Days out with the grandchildren – Burghley House, Garden of Surprises

Burghley House Situated conveniently just off the A1 outside Stamford, Burghley House offers a halfway point between our Yorkshire home and our three grandchildren in London: Daisy is 6, Freddie 2, Matilda 8.  You've got to hand it to the place, anyone confident enough to refer to a themed event as "beastly boring Burghley" has got faith in the product.

But let's deal with the mundane first for children are not necessarily going to warm to a stately Elizabethan mansion and gloriously maintained parkland. They will however be in raptures in the Garden of Surprises. Choose a sunny day, pack a towel, swimsuit and a pair of crocs (no bare feet!) for the kids, sit back and watch them revel in the very many water fountains. It comes at them from all directions. My granddaughter Matilda was keen that I accompany her through the “doorway”. Too keen by half. One of us got thoroughly soaked. I'm delighted to report it was Tilly who is of an age at which she enjoys getting drenched.

Freddie There's a quite spooky cave garden full of ferns and spray mist. An oak tree has a maze of mirrors. Some obelisks emit earth, wind, fire and water at the touch of a button – the fire effect being my favourite. These and much more are provided in an environment that is both joyous and tasteful. Go there as we did when the place is deserted and one is conscious of the classy symmetry of it all – a garden of wit and wonder, the planting superb, the construction crafted properly. We stood in one of the mini gardens surrounded by statues. Then they moved! All very 21st century outside one of the country's 16th century great houses.

On a warm summer's day the place can be packed by discerning families who know a good thing when it cascades down on them.

Grandchildren cannot exist on water alone, however, so lunch can be a picnic in the park whilst admiring the deer, or in the captivating sculpture garden, or let someone else take the strain and eat in one of the two cafés. The Orangery Restaurant is based in Capability Brown's original eighteenth century glasshouse though we dispense with the historical and eat whenever possible in the gardens where our youngest grandson, Freddie, spots the huge fish and throws his teddy into the centre of the pond.

Water Garden - Burghley House When Capability Brown was not building conservatories he was designing a glorious Park with lakes in an estate covering some 2000 acres. Plenty to do then but Daisy tells me she still likes the water best. This is a little hard on that remarkable 13 acre Sculpture Garden. But Daisy knows best.

If you have time left visit nearby Stamford, one of best preserved towns in the land. You can admire the stone buildings and work out how many films have been based here. The kids will have time to dry out.

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Ian Lumsden

Retired deputy headteacher & writer

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