Castle Ashby Gardens is a perfect family day out in Northampton. Framed by the impressive Castle Ashby House and inside the village, aptly named Castle Ashby, the area is famed for beautiful countryside views, sweeping manor houses and the stunning Castle Ashby Gardens. It’s so pretty it’s often requested as a wedding venue, but there are no plans for that to happen.
I’m lucky enough to have Castle Ashby on my doorstep, but I think it’s time to share one of my favourites with you so that you can experience it too.
Castle Ashby Gardens
Castle Ashby Gardens is set right in the heart of the 10,000 acre estate. It’s a really lovely family day out and we often take a picnic to enjoy in the grounds. At 2 years old, Nova loves running up and down the different pathways and the playground, whilst Kit (11 months old) is quite happy to be pushed in the buggy. The paths are flat and it’s pretty easy to get round the estate. The small menagerie is also a winner with both of the children.
Castle Ashby Upcoming Events
Throughout the year Castle Ashby Gardens is home to many events, but it’s the pumpkin trail and the Easter egg hunt that really get our vote. The attention to detail is great and they’re always pretty cheap. For that reason, book ahead. Details usually start to pop up on Facebook a month or two ahead of the event. You simply book your time slot, any parking and pay for your slot via the web portal.
Castle Ashby Gardens
Wondering what’s in Castle Ashby Gardens? Well, the grounds are effectively zoned. There’s a lovely wooden playground at the entrance to the gardens. It’s covered in woodchip, so you don’t have to worry about tumbles. There’s also a cute tearoom serving snacks, baked potatoes and sandwiches. Then as you make your way round the grounds you’ll come across different areas that are all unique.
Sculpted hedges replace man-made fences, creating an imaginative pathway in what is known as The Italian Gardens. It leads to the romantic Orangery. A glamorised greenhouse on a much larger scale, it houses 150 goldfish as well as pretty flowers and plants.
Even if you’re not into gardening or flowers, and don’t know your Fuchsia from your Camellia (like me), the sweet floral smell and the grand structure dating back to 1872 will still bring a smile to your face.
Perhaps my favourite spot, the nearby butterfly garden, which leads to the Secret Garden (not so much of a secret now), is a pretty area. As you can guess it’s been filled with plants that attract over eighteen different species of butterflies. It’s a lovely quiet part of the estate that’s perfect for having a ‘time out’ moment.
Castle Ashby Gardens also has a small maze of flowerbeds just in front of the Orangery. Known as Maltese Cross and Rainbow Border, I’m sure experts would be able to reel off the names of all the plants. However, all you need to know is that it makes for a great picture and a lazy walk.
If you’re more into ticking off famous landmarks and sightseeing, make sure you pop down Spring Walk to the Arboretum (the collection of trees). You’ll find the UK’s largest weeping Beech tree. Animal lovers will want to make a beeline for the small animal area. It’s open throughout most of the year and offers a home for rescued animals. You’ll often spy meerkats, goats, pigs and more. Entry is included in your garden ticket.
Entry to Castle Ashby Gardens costs £7 for adults, £1 for children aged 5-16 and under 5s go free. Opening time is usually 10am and the grounds usually close between 4.30pm and 5.30pm. The postcode is NN7 1LQ. You can find more information here.
Castle Ashby House
Castle Ashby House was originally built as an ‘E’ shape building to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth I. The steps within the present courtyard form the central stroke of the ‘E’. Henry Compton began work on Castle Ashby House in 1574 and building continued into the early 1600s.
Castle Ashby House was most recetly passed to Earl Compton, the son of the 7th Marquess, to continue the family tradition of managing the Castle Ashby Estate. The house is not open to visitors, only the gardens, but wow, would I like to have a nosy!
Castle Ashby Village
The village itself is really lovely. Adorable cottages sit prettily on the narrow lanes vying for your attention. Manicured lawns are edged with immaculate shrubs, and the stone walls spill with beautiful flowers. You’ll hardly ever see a soul. It’s as though garden ninjas come to life at night and magically create this perfect backdrop.
Whilst the locals seem to keep a quiet profile (no doubt enjoying their even bigger back gardens), furry friends frequently nip out to see what’s going on. You’ll often see robins, hedgehogs, sheep and ponies.
Sadly the local pub and restaurant is no longer open, though refurbishments do seem to be taking place at the moment so perhaps they will come back to life. The Rural Shopping Yard (just a few minutes walk from the pub) offers a couple of spots for a light lunch, as well as the chance to shop at a few independent art/craft shops.
The Buttery is a firm favourite with regulars, serving soups, jacket potatoes, cakes and more. It’s a tad pricey for what you get it, but it’s still nice. If the sun is shining make sure you bag one of the outside tables so you can indulge in a healthy spot of dog watching. Being in the countryside it’s a popular place for dog walkers.
Castle Ashby Gardens has a lot going on, which is surprising considering it’s such a good place to visit if you want to get away from it all. Open 365 days a year and costing only £5.50 for an adult ticket it’s worth a visit. I’d recommend allowing half a day, including a stop at the Rural Shopping Yard. If you’re fairly local, I’d recommend this walk to/from Castle Ashby.