“ National Trust property located in the north of Cambridge. „
You might be surprised to learn that Anglesey Abbey is actually just outside Cambridge and not a Welsh Island as I believed so when my parents suggested a visit to the Abbey I was a bit miffed to begin with as I had no idea but they say you learn something everyday. I live fairly near to Cambridge and Anglesey Abbey in a National Trust property of which my parents are members so it was a perfect day out for all of us.
Anglesey Abbey is a country house which is located in the village of Lode, about 5 miles northeast of Cambridge, England. Like I've said above, the house and its grounds are owned by the National Trust and are open to the public as part of the Anglesey Abbey, Garden & Lode Mill property, although some parts remain the private home of the Fairhaven family. As my parents are members they got in free but my ticket was priced at £10.50, a little bit expensive I thought but then my dad paid so I didn't have to worry!! My little girl who is under 2 was free as well.
We went on a lovely sunny day this summer and I'm so glad we did as the gardens were the real highlight for me. There were so many different aspects to the gardens that you did not tire of just wandering around. There's a beautiful winter wonderland garden which although looks like lots of bare bushes has a wonderful rich colour to them and ones you can imagine covered in snow and sustainable through long cold winters. There was a really nice winding path through this garden which eventually led to the Lode Water Mill. The water mill dates from the 18th century. It was closed during our visit there but you can look around it and it actually sells flour in the shop that has been ground in the mill. There are also quite a lot of sculptures around the gardens, walled gardens and a beautiful rose garden which is my favourite flower.
A view around the house is definitely well worth a visit. We had a pushchair with us and had to leave it at the door but it was well looked after. The staff did provide us with a little infant carrier which I thought was a nice touch. What I liked about the house is that it was not too massive and over the top ostentatious like some National Trust properties are. I found the guides really knowledgeable in this house and they made the visit very enjoyable. There is a collection of old clocks in this house and one of them was a pineapple clock. Apparently, according to the guides, in olden days pineapple indicated wealth and so this clock had been a way of showing how well off the family were. At certain times during the day the clock goes off and does a little demonstration with the pineapple and the guides made a point of telling us when this was going to happen so we could see it. The property had a lot of bathrooms which I think was quite unusual for the time it was built and all of them were bigger than most of my top floor put together.
There was an indoor cafe opposite the shop which we stopped and had lunch in. Unfortunately we got there at the same time as a coach load of pensioners so it took forever to get served as it was a buffet style/line up restaurant but saying that the food was good, quiches/sandwiches etc and also some nice homemade cakes as well. The shop was fairly big and sells the usually Natural Trust products and is definitely worth a look around.
All in all this was a nice National Trust day out.
Anglesey Abbey is not, as the name might suggest, an Abbey, nor is it in Anglesey. It is, instead, a National Trust stately home and gardens located about five miles Northeast of Cambridge near the small villages of Lode and Stow-cum-Quy. Pre-Henry the eighth, there was a priory here, but the house obtained its current form due to the work of Lord Fairhaven, in the 1920s and 30s.
Depending on the time of year that you come, there are various attractions to see here, including extensive grounds of 46 hectares including gardens, lawns, the house, a second hand book shop, a gallery, and a working water mill. Unusually, the gardens are well worth a visit in the winter time, because one of the gardens here (called, appropriately enough, the winter garden) is actually full of evergreens and winter plants. Plus there is a restaurant, shop and garden centre to visit when you finish.
At this time of year, a walk around the winter gardens, then along the river and back past the house takes about half an hour or so at a gentle pace. If you have time for longer, at the far end, there is a new (since 2007) nature reserve that takes about an hour to walk to, from and around.
National trust members have free entry here, though you may need to get a paper ticket for the house if it's the busy season (I've rarely had to do this and I visit four or five times a year). Non-members pay £8.85 for adults/£4.45 for children for visiting the house and grounds (including mill), and £5.25 adults/ £2.60 for children for just the grounds alone (including mill). They also have discounts for families or if you arrive by bike, food or bus.
Opening times depend on the time of the year and what you are seeing, so check first before you go. In winter, the garden is open from 10.30-4.30 for most of the week, but the mill shuts an hour beforehand. Much of the grounds are roped off at this time of year to allow maintenance. Similarly, the house isn't open over winter either apart from one wing full of galleries. In summer, the house and grounds and mill are open later until 5, most days of the week.
Anglesey Abbey is locally famous for its snowdrops. During snowdrop season (in January and February), the winter garden is absolutely jam packed with snowdrops, of many varieties. I gather from their website that we are in the middle of snowdrop season right now (it hadn't started when I was there a couple of weeks ago), so in my opinion, this would be a good place to go visit this weekend, so long as you don't mind the rain.
In spite of the name, the winter garden is open all year around and generally has something interesting to look at - I don't really know any horticulture, so I just judge it on "do the flowers look nice". You go through here to get to the mill, and it's a pretty easy route and suitable for pushchairs. This garden seems to be most popular with photographers and with my friends with small children - going with either group means you spend hours going through this garden! The catkins on some of the trees make for particularly good pictures.
Lode Mill is a working water mill that I recommend that you go to for a tour or a wander round (this does involve ladders, so may be a bit tricky); though make sure to check the opening times beforehand, as it closes well before the rest of the grounds. You can actually buy milled oats and other grains here, and get a little recipe book for baking them into tasty cakes and bread.
Tip: I don't know if they do this every year, but when I went on a walk through footpaths around the Northern boundary of the property one summer, the back door to the mill was actually open to the neighbouring footpath, so you could buy the produce without having to go all the way around to the main entrance, paying to go in and then doubling back.
The property has various other formal gardens, ponds, hedgerows, avenues of trees, many of which are only accessible outside of winter. I'll tell you of my favourites, though these depend very much on the time of year and on my mood. In autumn, near the river, there is an avenue of trees that carpet the floor with crispy golden leaves. This is also a great place to sit and read a book on one of the benches in May as well, because you are shaded by the trees, but have great views of the gardens and river.
At the far end of the gardens from the entrance is the Temple Lawn. This is very formal and has some amazing rock sculptures in it, including stone lions and columns. Ideal for a summer picnic (unless you have hayfever)!
New in 2007 was the creation of a nature reserve called Hoe Fen Wildlife Discovery Area at the far end of the grounds, which has a number of educational sculptures and exhibits. There is a hide here so you can sit and look at the water life on one of the ponds, but I find that I can manage five minutes here tops before I'm keen to be off again - I'm not very patient at bird watching! I'll warn you though, this reserve is a bit of a twisty-turny maze and you may need to be careful keeping your bearing - we nearly ended up going twice round the reserve because we missed a turning! It's great for learning about the flat, marshy fenlands that Cambridge is on the edge of though.
As I've said before in a stately home review, once you've seen one stately home, you've pretty much seen them all. This building has a dark, almost medieval feel to it, with heavy carpeting, dark panelling and dim lighting to it. It always seemed like it must have been a very cold place to live, particularly in winter. There are lots of stairs here, and it isn't readily accessible to people with limited mobility. The former owner seems to have a bit of a thing for clocks.
The library here is worth a visit though, as is the dining hall, which in my opinion is the best bit - it has grand arched ceiling supported on columns and a large fireplace. Over the winter, one gallery wing is open, this year housing a large amount of silver on display. Other exhibits of riches are there the rest of the year - to be honest, that sort of opulence just isn't interesting to me, and I prefer to admire the sculptures outside.
Close to the house is a rose garden, which is particularly worth a visit during rose season in the summer. I'm afraid that I know little about roses myself, so I can't tell you all the botanical details about the dozen or so varieties of rose bush here, though they are all carefully labelled - I just go for the smells and the sight of all the large brightly coloured flowers. My favourites are the creeping roses that grow up the side of the building.
===Getting there and accessibility===
It is very straightforward to find Anglesey Abbey, because it is signed the whole way from the A14, the major road that goes past Cambridge. You take the Quy turning, exit number 35 from the A14, carry on through the village, go through a mile or so of countryside, then look for the turning to the car park just after you get to the lower speed limit.
NB: if you are coming from the West, be careful not to do what I did and take the previous turning from the A14, because junction 34 only has restricted access to the A14 and you can't get back on Eastbound!
The property has extensive car parking, including an area close to the entrance for people whose mobility is impaired or restricted. Mobility scooters round the grounds are available if you book in advance, but you can only take those round parts of the property, plus only a part of the house is accessible.
Apparently if you go by bus, you want to catch the number 10 Stagecoach bus, but I've never done this, so I'm not sure how reliable the service is.
As you can probably tell, this is one of my favourite places to go for a weekend walk, even in winter. I recommend it as being a good place for families, nature lovers, photographers, people who like stately homes and people just in need of something to do of a weekend.
Review may be cross-posted elsewhere.