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15 of the best family attractions in Northants

Planning to stay a little closer to home this summer? We’re lucky to have loads of fun activities for the whole family right here in our hood! Here's our hit list for the best things to see and do in Northants. Start ticking them off now!

ADRENALINE JUNKIE

Silverstone Interactive Museum Northants

The cutting-edge Silverstone Interactive Museum takes pole position for petrol heads, history geeks, budding engineers and designers alike, taking visitors on a rollercoaster journey from the famous circuit’s past life as an abbey, farm and WWII bomber station, through more than 70 years of racing history, innovation and glamour. Beware the grand finale! The Ultimate Lap is breathtakingly brilliant but completely nuts, I couldn’t walk straight for about 20 minutes afterwards and was in a an even more intense state of dizziness than usual.

A stalwart of the Northants funscape, Wicksteed Park serves up family-friendly hedonism in the Grade II English Heritage listed surroundings that have been a part of Northamptonshire’s legacy for over a century. Get your adrenaline rush on the 30 rides and activities, have a go at archery and climbing, and splash about on the boating lake. There’s also nearly 150 acres of parkland including an arboretum, water meadows and the ruins of a 900 year old motte and bailey castle to explore.

WALK ON THE WILD SIDE

icarus falconry holdenby house northampton

Holdenby House was once owned by James I and subsequently Charles I, who was also imprisoned here before, well… he lost his head. Explore a clutch of grand state rooms and 20 acres of Grade I listed gardens, dotted with stunning modernist sculpture in beautiful juxtaposition with traditional English flower borders. There’s also a fully functioning kitchen garden, which provides veggies and flowers for the house, but the pièce de résistance, certainly for the kids, is the Icarus Falconry Centre, where you can get up close to the huge bird of prey collection, watch amazing flying displays, meet resident tortoises Sly and Simba, Roxy the fox and Norma the hedgehog and learn loads from about wildlife conservation. Then don’t forget to nab homemade cakes at the fabulous Connie’s Tea Parlour before you head home.

West Lodge Farm Park in Desborough has 500 acres of walks and nature trails to tire out the tiddlers, plus piglet racing, small animal handling, goats, ponies, sheep, pony rides and a giant adventure playground, there is easily a full day’s worth of activities for your little ones here. Bring a picnic or grab lunch at one of the three on-site food hubs.

Catanger-llama-trekking

It doesn’t get much further from the madding crowd than Catanger Farm in Weedon Lois. Not only can you trek along country lanes and bridleways with the adorable llamas who live here, you can also stay in a secluded and romantic gypsy wagon or shepherd’s hut nestled in the woods and nab some llamarabilia in the gift shop.

We are not kidding (geddit?), Ganders Goat, who make amazing goats’ milk ice cream and soaps, also offer Goat Walking experiences on the farm in Cottingham, where you can get to know the playful residents during a walk around the property.

MAKE A SPLASH

WILD SWIMMING CASTLE ASHBY

Book an open water swimming session at Castle Ashby estate, where you can commune with nature in a Capability Brown designed fresh water lake, safe in the knowledge that a lifeguard is on hand to keep you all safe. The vibe here is all about how nature enhances wellbeing and makes for a fab family bonding session if you’ve got older teens. Over 16s only for this one though, no tiddlers.

Fancy a spot of shopping centre canoeing? Well, not exactly. Pop your heels and the kids’ devices in a dry bag and head to Canoe2 at Rushden Lakes for a splash about in the gorgeous, slow flowing River Nene as it winds its way northwards from the Lakes. There’s a variety of different hire options from a two-hour paddle or half day adventure to a multi-day trip with B&Bs or camping all organised for you and luggage transport included. You can also paddle around Skew Bridge Lake in a swan or dragon pedalo or a katakanu – that’s basically two canoes attached side by side, FYI, so great for families and groups of friends to splash about o sunny summer days.

HISTORY AND HERITAGE

Rockingham Castle

Built by William the Conquerer in 1086 (not personally, I don’t think), the views from Rockingham Castle across the surrounding landscape are magnificent and make for a perfect fortress for your marauding hoards. The castle is still lived in by the Watson family, whose ancestors have owned the castle for 450 years, although many of the rooms are open to visitors, including the servants hall, the old kitchen and the great hall. Rockingham also plays host to some huge events including the annual horse trials and food and drink fair.

Re-opened in 2021 after an impressive, multi-million pound re-development project, Northampton Museum and Art Gallery houses the largest collection of shoes and shoe heritage in the world, representing Northamptonshire’s historic shoe industry. There are more shoes here than in Carrie Bradshaw’s closet – a whopping 15,000. Plus you can enjoy loads more historic collections, modern art and a fab new cafe and shop.

Delapré Abbey in Northampton, has a wonderfully chequered past, from battles in the Wars of the Roses to nuns running off to London in velvet gowns (gasp!). It’s also the inspiration for some of Sheridan’s renowned Restoration comedies including The School For Scandal. Take a tour of the Abbey (you will learn a lot – I certainly did!), then explore the beautiful walled garden dotted with sculpture and the 500 acres of parkland, then finish off with one of their fab afternoon teas in the Orangery.

As National Trust properties go, Canons Ashby is a small, lesser known sorta gal, but she’s a corker. The bijou gardens are packed with flowers and seasonal veg (the pumpkin patch is always a winner) and the second hand bookshop is a treasure trove. Inside the house, look out for the daisy wheels and burn marks on the walls and furniture – said to ward off witches, but I got over the threshold no probs, soo…

Known as the English Versailles, the gardens and park at the magnificent Boughton House are among the grandest in England , with the house boasting outstanding collections of fine art, furniture, tapestries, porcelain and carpets. Make like Marie-Antoinette and let the kids eat cake in the beautifully landscaped grounds, which include a rather spectacular inverted pyramid.

Flamingoes at Coton Manor Northants

Coton Manor attracts visitors from far and wide, and it’s a favourite of gardening geeks from Carol Klein to local lass Jo Whiley. Kids always seem to love the resident flamingoes, which paddle about the gardens, plus there’s a gorgeous courtyard tea room, perfect for a lazy lunch on a sunny day.

Located canalside (obvs) in a historic corn mill, the Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne explores waterways history and culture. You’ll learn about the engineering and construction of the Grand Union Canal, boatbuilding and the industrial and cultural history of the canals. You can even go on a boat trip into the Bilsworth tunnel, the longest navigable tunnel in Europe. Spoooky!

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