Castle Ashby gardens in Northamptonshire is somewhere that has been on my “to review” list for a while. Although outside my four county “patch” it’s just over an hour from Aylesbury so you could potentially visit between school runs.Castle Ashby ReviewFirstly, it’s important to know that 1) Castle Ashby isn’t a castle 2) you cannot look around the house. It’s just the gardens that are open. Middle child seemed a bit put-out by these two points, he at least wanted to look around the house.
It’s also worth noting that the gardens themselves are not that big, particularly by stately home standards. The photos on the website made it seem quite big and I was surprised by the size. They say you’ll be there for 2-3 hours. That said, we easily managed to spend almost a full day there. Smallest child had a bit of a bad tummy and the boys kept needing a wee at entirely different times so we went back and forwards to the look 1million times. I was very grateful that it’s a compact site by the end of the day!!!!
There are five main areas at Castle Ashby gardens that I’ll review; the formal gardens, the menagerie, the playground, the arboretum and the church.
The Formal gardens
One of the first things we spotted when we visited was the beautifully carved tree. On one side there’s a little seat carved out but all over the tree stump are woodland characters etc. It’s so lovely and a popular photo opportunity. There are several interesting points; a little pond with metal heron sculptures, an orangery and little secret gardens. The secret gardens area has lots of other little gardens, all divided by hedges so it’s perfect for games of hide and seek.
The orangery is absolutely worth a look. As well as all the plants there’s a little pond in the middle. It’s full of fish including Koi carp and all my kids found it fascinating. There are also various seats dotted around and loads of places for kids to play games.
In the middle of the gardens there is a brilliant weeping Birch tree (I think). It’s massive and dangles right down to the ground. There are loads of low hanging branches for climbing on plus thick foliage. This is such a good tree for playing tons of games. I swear the kids would have quite happily spent hours running in and around this and playing games.
I struggled to find the menagerie because I mis-read the map. I’d expected the gardens to be bigger and so got the scale completely wrong. Doh! The menagerie is a unique feature of Castle Ashby gardens and is one of the main reasons I wanted to do a review. It’s quite small but kids will easily spend lots of time here. They have two tortoise, a pony, budgies, chickens, pigs, marmosets, giant rabbits and meerkats. The largest enclosure is for the meerkats. If you have children who like animals it’s a nice, cheap way to see some without going to a zoo or open farm.
Next to the car park at Castle Ashby gardens is the playground area. It’s a decent size and has a little castle, a wooden train, a playframe, slides and play trail. It’s next to the cafe and has plenty of seating. There are signs all over the place saying the seats are purely for the use of cafe customers. The playground is really good for pre-school kids up but there wasn’t a lot for smallest child to play on. She really just had the bottom of the castle and the train.
We didn’t actually look around this, but the arboretum is a similar size to the gardens themselves, with the addition of a lake. There’s a nature trail in Castle Ashby gardens, most of which is in the arboretum. It’s looks like a nice walk with some lovely views.
The church is open most of the time and you’re welcome to look around. It’s the old family’s church and it’s really pretty inside.
Family ticket £18, under 5’s are FREE.
In the winter it’s just £5 per car. The shop, cafe and garden centre are closed but all of the gardens, playground and menagerie are still open. The main toilets are closed but there are temp toilets near the playground.
Parking / How to get there
There’s a free car park on site, but see note above about parking in the winter.
I struggled to find a postcode! Castle Ashby, Northampton NN7 1LF. Make sure that you follow the brown signs as soon as you see them so you don’t get lost.
On-site but only at the cafe/playground which is a couple of minutes walk from the gardens. Trust me, we did it enough times!!
Cafe on-site. We had some cake which was nice. There was a real issue with wasps though, but I think that’s the case everywhere this year. Picnics are allowed in certain areas of the gardens.
Our Castle Ashby review
4/5 – We had a lovely day here, despite the size, and it’s worth the drive. It’s one of just two stately homes I can think of that have lots of animals to see. The other one is Wimpole Hall which has a small farm on site. We’d be happy to go back again. They do an annual pass for £65 which I think would be really good value if you’re local.
I’m Vicky and I am a mum of three living in Aylesbury. I set up Free Time with the Kids to review free and cheap family days out in Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire, mainly because I kept forgetting all the fabulous places that were recommended to me!! I love getting out and about with the kids (and hubby of course) and we have adventures all over the place. My reviews tell you all the things you need to know about the family days out and activites we’ve done such as how much it costs, if there’s parking, toilets and if there’s a cafe or if picnics are allowed. I really hope you find the reviews helpful. If there’s anywhere that you’d recommend please get in touch email@example.com or get in touch via Facebook