Our top gardens for children
Gardens are great places for children to explore and let their imagination run wild. Playing hide and seek under giant rhubarb leaves, climbing trees, getting lost in mazes and making dens in natural play areas, are just some of the adventures to be had.
There are also hundreds of summer family events for you to enjoy, from drop in art and craft workshops to outdoor theatre and geocaching. Find out what’s on near you.
Here’s our pick of the best places to enjoy some family fun in our gardens.
Alongside acres of lawns, beautiful flower gardens and fabulous statuary you’ll find one of the best Wildlife Discovery Areas going. A story circle and cupboard, wildlife and art cabin, a dream dome for toddlers, double floored tree house as well as willow and stick woven tunnels. There’s lots of Land Art and a new Nature’s Wild Diner outdoor catering outlet opening this summer. A garden-full of fun for families and children of all ages.
Enjoy miniature train rides through the playground, try kite flying on the Oval and count how many times you can spot Bertie Brownlow the greyhound. There are i-Spy trails, geocaches and pop-up hides hidden in the garden. The Discovery Centre has free seasonal craft activities, materials you can explore the gardens and parklands with and discover more about Belton's stories. On rainy days, kids will love The Ride, an indoor adventure play area and café.
Get lost in the giant maze with its winding paths and high hedges made from over 1,000 yew trees. The Storybook Play Den’s turreted house and slide, famous characters and stepping stone trail will keep little ones happy, while adults can watch from the Doll’s House café. Find a picnic spot around the Water Garden and admire the famous formal gardens, flower power on a grand scale.
Discover the largest rock garden in Europe and explore Nelly's labyrinth, winding paths and tunnels cut out of a rhododendron forest, a great place to play hide-and-seek. Sit in the storyteller’s chair and discover Nelly’s den at the centre. Swing across monkey bars in the play area and fly down the spiral slide. Spot the UK’s tallest Scots pine, 40m (131 ft) tall and head on up to the Formal Garden to the wildlife hide where you might just spot a red squirrel.
Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through beautiful woodlands, passed majestic trees in the garden and discover the 18th-century waterfall known as the 'cup and saucer' in the park. Kids can let off steam in the Wolf’s Den with den building, a rope swing, balancing beams and more and explore the new Welly Wander trail in the Big Wood. Meet gentle giants Jerry and Claire, working horses who both like a good fuss when it's time for grooming. The stable yard is also home to a great collection of bicycles, carriages and cars.
The famous cherry laurel maze was planted by the Fox family to entertain their twelve children and has been captivating adults and kids alike for over 175 years. Play hide and seek among the giant rhubarb leaves in the jungle-like lower valley and take a spin on the Giant’s Stride swing. Not many places can boast a beach at the bottom of the garden but the beautiful hamlet of Durgan, with its mixture of sand, pebbles and rock pools to explore is all part of the experience. Watch birds and boats, skim stones and build sand-castles.
Children will love the kitchen garden with its colourful vegetables and flowers - look out for the wooden barn owls. Follow the secret, winding path to the hidden play area, Greys Fort, where you can climb the battlements, escape down the slide, make sandcastles and much more. Twenty fairy families live in the gardens, see if you can spot their little doors in the trees. Watch busy insects among the wildflowers by the apple orchard and follow the labyrinth path to the sundial at its centre.
Try out the new Woodland Play Trail designed by children for children, adults are welcome too and have fun in the park and gardens with ball games and hula hoops. Visit one of the largest herb gardens in Europe and look out for the unusual umbrella-shaped yew and Bess of Hardwick’s oak, thought to be over 400 years old. Spot the fairy tree, with its little blue door, hidden somewhere in the garden. In the parkland there are 21 sculptures to discover and den building and mud pie making every day.
A garden to fire the imagination. Discover strange, mythical and real animals cast in concrete on the Dodo Terrace. Lots of different garden areas to explore from brightly coloured summer borders to wonderful topiary characters. Find the Mairi Garden with its fountain sculpture of Lady Londonderry’s youngest daughter. Keep your eyes peeled for red squirrels and visit the Lookout, a wildlife interpretation centre.
The Messel family enjoyed playing in their garden and the tradition continues today. There are still teepees on the lawn in summer, a bamboo jungle to explore, fun topiary shapes to spot, a roundhouse to play in, den building and balance beams to try out, secret paths to discover and geocaching in the woods and garden. Not forgetting a fantastic collection of flowering plants and spectacular trees to admire.