We’re very lucky to have Burghley House about 15 minutes’ drive from us, and we do spend a lot of time there. Burghley House is set among 2000 acres of gardens and parkland just on the outskirts of Stamford. The house itself is an amazing sight – it’s been used in filming, including The Da Vinci Code and Pride and Prejudice. The house and gardens (Gardens of Surprise and the Sculpture Garden) are open from March to November. But the best thing, I think, is that the parkland is open all year, and it is free to visit – no charge for car parking either.
No matter what time of the year you visit, there is plenty to do with kids. Lovely smooth, wide paths make for safe bike-riding or scooting. There’s plenty of space to play with a ball or Frisbee (only in the parkland area). And of course when the weather is good, there’s the Gardens of Surprise – Burghley’s own water park.
So here’s what we get up to during the year:
Spring: Blossom, daffodils and Easter eggs
The Gardens of Surprise open again in March, so we know it won’t be long ‘til we are back in our swimming suits! Little Miss is quite good and she will touch the water jets, but she doesn’t like to get her clothes wet, so she’s very careful. We do the Easter egg hunt each year. Little Miss is never that bothered with finding the clues, she is more interested in playing hide and seek and eating the chocolate egg at the end.
Summer: Sun bathing, splashing and picnics
Now, this is what summer is all about! Long afternoons with friends, having a picnic and then spending the rest of the day splashing around in the water. Looking at the Gardens of Surprise you wouldn’t think it would work for children – all concrete and stone, lovely sharp edges, gravel paths and not a piece of bright plastic anywhere. But they love it. And so do I – now that Little Miss is a bit older I can work on my tan while she splashes about.
Autumn: Falling leaves, sculptures and pumpkins
The days start cooling down and the leaves start falling and we all ask ‘where did summer go?’ One of the last things we do before the Gardens of Surprise closes for the season is the Halloween pumpkin trail. Like the Easter trail, it’s all about finding clues and solving a riddle. And like the Easter trail, Mum and Dad seem more bothered about finding the clues and solving the puzzle than Little Miss – but she doesn’t mind eating the chocolate treat at the end.
Winter: Bare trees, deer spotting and hot chocolates
On a fine winter’s day we will often go to Burghley, just to get out of the house. Now that Little Miss has her scooter, it’s a safe place to take her to practice. And when she gets bored of that, there are deer to spot and sticks and cones to collect and bring home. The Orangery Restaurant is open over winter, and we have stopped there to warm up with a hot chocolate and brownie.
All the important bits
Burghley House is on Barnack Road (B1443) about one mile out of Stamford.
Car parking is free, and there is plenty of it. I’ve never seen the car park full – I’ve seen it very busy, but not full. Some of the car park is on gravel, but most is on grass, which gets muddy in winter.
Tickets and prices
If you are just having a walk around the parkland, that’s free. Check out the Burghley House website for ticket prices for the house and gardens.
The parkland is open daily from 8am to 6pm (or dusk if earlier). The house and gardens are open daily 11am – 5pm until 1 November 2015 (the house is closed Fridays).
There are plenty of events all year round at Burghley. They are very family-orientated, so there are usually special events on over school holidays.
Eating and drinking
Burghley is a brilliant place for a picnic. Have one for free in the parkland area, or head into the Sculpture Garden where there are picnic tables. The Garden Café is open from March to November and has sandwiches, cakes, scones, ice creams, hot drinks and more. It’s near the entrance to the Gardens of Surprise. The Orangery Restaurant is open year-round and has more substantial meals, although you can still get sandwiches and light bites there as well.
Both have highchairs and will give you a bowl of hot water to heat up baby food.
There is a toilet block by the entrance to the Gardens of Surprise and it has a baby changing station. There are also toilets in the courtyard near the house, and they also have a baby changing station.
There are tarmac paths and roads through the parkland, so good for buggies, bikes and scooters. The Sculpture Garden can be a bit harder going with a buggy, as it is mainly mown grass, but I’ve never had an issue with accessibility.