I was staying in Montacute for a wedding and had the day after free before catching a flight back from Bristol, so spent the day at Montacute House. It proved a very good choice - the house is a lovely old building that is well worth a wander (for anyone who has seen the Emma Thompson/Kate Winslet/Hugh Grant/Alan Rickman version of Sense and Sensibility, this is the house is which Marianne is so ill at the end), the gardens are also nice with lots of areas for children to run around and play in, and there's two big displays in the house (besides the usual rooms), one of a large collection of samplers and the other of a host of portraits on loan from the National Gallery in London. Also a very nice cafe.
I'd recommend about 2-3 hours but you could easily spend longer if you have it - I spent about 5 hours there.
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