- Wander around 35-acres of Castle Ashby Gardens, and take in centuries of history.
- Meet meerkats, marmosets and more at the menagerie in the gardens.
- Enjoy a High Tea with scones, sandwiches and cake at the Tea Room.
- Kids can play at the outdoor playground, complete with a mini Ashby Castle climbing frame.
- Spot fairy doors on the trees as you take the Fairy Door Walk through the grounds.
Originally constructed as the seat of the Marquess of Northampton, the village of Castle Ashby and the country house, Castle Ashby House, have existed for over 700 years and have a long history filled with royalty and grandeur. The Castle Ashby estate spans over 10,000 acres to explore, which includes 35 acres of beautiful gardens. With so much to see and do in this beautiful Northampton location, we definitely recommend putting a day aside to experience the historic Castle Ashby Gardens and House. Originally built in 1306 by the Bishop of Coventry, Castle Ashby House was a manor house, and was eventually added to and rebuilt over the years by various owners and occupants.
The house was rebuilt in 1574 by Henry Compton, the Bishop of London, and took around 30 years to be fully completed. The rebuild was designed to look like an 'E' shape, to commemorate Queen Elizabeth I's coronation. This was common among houses being built at the time, and the Queen herself visited the house for the first time in 1600. Gardens and trees were added, as well as a bowling green in 1685, following a visit from William of Orange. Famous English gardener and landscape architect Capability Brown also had influence over the design of the Castle Ashby gardens in the 19th century, and altered the Elizabethan gardens and enlarged the lakes. The gardens that are available to enjoy today are a conglomeration of all these different periods of history, with terraces, flower beds, topiary and much more. The house itself is now a Grade I listed building, and the grounds are also Grade I listed. The Terrace Gardens and the Menagerie, dating from the 18th century onwards, are also Grade II listed.
As Castle Ashby House is now privately owned by Earl Compton, who is the son of the 7th Marquess, it isn't usually open to the public, with much of the focus centred around the expansive grounds, deer park, menagerie and gardens. However, this doesn't mean there is any limit to all the fantastic things there are to do with kids at Castle Ashby. Top of all the kid's to-do list, is, of course, the outdoor play area which is located next to the car park. This themed playground has it's very own 'Castle Ashby' climbing frame complete with a flag, as well as slides, a seating area and more. Kids can also explore the Fairy Door walk through the woods, where they can look out for the residences of fairies (with real miniature doors on 12 of the trees along the trail!). For a moment of tranquillity that will also wow the kids, head to the Arboretum, which dates back to the 1800s, and the Orangery, a beautiful building from the late 19th century. Designed by Matthew Digby Wyatt, the Orangery is home to some beautiful plants and is set in the heart of the Italian Gardens. Kids can keep their eyes peeled to find all the fish that live in the large pond that is housed within the Orangery, and also play in the peaceful surrounding gardens.
To explore further, you'll also find the Secret Garden and Butterfly Garden as you wander the grounds. Created to attract wildlife, including bumblebees and butterflies, the Butterfly Garden is the perfect place to go with children who love learning about nature. The Secret Garden is another great spot for kids, which is filled with the scent of lavender and roses. You'll also spot the Fuschia House in this area, a beautiful Grade I listed greenhouse that is home to over 150 different types of Fuschia. Although each Castle Ashby garden is beautiful in the spring and summer, visiting during the winter adds a unique element to your trip. Whether you choose to visit during the festive period and see the deer, or just fancy spending a crisp winter's morning in the gardens, you'll find that not only are ticket prices vastly reduced from November-March, but there is a serenity you might not experience with the summer crowds.
And, once you've taken in the impressive gardens at Castle Ashby, there's still more to come! Animal lovers rejoice, as Castle Ashy Gardens are also home to a fantastic menagerie, where kids can meet some of their favourite furry friends. Among the animals are families of meerkats and marmosets, who have their own designated areas to climb, swing and hang around on. Meerkat Manor is a favourite with families, as you can watch the meerkats from special viewing areas that make you feel like you're part of the pack! At the menagerie, you'll also be able to meet the giant tortoise, as well as rabbits, goats, pigs, a miniature pony and lots of birds. To spot some animals in the wild, the Castle Ashby estate is also home to an 80-acre deer park, where you can keep an eye out for these beautiful animals.
There are also lots of great Castle Ashby events throughout the year. From the Castle Ashby Pumpkin Hunt around Halloween to craft fairs and family days, there's always something going on to get involved in. If you feel like something to eat or drink on your adventure around Castle Ashby Gardens, pop into the Tea Room where you can enjoy hot and cold snacks and dishes, or even a High Tea with finger sandwiches, scones and cakes if the mood takes you. With so much parkland to discover, you can also bring your own picnic and enjoy in one of the gardens. You can also venture to the village of Castle Ashby where you'll find the small restaurant The Buttery, or take the 20-minute drive west to the town of Northampton which has everything from Nando's to sushi. If you'd like to take a souvenir home with you, Castle Ashby shops can be found at the cosy Castle Ashby Rural Shopping Yard, with lots of great local items to treat yourself to.
Castle Ashby village is a charming place to visit in its own right and is popular for hobbyists with Swanspool Ceramics pottery studio offering classes and courses. Castle Ashby fishing is also popular in the area, at Castle Ashby Fishery which is located on the way to Grendon. Here there are three lakes filled with everything from Carp to Pike, perfect for a peaceful day out fishing. This is also a great place to come to catch the sun setting.
If the kids had a great time meeting the animals and exploring the wildlife at Castle Ashby Gardens, make sure to add Bugtopia in Kettering, Northamptonshire to your list, to meet some fascinating, creepy crawlies and maybe even hold a tarantula! Or, for some more local history, explore the fabulous Abington Park, which is situated on the site of a medieval village.
What to know before you go
- Castle Ashby Gardens are open daily from 10am-4:30pm from 1st October to 31st March, and 10am- 5:30pm from 1st April to 30th September. The Tea Room is open from 1st April to 1st November from 11am-3pm daily. High Tea must be booked in advance and requires a £5 deposit per person.
- It is recommended you put aside around 2-3 hours for your trip to Castle Ashby gardens, but you can easily make this a day trip with a visit to the Rural Shopping Yard and if you decide to eat at the Tea Rooms.
- The site is wheelchair accessible and suitable for buggies, but please note some compacted shingle paths could be slightly uncomfortable for wheelchair users.
- Accessible toilets and baby changing facilities are available on site.
- Tickets are available online and vary in price depending on the season and age of the ticket holder. Under 5s go free.
- Dogs are permitted in all the gardens and can be let off the lead at the Arboretum.
- You can have a picnic anywhere in the gardens, and use any seating except those that are reserved for the Tea Room.
- Castle Ashby is encircled by the A428, A45 and the A509, and is located close to Chadstone in the south and Castle Ashby Fisheries to the north. The postcode is not always accurate to the destination, so check the website for a specific location.
- If cycling, you'll find that Castle Ashby is on several cycle routes that take you through the Northamptonshire countryside.
- The nearest train stations are Wellingborough and Northampton, which are both around seven miles away.