Before now, we had never visited Bowood, but our friends recommended meeting there as they are annual pass holders. With everything there is to do for children at Bowood, I can understand why! Admittedly they have slightly older children than us, so they are able to really make the most of everything that is on offer here. With a tot under 2, we were somewhat limited, but we still had a fantastic day out! Let’s start by taking a look at everything Bowood has to offer young explorers.
Fun for Families (by age)
Tractor Trail – with a separate area for under 4s, the tractor trail is a great place to let the little ones burn off some steam. There are a combination of small scoot-along vehicles and larger push pedal tractors, so every child can find a suitable ride. We spent quite a while here as Teddy is a huge ride-on fan!
‘Tree Wall’ climbing activity – exactly what it says on the tin!
Partridge Play Pen – a woodland adventure playground with smaller obstacles for the under 7s. There is also a treehouse (kind of like a Wendy house on stilts, so nothing scary), toddler swings and a sand pit. Again, a great place for little ones to run riot!
There are also some mechanical JCB diggers that you can play with by the tractor trail, but they are coin operated and cost £1 for 4 minutes. We felt like the parenting equivalent of a ‘fun sponge’ because we didn’t have any change, and poor Teddy couldn’t understand why his digger didn’t work like the little boy’s next to us, so please, just take a £1 coin!
Adventure Playground & Pirate Galleon – every child’s dream! This one is definitely for older kids, but there is so much to do here! Aside from the stonking great pirate ship with multiple platforms & portholes, there are slides, boat swings, trampolines… everything you can think of & more! Prepare to lose your 7-12 year olds for hours in here!
Arial Walkways – a fantastic arial assault course, featuring a variety of slides and treetop walks. There is netting and hand-rails around all of the walkways, but it’s not designed for adults, so your kids need to be mature enough to negotiate the route at height safely and without assistance. Of course, adult supervision is still required at all times.
Exploring the expansive grounds of the Bowood estate is a treat for the whole family. There is so much open space for throwing a ball around or flying a kite, and as you navigate the winding pathways around the lake, you can also discover a cascading waterfall and secret caves (take a torch though – it’s pitch black in there)!
As the house is still home to the Lansdowne family, as it has been since 1754, there is only a small wing of the house open to the public, but what there is has been perfectly preserved and is displayed with great pride and attention to detail. Also in this part of the house is the Stables Restaurant and a gift shop.
Food & Drink
The Stables Restaurant is a casual dining room serving a selection of hot and cold meals, delicious cakes and cream teas. We didn’t eat here on this occasion as the kids were itching to get to the play areas, but it looked and smelled wonderful!
The Treehouse Café has everything you would expect from a cafe, including handmade sandwiches, hot sausage rolls and cakes. A kids lunch box is priced at £5 and has a good amount of food inside: a choice of sandwich, a drink, Pom Bear crisps, fruit flavoured jelly and a Cadburys Freddo bar. There are of course tables inside the cafe, but you are more than welcome to ask for your food and drink to takeaway and enjoy them on one of the many benches within the park grounds.
During the school holidays and on select weekends, there is also an ice-cream kiosk conveniently situated next to the adventure play ground!
If you fancy bringing a little bit of Bowood home with you, you can in the form of own-grown plants and flowers, or honey from the garden’s own bee colony. Or you can just buy a fridge magnet like we did!
Booking in advance is compulsory at present (summer 2021) as visitor numbers are limited. You can buy your House & Gardens tickets here. Under 2’s are free and do not need to have a ticket booked. No need to print anything, just show your barcode at the entrance (save the trees!)
‘The Barn’ & indoor soft play areas are unfortunately closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I have it on good authority though that these are great fun when they are open!
You can bring your own picnic! Not many places like you bringing your own food & drink, but here it is encouraged! Some picnic tables are available, or you can simply bring a blanket.
The pathways around Bowood House & Gardens are not entirely suited to a pushchair or wheelchair due to a loose gravel surface and undulating terrain. We managed most of the garden, but had to take turns pushing to give each other’s arms a break! There are also some steps, and the cave is simply a no-go due to being so narrow. If you only plan on visiting the main play area and house though, this can be done easily with a buggy.
Currently, the general hours for admission are 11:00-17:00, closing at 18:00, but please check the website for up to date opening times.
Address: Bowood House & Gardens, Old Road, Derry Hill, Calne, Wiltshire, SN11 0LZ
Telephone: 01249 812 102
Bowood House & Gardens is an incredible day out for families of all ages. We enjoyed every minute and will absolutely go back later in the year. To get the best bang-for-your-buck, visit with kids at primary school age (5-12 years), and bring a picnic.