visit to castle ashby gardens

Visit to Castle Ashby Gardens

I’ve been meaning to visit Castle Ashby Gardens for a while, but opening times have never coordinated with my days off. But finally I had a flexi day and booked my ticket to go.

Castle Ashby Gardens is not far from Northampton and is the ancestral home of the 7th Marquess of Northampton. The 35 acres of gardens are part of a 10,000 acre estate, developed in phases, with inputted suggestions from William III and then Capability Brown’s designs later.

visit to castle ashby gardens

Visiting Castle Ashby Gardens

You do need to book tickets in advance but this is easy to do online, right up to the night before you visit. For peak season it cost me £12, children under a certain age are free.

There’s a reasonable sized car park and overflow car park too, parking was free when I visited.

You enter alongside the team room and play room, next to the outdoor playground to show your ticket at the kiosk.  When I arrived I met a lady working there, who took me over to the kiosk, showed me the map and gave me some tips on where to walk to see some good views of the house.  She was really lovely, very welcoming, and had a brief chat on the way out as I was leaving too.

Castle Ashby opening times are 10am to 4pm, with the tea room open 10.30 to 3.30.

Castle Ashby House

The gardens

Walking past the immaculate striped lawns in front of the house, you have different choices of entrance. On advice I started up by the church and a walk around the edge of the graveyard to see Castle Ashby house from the side. That meant a chance to see the sheep with their lambs in the field alongside.

church at Castle Ashby
looking over wildflower verge to field of sheep with trees in the background
side view of Castle Ashby house across formal gardens

I back tracked into the gardens and headed towards the Orangery and Italian gardens first.  The Orangery dates back to 1872 and in the middle there’s a deep pond with over 100 fish.

pale yellow peony with pink and yellow centre

I love an orangery for photos, the frames of the building, the light, and the feeling you’re in a tropical place all alone. The temperature wasn’t too hot, although I imagine later in the day/summer it could get quite warm in there.

looking down inside the orangery with dome glass roof
close up of the fish pond in the orangery with purple pansies in front
looking towards the pond in the orangery and out of the arch windows down the garden

Outside again, the path leads past an ancient mulberry tree, topiary trees and yews, stone seats and ornamental urns.  

looking back at the orangery with urns and topiary along path
topiary trees in italian stlye garden

These head towards the Triumphal Arch which is actually 2 greenhouses once you go through it the other side.  In one you could go in and find out more information about Castle Ashby Gardens history, and the family history archives.  It was really interesting and nice to find out something more about the place rather than just seeing the gardens.

inside a greenhouse
archives about Castle AShby Family and gardens

I decided to head out of the gardens to the arboretum to get out of the sun for a bit. Through the walkways in the arboretum you can reach Park Lake.  There are walks around the lake but I just enjoyed some time watching the ducks at the Terracotta Bridge.

blossom tunnel path
terracotta bridge at Castle AShby gardens

The walk back through the arboretum took in the huge willow tree, plenty of flowers. Although the bluebells were looking mostly over now. It’s a great place for flowers and wild animals if you’re lucky and there presumably early or late when it’s very quiet. 

cowslips in a wood

The Menagerie

If you’re at Castle Ashby Gardens with young children, I suspect you’ll spend a lot of time in the menagerie.  This is open from April to September.  It’s only small but easy enough to spend a bit of time there watching the pig, goats and birds.

I love the meerkats and they were enjoying the sunshine, and nosying at what I was doing. 

2 meerkats sitting up on rocks
meerkat sunbathing on its stomach

The marmosets were out and lively. One of them decided to come right over to see me. I don’t think I’ve ever really seen them that close before.

marmoset on a log looking towards the camera

I finished off back in the other garden areas which are a mix of layouts. These include the Butterfly Garden and the Secret Garden, as well as having a look in through the windows of the Fuchsia House where they grow lots of varieties.

There’s also what feels like a huge amphitheatre area you can see through large ornate gates – the Walled Garden. It’s just a lot of lawn, but when I was there Tommy the Fallabella pony was chomping away in there.

purple Granny's bonnet flowers
pond with water fountain looking across with gazebo in the background

The play areas

I obviously didn’t need it, but there was a lovely wooden play area for children, with benches and relaxation area for adults. This is alongside the tea rooms which is handy for refreshments while children play.

There’s also an indoor play area next to the tea room with various items including books. Very helpful if it’s raining. 

If you want to keep children entertained while you walk, there’s also a nature trail. This is marked on the map and goes all around the gardens, giving more information about the wildlife and plants in those areas.

Overall, I probably spent around 2 hours as Castle Ashby Gardens, but there were a few areas I didn’t really get around like the full walk around the lake. So do allow 2-3 hours, especially if you have children with you who’ll want to play and spend more time with the animals.

I really enjoyed my wander round, there was plenty to see and lots of variety. And it was interesting to find out a bit more about the history of the place. 

Have you ever visited Castle Ashby Gardens?

Check out my other places to visit in Northamptonshire.

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