1. Anglesey Abbey and Lode Mill, Cambridge
Nestled in picturesque Cambridge, Anglesey Abbey Gardens and Lode Mill offer the perfect sanctuary for a family who wants to get out of the city and connect with wildlife and nature. The beautiful flowers and manicured lawns are only the start of this garden’s many treasures. At the Abbey you’ll find a wildlife discovery area, where children can experience nature up close, or spy from a distance in the double-floored tree house and stick woven tunnels.
Families can explore Bug World, or pick up an activity pack at Inspiration Station (whimsically shaped like a giant pine cone) to explore the gardens while uncovering statues of Greek Gods. Art materials and exploration gadgets are available at the station, so little ones will be well-equipped for the adventure that awaits.
Other activities include story telling circles, a tree boathouse for little pirates and of course, the opportunity to climb every tree in sight.
Where is it? Quy Road, Lode, Cambridge CB25 9EJ
Price: To visit the whole property: Adult £11.60, Child £6, Family (1 adult, 3 children) £18.20, Family (2 adults, 2 children) £29.50
Gardens and mill only: Adult £7.10, Child £3.75, Family (1 adult, 3 children) £11.70, Family (2 adults, 2 children) £18.50
Opening times: 10am–5:30pm
Find out more: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/anglesey-abbey
2. Godolphin, Cornwall
Take a deep breath and relax. Godolphin is the garden for families who want to stretch out, feel the sun and enjoy some much-needed quality time. This garden has maintained its original medieval layout, transporting visitors to an ancient time of simplicity and peace. Bring a picnic and enjoy the orchard or spend the afternoon playing traditional garden games with your children.
Godolphin is bursting with family-friendly activities, including a fun scavenger hunt, which invites kids to follow a trail and find 50 hidden treasures. There are plenty of maps and compasses to go around and the treasure hunt is a great way to encourage kids to explore every corner of the garden.
One of our favorite and most unique things about Godolphin is their animosity towards shoes! They find shoes so useless that being barefoot is a requirement to fully enjoy everything Godolphin has to offer. There is even a multi-texured trail where feet can enjoy the feeling of smooth slate, pebbles and mud. You can also enjoy barefoot games, foot art and other foot-focused activities! Don’t miss the chance to go to the free Bare Foot Festival held on Sunday 16 August 2015, 10am-4pm.
Where is it? Godolphin Cross, Helston, Cornwall, TR13 9RE
Price: Whole property: Adult £7.70, Child £3.85, Family (1 adult and multiple children) £11.55, Family (2 adults) £19.25
Garden and outbuildings only: Adult £6, Child £3, Family (1 adult) £9, Family (2 adults): £15
Opening times: 10am–5pm
Find out more: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/godolphin
3. Kew Royal Botanic Garden, Surrey
Surely every little ones wants the opportunity to slide down a giant plant tunnel, right? The Royal Botanic Garden offers exciting adventures for kids and lasting memories for the whole family. Spread over 300 acres, the Royal Botanic Garden is the ultimate adventure garden. Kids can explore life underground in the human sized badger set or experience life as a bird high in the treetop walkways which lookover the grounds.
A trip to the botanic garden wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the wildflower area where the beehives live. The bees are busy working and will travel up to six miles to find food, even though this garden has been stocked with British native orchids which provide delicious pollen. Lucky visitors will be invited to watch the garden staff collecting honeycomb out of the hives and caring for the bees.
These are only a few of the many attractions at the Royal Botanic Gardens. With so much to explore, one trip will not be enough and this garden will soon become a yearly tradition.
Where is it? Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB
Price: Adult £15, Child £3.50, Family £34
Opening times: Open daily from 10am – 5:30pm
Find out www.kew.org
4. Belfast Botanic Gardens and Palm House, Belfast
Home to one of the earliest examples of curved cast iron glasshouses, the Palm House in the Belfast Botanic Gardens is a beacon to visitors from all over the world. While kids might not care about historic architecture they will still be struck by the fairytale look of the building. Inside the Palm House you will find rare and tropical plants – and keep your eyes out for a giant mosaic lizard hidden among the vines.
Kids can make the most of the vast open space and enjoy games of football and other outdoor adventures, while parents spot rare and beautiful plants. There is a playground area for little ones and on warm days an ice-cream truck offers summery treats. Stroll along the bowling green or meander down the different garden paths. Summertime brings family-friendly concerts and events to the botanic garden so keep an eye on their calendar for the latest information about summer holiday fun.
Where is it? College Park, Botanic Avenue, Belfast BT7 1LP
Opening times: Mid April to mid August 10am–9pm. After this date closing times vary.
Find out more: www.visit-belfast.com/botanic-garden
5. Belton House, Lincolnshire
Belton House is in full bloom during the summer months. Visitors can stroll through the gardens and picnic among the primrose and dahlia. With big open spaces, this is the ideal place to meet friends for a picnic and a game of rounders. Belton House is also pet-friendly so the furrier members of your family are welcome too. With over 1300 acres of parkland, you, the kids and the pooch will play happily for hours.
Belton House has recently finished phase one of a new adventure playground, with phase two planned for completion easly this summer, 2015. Don’t wait around for the final touches because right now the adventure playground offers everything from toddler-friendly equipment to challenging play that pre-teens will enjoy, like an interior maze, a nine-meter tall tower and a seesaw that powers water jets to splash and soak friends and family.
What makes Belton House extra special is all of the unique summer events and activities that combine play with creativity.
Kite flying and kite workshops: The quintessential summer activity. Kids can build their own kite and then learn how to fly them. 9.30am – 4.30pm Saturday 18 & Sunday 19 July.
Archery lessons: Becoming a modern day Robin Hood has never been easier. Practice shooting targets with the Lionheart Bowman for £2 for six arrows. 9.30am – 4.30pm, Sunday 12 July.
National Day of Play: Celebrate at Belton House with special activities on trails, parkland and the playground. 9.30am – 4pm, Wednesday 5 August.
Paint the garden: Monet has nothing on your little one. Pick up an art kit at the Orangery and your child can create his or her own artwork, inspired by the gardens. 11am – 4pm, Sunday 28 June, 26 July and 30 August.
Where is it? Grantham, Lincolnshire NG32 2LS
Price: Whole property: Adult £12.60, Child £8, Family £33.50
Grounds only: Adult £10, Child £6.80, Family £27
Opening times: 9:30am – 5:30pm
Find out more: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/belton-house
6. Claremont Landscape Garden, Surrey
Claremont Landscape Garden invites you and your family to step back in time. This longstanding garden is nearly 300 years old and Dukes and Princesses once frequented the grounds to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life. Today the garden is still a sanctuary for people who want to get out of the city and enjoy nature.
Claremont might well be the UK’s most hospitable garden, with its thatched cottage full of rugs for picnicking, umbrellas in case of rain, fun games and toys for kids, and even Victorian dressing up clothes (imagine the photo opportunities!). Also located on the grounds is a café that offers an assortment of homemade cakes and biscuits that rival any city bakery.
This summer the Chapterhouse Theatre Company will be performing ‘The Secret Garden’ in the open-air theatre on the grounds. The quintessential summer play in the perfect setting is sure to sell out so reserve your tickets soon. Details: 7pm, Saturday 18 July. Performed by Chapterhouse Theatre Company. Adult £14, Child £10, Family £40. Booking essential on 0844 249 1895.
Where is it? Portsmouth Road, Esher, Surrey KT10 9JG
Price: Whole property: Adult £7.25, Child £3.60, Family £18.10
Opening times: 10am – 6pm
Find out more: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/claremont-landscape-garden
7. Saltram, Devon
Overlooking the River Plym is the picturesque Georgian house, Saltram. The tranquility of Saltram’s garden envelops you the moment you enter, and you’ll soon forget that you are actually just outside the bustling city of Plymouth. The Parker family established Saltram house in 1743 and were prominent figures in the area. These characters are still part of the experience and visitors can hear intriguing tales of romance and scandal among counts and countesses.
At Saltram families are invited to walk and sit on any of the lawns and enjoy your day playing, eating or just relaxing in the sun. The summer is the perfect time to play a lawn game and the property offers a large range of racquets, balls and nets for an afternoon of games. The grounds also feature bike paths and orienteering trails for families who want a little more excitement from their garden visit.
Since this garden is right on the coastline, there are also plenty of water sports for your little water nymphs to enjoy, from standup paddle boarding to canoeing tours along the shore. A visit to Saltram is sure to be a highlight of your summer holiday.
Where is it? Plymouth, Devon PL7 1UH
Price: Whole property: Adult £10.30, Child £5.20, Family (one adult), £15.50, Family (two adults), £25.80
Garden only, Adult: £5.30, Child: £2.80, Family: £13.40
Opening times: 10am – 5pm
Find out more: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/saltram
8. Glamis Castle, Angus
Glamis gardens lie at the foot of one of the grandest castles in Scotland. Over six centuries old, these gardens are intrinsically bound up with the historic events that took place at Glamis. With family events almost every weekend, you could spend an entire weekend just enjoying the grounds. Families can choose to take it easy and visit just one garden for an afternoon laying on blankets and watching the clouds go by, or visit multiple to experience everything Glamis Castle gardens have to offer.
Walled garden: Recent redevelopment has started in this garden with an impressive new fountain and beautiful flower beds. Once used for the practical purpose of producing fruits and vegetables for the lords and ladies, the walled garden is transforming into a must-see attraction on the grounds.
Italian garden: On the east side of the castle is an Italian garden designed by Arthur Casting. The Italian garden is perfectly manicured and ready for visitors. With gazebos, a fountain, fan-shaped parterres and ornamental gates crowning the whole area, this garden is a favourite on the estate.
Nature trail: After a visit to the Italian Garden take a stroll along the nature trail to spot some of the wildlife that scurries about the property. Families can frequently spot herons, roe deer and red squirrels. In the summer visitors will also enjoy dramatic swaths of daffodils as well as azaleas and rhododendrons, which paint the grounds in beautiful colors.
Where is it? Glamis, Angus DD8 1RJ
Price: Adult – £11, Senior / Student – £10, Child – £8, Family – £35
Opening times: 10am to 5.30pm, last admission 4.30pm
9. Threave Estate, Douglas
To be precise, the Threave Estate is actually a series of gardens that have been shaped by the Trust’s School of Heritage Gardening students. Each garden is unique, beautiful and created with love. With so many gardens to explore, this is a year-round attraction for locals and visitors alike. We especially like visiting Threave in the summer when the grounds are at their greenest. More than manicured lawns, Threave is home to a wetland nature preserve, glasshouses and gardens that provide the ingredients for the terrace café located on the property. With so much to do and see it is no wonder why this is one of Scotland’s most popular attractions.
The biggest lure for us is Threave’s bat reserve! The bat reserve is a fun and educational activity that is a must-see if you are in the area. Opened in 2010, it became the first reserve of its kind in Scotland. Little ones are given the unique opportunity to participate in interactive learning about these fascinating creatures and invited to join a guided bat walk, where they can get close to the bats and see their natural habitats.
Where is it? Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway DG7 1RX
Price: Garden only: Adult £7.50, Family (one adult) £11, Family (two adults) £16.50, Concessions £6.50
House and Garden: Adult £12.50, Family (two adults) £29.50, Family (one parent) £23, Concessions £9.50
Opening times: 10am – 5pm
Find out more: www.nts.org.uk/Property/Threave-Garden-and-Estate