Parenting: Hope and glory

When a day out to Hopetoun House was mooted, my daughter Hope, five, beamed widely, before proclaiming: “That’s my house.” Designed by architect Sir William Bruce before being improved by William Adam, it has been home to generations of the Hope family. The family motto, at spes non fracta, roughly translates as “all we have is a little hope”. This we can relate to.

However, our little Hope’s megalomaniac tendencies know no bounds. She has claimed Hope Street in Glasgow and Hope Park Terrace in Edinburgh as her own, based on the fact that she shares a name. Before she launches an expensive legal battle with the present owner, the Earl of Hopetoun, we thought a visit would be in order.

Hopetoun House, near South Queensferry, wows visitors with its impressive 18th-century facade. Our other daughter, Eve, nine, and Hope agreed that it was just like Buckingham Palace. The house is furnished in lavish style. We peeked into the ballroom, with its fabulous chandeliers, and found it hard to believe it was once used as an indoor riding school. I loved the finely painted wood- panelled stairwell, and amazing portraits on every wall. Shelves of vellum-bound tomes line the walls in the libraries, exactly like the ones in Harry Potter, although with fewer teeth.

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The girls were desperate to explore the grounds, but first we made sure we had seen all the house’s treasures. The girls amicably decided on who should have which bedroom, with Eve settling for the crimson Bruce bedchamber, while Hope bagsied the West Wainscot room. The girls then chose which dinner setting they would like, if invited to tea. Next we headed up to the rooftop gallery with its great views of the Forth bridges, before dashing downstairs, just in time to see the enchanting automaton clock strike the hour.

With 150 acres of parkland to explore, there is plenty of space in which to run around. The ranger centre runs a programme of guided walks and events throughout the year, so it is worth checking in advance what’s on. We headed to the round pond, pausing briefly for some roly-polys on the west lawn. Graham, my partner, fished out a tiny frog from the water, to the amusement of the girls.

However, there was no way we could get out of hiking along Hope’s walk. We discovered great views of Blackness Castle and caught sight of several fawns. Famished, we were more than content to slum it in the plush stable tearoom, partaking in an opulent afternoon tea of cucumber, ham and smoked salmon sandwiches, followed by scones with lashings of cream and jam. We had just enough room for one final vanilla slice before rolling back to the car.

Hopetoun House is open daily until 25 September from 10:30am-5pm (last admission 4pm). House and grounds family ticket costs £25. Grounds only family ticket costs £11.50,

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