Grey skies still hang overhead and if it’s not blowing a gale, then it’s pouring with rain! I’ve been waiting for some sunshine, but there’s no sign of a break in the heavy shroud of clouds. To save our sanity we’ve had to make the best of the weather, braced ourselves against the elements and ventured into the great outdoors.
When the boys were very little we didn’t travel too far from home. We’ve discovered plenty of fantastic days out on our door-step but we find ourselves going to the same places over and over. Now that longer car journeys aren’t such an ordeal, we’re starting to take advantage of the ability to journey a little further and explore. We’ve been looking at days out in Buckinghamshire and then The National Trust asked if we would like to visit Stowe. I hadn’t heard of Stowe before but the promise of picturesque walks and buggy-friendly paths was too good to miss… we just had to dress for the weather!
Stowe is one of the top days out in Buckinghamshire for families. The park and gardens at Stowe are vast, there are 250 acres to explore along well-kept surfaced paths, so you can bring a buggy, even on a wet winter’s day.
From the New Inn Visitor’s Centre we started our walk down to the Bell Gate. We wandered along at our own pace and the boys ran every which way. There are so many paths to race along, steps to climb, ruins to discover.
You can walk for miles and easily spend two or three hours relaxing next to the lakes, listening to water trickle down the Cascade or wandering through the fields. With little legs to consider we had a look at our map and plotted a short route up to a Gothic Temple, around the Octagon Lake and back to the New Inn.
I was pleasantly surprised at how relaxing our visit was. At every turn there are magnificent views, or a temple to stumble upon, grassland to stroll across. Wherever we found ourselves there was always a landmark to aim for. We crossed the Palladian Bridge and some knowledgeable twitchers were watching kingfishers dart in and out of the trees. The sun refused to make an appearance but the clouds couldn’t spoil a gentle stroll through beautiful scenery.
We came prepared with flasks of hot drinks and snacks. The New Inn Visitor’s Centre is quite a trek once you head out into the gardens, so it was worth carrying some provisions with us to keep everyone happy.
The map of the Stowe landscape gardens lists 45 points of interest and over the course of a leisurely 90 minutes we saw eight or nine of those landmarks. There’s so many stories and secrets to uncover and we will definitely be back, hopefully with sunshine!
We returned to the New Inn Visitor’s centre in time for lunch. There’s a warm and welcoming modern café at the New Inn. We stopped for some sandwiches and hot chocolate, unfortunately the wait for the till was long and the café was heaving. There are lots of tables outside so I’m sure that the café is less crowded once the weather warms up, but they could certainly do with more than a couple of people on the tills at the busiest times of the day.
I’m so pleased to have found Stowe, I can see us returning again and again for fresh air and beautiful surroundings that result in a satisfying tiredness. Thank you The National Trust for suggesting this gem.
Top Tips for a visit to the National Trust Gardens at Stowe
- Stowe is in Buckingham, Buckinghamshire, MK18 5EQ
- There’s plenty of fun to be had at Stowe. Snowdrops appear at the end of January and into February. Take a look at the website for more information.
- If the weather has been wet and rainy (let’s be honest this covers most months in the UK), then wear sturdy boots or wellies, so you can really explore, without having to stick to the surfaced paths.
- Picnics are permitted anywhere in the grounds.
- If you have binoculars then take them along. I keep ours hidden in the rucksack until the kids start moaning and suddenly the walk isn’t quite so boring. When we visited there was a small group watching kingfishers from the Palladian Bridge.
- Parking is £2 for non-members of the National Trust, in addition to the entrance fee. On our visit in January 2018 standard entrance fee was £12 for adults and £6 for children, under 5’s were free. Family tickets were £30.
- There’s a copy of the map of the gardens at Stowe here.
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This is a collaborative post with The National Trust