Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury (National Trust)
Waddesdon Manor is a National Trust property about 30 minutes’ drive from Milton Keynes. The stunning manor house was designed in the style of a French chateau, to house the massive art and curio collection of its owner. The gardens are equally beautiful, and there are acres to explore with older kids, and plenty of buggy-friendly paths to take with the little ones.
The car park is near the entrance to the estate, and after sorting out entry and tickets, it’s a short bus ride to the fountain at the top end of the manor house area. Buses arrive and depart frequently, and also pick up and drop off at the stables buildings, which house the restaurant and kiosk facilities.
At 4 and 2, our kids were a bit too young to appreciate what they saw in the house, but if you have older and more tolerant children, there is plenty to see and admire. I am looking forward to viewing it one day at a more leisurely pace. There is a children’s house trail to follow, and children’s tours of the house in school holidays.
The grounds are huge, beautiful, and full of winding paths and stunning flowerbeds.
How long did it take?
The grounds open at 10am, and you can easily fill a day at Waddesdon, especially if there are special events (such as the Easter Egg Hunt or Halloween trail). There are several different walks to do, the aviary to visit (which houses and cares for some very lovely and exotic birds), and a very attractive adventure playground, set on different levels of a woodland walkway.
- Visiting the rare and beautiful birds in the outdoor aviary, and trying to get the mynah bird to talk;
- The special events, such as Halloween and Easter trails. There is usually a small extra charge for doing them (usually £2 – £3), but the kids loved chasing along the trail to look for the next thing on the list;
- The adventure playground: wooden frames, slides, ropes and swings to try… something for all ages;
- The formal flowerbed displays, which amazingly are changed and replanted with the seasons;
- The bus ride! Nothing like a bonus bus at the start and end of the trip to make a toddler’s day.
Food and Facilities
There is a formal restaurant at the main house (we decided against taking the kids in – but it looks like a lovely place to eat without picky toddlers). There are also ice cream and tea/coffee kiosks close by. With a walk down the hill to the Stables you will find another restaurant, more kiosks, and an excellent takeaway sandwich stand which does hot sausage rolls and kids’ lunch boxes. It’s the usual level of pricing at attractions like this – on the pricey side – so if that puts you off, do not be afraid to bring a picnic. You will never struggle to find a picturesque place to eat at Waddesdon, whether it’s on the grass by the formal parterre fountain, or down the hill in the meadow, under the ancient, spreading trees.
There are plenty of toilets and baby changing facilities, placed thoughtfully in a number of different locations, including a set by the car park – very handy for the start and end of the day.
Children’s bikes and scooters are permitted on the paths only, and we’ve often seen lots of people enjoying the space with toys and ball games. Dogs can be walked in the fields near the car park, but are not permitted in the gardens.
Tickets for accessing the grounds only, which will allow you to see the aviary and all of the outdoor facilities and attractions, as well as the wine cellars, are good value for a day out in such lovely surroundings. At £10 per adult and £5 for children aged 5 and over (including Gift Aid) for grounds-only – or £25 for a family ticket – this is a good value day out. It’s double the price if you’d like to see the house as well.
And of course, if you’re a National Trust member, it’s free!
Cost: 4/5 (free for National Trust members)
Target Age: something there for all ages
This is one of the best National Trust properties we’ve visited, in a number of different ways: the beauty of the property and how it is kept; the grounds; the friendly staff; the organisation and layout of the parking and facilities; it’s definitely one of our favourite places (and the hot sausage rolls are blooming good too).
* We visited using our National Trust membership, and we have not been asked to provide this review.
Reviewed by Rebecca Chamberlain