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Exploring the estate at Calke Abbey

Visitors crossing the historic drive with their dogs in the Lime Avenue with longhorn cattle pictured in the background
Visitors exploring the Lime Avenue | © National Trust/Chris Lacey

A visit to Calke Abbey is a rare opportunity to explore acres of historic parkland, home to bats, birds, butterflies, and ancient trees that predate the house itself. Reconnect with the natural world on a walk in the park, or explore the estate on two wheels to take in this vast and ancient landscape.

Walk in the park

There are lots of ways to explore Calke's amazing and inspiring parkland, from short circular walks to longer hikes around the wider estate. Download the property map and follow the waymarked walks, or step off the beaten track to carve your own route through the estate.

Calke is a great place to walk with your dog, and we ask that dogs are kept on leads around livestock and in busy areas. Don't forget to bring plenty of poo bags, just in case!

Park guided walks

Park guided walks are unavailable until spring 2024.

Whether you're a seasoned walker at Calke or it's your first visit, a guided walk in the park is a great way to explore, and we guarantee you'll discover something you never knew about the estate.

Guided walks take place every Tues, Fri and Sat at 11am and 2pm, starting outside the Ticket Office. They're free and flexible, typically lasting around 90 minutes (although walks can be tailored to suit your needs).

Why not stop for a chat and see where we're heading off to on the next guided walk?

Cycling at Calke

Get wonderful views from your saddle as you explore the ancient parkland at Calke Abbey on a leisurely bike ride. The Tramway Trail, a circular, multi-use trail, is perfect for family bike rides – it's relatively flat and there are minimal road crossings.

The best place to park for a bike ride is at Calke Explore, where you can jump straight on the Tramway Trail. You'll find a map of the route here, and outside the Ticket Office.

Cycle hire at Calke Explore

Cycle hire is now closed until spring 2024.

From Saturday 4 March – Sunday 5 November, cycle hire will be available at Calke Explore every weekend, bank holiday and school holiday, from 10am to 4.30pm (last hire 2.30pm).

Prices: £8 per adult bike, £5 per child bike (under 18s), and £5 per trailer for 2 hours hire. Balance bikes are free of charge.

All bikes and trailers are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

A family cycling along a track on the Tramway Trail at Calke Abbey, with autumnal trees and fallen branches in the background
A family cycling the Tramway Trail at Calke Abbey | © National Trust Images/John Millar

Wildlife to spot on the estate

With over 600 acres of countryside, Calke Abbey is home to lots of wildlife that you can see all year round. Here are some highlights to look out for, many of which you’ll see in all seasons.

Lambing and livestock

Calke Abbey is home to a flock of rare-breed Portland sheep, as well as lots of livestock that you can see roaming around the estate in spring and summer.

In spring, visit the Walled Kitchen Garden to see the Portland lambs bouncing around in the long grass. This rare breed has lived on the estate since 1770, and if it weren’t for Calke’s flock, they might have become extinct. You can identify them by their tan-coloured faces.

In the rest of the estate, you’ll find more sheep owned and cared for by local farmers, and the long-horn cattle who roam the estate through the spring and summer.

Sadly, we’ve seen an increase in dogs worrying the sheep, which has resulted in livestock injuries and fatalities. Even the friendliest dogs can be unpredictable, so please keep them on leads at all times around livestock. Thank you.

Visit the Deer Park

A National Nature Reserve in itself, Calke’s 67-acre Deer Park is home to a herd of red and fallow deer. Red deer have distinctive red coats, while fallows are often speckled with white spots.

During May and June, the fallow fawns and red calves are born. You might spot them hiding among the bracken until they’re brave enough to explore.

Autumn sees the rise of rutting season, a time to witness spectacular behaviour among the stags, who can be seen sizing up their opponents and wallowing in mud baths. Listen out for bellowing roars and grunts, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot clashing antlers as the stags fight for dominance.

Image shows a close up of two red deer stags.
Red stags in the Deer Park | © National Trust/Gillian Day

Bird, butterflies and bees

With acres of woodlands, wetlands and open countryside, Calke is the perfect spot for a bit of birdwatching. There are two bird hides where you can watch birds at the feeders – you’ll find one at Calke Explore, and another in the main car park (next to the Deer Park).

Summer is the perfect time to look out for other winged creatures, such as bees, butterflies and beetles. The wildflower meadows and Pleasure Grounds are a great place to spot them, as well at the waterside at Calke Explore. You’ll also find a giant bug hotel there too.

Ancient trees and woodland

A third of the historic Calke Abbey Estate is recognised as a National Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest. This ancient wood pasture and its historic avenues are home to over 650 veteran trees, more than half of which are considered ancient.

The ‘Old Man of Calke’ is perhaps the most well-known ancient veteran tree. At an estimated 1,200 years old, he certainly earns his title. Follow the pink waymarked walk from the main car park to visit the Old Man.

Many of the trees in the park are thought to be over 400 years old, which means they'd have been over 100 years old during Shakespeare's time. These ancient trees are a mix of species, such as limes, field maples, ash, beech and chestnuts, as well as oak.

Deadwood is good wood

While exploring the parkland, you might notice branches that have fallen and been left on the ground, as well as entire fallen trees. This deadwood provides a valuable habitat and Calke’s parkland is one of Britain's best sites for deadwood invertebrates. Calke is home to over 200 types of beetle that rely on deadwood – such as the wasp beetle, which mimics wasps to avoid predation.

These trees are made for walking

Have you ever heard of a walking tree? There are several trees walking their way across the landscape at Calke Abbey.

You can spot walking trees where their branches have bowed low to the ground and taken root, forming a new tree from the old. As the old tree dies, the new trees continue to grow, slowly (very slowly) moving their way across the land.

A view of the west side of the house and  a glimpse of the Pleasure Grounds through trees on a sunny day at Calke Abbey

Discover more at Calke Abbey

Find out when Calke Abbey is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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