Snowdrop season 2020 is upon us and that means crowds in Anglesey Abbey’s winter gardens. If you want to read about everything there is to see at Anglesey Abbey then scroll down. If you are looking for hints and tips on beating the crowds then click here to skip to the end.
- Anglesey Abbey Walks
- Hoe Fen Trail
- National Trust Membership
- Avoiding the Crowds at Anglesey Abbey
I can recommend Anglesey Abbey walks with children. It’s a fun place to spend a day as a family. There are three walks of varying length, but they can be done in any combination, depending on time and energy available. All have lots of point of interest along the way, making Anglesey Abbey the perfect place to have an adventure.
Anglesey Abbey is a Jacobean-style house with 900 years of history. However, it is not the house that people come to Anglesey Abbey for (although it is fascinating), they come for the 114 acres of gardens. The gardens are credited mainly to Lord Fairhaven who inhabited the property between 1926 and 1966 when he bequeathed Anglesey Abbey to the National Trust upon his death. Seasonal planting brings the gardens to life in any season, and Anglesey Abbey is particularly famous for the snowdrops in its winter garden.
Anglesey Abbey Walks
Winter Garden and Riverside Walk
From the entrance turn right and you will find yourself in the winter garden. This is the shortest walk at just 40 minutes, but it’s so full of things to see that it could easily take you all day. The trail is very low difficulty and fully pushchair accessible.
Part 1 – Winter Garden
The winter garden draws the crowds to Anglesey Abbey in January and February, and it is the snowdrops that the masses have come to see. The gardens are stunning, but unless you or the kids have a particular interest in botany I would recommend avoiding this time of year as even getting parking space can be tricky at weekends. The rest of the walk is lovely at any time of year.
During the winter, the lawns to the right are often closed due to the potential damage from visitors. However, during the summer months, they are open to the public and perfect for exploring. With names like Warrior’s Walk and Emperor’s Walk, how can you not?
Part 2 – Himalayan Birches
Once you have navigated the snowdrop boulevard you will find yourself in my favourite part, the Himalayan birches. These trees are a relative of our native silver birches, but they are snow white. I love the eerie feel of this portion of the walk, it contrasts with the fiery orange dogwood stems from the first section.
Part 3 – The Heritage Orchard
Just after this section, you will find a new area. The Orchard is a picnic area with deck chairs in case you don’t fancy sitting on the ground.
Part 4 – Lode Mill
Pass through a gate, leaving the birches to each other and you will be confronted with an altogether different scene. Lode Mill is a working watermill which is open to the public between 11 am and 3.30 pm Wednesday to Sunday. There are a few things for the kids to get hands-on within the mill, and I would recommend checking it out on a quiet day. Be aware though that the ladders are steep and challenging to navigate with small children.
From the mill, the path winds pleasantly along the watercourse until it reaches the Arboretum. For a while, you actually have water on both sides as you pass the intriguingly named Quarry Pool on your left. Don’t forget to stop and admire the bamboo sculptures before you reach the house itself.
If you are visiting at the correct time of year (late summer and early Autumn) it is well worth taking the short detour to see the Dahlia Garden. The variety of dahlias on display is incredible. I could have spent the morning taking photos in the Dahlia Garden.
Part 5 – The House
It is only now that you come to the house itself. As with so many stately homes in the National Trust’s care, Anglesey Abbey’s history is on display here. There are some beautiful and interesting objects, including a stunning library.
They have added activities to entertain children in many rooms of the house including ‘painting’ in one place and binding books in the library. There is also the offer of an activity basket when you enter. We didn’t try it out, but it was another nice touch.
Despite the effort that the National Trust has gone to, the house can be a little dull for small children, so skip it if you would rather be outside. It is also not accessible with a pushchair.
Part 6 – Cup of Tea
From the house, it is a short walk back to the entrance where you will find the gift shop and the Redwoods Restaurant. On the way, you can stop to admire the view across the rest of the well laid out lawns to the woodland areas.
The Circular Walk is a 1-hour route that takes in the sweeping lawns of Anglesey Abbey. The course misses out the Winter Gardens and Watermill. However, the walks are easily combined to make a 1-hour and 20-minute route. Simply do the Winter Garden walk first and continue on to the Circular walk from the house instead of heading back to the entrance.
Part 1 – Up to the House
For this walk, go straight on at the entrance and head towards the house. If you are interested in looking around the house, then now is the time to do so. While you are here, it is worth investigating the formal gardens around the house too.
Part 2 – The Temple Lawn
From the house, take a left and head down the attractive avenue of trees. This is an excellent space for a picnic with plenty of shady trees and space for the kids to stretch their legs and play games. Make sure you spot the lions and the first of many grand statues halfway down.
Part 3 – Coronation Avenue
Turn left at the end and stroll through spectacular woodland with Hoe Fen on your right. Halfway down this stretch if you look to your left, you will spot one of the best views at Anglesey Abbey, back up the hill towards the house. It’s even more special from the other end of Coronation Avenue. If you don’t have time to explore the children’s area in Hoe Fen, then this area is a good alternative for a spot of hide-and-seek.
Part 4 – Woodland Path
This section is what makes this route so interesting. Instead of heading back to the entrance the trail now winds through native woodland taking you back to the entrance. The path has secret diversions off the track. Only once do you notice you are walking a few metres from the road, as you pass a private gate.
This part of the walk also forms the final section of the Winter Walk.
Hoe Fen Trail
Hoe Fen is the furthest area from the house and the wildest spot at Anglesey Abbey. In contrast to the manicured gardens, this area is perfect for wildlife and children alike. The suggested walk should take no longer than 1-hour and 30-minutes but allow more time to explore with children. The Hoe Fen Trail is an additional loop to the Circular walk. It is more than possible to combine all three walks in one day.
Whether you go directly there or see the rest of the park first, there is no set route for walking around Hoe Fen. It is designed for adventures and exploring. Den building is actively encouraged, and there is wildlife to discover. Let your little ones go wild.
Activities and things to spot in the Hoe Fen Wildlife Area include:
- Wildlife discovery
- Den building
- Pond viewing
- Insect hotel
- Bird watching
- Woodland play
- Dream dome
- Log wall
- Woodland fort
- Sensory tunnel
National Trust Membership
If you live in the UK or are visiting for a few weeks and you enjoy roaming the outdoors and exploring stately homes, then it is worth looking into National Trust Membership. Membership gives you free entry to all properties in the UK as well as other benefits. As well as Anglesey Abbey, in the Cambridgeshire area, you will find Houghton Mill, Wimpole Hall and Wicken Fen Nature Reserve.
Avoiding the Crowds at Anglesey Abbey
As I have mentioned, unlike most other attractions, Anglesey Abbey is especially busy during snowdrop season which runs from mid-January to the end of February. If you are keen to see the snowdrops then here are a few tips:
- Avoid February half term at all costs.
- The gardens are open from 9.30 am and the earlier you arrive, the more peaceful they will be.
- If your only option is to visit at a weekend, then go on Saturday rather than Sunday. Saturday is this is the quieter day.
- Mid-week is by far the best time to go. If you live locally and have school-aged children, then consider going after school. The gardens are open until 4.30 pm.
Anglesey Abbey Winter Lights
Another option is to visit Anglesey Abbey at night. In November and December, they run a popular event, lighting up the winter gardens. They do a wonderful job and it is magical to walk around.