Clandon Park is Open Again after the Fire

It was the 29th April 2015 and news started to come in – Clandon Park near Guildford was on fire. Beautiful Clandon Park – a Grade I listed mansion. But there’s good news – Clandon is being rebuilt.

Clandon House 2013

Clandon Park is a mansion near West Clandon, near Guildford. On the 29th April 2015 a fire gutted the mansion, all bar one room. The fire started in the basement and spread to the upper floors.

Fortunately several things were saved and retrieved before the fire took hold. However, a lot was lost – including the inside of the house. Clandon Park is just a shell.

Clandon Park fireplaces that survived after the fire

As National Trust members, we’ve combined Clandon Park and nearby Hatchlands Park in a single visit. When H was a baby Clandon was the better of the two for little legs. It has now reopened, and things are changing.

From January 2019 work will begin on restoring Clandon. The ground floor will be as close as possible to how it was, with the upper floors having an exhibition area which will continually change. On the top floor there’s talk of a dining area with spectacular views across the Surrey Hills.

Hi vis and hard hats to see inside Clandon Park

We were given hard hats and hi-vis vests and had a look inside the house.

There is a walkway through a section of the house, and it’s fascinating. Obviously it goes without saying it would be better the fire never happened, though because it did, the people who volunteer at Clandon have learned so much about how the house was built.

Clandon Park after the fire Royal Bedroom and doorway

For example, in the Royal Chamber; a room which was always ready for any passing Kings or Queens to stay, should they need to; it was discovered the walls had several layers. Initially wood was nailed into the walls which were then covered in hessian. Wallpaper was placed over that, leaving what everyone saw up to 2015. But now you can see the layers underneath.

Clandon Park after the fire - 1930s fireproof solution and looking up to the roof
How about some 1930s fireproofing? There is a tiny section which hangs across the upper floor. Sadly ironic, it’s the only part which still stands up there.

Incredibly, the marble fireplaces remain intact. The staff at Clandon Park found that pillars thought to be marble were in fact painted to look that way – and were just plaster. On the first floor statues (again, marble) are intact. You can see smaller fireplaces which survived as well.

What H thought would be a boring hour or two ended up being a really fascinating hour or two. Seeing the structure of the house, how thick the walls are and seeing where wood and stone staircases once were is really interesting.

If you visit Hatchlands Park, I’d recommend a trip to Clandon Park as well. It’s just up the road, the grounds are open too. I wish it wasn’t interesting and that we were visiting as normal (the cafe in the basement was always one of our favourite National Trust ones), but love that H came away asking different questions about the build of the house.

Clandon Park Dutch Garden and Newt

In the gardens we spotted loads of newts in the pond in the Dutch Garden – with the glorious sunshine it was a lovely day to get out and enjoy being outdoors. Looking across the bulb meadow to the house there was a hint of sadness, though knowing things will change in the coming years means this view will happen again.

To visit Clandon Park, please check their opening times. You can turn up to visit the house, you don’t need to pre-book. Spending money at Clandon Park also helps vital funds needed for this rebuilding project.

Clandon Park after the fire. Before and after

Country Kids
 

Hever Castle Tudor Towers Adventure Playground

Since we took out Historic Houses Association membership last year, we’ve made several visits to Hever Castle. It’s about 40 minutes from us and there’s always plenty to do.

Hever Castle
We visited on the Bank Holiday weekend, and were delighted to see the Hever Castle Tudor Towers adventure playground is now open – in fact, it opened last October.

Hever Castle Tudor Towers adventure playground is situated in the main playground area within the grounds.

It covers a large area. Or as H said “this is bigger than our house!” – something that isn’t too difficult, mind. There are three floors to it, with so many things on offer. Have you been to Leeds Castle? We visited there for the first time, there’s a similar one there. The only thing is, Hever Castle’s is far superior according to H.

Hever Castle Tudor Towers Adventure Playground outside

The Hever Castle Tudor Towers adventure playground has tunnels too – H’s favourite is the one which goes from the back of the house to a well outside. It took me longer to walk around from one entrance to the outside part than it did for her to crawl from one to the other.

There are fireman’s poles, plenty of slides, and the best thing? It’s suitable for 7-14 year olds. At the moment there are younger kids having a go, though this will change when they have their own one built this year.

Hever Castle Tudor Towers Adventure Playground

Three towers are at the top of the castle, Astor, Waldegrave and of course, Boleyn, named after Anne their most famous resident. Each has their own adventure to discover within. The second floor has some sections with speakers which randomly pipe out music which is suited to the Tudor era.

At the very top of the castle is a tunnel you can crawl along – high up so not for the faint hearted.

Hever Castle Tudor Towers Adventure Playground upper tunnels

It’s tip top great fun though – and somewhere H is already asking to go back to.

There’s enough room on a rainy day and enough inside that keeps it sheltered. Hever Castle are sensible enough to make sure there’s a coffee machine outside selling reasonably priced tasty coffees for us parents. There are plenty of benches too.

Even better, you can get to most areas yourself should you need to. Shaun might have even tried one of the slides….

Hever Castle Tudor Towers Adventure Playground is open now. Allow plenty of time there too. Final entry is 45 minutes before the grounds close. The final exit being 15 minutes before they close.

Country Kids
 

Castle Howard – We Finally Visited

For a large chunk of my life I lived in York, though now reside in London. So why did I never visit Castle Howard, other than to drive through the grounds in the areas there are roads? As Historic Houses Association members we put this to rights and paid a visit during our recent stay up north.

Castle Howard looking back from the hill that leads to Ray Wood

Castle Howard situated in the Howardian Hills and is approximately 15 miles from York. The grounds are large and you are able to drive through sections. You often face gateways at the top of a hill where cars only see each other at the point of give way. It makes for a careful, cautious driving experience.

Castle Howard

Castle Howard is part of the Historic Houses Association group, however has changed its rules recently, only allowing one visit on membership a year. They now have their own scheme which you can sign up to.

Castle Howard dome from inside

So what is there to see? There’s the Castle Howard building itself – not a castle, just a stately home built on the site of an old castle. It’s very grand with displays of china from around the world. You can find a room dedicated to the filming of Brideshead Revisited, both the TV series and the film. There is another room dedicated to what happened during the war at Castle Howard. It’s interesting stuff, and I loved how it brought that period of time to life in H’s eyes.

There is a section which had a fire last century which was used as a spooky room (which was pretty good!), with a small shop outside selling all kind of spooky things and sweets!

Castle Howard Children's Play AreaMore recent filming done at Castle Howard includes the first series of ITV’s Victoria, where it doubled up for Kensington Palace when she was born. I might have to re-watch and see how much I recognise especially now they’re on DVD!

Castle Howard Ray Wood walk

As it was nearing Halloween we took part in the Castle Howard trail. This took us up to the main woods – Ray Wood, and over to the Boathouse Cafe near the Children’s play area (suitable for all ages).

Castle Howard lake from Boathouse Cafe

We caught a land train back to the house. The views are spectacular.

My favourite part of North Yorkshire is as you head towards the North York Moors. Castle Howard is near to Whitwell on the Hill on the A64.  The road starts to become really hilly before you reach the most beautiful countryside you could imagine.

Being at Castle Howard gave me a sense of how grand it must have been to live there. Inside the volunteers had a lot of information for us about the house. It was somewhere I’m kicking myself for never having been before.

H spotted loads of Roman Gods on the various statues inside the house. The volunteers were more than happy to help her find more, telling her what to look out for.

H and the Minerva statue inside Castle Howard

Castle Howard is open all year. There are always activities on, and fabulous grounds to walk around. Their website is here.

Country Kids

Osterley Park and House – and Our First Time in a Canoe

It was a sunny day so I suggested we travel to West London to try Osterley Park and House – our National Trust membership has just renewed for an eighth year so I wanted to use it as quickly as possible.

Osterley Park and House is over in West London, around an hour for us in the car. You arrive and you wouldn’t feel like you’re in London at all, apart from being underneath the Heathrow flight path, so you see a plane every minute or so.

Osterley Park and House

Osterley House dates back to Tudor times – we ran out of time to investigate so we’ll have to go back. We were going to combine a trip with Syon House but ran out of time – there was way more to do than we thought.

The National Trust website mentions sports activities in Osterley Park, so we headed there as it sounded like something fun to do. Little did we know it would be a LOT of fun. H has played badminton twice now, so any excuse to find some space to have a proper game, right? (and they provide racquets too)

Osterley Park and House badminton

 

In conjunction with the National Trust, a local canoeing club offer you a 30-45 minute canoe around the pond there. At £6 per person we thought it was pretty reasonable – the main issue for me was how deep was the lake?

It isn’t that deep at all, probably up to H’s shoulders, so we could have stood comfortably in there had we fallen out. Nonetheless, we wore life jackets and I instantly wondered what on earth I was getting myself into.

Canoeing at Osterley Park and House

The canoe sessions are running until October, and are definitely worth doing! For the more experienced canoeist you could take one on your own. If there are just the two of you, there are plenty of two man canoes. Ours holds three people so we didn’t get wet (you do in the canoes for two). My feet still ended up soaked but oh my, it was GREAT fun! We went around the lake twice, and ended up exhausted – it took a short while to get our rhythm as well as making sure none of us shuffled around too much.

But that’s not all, because Osterley Park has a trail – a natural play trail. How cool is that? If you head for the long walk around the grounds you’ll find it. There are plenty of bits of wood marked like this

Osterley Park and House arrow

You come across wooden features like this

Osterley Park and House wooden climbing natural play

and this

Osterley Park and House natural play 2

or this

Osterley Park rope swing

and even this

Osterley Park and House Rope Swing 2

until you reach the really big natural play area with this

Osterley Park and House giant swing

and a tree you can climb which is a really good tree for climbing, with a ‘climb chime’ half way up.

Osterley Park and House Chime Climb

and this – but of course who needs an invitation when it comes to building dens?

Osterley Park and House den arena

We could have spent far longer at Osterley Park and House, which means we’ll just have to go back. Next time we’ll combine it with that trip to Syon Park we didn’t manage to get to.

Here’s their website.

Country Kids

Lullingstone Castle and World Garden

Lullingstone Castle isn’t a castle. It’s a big house, a great big manor house – it was named a castle way back when it was an impressive thing to do so. It’s a fun place to visit and there’s plenty to do.

Lullingstone Castle

Lullingstone Castle is situated in Lullingstone, close to Orpington, Kent. It is a big manor house where you can join guided tours which last approximately an hour. The tour was interesting, though involved a lot of talking.

I would suggest if you have an impatient child younger than 7-8, skip the house tour and go straight to the World Garden – but make sure to pick up the trail questions from the house before you do.

Lullingstone Castle World Garden

The World Garden is pretty amazing. Tom Hart-Dyke who is the son of the current owners of Lullington Castle is an explorer, a plant hunter. He has an interesting story, and has featured on tv programmes about the garden.

Lullingstone Castle World Garden sign

The World Garden is split into continents, each has plants and flowers from all over the world. There is information in each area from simple stories about the plant hunters who inspired or helped build the garden.

Actually, there’s no point in me describing it – here’s some of my photos that we took. It’s worth going to visit, is open every weekend and we can get in free with Historic Houses Association membership.

Lullingstone Castle World Garden flower 1 Lullingstone Castle World Garden view with wire tree Lullingstone Castle World Garden Australia area Lullingstone Castle World Garden flower 2 Lullingstone Castle World Garden flower 3 Lullingstone Castle World Garden America area Lullingstone Castle World Garden totem pole Lullingstone Castle World Garden flower 4 Lullingstone Castle World Garden flower 5 Lullingstone Castle World Garden cacti Lullingstone Castle World Garden cacti 2 Lullingstone Castle World Garden spot the penguin

Add to that a couple of greenhouse areas which include the most poisonous plant in the world, and you’ve a fascinating afternoon wandering around. Once you’re outside the World Garden, there are grounds too, including a carp lake.

Over that is a bridge – perfect for Pooh Sticks.

Lullingstone Castle World Garden pooh sticks

We were there for almost four hours, popping into nearby Lullingstone Roman Villa up the road, some fascinating ruins which are part of English Heritage. That’s one for a follow-up post I think!

Lullingstone Castle’s website can be found here. It’s fascinating visiting other people’s houses and having a nosey around a small area – especially when they’re still living there. Definitely worth a visit!

Loseley Park – Our First Visit

We have Historic Houses Association membership which opens up a new world of places to visit. This weekend it was Loseley Park near Guildford.
Loseley Park

Loseley Park has a lot of history. Once visited by many Kings and Queens (including Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn off the top of my head), it is a property owned by the More-Molyneux family.

Loseley Park flowers

The house itself is fascinating. Built in the 1500s it’s a very sturdy building with the majority surviving. Only the West Wing is no longer there. The More-Molyneux family live in one half with the other half open as part of a guided tour. The property has fields around it, as well as the Botanical Gardens to the right of the house.

Loseley Park wisteria

Loseley Park has enough to keep you busy for an afternoon. We started with our customary game of hide and seek (which H loves in new gardens). A glorious, sunny day, we hid and laughed, breathing in the fragrant wisteria which grows over the walls as you enter the gardens.

Loseley Park sculptures

We stopped for a quick sandwich at the Wisteria Tea Rooms. It was a quick service and yummy food. A little bit more expensive than National Trust places but filling nonetheless.

Loseley Park moat

H had space to run around and made the most of it. There’s a moat with a small tunnel from the gardens to reach it. We wandered around there hoping for a sighting of a kingfisher – but it wasn’t to be.

Loseley Park foot sculpture

The tour of Loseley Park takes 45 minutes. H had a clipboard with questions on to answer. Our guide told us about all the rooms, the family and where a lot of the things on show there originate. When H returned her clipboard she won a Loseley Park pencil which I was happy about. It’s nice they win sweets at these kind of things, getting something practical is so much better.

Loseley Park gardens

After that we grabbed a Loseley Park ice cream. It doesn’t seem to have much to do with the site any more these days, but was still delicious. We wandered around the lake which isn’t too big and definitely walkable, before heading to the play area. The play area is pretty basic but it was enough for H and she had a fun play for 45 minutes or so.

Loseley Park lake

Loseley Park is somewhere we’ll definitely go back to, especially with the change of the seasons. For more information they’re over here.
Loseley Park is also now part of the Gardener’s World 2 for 1 deal if you bought a copy of the magazine this month.

Loseley Park field of dandelion clocks

Easter Egg Hunts – Where to Go?

It’s almost that time of the year again, Easter. Every year without fail we find ourselves at a National Trust Easter Egg hunt which are all brilliant, and well organised. This year we fancied a change. But where to go?

Easter Egg hunts are starting around now, the start of April. Most run for a few weeks, but please check the links provided for more information.

National Trust and Cadbury Easter Egg Hunts logo

The National Trust Easter Egg hunt are great. They work with Cadbury’s, and usually have some kind of trail around the place you’re visiting. I’ve spotted easy ones for younger children and slightly more complicated ones for the slightly cockier over 7’s (read : H). They’re suitable for all and perfect for glorious sunny days. The eggs are pretty good too!

You can find more information here. There is usually a cost involved on top of your National Trust membership.

[We pay for National Trust membership every year]

hampton court magic garden h on dragon

Historic Royal Palaces have some trails on as well. We’re probably going to do Hampton Court Palace this year, who are doing their trail in conjunction with Lindt. I’m actually wondering if adults can do it too… It is Hampton Court’s first ever Easter trail. I love Hampton Court, and the Magic Garden has reopened for the season as of yesterday (1st April). I can’t think of a better reason to go! The Easter Egg trail is included in your admission price.

[We get free entry to Hampton Court as it is part of the CSSC scheme]

hever castle

Hever Castle has an easter egg hunt, another Lindt one. I don’t think we’ll have time to do this one this year, but having had a day at Hever recently, it would be a wonderful place to wander around in the sun, especially knowing there is Lindt chocolate involved at the end. The Lindt Gold Bunny hunt is free, and they have additional activities available at a cost. Worth looking into anyway!

[We have Historic Houses Association Membership so can enter Hever Castle for free]

Our Summer - Tintagel

English Heritage also have some Easter Activities on – with all sorts of activities. They look pretty awesome, and don’t mention chocolate… Not all English Heritage places are doing it, so please check this link for more information. They also fall around the Easter weekend, rather than the start of April.

[We are English Heritage members via CSSC and the above link is an affiliate link]

Riverhill Himalayan Gardens

We visited Riverhill Himalayan Gardens for the first time, not sure what to expect. It recently opened for the season and looked like there was plenty to do.

Riverhill Himalayan Gardens

Riverhill Himalayan Gardens is near Sevenoaks. If you were to look on a map, it’s close to Knole, the National Trust place. They’re no more than ten minutes apart. To be honest, I thought we’d get through Riverhill in an hour or so and end up going there. How wrong was I?

Riverhill Himalayan Gardens has LOADS to do. It was a glorious, sunny day. When you have sunshine, gardens to wander around and some quirky sculptures around it, it makes for an interesting afternoon.

As Historic Houses Association members our entry was free.

We headed towards the Explorers Escarpment and Adventure Playground where there were climbing frames and slides suitable for young children but also ideal for H. It was the kind of area we could leave her unsupervised (as in, sitting at the back of the playground while she explores) and know she was safe as there was only one entrance in there.

Afterwards we headed up the hill towards the Himalayan Hedge Maze. We’re a maze-loving family, and this one was different – and not as easy as it looks. It seems to be new so wasn’t that high, which meant we could all try different routes and still see each other. H may have cheated….

Riverhill Himalayan Gardens

We headed back down the hill towards the main gardens where there is a water feature plus fountains (which weren’t working) – it was a lovely place to sit and have a moment of calm.

A quick visit to the cafe for sandwiches and in H’s case a Yeti Food Pack and we headed back out to the Woodland Trail. There was a reason for this.

Riverhill Himalayan Gardens - yeti

From 2pm-4pm there’s a yeti in the woods! It’s someone dressed up but seeing how the kids flock around him it works a treat. At first we headed up a hill where H found a den built into the ground. She has a love of picking up sticks (which we then leave behind) and managed plenty today.

The yeti was pretty easy to find. Riverhill Himalayan Gardens also publicise it well so you know when it’s happening – and it’s well signposted. He keeps silent, so H went finding sticks to build a den, handing them over. We stood back and watched.

Riverhill Himalayan Gardens

After that we had a walk around the Woodland Trail to a bigger field with views all over Kent. There was a giant pebble which H sat on, with two windsocks that were gigantic pairs of hands dancing in the breeze like Kate Bush doing Wuthering Heights.

A walk down the hill and we were back to the maze. H and Shaun had another go while I sat directing from the hill!

Another play in the play area, and we decided to head home. We had spent four and a half hours there!

Riverhill Himalayan Gardens is great fun, there are buggy accessible routes and plenty to hunt around for. It feels like the kind of place we would go back to several times. Their website is here. We also did some Mothers Day crafts which I’ve stolen the idea for Brownies for next year – we had a brilliant time!

Painshill Park – We Returned and Found Our Happy Place Again

Painshill Park is somewhere we’ve visited since H was a baby. It’s in Cobham, up the road from Claremont Landscape Gardens. We haven’t been for a couple of years, so put this to rights recently.

Painshill Park view from Turkish Tent

Painshill Park and Claremont are both landscape gardens, and have similarities. Painshill Park has some unique features which make it a place we love going back to – though it has been some time.

Painshill Park looking towards the five arch bridge

Imagine some gardens which have random things built in them because that was the done thing when you’re a wealthy person. So you build a ruin because you can. Or you build a Turkish Tent because it looks great on top of a hill. Then there’s the Gothic Tower, which has fabulous views. Lest we forget the wonderful Crystal Grotto which is now restored and looks amazing.

Painshill Park Crystal Grotto

We used to go on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day as one parent would get in for free, which would keep costs down. We’re now Historic Houses Association members, so can now go whenever we want. It was a sunny day, the kind where you aren’t wrapped up which meant we had to get back to Painshill Park.

Painshill Park

It hasn’t changed, but there are changes. The Crystal Grotto is now restored and looks so much better for it.

The Temple of Bacchus is being recreated and will complete in July this year – that’s going to be one to go back for.

Painshill Park Gothic Tower

Over at the Gothic Tower there are big changes. I don’t remember there being toilets there before, but there are now. There’s a small pop-up cafe on the first floor which has a good selection of food which you can take out. That section of Painshill Park isn’t so isolated any more. I even made it to the top of the tower to check out the views for the first time.

Painshill Turkish Tent and Five Arch Bridge

My favourite view is from the Turkish Tent, looking across to the Gothic Temple. You can see the serpentine lake, and in the middle the island where the Crystal Grotto lives.

Painshill Park Woollett Bridge

What I’ve always liked about Painshill Park is how almost everything is accessible. There are areas which would be difficult for people with mobility issues or buggies, but Painshill have alternative routes. But bear in mind the Gothic Tower has a spiral staircase to the top. While it’s a lovely walk it might be worth having a baby carrier if you want to climb the tower.

It’s a lovely day out, a picturesque walk and even though you’re right by the A3 and the M25, there isn’t any noise from cars. I love Painshill Park.

For more information head here.

Painshill Park reflections

Country Kids

Picture-perfect picnic spots with the National Trust

There’s no better way to celebrate summer than packing a picnic and catching up with friends and family. With miles of coastline and acres of countryside, the National Trust cares for some of the best spots in the country for eating al fresco and enjoying stunning views.

For those whose picnic preparation isn’t quite up to scratch, there are also plenty of ways to make it extra-special with the delicious seasonal food on offer at National Trust cafés and shops.

Here are some of the top picnic spots and places to stop for a tasty treat:

South West
Avebury, Wiltshire
If you’re looking to picnic in historical surroundings then Avebury is the perfect spot. The pretty village is partially encompassed by the world’s largest prehistoric stone circle, now a World Heritage Site. There’s plenty of green space to throw your rug down and little ones will love rolling down the surrounding hills and banks. On the edge of the village stands Avebury Manor, which was recently transformed in a partnership between the National Trust and the BBC. The Manor creates a hands-on experience that celebrates and reflects the lives of the people who once lived in Avebury; the perfect educational accompaniment to a glorious picnic.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/avebury

Lanhydrock, Cornwall
Lanhydrock estate covers 1,000 acres, with parkland, ancient woodland and riverside paths. Pack a rucksack and go on a family adventure to find your perfect spot. The estate has lots of cycle trails and even has bikes to hire, so you can plan a day full of exploration. Once you’ve had your fill of sandwiches and adventures, why not relax in the gardens and take in the beautiful scents of blooming herbaceous borders.
For information on bicycle hire, please call: 01208 265975
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lanhydrock

Studland Beach, Dorset
Take the children for a good old fashioned day out on this golden sandy beach that stretches four miles from South Haven Point to Old Harry Rocks. It’s an ideal place to enjoy the simple pleasures of beach picnics and tumbling sandcastles. And with shallow bathing water it’s perfect for paddling with the little ones. You can also visit the nearby ruins of Corfe Castle to discover over 1,000 years of history and relive childhood memories by seeing the inspiration behind Enid Blyton’s Kirrin Castle in the Famous Five.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/studland-bay

A family enjoys a picnic on the lawn at Polesden Lacey, Surrey ©National Trust Images Stuart Cox
A family enjoys a picnic on the lawn at Polesden Lacey, Surrey ©National Trust Images Stuart Cox

South East
Polesden Lacey, Surrey
Lazy Jazz Sundays, every Sunday June – September & Bank Holiday Monday 29 August, 2pm – 4pm
Unwind on the lush green grass of Polesden Lacey’s South Lawn to the melodious tones of live jazz music. You can fill up your hamper with treats at the café which will be offering pick-up-and-go food for impromptu picnics. Every penny you spend in the café helps the National Trust care for special places like Polesden Lacey for summers to come. Afterwards take a stroll through the gardens and estate where stunning displays of climbing roses and double herbaceous borders will be in full bloom.
Price: Free event (normal admission charges apply)
For more information, please call: 01372 452048
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/polesden-lacey

Morden Hall Park, London
Jazzy June Evenings, 17 & 24 June, 8pm – 10pm
Morden Hall Park is green oasis, giving you a taste of the country at the end of the Northern Line. Every Friday throughout June, Morden will be staying open late and playing host to an evening of jazz in the historic stable yard. A different group will be performing each week, so bring a picnic, grab a glass of Pimm’s and take the chance to dance the night away.
Price: £8 in advance, £10 on the gate (booking essential)
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/morden-hall-park

Woman relaxing beside the River Wandle at Morden Hall Park, London. ©National Trust Images John Millar
Woman relaxing beside the River Wandle at Morden Hall Park, London. ©National Trust Images John Millar

Stowe, Buckinghamshire
Stowe is a place of such scale and beauty that it has attracted visitors for over 300 years. This timeless landscape, created by the celebrated gardener ‘Capability’ Brown, is full of picture-perfect viewpoints, winding paths, lakeside walks and classical temples. Drop by the café to add an extra homemade treat to your hamper. There’s everything from mouth-watering cheese scones and sausage rolls to indulgent slices of cake, so all you need to do is bring a rug and choose a spot to enjoy the view.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/stowe

East
Blickling Estate, Norfolk
With a shimmering lake, shady woodland, colourful garden and rolling green parkland, you’re never far from an idyllic picnic spot at Blickling. Take a stroll around the grounds to find your picture-perfect setting. After tucking in, set the kids loose in the secret garden and ancient temple, and smell the wonderful citrus trees in the orangery. The whole family can also hire bikes and segways to explore the park, with every penny going towards conserving the beautiful landscape.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/blickling-estate

Flatford, Suffolk
Flatford Mill is right in the middle of Dedham Vale, part of the rolling Essex landscapes that inspired Constable’s idyllic rural paintings. This is great walking countryside, so why not pack a rucksack full of treats and head out onto the trails for a day of family fun. There are plenty of spots along the way to relax by the water’s edge and enjoy your feast. Or you can even hire a boat from the nearby boathouse and row down river to see the beautiful surroundings from a new perspective.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/flatford

Wimpole, Cambridgeshire
Admire the views of the recently restored Gothic Tower at Wimpole Estate with a picnic in the north park. The 18th-century tower, designed to look like a picturesque medieval ruin, makes a picture-perfect backdrop for any picnic. You’ll be able to see right across the estate as you enjoy the peace and tranquillity of your surroundings. Afterwards, take a stroll around the gardens and woodland and find out how Wimpole’s gardeners are using greener gardening techniques to safeguard the future of this glorious estate.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wimpole-estate

Visitors at Stowe Landscape Gardens, Buckinghamshire. ©National Trust Images John Millar
Visitors at Stowe Landscape Gardens, Buckinghamshire. ©National Trust Images John Millar

Midlands
Berrington Hall, Herefordshire
Enjoy the splendour of Berrington Hall’s ‘Capability’ Brown parkland from the comfort of your picnic rug this summer. The lake at the centre of the park is a haven for wildlife, carefully cared for by Berrington’s gardeners and rangers. Herons, mute swans, great-crested grebes and much more live there so there’s always something to see. Afterwards take a stroll around the walled garden to see the flourishing orchard, flower borders and vegetable patch.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/berrington-hall

Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire
Escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and take the time to get closer to nature at Clumber Park. Whether it’s cycling, orienteering or a gentle stroll you’re after, there are plenty of opportunities to have fun with all the family. Afterwards you can enjoy a shady picnic in the woodlands or overlooking the glittering lake. The kids can climb, swing and run around in the play park, try out some of the ‘50 things’ activities or pick up a family tracker pack to see what they can find.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/clumber-park

Croome, Worcestershire
Croome was Capability Brown’s first landscape garden and it’s the ideal place to relax with some tasty treats. When it comes to picnicking you’ll be spoilt for choice with tranquil spots overlooking lakes and rivers, next to statues, bridges, follies or classical temples. There are plenty of activities to keep the kids entertained too, including a natural play area with den building and an exciting programme of walking trails to explore.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/croome

Plas Newydd Country House and Gardens, Anglesey, Wales. ©National Trust Images John Millar
Plas Newydd Country House and Gardens, Anglesey, Wales. ©National Trust Images John Millar

Wales
Chirk Castle
Chirk Castle is packed full of fantastic places to picnic, each with their own charm. Relax in the Kitchen Garden with far-reaching views along Offa’s Dyke and into the Ceiriog Valley below, or up at the castle you can picnic and play in the meadow with views for miles across the Cheshire plain. Why not spread a blanket on the grass in the courtyard, or if it’s tranquillity you’re after then head to the terrace at the bottom of the gardens for beautiful views across Shropshire from the ha-ha.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/chirk-castle

Dinefwr Park and Castle, Carmarthenshire
Settle down for sandwiches at Dinefwr Park and keep an eye out for the resident fallow deer that have been roaming the land for 1000 years. What better place to lay down your picnic blanket than the only parkland National Nature Reserve in Wales. Stop beneath an old oak tree or next to a flower-rich hay meadow cared for by National Trust rangers and watch the world go by. There are some designated picnic benches on the estate too.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dinefwr

Plas Newydd Country House and Gardens, Anglesey
With atmospheric views across the Menai Strait and to Snowdonia’s mountains, and beautiful blooming gardens throughout the summer, it’s never hard to find a perfect picnic spot at Plas Newydd. Settle down with a hamper on the lawns to the north of the mansion and you’ll be rewarded with views of the Italianate Terrace, where hot borders are a virtual furnace of reds and oranges, including canna, rudbeckia and dahlia.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/plas-newydd

Fountains Abbey,  ©NT Images Andrew Butler
Fountains Abbey, ©National Trust Images Andrew Butler

North West
Borrowdale and Derwent Water, Cumbria
Just five minutes’ walk from the quaint market town of Keswick, the Borrowdale Valley is a great place to get an introduction to walking in the Lake District. There are plenty of trails up onto the fells, or you can stick to exploring the pebbly shores around Derwent Water. Brandelhow on the western edge of the lake makes the perfect picnic location, with far-reaching views across the water and loads of space for the kids to run around in.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/borrowdale-and-derwent-water

Quarry Bank, Cheshire
Picnic on the Mill Meadow at Quarry Bank, set against the backdrop of the 18th-century Georgian cotton mill in the valley of the River Bollin. With scenic panoramic views and plenty of space to play in, it’s the ideal place for a day of fun in the sun. Quarry Bank even welcomes four-legged furry friends to its woodlands and gardens, so you can explore the estate as a whole family.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/quarry-bank

Wray Castle, Cumbria
Perched on the shores of Lake Windermere, this mock-Gothic castle with turrets and towers provides a great backdrop for a family day out. Settle down with a feast at the picnic tables just outside the castle and you’ll be rewarded with stunning views in all directions. Little visitors will be excited to know that there’s now a mini ‘treecastle’ in the outdoors play area, so after you’ve had your fill of feast why not head out for an adventure?
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wray-castle

Visitors in the grounds to the south front of Beningbrough Hall, North Yorkshire. ©National Trust Images John Millar
Visitors in the grounds to the south front of Beningbrough Hall, North Yorkshire. ©National Trust Images John Millar

Yorkshire and North East
Beningbrough Hall, York
Beningbrough’s gardens are full of secret nooks where you can picnic surrounded by flowers and wildlife. Or if you prefer a bit more space, why not throw the rug down on the south facing lawns and soak up some summer sun? If you’re hoping to build an appetite first you can borrow a bike for the day. There’s a selection of bikes and trikes on offer, and even one with a picnic-carrying carriage so you can tow along your lunch to your perfect destination.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/beningbrough-hall-gallery-and-gardens

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, North Yorkshire
On a glorious sunny day you can’t beat packing a picnic and heading for the abbey green. With acres of lush green grass and the stunning 800 year old abbey ruins as a backdrop, it’s not hard to find a picture-perfect spot. Afterwards, take a stroll among the trees on the edge of Studley Royal deer park or along the banks of the river Skell and see if you can spot some of the 500 wild red, fallow and Sika deer.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/fountains-abbey-and-studley-royal-water-garden

Wallington
A family day at Wallington isn’t complete without the chance to play games in the outdoors. Bring your Frisbee or football or set off towards the West Woods for a wild adventure. If you’re looking for a quieter spot to relax then why not set out a blanket and tuck into a picnic on the lawn at the end of the walled garden. Overlooking the little pond, it’s the perfect hide away for a tranquil afternoon.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wallington

Northern Ireland
Rowallane Garden, County Down
Just a short drive from Belfast, Rowallane is a beautiful setting for a walk and picnic. During the summer the walled garden is brimming with colour, from egg-yolk yellow hypericum to bright pink shrub roses. There are plenty of picnic benches around the grounds, or you can take a blanket and find your own hidden corner among the blooms. Head to the garden café for extra treats, where every penny you spend goes towards conserving places like Rowallane for summers to come.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/rowallane-garden

The Argory, County Armagh
Deep in the green County Armagh countryside is a place where the mist rolls down to the River Blackwater and time stands still. Enjoy peaceful views of the river, running wild in the woods and adventure playground, and mulling over the sun dial. The Courtyard Coffee Shop is full of fresh, home-baked scones, sandwiches and cakes so you can grab an impromptu picnic while you’re there.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/argory

Florence Court, County Fermanagh
Build up an appetite for a picnic with a day of adventures at Florence Court. There are miles of glorious walks and cycle trails through the forest, a playground for little explorers and the opportunity to discover more about nature with adventure tracker packs. Take a stroll to visit the blacksmith’s forge and carpenters workshop, then relax with a picnic in the peaceful gardens and enjoy the mountain views.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/florence-court

Every single visit supports the National Trust’s conservation work, looking after special places for people to enjoy for years to come.