Dyrham Park {National Trust}

On our way to Cardiff at the start of the year we stopped off at a National Trust property – Dyrham Park – to break our journey up. It’s only now, a month later, that I realise I didn’t write about it, maybe only mentioning it in passing but it’s such a beautiful property that I really needed to dedicate a post to it.

I knew nothing about Dyrham Park before we arrived in the incredibly muddy car park. There was a bus down to the main house but we decided, after a couple of hours in the car, that we would stretch our legs and walk.

It takes about fifteen minutes to walk to the house, all downhill – and uphill on the way back to the car. It’s a beautiful walk, either down a treelined road or across country down a pretty steep hill but for the walk down we decided to stick to the road and the children loved spotting the house from high up on the hillside.

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Review: Mottisfont {National Trust}

On Good Friday we decided to take the children to a National Trust property that we hadn’t visited before – Mottisfont. It was not only one of the nicest days as far as weather is concerned but it was also one of the first days of the Mottisfont Easter Trail and because of that it was incredibly busy. The car park was already full when we got there at about 10:30am but a nice attendant let us in as LP really needed the toilet – thanks for that National Trust!

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Mottisfont is beautiful. It starts with a big wooden walkway that leads you to the beginning of the grounds and at that point there’s a little river to walk along, so much land to explore, statues and things to look at and a rose garden that has been newly planted.

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The Easter Trail cost £2 per child and led then all the way around the grounds and around the outside of Mottisfont house. At each point in the trail the children found a huge brightly coloured craft egg and a clue. They loved guessing the answers, spotting the eggs and getting closer to the grand finale. At the end they exchanged their completed trail for a chocolate bunny – and there were happy children all round.

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After the trail we had lunch in the cafe which was lovely, full of children’s lunch bags, sandwiches and traditional National Trust cakes. It was a lovely place for a break and although busy there were lots of tables both indoors and out.

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After lunch we went in search of the children’s adventure playground – although we decided to skip this as it was more of a mud bath. It’s advertised as really muddy though so the children will bring old clothes for that part next time!

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We then carried on walking to the water play area where children could pump water, build dams and watch the water move along a reservoir. It was both fun and educational and the children loved it.

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Our day at Mottisfont was really enjoyable. We all had a lovely time and it was the perfect place for a family day out. The children slept all the way home and loved their chocolate bunnies. I’m looking forward to going back when it’s slightly quieter – we’ll give bank holidays a miss in future!

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Review: Charlecote Park {National Trust}

On our way home from Scotland we wanted to find somewhere to stop, to stretch our legs and get lunch. Our first thought when we need a stop like this is National Trust, as we have membership, it always works out as an enjoyable and affordable day out.

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Charlecote Park is a beautiful, traditional looking building situated in gorgeous grounds with land full of deer, a river and lots of places to walk and have a picnic including formal gardens.

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When you walk from the car park to the main house the first thing you see is the impressive gate house, a really lovely introduction to Charlecote Park.

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The main Charlecote Park house is beautiful inside with most rooms open to the public and when we visited they’d hidden a cuddly lamb in each room for the children to spot – a great idea for keeping children amused whilst parents wander through the house.

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As well as the main house there are many outbuildings which show the laundry, brewing room and kitchens as they would have been. These were great to look around and there were even staff dressed in period outfits showing traditional crafts and cooking methods.

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Before we went home we stopped at The Orangery restaurant for tea and cake, It was busy but well managed and had everything on offer from drinks and afternoon tea to more substantial lunches.

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Charlecote Park would be perfect for a full day out with so much to explore and lots to keep children entertained. We only had a couple of hours to spare but still had a really nice time and can’t wait to go back.

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Review: Belton House – National Trust

When we went to Butlins in half term we needed somewhere to stop off halfway so the children could stretch their legs. We decided to make use of our National Trust passes and stopped off at Belton House in Lincolnshire.

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Belton House is a really lovely house surrounded by gardens, land and things to do. We didn’t go inside the house but walked around the outside and loved the traditional appeal of it. The gardens were also beautifully laid out with lots of paths to walk down and places to explore.

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LP and Little Man loved climbing up the steps to the house – and down them again. They had a great time playing hide and seek with lots of bushes to hide behind! The gardens are the perfect place for little adventures and LP and Little Man would have loved to spend all day in the gardens.

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There were also plenty of water features dotted around the gardens which added more to look at as well as a big greenhouse as well although we didn’t venture in there either! After a wander around the gardens we made our way back to the out buildings that housed the shop, tea rooms and indoor play area.

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One cafe had an indoor adventure playground inside. Unfortunately we didn’t realise that this was by timed ticket and it wasn’t very well managed. We took a ticket and wandered around the shop until our time slot arrived – when we then had to wait for a table and then try and keep an eye on the children whilst ordering our food and drinks.

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The whole area was pretty chaotic as it was school holidays and as the adventure playground was full of much older children LP and Little Man didn’t play for long. I can imagine it being nice during term time but weekends and holidays son’t make for a pleasant experience although the concept is great. If you have older children – six and over – they would probably love it even at it’s busiest though.

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After lunch we walked back to the car through the adventure playground, an area we nearly skipped due to the bad weather but I’m so glad we took the time to have a quick play. The adventure playground is so, so big and well maintained with climbing, slides, swings and so much more. It would be lovely to go back in the summer just to spend time playing.

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The children had a great time at Belton House and I hope we get to go back at some point – even if it’s just for the adventure playground!

Review: Stowe – National Trust

On the way home from Butlins we wanted to find another National Trust property to visit anywhere between Skegness and where we live in Surrey. We realised though that many National Trust properties are closed on Mondays and this really limited our choices.

In the end we chose Stowe in Buckinghamshire which was closer to home than we would have liked but somewhere we have always wanted to visit. Unfortunately the day we visited Stowe the weather wasn’t the best, incredibly foggy, but it brightened up whilst we were there so we managed to get a glimpse of how beautiful Stowe could be on a clear day.

When you arrive at Stowe you are met with the New Inn which has been beautifully restored and now houses the cafe, toilets, shop and a lot of information points.

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There are buggies to take you from the New Inn up to the start of Stowe Gardens or you can walk although with two small children we took the opportunity to rest their legs and had a buggy ride.

Once at the gardens there are walking routes that take you past so many features and points of interest as well as walks for different abilities. We took a steady walk around the main lake and the children loved looking at everything we came to.

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Our walk took us past many temples, bridges, a grotto and a waterfall. There was something to look at around every turn and I haven’t known been to a National Trust property with so many individual features before – it was stunning.

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Halfway around our walk we found ourselves at Stowe House, a really impressive building that we were disappointed to find had an extra charge to visit. It’s also by escorted tour only during term time as it’s part of Stowe School. As the children were tired and we were tight for time we decided to leave visiting the house until our next visit and instead just looked at it from outside.

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The gardens at Stowe are beautiful with clear reflections in the lakes, so many focal points and so much for the children to look at. It was also lovely to see it covered in the colours of autumn.

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We only had a couple of hours to spare but we are so glad we got to see Stowe. It’s somewhere we will definitely be returning to next summer.

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