This year, I’m setting aside more time to visit as many of the country estates and gardens that we are lucky enough to have access to in England as I possibly can. I live just down the road from Woburn and I’ve always heard people speak highly of the Abbey and its gardens but I’ve never actually visited for anything other than the Zoo. Until a few weeks ago anyway, when I finally planned a trip to Woburn Abbey Gardens.
Visiting Woburn Abbey Gardens for the first time:
When I think of country estates, I think of an impressive stately house looking out across acres of land where there are free-roaming animals. I think of a done-up carriage pulling up outside the doors of the house, with a pair of gorgeous looking horses harnessed up and ready to take a guest out on a tour of the gardens.
While all of the country estates that I have visited have been beautiful in their own way, Woburn Abbey may have stolen my heart by ticking all of the above boxes.
Gorgeous home looking out across acres of land? The abbey itself is situated within 28 acres of land so I think it is safe to say that it ticks this box. Free-roaming wildlife? With 9 species of deer to spot during your visit, this is another box that a visit to Woburn Abbey ticks off. I always thought that I was stretching the mark with a horse-drawn carriage being present too, I believed that I had simply read too many Jane Austen books and watched too many classic films but it turns out I wasn’t. In the past two years the residents and staff at Woburn Abbey have worked hard to bring back a traditional way to view the grounds of their beautiful estate and on ten different days across the year, you can now also enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride.
Start your visit to Woburn Abbey off with a drive through the Deer Park:
The deer park was a little gem that I had not been expecting but upon driving in we were immediately greeted by a whole herd of deer to the left. We stopped off at the ticket office on the way in and were told to enjoy the slow, two-mile drive up to the carpark as it would take us through the deer park. We ambled along, with me sitting in the passenger seat and shouting excitedly as if I were a child every time I saw another deer. There are public footpaths that weave in and around the deer park, so if you’ve got the time I would definitely recommend squeezing in a walk so that you can really experience the beauty of the deer in person. The Woburn Abbey Deer Park is one of the largest conservation parks in Europe and is home to over 1,200 deer that pass freely across the roads on the way up to the car park so you're sure to see a few on your way up to the Abbey.
We saw endless amounts of deer on our way through and were even lucky enough to spot a fawn hiding in the long grass as we neared the Abbey!
Embrace tradition with a horse-drawn carriage tour at Woburn Abbey:
I know that I’m a horse lover myself but some of you must agree that there is nothing quite like the sound of horses hooves against the cobblestones of a traditional courtyard. Arriving at Woburn Abbey on Sunday to the sight of a pair of Irish Draught horses pulling a gorgeous looking carriage behind them made me feel as though I had stepped back in time, or at the very least onto a movie set. Even the coachman and groom were dressed the part in their impressive looking uniforms.
While I didn’t take part in the tour myself, I couldn’t help but enquire about them. The tours cost £250 and last approximately thirty minutes. They include entry to the Woburn Abbey and Gardens, a glass of Buck’s fizz on arrival and tea or coffee and either morning pastries or cake (depending on the time of day) so broken down between four people, the cost isn’t as drastic as it initially sounds. The drive itself takes you along tracks that were once used by the Dukes of Bedford and that are no longer open to the public. As well as the people, the horses were immaculately turned out and I couldn’t help but think to myself that it would be the perfect way to experience the Abbey and the Gardens. A real example of bringing history to life.
Enjoy a peaceful walk through Woburn Abbey’s twelve gardens:
For those not so keen to step back in time and hop on board an open-top carriage, the gardens are a pleasure to explore on their own two feet and you’ll still get to enjoy the experience of seeing the horses pass you by as you explore. My mum, nan and I first attempted to follow the map but as none of our navigation skills are quite up to scratch we opted, in the end, for simply following the paths along from garden to garden. Which, it turned out, was easy enough to do anyway. My mum and I amused my nan as we raced through the Hornbeam Maze to get to the centre. It was a tad overgrown and we left with a few scratches and one stinging nettle rash between the two of us, but trying to find our way through the maze left us entertained. For those not quite so adventurous, there is an easy route through to the pagoda in the middle (but where is the fun in that?!).
Upon exiting the maze, we returned to adulthood and wandered from garden to garden admiring all of the different areas of interest as we went. Visiting Castle Ashby a few weeks back instilled in me a deep love for greenhouses, so it should come as no surprise that the Camellia House greenhouse was one of my favourite areas at Woburn Abbey. I don’t know if it’s their antique-looking design or the peaceful tranquillity you feel wash over you as you step inside, but I love them.
Close behind on my list of favourites was the Rockery and the Chinese Dairy gardens but, in all honesty, they were all beautiful and it was really fun to see so many different styles of gardens sat adjacent to one another.
Explore Woburn Abbey itself:
It was too much of a wonderful day to spend any of it inside when my mum, nan and I visited Woburn Abbey, so we simply opted for a morning of exploring the gardens. That being said though, I’ve heard very good things about the Abbey and if you’d like to take a glimpse inside then there are twenty-two rooms open to the public, complete with an art work display.
Eat and Drink at the Duchess’ Tea Room at Woburn Abbey:
No visit to Woburn Abbey (or any country estate) would be complete without a quick stop off for afternoon tea. We popped in first thing in the morning for a quick cup of coffee and a traditional scone and jam. We had the usual debate over whether the jam or the cream should go on first (I say cream, my mum says jam – what do you think?) but once we tucked in, all debates stopped as it was too delicious to chat over anymore.
Have a picnic in Woburn Abbey’s Deer Park:
We finished our day of walking with a picnic in the park. We simply grabbed our cooler box out of the car and ambled our way across to a sunny spot in the picnic area. With such a large area open to the public, we were able to find a spot to ourselves and we sat chatting about which parts had been our favourites while munching away on sandwiches, fruit and drinking iced teas.
Woburn Abbey and Gardens, Duchess' Tea Room and Duchess' Giftshop are open daily until 28th October.
The Abbey is open daily from 11.00am until 5.00pm. Woburn Abbey Gardens, The Duchess' Tea Room and the Duchess' Gift Shop are open daily from 10.00am until 6.00pm.
Entry for the Abbey and Gardens costs adults £17.50 / children £8.50 / under 3’s free
Entry for just the gardens costs adults £8 / children £5.25 / under 3’s free
*I was kindly invited along to tour Woburn Abbey gardens and see the carriage tours in action but all opinions remain entirely honest and my own.
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