As you drive through the gates of Ickworth House, close to Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk, it is hard not to be impressed. You can feel yourself taking in a deep breath and inhaling the fresh air as you head into the idyllic ancient deerpark. The setting is perfect for walks, rambles and bike rides with the option of visiting the House if you want to find out more about its history.
Author: Hannah Smith
Disclaimer: Her family received complimentary tickets for the purpose of this review.
The long driveway leads you past the Ickworth Hotel – worth a look if you want to stay away for a few nights with the family. There are several interjoining rooms; child monitors and babysitters are available. There is a creche on-site and even a high tea (especially for the kids). We didn’t stay in the hotel this time but hope to be back to try it out.
Ickworth House Review – Inside the House
Instead, we headed to the House, which is open to visitors during allocated time slots. Entry is free for National Trust members. Ickworth is embarking on a multi-million-pound conservation project and as a result, the massive domed roof is currently undergoing an extensive refurbishment. Although it isn’t looking at its finest, the sheer amount of scaffolding gives some indication to the size and dominance that the building has.
There is a temporary exhibition explaining the work being carried out and you even have the chance to inscribe a message on a piece of slate which will be included in the new roof – creating your own bit of history!
Inside, there were activity sheets for the kids, which led first through various opulent rooms: the silver room (with one of the finest collections of silver in Europe!) the library, the dining hall etc, before taking you down to the servant’s quarters where all the workers would have lived.
This section of the house was really interesting and well done, with lots of hands-on activities and artefacts to give a sense of what life would have been like in 1930. The boys enjoyed playing some of the old wooden games that were left out on the tables. It took about an hour to go around the house, by which point we were ready to try the café.
Ickworth House Cafe
In usual National Trust fashion, the food options didn’t disappoint, with light lunches and scones etc on offer. There was the main restaurant near the orangery (with outdoor tables and plenty of grass to play it and hide and seek) or other cafes which were dog friendly. Equally, if you would rather take a picnic, there are plenty of tables around the park with picnic tables and stunning views.
In the grounds of Ickworth House, Suffolk
Post snack, we headed outside and jumped on our bikes to explore the extensive grounds. The maps show various walking and cycle trails to accommodate all. We tried the 4km family trail which takes you past a church and the walled garden, both worthy of a stop-off. The trust is currently raising money to restore the garden back to its former glory. In the meantime, it made for some fun ‘guess the vegetable’ games and we timed our trip perfectly to see the beautiful display of dahlias in bloom.
Little touches like the scarecrow made of metal and the wishing well also provided entertainment for the kids.
We never seemed to be on the bikes for more than 5 minutes at a time before someone spotted something that was worth exploring – a stream, the fairy garden, ancient trees with roots to climb on, footpaths heading off into the woods. It was really peaceful and although the car park was full when we arrived, the park is big enough for you to feel like you have the place to yourselves to discover.
The end of the day was rounded off with time on the adventure playground. It was a great mix of slides, swings, obstacle courses and a zip wire. There was even a trim trail suitable for adults – no excuse for just sitting and letting the children play. A multi-use trail is planned for the autumn around the grounds so we’ll be back to check it out!
In summary, I think that the park is perfect for families, and whilst the house has a fascinating history and has been well done, it has limited interest for young children, they would have happily spent the entire time outside in the fresh air!
Ickworth House is open for most of the year. Do check their website before leaving home, especially during times of renovation work.
If you are a member of the National Trust then it is free to visit. If you aren’t an adult ticket costs £14.50 without gift aid and £7.25 for a child. Other pricing options are available such as family tickets. This is the price for the house, parkland and gardens. It is even cheaper to visit in the winter and less if you just want to visit the parkland and gardens.