as chief justice to King Charles I, Lady Bankes led the defense of the castle, withstanding two sieges before being forced to surrender to Cromwell's forces in 1646 because of the actions of a treacherous follower. The keys to Corfe Castle hang in the library at Kingston Lacy.