I’m not supposed to be writing this review of Anglesey Abbey, Gardens and Lode Mill just yet. I have reviews of other places we’ve visited that aren’t written up yet but this place was so good I wanted to tell you all about it before the half term holidays are over. If you’ve not come across it yet, Anglesey Abbey, Gardens and Lode Mill is a National Trust property near Cambridge. It’s about 1hr 30/45mins from Aylesbury and it’s worth every single mile!
Anglesey Abbey is easily one of the best National Trust properties for kids that I know of! Especially if your kids like outdoors & wild play.
Hoe Fen Wildlife Area
Although the Hoe Fen Wildlife Area is mentioned a few times on the National Trust website, I really don’t think they make enough of this. We spent three hours playing in the two woodland play areas at this end of the gardens. And that was in February; it was dry and sunny but not exactly warm. There is so much to do!
In order to get there it is about a 20 minute walk from the main visitor centre. That said, it’s a fairly gentle walk through pretty woodland that is packed full of snowdrops at this time of year (with tons of daffodils to come by the looks of it). Along the way there’s plenty of opportunities for climbing up trees, building dens and walking along fallen logs. Whilst the promise of getting to the woodland play area was a good motivator for keeping the kids moving, there was enough to keep them entertained and happy along the way.
Log trail & Sensory Tunnel
The log trail has got dozens of logs dotted around for the kids to run around on and explore. With help, even Smallest Child was able to play here. There are poles to help kids balance when stepping between the taller logs. There’s plenty of seating around. If you don’t have smaller children to help, you can quite easily sit back and relax whilst the kids have fun. Honestly, my three LOVED this bit and we spent ages playing here. The log trail isn’t even mentioned on the map which is a shame.
The sensory tunnel is right next to this. It’s a willow tunnel so it’s nothing special to see in winter, but the kids all seemed to enjoy running along it and hiding from me.
This is one bit that is highlighted on the Anglesey Abbey website, and I’d assumed it would be a big part of the review. In reality I was a bit underwhelmed if I’m honest. It’s just a couple of platforms. When you get up there there’s nothing to do, and I think I was expecting something within the treehouse, but there’s nothing. Most people were only up there for a few minutes, ourselves included. The best thing we saw from up there was the main play area – the kids couldn’t wait to get down there!
The Play Area
This is another part of the Anglsey Abbey estate that the website and map don’t really seem to make enough of as they should. In this area it says there’s a woodland fort and log wall. It doesn’t really say that this is a play area though. It absolutely is and it was really busy of kids having the best time.
The woodland fort is a fairly basic fort – just a square on one level with a couple of raised bits. It serves its purpose but isn’t a main focus of play. There’s a wobbly bridge, an activity trail and the haystack. Who knew that if you get a big enough pile of cut grass kids will flock to it? Actually we have a farmer in the family and the kids adore playing in the hay loft, so I had a sneaking suspicion they’d enjoy this. I don’t know if this is a temporary of permanent fixture but it’s brilliant. The kids were all working together stuffing hay into the cracks between bales, before another kid would “accidentally” fall into the gap and they’d have to start all over again. There was zero squabbling, no grumpy kids, nothing but fun. How many pieces of play equipment can do that?
The play trail was good, but it wasn’t getting much action from any of the kids, it was all about they hay! The log wall is a stacked up wall of logs. You can walk along it if you want, but none of my kids were interested and I didn’t see many others on there. Because they were all focused elsewhere. The hay! Did I mention all the kids loved playing in the hay??
We went off to track down the Dream Dome because I thought it sounded interesting. I struggled to find it because it’s also a willow structure and so not very obvious in winter when surrounded by trees! We moved on fairly quickly but I think the kids would have enjoyed it more if it had been in leaf as it would have felt like a little hideaway.
Wildlife discovery area
After the roaring success of the Woodland Play area I had to practically drag the kids away kicking and screaming so we could look around the Wildlife Discovery area. As the name implies, this is more about wildlife than playing. The discovery cabin seems to be their education room, possibly used for school trips? There’s also an insect hotel, pond and watch hut. Generally, it’s a really nice walk through the woodland area. It’s a bit quieter than the play area so you’re more likely to be able to spot some wildlife.
The best bit for us was the den building area. Helped by the fact that someone had previously built an epic den, we had such a good time in this area. There was a good range of branches to use, and there were plenty of them. They were mostly nice & dry and a variety of lengths so you really could get stuck in. There were 6 or 7 decent sized dens that had been constructed, and there were still logs to spare.
There were also some big stumps which served as tables and chairs in the long den above (aka the den which I was really jealous of!). Our den was not neat, but it was made with love and buckets of enthusiasm, including by Smallest Child. It really was just the perfect way to spend the day after being cooped up in all the recent storms. Both boys came over to me and said, quite genuinely, that they were having the best day ever *sob*.
Anglesey Abbey Gardens and Lode Mill
From this visit there’s not really a lot that I can tell you about the gardens I’m afraid. For conservation reasons they close off a lot of the grassed areas in the winter and focus the footpaths through the woodland walks. We didn’t get chance to look around the area enclosed by the winter walk (where a lot of the more formal gardens are). We also didn’t get chance to visit the Lode Mill which was a real shame. That’s despite the fact that we were there for over 5 hours! I’ll be coming back again and so I’ll update this review of Anglesey Abbey to include the full gardens and Lode Mill.
Review of The House at Anglesey Abbey
Biggest Child declared it couldn’t be an Abbey because it doesn’t look like a church! I explained that Abbeys don’t really look like that but I’m not sure I convinced him. Any ho…. The house is really lovely. When it was left to the National Trust in 1966 it was under the strict instructions that everything had to remain the same. Nothing could be sold, nothing could be added to, nothing could be moved and nothing that was in storage could be put out on display. Apparently this is really frustrating because there’s some beautiful things visitors just don’t get to see!
The family still live in part of the house, but there are a really good number of rooms open. The library is beautiful. I’m so jealous. I want one like that! There’s lots of Tudor portraits around including the earliest known portrait of Henry VIII! You guys know I love the Tudors so that was pretty special.
The house had some of the most engaged and pleasant volunteers I’ve met recently. In pretty much every room the room guides were actively talking to visitors. There was no just sitting in the corner making sure no-one sat down! If they weren’t currently talking to anyone they’d seek people out (not in an annoying or intrusive way thankfully). They were really knowledgeable and definitely added to the day. They were all really good with the kids too.
There’s a Domestic Wing as you’re on your way out. I always enjoy looking around “below stairs” because, let’s face it it’s where I would have been rather than above stairs!!! There’s some delightful hanging pheasants and rabbits in one room. The kids thought they were real. They’re not.
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Peak family ticket £43.45 (including donation), off-peak family ticket £38.50
Parking / How to get there
There is free on-site parking, but it can get very busy, particularly during snowdrop season and school holidays. We arrived at 11 and the overflow parking was well over half full already. If you’re travelling any distance I’d recommend getting there as early as possible.
Address – Quy Road, Lode, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB25 9EJ. Once you’re close enough, follow the brown signs rather than Sat Nav. Lode should be enough for you to find your way.
There are toilets and baby change in the visitors centre and house. There’s also port-a-loos near the Woodland Play area but no others in the gardens.
Picnics are welcome and there’s loads of seating. In the summer there are some great picnic spots! There’s a cafe in the welcome centre. Again, it can be busy but food was nice and we were served quickly. Can get muddy in winter.
Our Anglesey Abbey, Gardens and Lode Mill Review
As I mentioned before I’m going to have to update this review of Anglesey Abbey once I’ve been back because we didn’t get to see everything. What we did see we really enjoyed though. After (seemingly) weeks of storms we all needed to get outside and let off some steam. This is the perfect place for that and we genuinely had an amazing time. This may even be my new favourite NT place, well one of them at least! I really do wish they made more of the woodland area on the website though. More people should know how awesome this place is!
Top tip – it does get quite muddy so wellies are a must! Take your lunch with you because the gardens are large so it would take you ages to pop back to the car to get lunch. Don’t forget Wimpole Hall is also nearby. Why not visit there too if you have the time??