The first Ilam Hall was built by the Port family in the 16th century but this was demolished by Jesse Watts Russell to make way for his much grander hall of the 1820s. Most of the hall was demolished in the 1920s before Sir Robert McDougall bought the estate and donated it to the National Trust in 1934. Since then, the main remaining part of the hall has been used as a Youth Hostel and the grounds have been open to the public.
If you want to walk around then start from the tea-room and cross the Italian Gardens heading east towards St Bertram's well, which is just south of the church. This is said to have provided fresh water here since Saxon times. Just further on, St Bertram's bridge is the old bridge across the Manifold, and was the main crossing until the new bridge was built downstream in 1828. Don't cross the river, but turn upstream.
On your right is the site of the bandstand, where bands would play to entertain the hall guests. Upstream of the bridge there are two weirs and just above the second are the 'Boil Holes', where the water from the Manifold and Hamps rivers resurges, having flowed underground for several miles. If you follow the river further upstream, you will find in summer that it contains nothing but a few stagnant pools. Follow the river upstream a little way. On your right, in the woods, lies a grotto where the playwright William Congreave is said to have written his first play, 'The Old Batchelor' in 1689.
The path emerges from the trees and follows their edge, moving away from the river bank. This is 'Paradise Walk', created as a place where the hall guests could take their exercise. The path takes you past 'The Battlestone', a Saxon cross unearthed during the building of the new Ilam village and which is thought to commemorate a battle with the Danes.
At the end of Paradise Walk you reach the river again and can either follow it upstream and return to the hall across the park, or cross the footbridge and take the sometimes steep and slippery path through Hinkley Wood, which is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) on account of its numerous Lime trees. This path returns you to St Bertram's bridge, giving some good views of the Hall en route.