Although this stately home is open for guided tours, the principal reason for our visits is always the gardens. They are renowned for their beauty and have a reputation as being amongst the finest in Europe. Our last visit was on one of the rare sunny days over the summer break. Three mums with six children – we packed a humongous picnic, armed the kids with a few lightsabers for charging around with when they got there, and headed down the M56.
You come in the back way at Arley, through the gift shop, across the cobbled courtyard, passing under the clock tower, then… you turn around and the fabulous Victorian, Jacobean-style mansion greets you. Countryside views roll out in front of the house. It’s very pretty. If you turn right through the iron gate, you enter the 12-acre gardens. Situated in the gardens and surrounded by shrub roses is a little half-timbered cottage, built in the mid-19th century as a place for the family then living at Arley to enjoy afternoon tea. There are plenty of open spaces as you walk around where the children can run. If you want something a bit more rugged, there is a woodland walk on the other side of the hall, which we found manageable with prams.
Although on this occasion we’d brought our own food, we have eaten at Arley in the past and it’s always been good. The restaurant is in The Tudor Barn, a terrific building which between 11am and 5pm serves a wide selection and includes a kids’ menu. Outside there’s also a pleasant picnic area situated round a wooden play area.
On the way out, you’ll walk past the Nursery selling plants propagated from the estate’s gardens and I’m sure your day will have inspired even the least horticulturally-minded mums!Stockley Farm is a few minutes walk from Arley Hall so you may want to consider combining the two. Arley Hall opens 1st March-31st Oct 2014. Check website for up-to-date opening times. Gardens: Adult £7.50, Child £3, Family £18; Hall & Gardens: Adult £10, Child £4, Family £25. Joint Arley Hall & Stockley Farm tickets available. Arley Hall & Gardens, Northwich, Cheshire CW9 6NA Tel: 01565 777353 arleyhallandgardens.com