Who wouldn’t want to live in a house with a garden that has a safari park in it? Or where you can see deer whenever you look out of a window?
Woburn Abbey is the home of the Duke of Bedford, and has beautiful views across its vast deer park.
It is located near Milton Keynes, and is just off Junction 13 of the M1, and clearly signposted. The route from the motorway takes you through Woburn village and past the parish church of St Mary.
When we purchased our tickets, we were asked if we wanted to go to the safari park as well. I said no, thinking that we wouldn’t have time. I was then told that not only do you save money by buying a combined ticket, but it’s valid for a year! So we can go back at any time to see the animals.
Once you enter the estate, you drive past the Bloomsbury Stud, which is run by the Dowager Duchess, and then take a long drive through the park up to the house. All the time looking out for, and usually seeing, the deer.
The house itself is built on the site of, and incorporates, a medevial abbey, hence its name. However, there is no visible sign of it left today. Only about half of the house is open to the public, as it is still the family home. And sometimes rooms are closed for their personal use.
There is an excellent audio guided tour for the house, which tells you not just aout the rooms, but also some background to the family as well. I really like these hand-held audio guides as it actually means my daughter gets to find out about the rooms. When we visit places without them, she just waltzes straight through as she can’t be bothered to stop and read things. There is also a childrens trial to help keep the younger visitor occupied, with a “prize” if they manage to complete it.
The tour lasts a least an hour and takes in some really nice rooms. My favourite was the family’s own dining room, which is frequently closed off to visitors. This room houses most of their Canaletto collection. I could have spent hours in here just looking at the paintings!
You also get to go into the crypt where the gold and silver vaults are, and see the family treasures. There is also a large porcelelain collection, with an impressive Sevres display.
When we had finished our tour, we headed for the Duchess’s Tea Rooms for lunch. This was were I had my only disappointment of the visit. There is an large menu displayed on the wall of the hot and cold food they serve. However, when I placed our order I was told that they full restaurant wasn’t open, and only a limited range of food was available. It would have been nice to actually have a notice up saying that the menu was not available. However, the staff were freindly and helpful, and the food was nice and not expensive. And they were quite happy for us to have one baguette and two plates!
We then ventured into the gardens, where again there is a children’s trail with the promise of another prize at the end. In act the prize is a notebook and a pencil, which in most gift shops would probably cost a pound each!
We spent a hour or so wandering around having a good look, but unfortunately we could not finish the trail. I think that some of the information boards had been removed by the gardeners. However, with a bit of guesswork we did manage to answer all the questions, so my daughter did get both of her prizes.
There is a fairly large gift shop selling a range of products from books to cuddly toys, although there wasn’t really that much for children. I did overhear two works saying that as it was the end of the season, things were not getting replaced. End of season? We were there in the middle of August!
One place we didn’t visit was the pottery centre – I didn’t want to take the chance with my fast moving daughter!
We had a good day out here, and although we didn’t, I susect that any reaming time you have could be spent looking arounfd the village itself. It looks a nice place in it’s own right.