Please note, these details are correct as of our visit on June 3rd 2020.
National Trust Calke Abbey was one of the first National Trust locations to reopen following the coronavirus closures.
Having excitedly booked an after-work slot to visit on June 3rd, I then became very nervous, having seen crowds flock to public places at the weekend.
I needn’t have worried – National Trust are opening with booking slots, limiting numbers to access their beautiful sites, and Calke Abbey has so much land to explore that we barely came across anyone. In fact, I come across more people when we just walk to our local park!
I don’t know what it was like earlier in the day, but when we turned up for our 3pm slot, there must have been around 3 or 4 other people in the whole place. In the gardens themselves, we didn’t come across one other person, and it wasn’t until the car park that we saw 2 other families head off in different directions, remaining well away from each other.
So, I hope this little post and some of the photos will help ease the nerves of those of you keen to visit, but equally unsure about what to expect.
Booking slots open up on a Friday morning. I didn’t realise we’d booked for the first day, I just got excited when I saw a slot, but then panicked it would be busy- thankfully I was very wrong!
Whether you’re a member or not, you still need to book a timeslot for arrival to help them limit numbers. Make sure you have your membership card handy as you’ll need to input your number. I believe this is where you also pay if you are a non-member. Under 5s are still free.
When we turned up, there is a reminder at the main gate that you have to have booked a slot to enter. Driving through the park is as stunning as ever, lined with giant trees, cows and sheep. Lily was so excited to see all the animals again.
When you arrive at the first kiosk, you give your name to the lovely person at the desk, who is behind a glass screen. I held up my card and booking paper, but have your booking number handy if you can’t print.
You can then drive through the rest of the stunning grounds, where we passed just one dog walker along the way.
You check in briefly (wave your booking) again at the next hut just as you drive into the car park, before parking up in the normal car park.
Anyone who has been to Calke Abbey before will know how stunning the walks are and they are the perfect place to social distance. You have acres of land to explore, passing only sheep and lambs or a few cows. I know our visit was in the drizzle, but I didn’t expect to have the entire place to ourselves. Even if there were others around, you would have no need to go anywhere near them with such a wide space to explore.
The house and gardens
The house and stables still remain closed, but you can enter the gardens from the side gate where there is a one-way system through the grounds. We came across one family as we entered the house grounds, but they were heading the other way out of the gardens, and we did not see anybody else on our whole loop.
It really was beautiful – especially the “secret garden” that smelled incredible and so fresh in the damp air.
The toilets are open. There is a one way system to get in and out, with limits of 2 people in the facilities, the middle sink blocked out (with a pretty flower!) and paper towels instead of hand dryers. Again, I’m unsure how busy it is during the day, but we were the only ones there.
The play area and cafe still remain closed, although I will update this if I find out differently.
We had such a lovely visit to National Trust Calke Abbey. The team had clearly made sure your visit could be as safe as possible, even in public areas, with clear signs, one-way systems in places where people are likely to congregate, as well as incredible walks where you can distance yourself from anyone.
We had our own drink and snacks in the car, didn’t need to spend anything when we were there, and despite the rain, had such a lovely walk together – just remember to take your rubbish home with you, please!
For those who may be nervous about venturing out, I can’t speak for earlier in the day or on sunny days, but the whole place was so incredibly quiet, and although I had been willing to head home if it had been busy, we both enjoyed this stunning National Trust property once again.
Family and accessibility information
As of June 3rd 2020:
- Baby changing facilities are open
- Toilets are open
- Disabled toilets are open but changing places currently closed
- Cafe and play areas closed
- Pushchairs and wheelchairs are welcome in the gardens
- Buggy mobility service currently not running
- Dogs are allowed on leads
For more information on up to date facility openings and booking slots, please visit the National Trust Calke Abbey website
For more on visiting Calke Abbey, check out our previous review here