Audley End in Saffron Walden, Essex is only just over the border from Hertfordshire. It’s a relatively small but family friendly stately home and garden owned by English Heritage. This review of Audley End was written whilst some social distancing measures were in place. Unfortunately that meant that the house, stables and playground were closed.
The River Cam runs through the front garden where there’s a massive lawn. This has a whole flock of geese on it when we visited – which Smallest Child wanted to chase. Right up until then all started walking towards her!
The house and service wing
When we visited Audley End to do this review the house was still closed due to social distancing. I’m pleased to say now that the ground floor has reopened though so we’ll have to go back! The servants wing includes the dairy, laundry and kitchens as they would have looked in the 1880’s. I always love looking around servants quarters – and they always make me very glad that I have a washing machine!! The fact they had one huge room for washing the clothes and another for ironing them is just terrifying! In the courtyard there’s this little building that looks a bit like an aviary. Upon closer inspection it’s actually got meat hanging in it – it’s a smoke house which is kind of cool.
The parterre at Audley End
The parterre at Audley End is much smaller than I’d expected but it was really pretty. It’s got a little fountain and some lovely flower beds. There’s a little wooded area to the side with a hidden gate which the kids enjoyed exploring. There’s not really a lot to say about it. One key highlight (which you literally won’t be able to miss) is the MASSIVE cedar tree that’s over 250 years old. Definitely not one for climbing!
You can see in this photo how big this place is – the house is absolutely massive! I can’t wait to come back and have a look inside.
Like most gardens of stately homes it has a ha-ha. If you don’t know what that is it’s basically a massive walled ditch that is used instead of a fence. The ideas is doesn’t break the view from the house, but stops animals from the estate getting into the formal gardens. My kids are used to ha-has, they’ve been next to loads of them. This ha-ha Middle Child fell off of! It was totally his fault and he wasn’t hurt, but doh!
The pond garden and Elysian garden
The pond garden at Audley End is quite small but it was one of my favourite bits. It’s beautiful. There’s a really cute little fountain, waterfall and bridges. When we visited they’d planted the flower beds with succulents so they’d made these really beautiful pictures. It must have been a pain in the bum to do but looked great.
In the Elysian garden there’s a stunning waterfall along the River Cam, a little temple and loads of yew trees. These actually have a hidden path behind them that runs all along the back of the garden. You can have hours of fun playing hide and seek here!
The rest of the gardens
There are various parts to the gardens at Audley End. There’s a picnic area near the parterre with a massive tree in it. I can’t remember now, but I think it’s an oak tree and it’s perfect for climbing. You guys will know by now my kids love climbing trees, so they were quite happy scrambling around whilst we had lunch.
There’s an impressive kitchen garden to explore. On our visit it was jam packed with fruit and veg. Annoyingly there was a very limited one-way system in place when we visited Audley End which meant you only got to see a small section of the kitchen garden.
Audley End also has a Victorian Stable Yard which is a working stable yard. They do activities throughout the day and you can dress up. Sadly when I did this review the Victorian stables at Audley End were closed so I don’t know much more about what’s on.
The playground at Audley End
Near the cafe is a small adventure playground area. There’s a castle fort, tunnel, swings, a wooden horse & cart and some rockers. At the back there’s also this swing-rocking-horse type thing. I swear they used to have something like this in our local park when I was a kid!
As well as the cafe there’s toilets and seating so you can set up camp for a while and let the kids just play.
Our Audley End review
We had a lovely day in the gardens and Audley End is the first stately home that we’d been inside since lockdown! Despite the fact that the house, playground and stables were closed we were still there for pretty much the whole day. There’s lots of space to explore and let the kids run around. I’d like to go back again and have a look at the bits that were closed.
A family ticket costs £54.60 (2A +3C) but English Heritage and CSSC members get in for free. For the latest price and to book you ticket visit the English Heritage website (affiliate link).
Parking / How to get there
There’s plenty of on-site parking
Address – Off London Road, Saffron Walden, Essex, CB11 4JF
On site in both the house and the gardens, including baby change
There is a small kiosk near the house selling drinks and limited snacks. You can buy ice creams in the shop. There’s a cafe near the playground. Picnics are welcome.
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There are lots of reviews of other English Heritage and National Trust properties in the EH/NT section.
Hi, I’m Vicky. My husband and I live in Aylesbury with our three children; a 10 year old son, an 8 year old son and a 3 year old daughter. I (mostly) love spending time together as a family. We visit all kinds of places and we’re quite happy to drive a fair distance for a decent day out. A few years ago I decided to set up Free Time with the Kids as a way to share our experiences of these family days out. You know, the essential information you need to know before your visit that can be surprisingly hard to find out. Where do I park? How much will it cost me to get in? Are there any discounts available? Are there loos? Can I take a picnic or get food? My aim is to be your go-to guide for all your free and cheap family days out across Bucks, Beds, Oxon, Herts & slightly beyond. I really hope you find the reviews helpful. If there’s anywhere that you’d recommend please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via Facebook