Every time I go to Dyrham Park, I’m struck afresh by its beauty. The entrance to the estate, off the A46, is elevated above the house, so that at first you can’t really see much at all. Then, as you set out along the main path, the land falls away, giving you the most incredible views down into the valley and to the manor house itself.
The walk, though beautiful and not particularly long, is steep and I’m always grateful for the free shuttle bus when it’s time to head home, especially when I’m pushing my six-month-old twins in their double buggy. But it’s definitely worth walking on the way down, as there’s a good chance you’ll come face to face with some of the many fallow deer that roam free around the estate’s 270 acres of parkland.
Last time I was at Dyrham Park, a group of more than a dozen bucks were calmly chewing the grass and occasionally locking horns just a couple of meters from the path. We spent ages taking photos and just watching them, and they didn’t seem at all bothered by our presence.
Food, gifts and more at Dyrham Park
Once you reach the house, it’s easy to be tempted by the small but well-stocked shop – which sells a range of gifts, homeware items and plants – or the coffee shop, where you can enjoy anything from a slice of homemade cake and a cup of tea to a substantial and delicious lunch. But I always like to explore first, before indulging my stomach!
The garden is is full of pretty plants, meandering paths, picturesque ponds and attractive vistas – and it’s easy enough to push a buggy about (even my wide double one!).
There are free guided tours of the garden throughout the day, if you fancy learning more about the seasonal plants or the work that goes into the gardens, plus a charming perry pear orchard, full of wildflowers and bee hives.
My little ones aren’t quite old enough yet, but you can also enjoy the new Hollow Ways play area – complete with giant see-saw, balancing beams, bridges and stepping stones – as well as Nature Trails, perfect for ticking off challenges from The National Trust’s ’50 things to do before you’re 11¾’.
Step inside… and back in time
The house itself, which has been undergoing a £3.8 million conservation project since the beginning of 2015, has seen lots of new exhibits opened over the last year. These have included a fascinating sensory exhibition called ‘Mr Blathwayt’s apartment’, the ‘Building Dyrham’ exhibition and an area where you can find out about how the National Trust look after the house and its collections.
More recently, a new exhibition called The King & the Courtier: Dyrham’s Garden Revealed, reveals how the 17th-century Dutch water garden was created, including a video recreation showing how it would have looked. No doubt there will be plenty more to come, making it worth coming back to Dyrham again and again.
Whether you fancy a short wander in the sunshine, a longer ramble or a tour of a beautiful historic house, Dyrham Park offers something for everyone, and is a great day out for all the family.