We had a stunning visit to the National Trust gem that is Calke Abbey – a beautiful country house and gardens in Derbyshire.
I’m a huge fan of places to take the little one, and it’s somewhere I’ve wanted to take her for a while, so when the weather promised some glorious spring sunshine, it would have been rude not to take a little trip to Calke Abbey.
The drive to the Abbey itself is pretty spectacular. It takes a good while to drive across the estate, lined with trees, fields, and sheep basking in the sunshine. Midway along the drive you have to stop and show your National Trust card to access the rest of the grounds (or pay if you don’t have a card), which will get you access to the carpark, another 5 minutes or so along the drive.
Once you’ve parked up, you have access to some stunning walks around the grounds and gardens around Calke Abbey, with views stretching across the countryside. You can visit the coffee shop, a wonderful play area, the Stableyard, and the toilets quite easily from the car park, as well as the walks around the area.
To access the gardens and the house itself, you need to show your National Trust card again, or pay further if you wish to go in without a card. This opens later than the grounds, but if you just want to access the coffee shop, play area, bookshop and the surrounding walks, you don’t need to pay again – though under 5s are always free.
We had a really lovely day, and I’m so glad we went along. The staff we came across were all so friendly and helpful, and Lily absolutely loved the fields, running around the open gardens in front of the house, as well as the play area.
The coffee shop is also really well kitted out for families, with free plastic bowls, plates and cups that you can use, colouring pens/paper, and children’s lunch boxes to buy. You can also enjoy your picnic lunches there on the picnic benches – which we did, along with the lovely coffee I picked up from the coffee shop!
There’s currently a fantastic exhibition on celebrating HumanKind – and although we didn’t go into the house itself, Lily loved seeing all the outdoor installations in the grounds and entrance to the Stableyards.
I can see it being a very popular destination at busy times, such as weekends and in the holidays, but it was a perfect place to head on a weekday in term time, as there were very few people there – and at 10am, we were the only ones in the grounds to the home itself – and they’re fully pushchair/wheelchair friendly for those who need.
You can also take bikes, your trikes, and enjoy the grounds even further by foot – so I’d really recommend taking a picnic and your family for a day, because even on busy days, there’s plenty to explore. Check out the map online or when you get there to see the recommended walking trails for different lengths/times.
Tips for visiting:
- Make sure you have your National Trust card/wallet handy in the car, as you’ll need it to access the main drive into the estate.
- To access the house or gardens (different opening times), you’ll need your card or to pay again, but there’s plenty to do in the grounds themselves too
- Check the site map online before you visit to plan out your walking routes – they’re stunning!
- You can have a picnic in the Stableyards, which is where the coffee shop, bookshop and play area is
For more information and for opening times, visit the National Trust website