Our top tip for a brilliant cheap activity to do with the kids during October half-term 2017 is the Castle Ashby Gardens pumpkin hunt. We had been last year, and eagerly anticipating this year’s event, we booked tickets straight away. It’s fun for all ages, and take the dog and the grandparents too. Watch our video below and then scroll down for information.
What are the Castle Ashby Gardens?
Castle Ashby Gardens are beautiful gardens which surround an historic house in Northamptonshire which dates back to the 1600s. It’s currently owned by Earl Compton, the son of the 7th Marquess. What’s great about the pumpkin hunt is that you pay the winter price of parking your car for £5 (which includes adult entrance), then an additional £2.50 per child to do the pumpkin hunt. A menagerie includes some fab animals like meerkats, goats, birds, ducks and marmosets which are brilliant for children. There’s also a lovely play area which includes a small wooden castle, wooden train, caterpillar and assault course type equipment. You can actually visit all year round, but the menagerie is only open from April to October as are the tea rooms.
What’s the pumpkin hunt like?
It’s great! There are twelve numbered pumpkins to find around the walk, as well as some spooky skeletons and a witch. They’re high up or behind fences so shouldn’t get disturbed. Children then have to draw a picture of the pumpkin face on their trail sheet. At the end of the walk they collect a prize. We went as a group of two families with children aged four, two and a young baby in a buggy. Our children played on the play equipment first before taking a very leisurely stroll around the gardens, stopping from time to time to run around and so I’d allow 2-3 hours for walking around. We also had a brilliant time throwing leaves and doing Autumn angels.
Where is Castle Ashby and how do we book tickets?
The postcode is NN7 1LQ. It took us about 30 minutes from the south side of Milton Keynes but will be much closer if you live Newport Pagnell way. You book tickets via their website. You’ll need to book a car ticket (£5 which includes adult entry) and tickets for children to do the trail.
Any tips for enjoying the Castle Ashby Gardens pumpkin hunt and how accessible is it?
We booked a 10am slot and it was actually relatively quiet when we arrived and got busier as the day went on. Whether that stays the same I don’t know, but I think it’s worth going earlier. It enabled our children to have a play in the play area before it got too busy. Definitely take a picnic. Although there’s a tea room, by lunchtime you’d be waiting ages to get served so it’s better to be prepared. I’d also take a few snacks for the children to go around with. It wasn’t that muddy when we went, but if you like playing in leaves then it may be worth wearing wellies. The prize at the end is a goody bag consisting of a giant Halloween balloon, finger of fudge chocolate, putty and haribo, so bear that in mind if you have young children. Friends of ours took a buggy.There is a path that takes you right the way around and she found it relatively easy all the way. Their website advises that the paths are made from compacted shingle, which some wheelchair users may find a little difficult.
What else can we do once we’ve finished at Castle Ashby Gardens?
If you’re travelling back to Milton Keynes then Emberton Country Park is only about 15 minutes away. There’s a fun play area with slides and a big pirate ship as well as a sandpit and stones and pulley area.
I'm Laura, mum of two boys - aged five and three. I started this website at the end of Sept 2015 whilst on maternity leave. I now work four days a week and do this blog late at night once the little boys are sleeping. It's won several awards over the last three years and I continue to run it for free and mostly focus on free, cheap, and good value days out. Do drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to contact me. Don't forget to follow all of our latest adventures on facebook, instagram and twitter and have a look at all of the videos of the places we visit on my new Milton Keynes Kids YouTube Channel - subscribe to it for notifications every time I add a new place. And remember... you may been reading this post months after we visited, do check with the destination you're visiting for up to date opening times and prices. If you find this blog useful then please do comment on my posts and leave me a Facebook review - it makes doing this all the more worthwhile.