We have visited Burghley house and the Garden of surprises a few times now. Mostly because when you purchase an admission ticket you can return as many times as you wish for the next 12 months (with just a few restrictions). Now, what’s not to like about that? Burghley House is a very grand Elizabethan 16th Century house in South Lincolnshire, not too far from Stamford and Peterborough. The gardens at Burghley are amongst some of the best that we’ve ever been to and we especially love the play fountains and sculpture walk. It’s one of those places I keep meaning to tell you all about but never quite get around to it.
Below I will cover everything that there is to see and do at Burghley which makes it a great family day out.
Burghley House and the Garden of Surprises Review – Things to do
There is a large car park on the outskirts of the house and gardens. It is free to park. The first time we went we were a little confused as to where to go. Basically, if you want to visit the gardens first then you need to head up towards the house but turn left before you get there. If you want to visit the house first then you need to head up and then to the right. The house and gardens are open from mid-March until early November. Please note that the house is closed on Fridays and both the house and gardens are closed for a few days every September for the Burghley horse trials. It is a good idea to check their website before you leave home. Especially as they often have events on.
Things to do – Garden of Surprises
The Garden of surprises is indeed just that. If you want to visit the sculpture gardens and the Garden of surprises then you will need to show your ticket or purchase tickets when you arrive at the gate. The Garden of surprises is the first part that you will come to. If you would like to stop for a drink there is a cafe in this area which sells hot and cold drinks and limited snacks and sandwiches. It can get very busy as there aren’t many tables so if you want to eat there do get there early. Otherwise, you can eat in the orangery over at the house, which also gets very busy but is a lot bigger.
The Garden of Surprises is inspired by an Elizabethan garden. The highlight is the fountains that you can play in. If it’s a warm day it’s advisable to bring waterproof shoes for your kids and a change of clothes. They aren’t allowed to run around with barefeet.
There’s plenty of fun to be had dodging cascades of water or mini-jets. The path takes you down to a small cave and there are outdoor games plus a mirror maze. There’s so much to find and explore in this area.
We loved the grotto like cave.
Exploring the Sculpture Garden at Burghley House
After having fun getting wet in the Garden of surprises we usually then head for the sculpture gardens. This area is big and there’s plenty of sculptures to find. They have themed trails such as for Easter or Halloween so be sure to pick up a trail map for this. If they don’t have a themed trail on they also have trail maps to help you find all the sculptures in the gardens. The map isn’t 100% accurate so you will also need to use some logic to find all of them.
The sculptures are set amongst some lovely gardens and it really is well worth the walk around. You may even come across an ice house and some teddy bears having a picnic. I honestly haven’t seen any better sculptures elsewhere, even kids who bore easily will enjoy finding them as they are worth finding.
Another highlight is the maze. It has no sides so it’s great fun for young kids. My son has spent many happy times wandering the maze.
They even have a couple of sculptures on the large lake. If you look over to the far left you will see a lovely boathouse.
They also have a deer park at Burghley, although we have never found it.
Burghley House – Inside
Burghley house is vast and incredibly stunning. It was built by Queen Elizabeth’s Lord High Treasurer. Work was completed in the late 16th Century. Please remember that the house is closed on Fridays.
There are some really magnificent rooms at Burghley. Our son was very taken with the Billiard room and there are some very impressive beds in the house.
You start your tour of the house in the Old kitchen. It is very evocative of it’s Tudor past and standing in the room you can certainly imagine how it was when in use.
The Italian artist Antonio Verrio painted many of the ceilings at Burghley. It’s well worth taking some time to just look up. In one of the bedrooms, he has painted scenes of Heaven. In complete contrast, there is then a staircase with scenes of hell. It was certainly like nothing I’ve seen before and quite depressing for a house of such stature. Someone was clearly making a point at the time.
Some more photos from inside Burghley House
The Orangery Restaurant
As well as the small cafe near to the Garden of Surprises they also have the larger Orangery restaurant. This is located at the house and we had our lunch there during one of our visits. The choices were good and the prices fair. It’s set in a nice room and make sure you have a wander outside afterwards as there is a lovely little ornate pond. It fills up fast so make sure you get there early.
It is cheaper to purchase tickets for Burghley house online in advance. Don’t forget that you can upgrade your ticket for no extra cost to an annual pass when you show your tickets on arrival. An adult house and gardens ticket purchased online in advance costs £17.00 and £9.00 for a child aged 3-15. Under 3’s are free and a family ticket is £48.00.
The house and gardens close for a few days every September for the Burghley horse trails. Don’t forget that the house is shut on Fridays but the gardens are open 7 days a week. The house and gardens do close over the winter months.
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