Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire HP18 0JH
I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been to Waddesdon Manor in the past 5 years. Dozens surely? In fact, I spend so much time at the manor I even went into labour with my 3rd child whilst I was here! If you live in Aylesbury and you’re an NT member this place is a given.
It is a very large site and so there are lots of different things to do there. They have the main house (child friendly but no big bags or pushchairs. There are carriers you can borrow), an aviary, multiple woodland play areas, a nature walk, beautiful parterre and a lot of open spaces. You would have to go multiple times to get round it all. They do lots of different events throughout the year, largely targeted towards children. Most of these are chargeable events so check the prices on the website first. Christmas is a highlight and, if you want to see the house, you’ll have to pre-book well in advance because it’s popular. Even if you cannot get into the house at Christmas there is lots to do and their Christmas Fair is brilliant.
Waddesdon is one of the most visited NT properties and during events, school holidays it does get very busy at certain pinch points. If you’re happy to go off the beaten track a bit more then there is still peace and quiet to be found. During trails you used to have to collect stickers on your way around which would ALWAYS get soggy after the first day. They’ve now significantly improved this by having punches for you to stamp your sheets with. Much better!!
They have several different play areas dotted along the hillside. These are generally broken down into different age groups. The facilities are good and they are well maintained but because they are so popular, it can actually be quite easy to lose the kids. Also, they are not fenced off so it’s easy for kids to disappear into the wooded areas. If you have a wide range of ages it might be tricky – older kids are not allowed in the younger kids’ area but their area is at the top of the hill and there is no visibility between the different parks.
There are a few outstanding volunteers, in particular one older gentleman who always greets everyone with a smile, particularly the kids. I really must find out his name! (Update – I now know his name is John and he really is a superstar)
There are a lot of well maintained footpaths and walk ways. It’s easy to get a pushchair or wheelchair around. The house is at the top of a hill so there are various steep climbs to get around the site. You can also leave your bags near the house so you won’t have to lug a picnic bag around all day.
Cost – Free for NT Members (£30 for a family grounds ticket for non-members). Some events and activities are chargeable.
Parking – Ample, and free. There is also limited parent and child parking plus plenty of disabled spaces. The new car park is a considerable way from the house so you can either walk (15 mins stroll uphill) or get a free bus. There can be long queues at peak times. You used to be able to park up by the house which was very busy at peak times and I see why they changed it. It just means that now you have to allocate at least 20 minutes each way to get to the car and back. Quick trips to the manor take a lot longer now.
Food – Various different outlets (manor restaurant, coffee shed, summer house, stables cafe and the new Treaterie). I do find their food to be great quality but very expensive so I rarely eat a full meal here, cakes are the exception obviously. Picnics – Welcome everywhere
Toilets – They have excellent facilities near the house and smaller toilets in the stable. There are dedicated baby change facilities (unisex and separate from the toilets).
Rating – 4/5