We went to Belton House earlier this spring and had such a great time that I promised Little Miss that we’d go back with friends over summer. We finally made it back early September (is that still summer?) and I think it was one of our best days out this year.
Belton House is a National Trust property just north of Grantham. It’s a lovely country house set among 36 acres of formal gardens and 1300 acres of parklands. I’ve been to a couple of National Trust properties since I’ve had Little Miss and the one thing I’ve noticed is how geared up to families they are. I think there is this perception that the National Trust is for older people, and sure, there is plenty of that stereotypical member at the properties, but I’ve been surprised how many families as well.
What’s at Belton House?
Belton House is very family-friendly. For starters there is the adventure playground. The oldest parts of it are from the 1970s and it has been added to over the years so it now stretches a good quarter mile among the woods. And the one thing I love (as it reminds me of the playground from my childhood), is that it’s all wooden. There are two big slides built into trees and a big fort. Some of the newer pieces of equipment are the two zip wires and ‘cradle’ swing. But there are also a couple of huts, swings, merry-go-round, seesaw, swing bridge and an area for under 5s.
The best thing about the playground is the way it is designed – long and narrow, and among trees – so you can’t see it all at once. So you walk through some trees and then you see more things to do. The kids loved it. We spent a good three hours on the day we went, which did include a picnic lunch, although the kids didn’t sit still for very long!
There’s also a little train (£1 per person) that runs the length of the playground. The kids went on it and were very excited as they saw some deer in the neighbouring parkland.
We finally convinced the kids to leave the playground with the promise of ice cream in the Ride Play Café. Again, top marks to Belton House for family-friendliness with the Ride Play Café. It’s a café with an indoor playground, complete with cargo nets, swing bridges, swirly slides, tunnels, towers and picnic tables with chalk boards as tops. Belton have really thought about families when designing this café. This is the second café at Belton House. There is the Stable restaurant as well that serves hot lunches as well as lighter lunches for visitors who want a quieter time!
The gardens at Belton House
I have to admit that I have only covered a tiny portion of the gardens at Belton House. But what I’ve seen I’ve really enjoyed, and so has Little Miss. There’s so much space to run around. When we went last time Little Miss and her friends spent about an hour playing hide and seek in a huge bush. There’s a maze and boathouse and lake, but we’ve never made it that far down in the garden!
We have never been through the house, but my friend has and said her little boy was quite intrigued by it all. The house has opulent decor, fine furnishings and an impressive portrait gallery. You can enjoy the house at your own pace, or join a guided tour. This year there are special opportunities to look behind the scenes at Belton House with ‘Meet the Experts’ tours and the ‘Upstairs Downstairs Servants Tour’ throughout the year. Find out more on the Belton House website.
We spent the whole day at Belton House. There was so much for the kids to see and do and we’ve only covered a fraction of the gardens. I know there are plans in the pipeline for redeveloping the playground, at the moment it is only open March – November, but the redevelopment will see it opening year round, which will be great for families.
Events at Belton House
There are lots of family events at Belton House, especially over school holidays. Regular events include the Belton Button Bucks club every first and third Thursday of the month (parent and toddler group) and the wildlife explorers club the first Saturday of every month (for children 5yrs +). These events both happen in the Discovery Centre, a purpose built classroom in the courtyard. The Discovery Centre is open weekends and holidays as well with children’s arts and crafts. See the Belton House website for more details about the family events.
All the important bits
Belton House is just north of Grantham just off the A607 (entrance in the village of Belton). The postcode is NG32 2LS
Car parking is free and there seems to be plenty of it.
Tickets and prices
Tickets are £10.60 for an adult for just the grounds. Children are£7 (under 5s free) and a family £28.50 (2 adults plus 3 children). National Trust members go free. See the Belton House website for prices for the house + gardens and winter prices. Entry to the parklands is free.
Eating and drinking
There are two choices for eating, the family-friendly Ride Play Café with bacon sandwiches, tasty toasties, light lunches, plus delicious scones, brownies and cakes, as well as a kids’ option where they can choose a sandwich and three or four other items for around £4. Both times we have been to Belton House, we brought a picnic lunch, so have only eaten cake for afternoon tea at the Ride Play Café. There’s also the Stables restaurant which serves hot meals from midday, as well as lighter bites, hot drinks and cakes and scones. Picnics are welcome in the garden and there are lots of picnic tables in the adventure playground. One thing to note, there are no rubbish bins in the adventure playground – you are encouraged to take your rubbish home.
There are toilets and baby changing facilities at the entrance, the Ride Play Café and in the house. There are no toilets at the adventure playground (and it is about a 10-15 minute toddler-paced walk from the end of the playground back to the toilets). I know that the plans for the new playground do include toilet facilities.