I’m a countryside girl, through and through, so it will probably come as no surprise that I love a weekend spent outdoors, wandering around an English Estate.
There is something about a morning spent at a country house that just ignites my imagination. Maybe it's the houses that echo my far-fetched future dreams, or maybe it's the formal gardens that give me the space I need away from my phone. Whatever it is, I love visiting English Country Houses and Gardens and, luckily for me, so does my mum.
In fact, taking a trip to a country estate has become a regular pastime for my mum and me of late. And so far I've loved every one that I've visited. I leave my phone firmly in my bag while we follow the paths that twist and turn through the grounds and I do nothing more than chat while I take in the beauty surrounding us. We snap a few photos (because how can you not when you’re somewhere so stunning?) and then we finish each trip with a picnic underneath a tree. It's complete bliss.
Visiting Castle Ashby Gardens:
A few weeks back, my mum and I began our series of Country House trips with a visit to Castle Ashby Gardens. Located in Northampton, Castle Ashby is set within a 10,000-acre estate that is open to the public 365 days a year, so visiting couldn't be easier. And with a quaint little tea room, 35 acres of gardens to explore, the star attraction orangery and a menagerie, there is plenty to do on a visit to Castle Ashby Gardens.
Castle Ashby's Main Attraction: The Orangery
I live just outside of Milton Keynes and I’ve spent years watching photos of Castle Ashby (and particularly its orangery) pop up on Instagram, yet I had never been myself. Until last month that is, when our adventures took us on a trip to visit the Castle Ashby Gardens for the first time.
The orangery is, without a doubt, the highlight of any trip to the Castle Ashby Gardens and I think it might have sparked up a little bit of a love affair with country estate greenhouses for me. We were lucky to have arrived early, so we took a beeline to the orangery to beat the crowds. And we managed it. There’s something about the smell of plants, the outdated look of the greenhouse frame and the gentle heat that makes the orangery so compelling. It really does make you feel as though you’ve stepped straight into another world, especially with the sound of the fish splashing in the pond in the centre and with no one else there to disturb the peace.
The Castle Ashby Menagerie
While I’ve heard people talk of the orangery over and over again, one thing that no one had ever mentioned to me about Castle Ashby Gardens is the menagerie. Which, having now visited, really shocked me. This little gem took me completely by surprise and the grin on my face as I spotted the meerkats must have been like that of a child who has just been given an ice-cream. My mum and I spent longer than we would care to admit watching, laughing and admiring the antics of the meerkats as they lounged around in the sun. Some opted for lying on their backs, others keeping a lookout in their stereotypical position and the occasional few took great joy in leaping onto their unsuspecting buddies as they snoozed. Alongside the meerkats, we found a pair of tortoises, giant rabbits, and pigs within the menagerie and their presence definitely makes visiting Castle Ashby that little bit more special.
A walk through Castle Ashby Gardens
After finally tearing ourselves away from the meerkats in Castle Ashby's Menagerie, we moved on to explore the gardens themselves and spent a good hour or two ambling through the grounds. They are quite small, but with so many paths to follow and so much to see on your way around, it's easy to lose several hours in the gardens alone. We spent our time stopping to admire the quaint little bridges that pass over the river, to comment on how beautiful the weather was with strangers (we are British, after all) and to simply take in the quiet beauty of the gardens.
Eventually, we headed back to the car to grab our picnic and then we sat in the shade of a gorgeous tree just out from the orangery to have our lunch. We chatted about life, the gardens and just about everything else while we feasted on our sandwiches, fruit, olives, and brownies.
The entire day was so relaxing, and I didn’t pick up my phone until I got home. It was bliss and I definitely returned home feeling refreshed. Afterall, what better place to have a mini digital detox than in the grounds of a gorgeous English estate?
Planning a trip to Castle Ashby Gardens:
Castle Ashby Gardens Opening Times:
1st April to 30th September: 10am – 5.30pm
1st October to 31st March: 10am – 4.30pm
Castle Ashby Menagerie Opening Times:
Generally, open all year from 10am until 4.00pm.
Castle Ashby, Northampton, NN7 1LQ
Entry: Adults £7, Children 5-16 £1, Under 5’s Free
Have you ever been to Castle Ashby Gardens? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments!