We’re very lucky to have Burghley House about 15 minutes’ drive from us, and we do spend a lot of time there – in fact it was my number 1 day out in 2013! 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 (Garden of Surprises 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 Garden of Surprises 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 did the Easter egg hunt for the first time this year. It was great to see so many people out, even though the weather wasn’t brilliant. Little Miss wasn’t that bothered with finding the clues, she was more interested in playing hide and seek.
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 Garden of Surprises 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, muddy puddles 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 Garden of Surprises 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. Tickets for the house and gardens are £14.50 (adult) and £7.20 (child 3-15 years). Tickets for just the gardens (Garden of Surprises and Sculpture Garden) are £8.50 (adult) and £5.50 (child 3-15 years). Every year I buy a season’s ticket for the gardens, this year it is £40.50 for one adult and one child (a family of two adults and up to three children is £72). We go so often over summer that this is excellent value for us.
The parkland is open daily from 8am to 6pm (or dusk if earlier). The house and gardens are open daily 11am – 5pm until 2 November 2014 (the house is closed Fridays). The house and gardens will be closed Thursday 4 until Sunday 7 September 2014 for the Burghley Horse Trials, and there will be restricted access to the parkland during this time as well.
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. This year over the summer holiday there is the ‘Beastly Boring Burghley’ tours for children, taking them behind the scenes to explore the gruesome history of Burghley. And adults are well catered for with the Burghley film festival from 30 July – 3 August.
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.
DISCLAIMER: I was given a free ticket to the Easter egg hunt in April 2014. However, every other time I have visited, I have paid my own way. All words and opinions are my own.