By Rhiane Kirkby
Cliveden in Buckinghamshire has long been a popular choice for a family day out, but thanks to Meghan Markle’s recent visit, it’s likely to be even more so this summer.
But don’t let that put you off. At under an hour’s drive from London and with something for all the family—it’s a great place to go.
Every inch of the long sweeping drive into the estate was apparently hosed down before Meghan’s car departed for the church to make sure not a speck of dust landed on it. You won’t get the same treatment, of course, but you will find plenty of space to park, even on the busiest of days.
Turn right after the gift shop and you’ll find the yew tree maze. Made from over 1000 trees, it’s trickier than it looks; if your children are older, it’s a good place to take a quick break whilst they navigate their way to the centre. If you have to go too, there’s some rule about turning right all the time, or is that left? You’ll work it out—eventually.
Then there are the stepping stones across the Water Garden, a quick look for the heron and the Storybook Play Den—which is great for the under 8s. If the playground’s busy, to the right of the café there’s a wooden tractor and a train, perfect for pre-schoolers. And during the school holidays you often find activities here—such as (pretend) flower arranging or gardening (think plastic wheelbarrows, lawn mowers and trowels). For older children there’s a natural play area with stepping stones, balance beams and rope swings—and a den big enough for the whole family to hide in.
For lunch, the café next to the Storybook playground is a good spot. It’s small and there’s limited choice, but it does have the staples—coffee and ice cream. There’s never a shortage of picnic tables or grass if you prefer to take your own.
The other food option is a much bigger café and tea room right by the historic (and infamous) Cliveden House Hotel. From there you can explore the six-acre parterre, which stretches right down to the river Thames; take a boat trip; or do one of the walking trails, which are designed to be suitable for all ages. This summer there’s one specifically for children. The Summer of Colour trail will change every fortnight through the summer holidays and anyone taking part will be able to make something to take home.
Good news too if you have dogs—there’s currently (until the end of 2018) a trial going on so you can take your dogs into most areas of the estate. With 375 acres to explore—well, that’s not to be sniffed at!
Find all the information you need, including opening times, directions and prices here: nationaltrust.org.uk/cliveden.