Castle Ashby Gardens

Castle Ashby Gardens

One of the best things about my recent 50 mile walk (apart from the massive sense of achievement and raising money for charity) was the chance to explore parts of my home county that I don’t know very well. One of my favourite sections on the first day was heading  towards Yardley Hastings past Castle Ashby House.

As we got nearer to Yardley Hastings, we were treated to a great view of Castle Ashby House as we crossed through the parkland

Even though I was pretty tired by then, I still made a mental note to come back to the area at a later date and explore a bit further. Luckily, I got the chance sooner than I thought. Like many families where both parents work full time and have strange shifts, we have to grab bits of free time whenever we can. I rarely plan things in advance, it’s more a case of waking up and realising we have a couple of hours to get outside. Handily, I always have a long wishlist of places I want to visit!

So finding ourselves with a sunny day and some spare time, we headed back to Castle Ashby for a wander. I’ve never visited before, and although the house is not open to the public, there are some lovely gardens to explore.

Castle Ashby has a great mixture of formal gardens and wilder spaces

I’m not a massive fan of manicured lawns and formal gardens, but it was a beautiful day and Castle Ashy Gardens provided a lovely backdrop to spend a couple of hours. When we arrived we were a bit put off  by the amount of signs everywhere, it certainly lacked the family friendly, laid back vibe that you get from National Trust properties. However, in reality, it was actually very chilled and a great place to bring a toddler.

We explored the traditional gardens and even though I’m not a gardener, I can appreciate the skill that goes into keeping them looking so pristine. We also spent a bit of time in the menagerie, which Finn absolutely loved. They had meerkats and marmosets, as well as pigs, goats and rabbits.

The menagerie is great for entertaining younger children

Then we headed to my favourite bit, the arboretum and nature trail. We didn’t purchase the ‘children’s challenge’, but at only £2 it’s a great way to keep little ones amused and looking around their surroundings. This part of the garden is a lot wilder and features some stunning trees.

Three are some beautiful trees at Castle Ashby, including this impressive wellingtonia

I loved the fact that the trees all had labels on them, letting you know what species they are. I know most types, but it’s always good to learn something new!

The bridge over the lake is beautiful

Picnics are welcome anywhere in the gardens, and there are some lovely spots in this wilder section. We will definitely bring some sandwiches next time and enjoy the serene ambiance of the arboretum.

Finn loved running around the arboretum

Finn loved this bit and wasted no time in hunting for sticks and cones, and anything else he could find lying around. It is always good to give him a bit of freedom to run around and now he can walk a bit further, our family outings are much more fun.

We finished off sitting outside with some cool drinks (a slice of cake might have also been involved) from the tearoom, while Finn was let loose in the play area.

I didn’t really know what to expect from the gardens, but was pleasantly surprised. We easily spent a couple of very enjoyable hours here, and could have been longer if we’d been organised enough to sort out a picnic. It’s great for younger children, but I think that anyone older than about 10 might get a bit bored quite quickly.

Entrance to the gardens is £7 for adults, under 5s are free.





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