I’m sorry I’m sorry! I know that is a terrible play on words but it came into my head when I first thought about this post about visiting Waddesdon Manor, and luckily, it more then lived up to all expectations! Plus, I am officially a Mum now, so I exercise my right to tell ‘crap mum jokes’ with abandon!
The only downside, unsurprisingly being Britain, was the weather, the day before, I was merrily drinking wine and sunbathing in a friends’ garden, the day of our visit, well, not so much! It was cold, rainy and blowing a hooley. Did it matter though? Not a bit! Undeterred, we set off in our camper van Wilma, and had our first minor disaster about 25 mins in, the realisation we had no wellies!! Oops! Still undeterred, (but slightly annoyed with each other, the Mister totally thought I was blaming him and started listing all the things he had done, why do they do that?! We soon got over it though! ;)), we continued with me looking ruefully just a couple of times at my very un-sensible converse, to Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, where Waddesdon is.
On arrival, there is an enormous car park, (only one row of parent spaces that I saw though, so get there early!), with a ticket office, toilets and complimentary buses running up to the Manor.
We got maps with our tickets and headed onto the bus. The drive is soooo long, you can walk up and down but I don’t think my two monsters, (5 and 3), would have made it up without an awful lot of whinging and probably some carrying, uh, nope!! 😀 The buses are so frequent you don’t need to worry about that though.
The first view of the house as you alight from the bus at the end of a long stretch of drive, perfectly manicured beds either side, is breathtaking. The honey coloured turrets stretch up to meet the sky and the building seems to go on forever. It was very easy to get carried away and imagine myself as the heroine in a historic novel. Albeit it with two over excited, chocolate focused, noisy children jumping up and down and shrieking at me!
As our visit coincided with Easter weekend, the National Trust has teamed up with Cadburys, (drool!), to run Easter egg hunts, so we headed there first to collect our trail map, (£3.00 per child), and use the toilets, which you need to access through a tunnel, the kids thought it was amazing.
We had timed tickets to explore the house and I must admit to a slight white lie telling the children the Easter bunny might be hiding inside to get them in! The house is just gorgeous. As you enter, you swap any large bags, umbrellas etc for a token to collect at the end, then follow the set lay out of the house, with helpful and friendly guides to point you in the right direction if you happen to
have a child hell bent on escape loose your way. We had a lovely explore, particularly exciting for the children were my less pleasant facts about chamber pots and the like, can’t think why! My daughter also liked looking at the portraits after I explained that that was their equivalent of photos and to imagine if she had to sit still for that long every time I wanted a picture of her. She was probably horrified as I take that many she’d never have left the portrait room! She also picked out her favourite bedroom. We had lost small boy by this point, (not literally I hasten to add, but definitely mentally!), and we spent most of the time trying to persuade him not to lie down on the floor in all the corridors!
Deciding that possibly refreshments would help, we bypassed the fancier restaurant up at the house and headed down the, (very steep in places), path to the more family friendly Stables. It wasn’t totally clear from the start but inside is table service and a different menu but you can sit outside, either uncovered or under the covered seating area with the very welcome heaters, and order from the kiosk in the corner. We chose the latter option and enjoyed baguettes, hot tea and the very impressive kids’ lunch. I also got a scone with jam and cream to resolve the debate that I’d started in the morning on twitter about whether jam first or cream first tastes best. If you are wondering, we decided as a family that it is actually cream first, even my husband was converted to the idea, despite his initial horror at the thought!
Now onto, in my opinion, the absolute best bit. The outdoor play area. It is so amazing! All set onto a hill, as you walk up, you discover more and more areas. There are the standard swings and slides but there are also some really really cool extras like a massive tunnel slide that pops the children out much further down the hill, (small boy went down before we’d even caught them up, big girl bottled it, it is age 6+ though!), a zip wire and my personal favourite, an area for den building! There are huge long sticks of all different sizes and you can use the large trees to build teepees and dens with your children. Or you can get far too in to it and keep building something amazing long after the kids have wandered off, you know, if you wanted to!
A little tip, there are no signs to say but if you walk up to the very top of the play area, and follow the path along, you’ll pass the summer house kiosk, also selling refreshments, and if you continue on past it, you come back out at the house. Saves going back down and around which I initially thought you needed to do.
The final part was the trail. It took you on a tour of the gorgeous grounds and past the stunning aviary, which I’m sure in better weather is teaming with birds, as it was, we could hear them but they were all hiding from the icy rain! The trail was a bit of a guess who game, using clues to cross out the team members who were innocent of hiding the eggs with the bunny. In all honesty, we could probably have done without the trail, the kids were so tired by this point, small boy needed carrying for a lot of it, but they were so
desperate for chocolate eager to finish, plus it’s a loop so it made sense to carry on and we claimed our bunnies successfully. The highlight at this point for me, was spotting a kite soaring over the huge area in front of the house and getting to watch it battling against the winds as it searched for food. It was a lovely contrast with the organised gardens in front. Both beautiful in their own ways.
The other thing I can’t not mention, being a total architecture geek at heart, is the building itself. The carved stonework is just gorgeous, the way the spiral stairs curl around the outside of the turrets as well as the inside, even the guttering is a thing of beauty. I especially loved the shaped topiary on the outside of the building, seeming to hang on the stone work totally unsupported.
We were very kindly given entry tickets in exchange for a review, however all the thoughts and opinions are, as always, all my very own!