Althorp is a 19th-century landscape park with traces of an earlier formal layout and 20th-century gardens. The park covers about 225 hectares within a 5600-hectare agricultural estate.
Kirby Hall has late-16th and 17th-century gardens, reconstructed in the late-20th century following the recovery of much of the original plan through archaeological excavation.
Days out in Northamptonshire
Together with the county town of Northampton, the larger towns of Kettering, Corby, and Wellingborough all give visitors an insight into the history and heritage Northamptonshire is known for. There’s plenty going on, with activities and attractions for all ages to enjoy and glorious countryside to explore.
A visit to Northampton will give you a great look into the county’s shoemaking history at the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery. Alongside an impressive collection of some 12,000 pairs of shoes from through the ages, there’s also a wide range of art and artefacts.
78 Derngate is an award-winning attraction that includes a gallery, restaurant, shop, and a house entirely designed by Scottish designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Look out (or should we say, up) for the town’s National Lift Tower – a 127m R&D facility and listed building that dominates the skyline.
Outside the town centre, Althorp Estate has been the ancestral stately home of the Spencer family for over 500 years. Perhaps best known for the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial, the house, gardens, and parkland are a must-visit attraction.
Northamptonshire is something of a mecca for motor fans. In Wellingborough, the Santa Pod Raceway is the home of the European Drag Racing Championships and hosts over 80 events, yet it is the hallowed ground of Silverstone which claims to be the spiritual home of Formula One motor racing. Take a tour around the extensive museum for exhibitions, displays, and interactive shows.
If aviation is your thing, a trip to Harrington near Kettering will give you the chance to visit the Carpetbagger Aviation Museum. Its fascinating backstory, displays and exhibits will guide you through the secret missions of Operation Carpetbagger during WWII.
Wicksteed Park in Kettering is not only a grade II listed heritage park and garden but it is also home to dozens of rides and attractions covering five separate zones over 140 acres. Certainly not to be missed if you’re looking for an all-inclusive, fun-packed, family day out!
Northamptonshire has plenty of countryside space to explore and enjoy. Barnwell Country Park near Oundle, Sywell Country Park, Fermyn Woods Country Park near Corby, and Irchester Country Park near Wellingborough all offer multiple acres of woodlands, wetlands, countryside, and meadows, with nature trails and plenty to do for all ages.
Topography, geology, and climate
A diverse variety of land qualities come together to give Northamptonshire interesting landscape soil types with varying fertility. The western half of the county is largely made up of medium fertility, permeable, slightly acid but base-rich loam and clay soils, alongside pockets of more free-draining loam soils.
The eastern half is a more mixed collection of similar loam and clay soils with areas of highly fertile, lime-rich loam, loam and clay, and in the north, several areas of low fertility extract soils from quarries and mining, common around Corby and near Kettering.
Like neighbouring east midlands counties, the Northamptonshire climate is mild and temperate. Warmer temperatures across the mild summer months average at around 21ºC (69ºF), while winter low temperatures can fall to an average of just over 1ºC (33ºF). Rainfall in the county can reach an average of around 675mm (27”) across the year.
Northamptonshire’s parks and gardens
Outside Northamptonshire’s towns, the wider county plays host to a fine selection of beautiful formal and informal gardens to discover. They’re a delight to wander around, and whether you’re an experienced horticulturalist, a garden hobbyist, or just looking for a relaxing day out in a peaceful and inspiring setting, these highlights from Northamptonshire certainly deliver.
- Northamptonshire North
The village of Guilsborough is home to the award-winning Coton Manor Garden. With 10 acres of gardens surrounding a beautiful 17th-century manor house, these gently sloping gardens enjoy a good selection of colour and texture across every season. From a covering of snowdrops in late winter, crocus, hellebores, and trillium in spring, to a stunning array of roses and vivid herbaceous borders in summer – even autumn and winter provide an abundance of late flowerings.
Just north of Northampton, Lamport Hall’s gardens cover 10 acres within an enclosed park and a stunning backdrop of the 17th-century Hall itself. Featuring the Walled garden with beds and borders of hardy perennials, the central garden’s ‘Cock Pit’ is filled with hollyhocks and cardoons and surrounded by lush, trimmed lawns, together with extensive herbaceous borders and shrubbery walks.
- Northamptonshire South
With its well-tended, formal gardens and terraces, Canons Abbey Gardens, near Daventry are an exquisite example of restored 18th-century gardens surrounding an original Tudor manor house. It’s an ideal location to wander through the many pathways, and discover the descending terraces with their lively herbaceous borders, fruit bushes, and vines, alongside fine displays of roses and tulips.
Set in a 10,000-acre estate, Castle Ashby Gardens near Northampton has 35-acres of differently-styled gardens to be enjoyed all across the year. Stunning Italian gardens show off an amazing variety of beds and borders alongside a beautiful central pond, while the Butterfly garden is filled with insect-friendly shrubs and plants including buddleia and lavender. With plenty more on display, including an arboretum and nature trails, these gardens aren’t to be missed.
Near Brackley, Evenley Wood Garden is hidden away on the Oxfordshire border and provides a great family day out. Privately owned, this 60-acre woodland garden features plenty of walks, trails, and paths allow you to explore it fully. Giving colour and texture across every season, you can enjoy snowdrops followed by bluebells and plenty of spring bulbs along the stream walk, as well as plenty of beautiful magnolias, rhododendrons, and azaleas. There’s also fine summer displays of roses and lilies and much more.
Just a few miles away, Steane Park Gardens are an exciting example of a beautifully re-established, 30-year restoration project. Approaching the gardens through parkland filled with specimen trees and wildflowers, the more formal gardens and lawns are teeming with beds and borders filled with roses, lavender, and tulips. Leading you to the less formal meadow and woodland, there’s plenty to take in, including a beautiful moon gate, a living walkway, and an attractive Monet-inspired bridge across the river. Steane Park is a real rural treat!