20 Muddy-approved attractions in Northamptonshire
From the big-beast tourist destinations to our cool insider alternatives, read on for our pick of 20 unmissable attractions in the county.
Headliner: Boughton House
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.
In-the-know intel: Canons Ashby and Fotheringhay Castle
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…
Fotheringhay Castle is one of the last remaining signs that, once upon a time, Northamptonshire was nationally significant in terms of power and politics. All that remains of the castle today is a big hill and some boulders beside the River Nene, but this is the place where Richard III was born and Mary Queen of Scots was executed and is, rather spookily, now covered in thistles, the national flower of Scotland. Plus, the views from the top are fantastic.
Headliner: Wicksteed Park
A stalwart of the Northants funscape, Wicksteed serves up family-friendly hedonism in the Grade II English Heritage listed surroundings that have been a part of Northamptonshire’s legacy for 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.
In-the-know intel: West Lodge Farm Park
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.
ATTRACTIONS WITH A TWIST
Headliner: Silverstone Circuit
Petrolheads, get your greasy fix right here at Silverstone. How about a driving experience at the epicentre of British motorsports? From supercars to stunt driving, Aston Martins to Ferraris, if listening to tweenie pop on the school run is about as exciting as driving gets for you, then don your jumpsuit and head to Silverstone for a full-throttle fuel injection. You’ll also love The Silverstone Experience, a museum that combines history, interactive experiences and memorabilia from 70 years of motorsports heritage.
In-the-know intel: Catanger Llamas
Looking for something a little more sedate? 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.
Fine dining under the creative directorship of Head Chef Samuel Squires (formerly of The Ritz) and situated in the sumptuous surroundings of Delapré Abbey’s Billiard Room. Hibiscus is pushing for Northants’ coveted, elusive Michelin Star with its contemporary European cuisine, using the best seasonal, locally sourced produce.
On a family farm in Woodford, at the the heart of rural Northamptonshire, Burnt Lemon Chefs Table brings food as theatre to guests in an exclusive, private dining experience. You’ll see your 9-course tasting menu as it is prepared from fresh, using locally sourced ingredients with modern BBQ techniques on a Japanese kronos. Snazzy.
Another destination pop-up on a family farm – see what we mean about Northants being rather rural and, with food this good, what more could you wish for? Red Barn Supper Club in Spratton is a foodie experience with an emphasis on narrowing the gap between field and plate. Meat is produced on the farm alongside seasonal, local produce, thus cutting down on food miles.
Headliners: Rushton Hall and Fawsley
If you require some decadent pampering you won’t be disappointed with our elegant clutch of super luxury spa hotels. The magnificent Rushton Hall, just outside Desborough (it’s where Emma and Matt Willis got hitched and features in the BBC adaptation of Strike, Lethal White), and Fawsley Hall (above), a stone’s throw from Silverstone Circuit, nail everything from country house grandeur with fine dining and posh afternoon teas, to pampering fit for a princess in their plush treatment rooms.
In-the-know intel: Homefield Grange
Specialist treatments, spa days and residential retreats. Your pampering needs will all be met here at Homefield Grange, a luxurious spa focused on wellness, detox, weight loss and re-energising with mega nutritious foods including home-grown veggies. You can even take courses to help you learn about how to eat well and prepare health-conscious meals.
Headliner: 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.
Attention! Set in the canal side village of Weedon, the Visitor Centre at Weedon Royal Ordnance Depot is a history geeks dream. You can find out all about what was once the epicentre of British military might. Men in uniform with big guns right here in Northants, you say? It’s like a scene from Pride and Prejudice. The barracks days are over but there is plenty to do and explore in this charmingly edgy hidden retreat, from bouldering at The Weedon Project, to barre fitness and yoga at Pose Fitness and vintage shopping at Vintique. Be sure to drop in the tap room at Roman Way Brewery here, where you can sit beside the canal for a rejuvenating tipple.
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.
Northants is an adrenaline junkie’s dream, with the wide and winding River Nene flowing through the north of the county and a healthy splash of boating lakes spattered around, it’s perfect for water sports from kayaking to wakeboarding. Or try out the slightly more sedate stand up paddle boarding, reportedly the most popular outdoor recreational activity in the world.
Headliner: Nene Extreme Adventures
Nene Extreme Adventures is located at Oundle Wharf, where you’ll also find an abundance of fantastic businesses and and foodie pitstops. You can hire 4-man canoes for family fun, or go solo in a single kayak on one of the most bucolic sections of the river. You can also book kids parties and holiday clubs here too.
In-the-know intel: River Spirit SUP
Based at Woodford Mill, River Spirit place a real emphasis on getting in touch with our natural surroundings and embracing the peace and tranquility of the river, and what better way to do all that than a serene and graceful bit of paddle boarding? Owner Lyndsey also takes regular SUP yoga classes and if the water’s warm enough, it’s a lovely opportunity to enjoy a spot of river swimming too.
Headliner: Coton Manor
Coton Manor attracts visitors from far and wide, and it’s a favourite of gardening geeks from Carol Klein to local lass Jo Whiley. We are slightly obsessed with the resident flamingoes, which paddle about the gardens, and the gorgeous courtyard tea rooms, perfect for a lazy lunch on a sunny day.
In-the-know intel: Quinton Rectory Garden
Need some time out and a dose of Om? We hear you. The ethos behind Quinton Rectory Garden is the idea of garden for good, placing an emphasis on creativity, good health and positivity. The incredible garden is used to host charity fundraising events and creative workshops, but on a wider level, it is a space to enjoy, feel good and get in touch with the cycles of nature.
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