A Great Family Day Out at Hestercombe House and Gardens [AD]
We’ve been coming to Somerset a a family for years (half of my family originate from there), and we love the scenery, the seafood, and the friendly people! Since having children we love nothing more than finding somewhere to stay (we normally go for a cottage “home from home” affair) and exploring the delights of this glorious region. We often go on holiday as a three-generation team, staying alongside my parents, so our favourite days out are those that appeal to all three generations. When Hestercombe House and Gardens offered us a free day out including lunch we were so excited: as ever I hope to share with you our favourite things about this beautiful (and vast!) place, and the practical tips for anyone going with kids!
We drove to Hestercombe - there is an abundance of free parking (including an electric charging point). It was clear to us as soon as we arrived that there was a real mix of locals walking their dogs (there were a lot of very well-behaved, on the lead dogs), parents with pre-schoolers (you can go to the cafe independently of visiting the House and Gardens - I know if I was a local I would be here with the mini-POMs a lot getting my coffee and cake fix - more on that later), retired people, passionate gardeners and tourists like us on a day out!
The first thing you come to is a really sweet play-area: my two (aged nearly 5 and 3) loved this and spent a long time dashing about and making up games in the little “houses.”
This is also somewhere parents can watch the kids while they have a bite to eat from the fabulous cafe. It would be even better if they had another of these within the gardens themselves, although there is so much space for children to play and my two had a great sense of freedom throughout the day!
After a good play we decided it was time for lunch. We were so impressed by the fresh, seasonal and local food here (and the portion sizes were amazing!) Our kids decided to keep it simple and went for ham and jam sandwiches respectively (they don’t just eat foods that rhyme!), which came with a generous side of fruit, vegetable crudités and crisps.
The adults enjoyed pork belly, chicken, vegetable quiche (with the best pastry I have ever had) and beautiful seasonable veg - this was such a treat and we all loved it.
And now to the gardens themselves!
With over 50 acres to explore we can see ourselves coming back time and time again - around every corner there really is something new and exciting to look at. We started taking the Daisy Steps (you can see why) down to the formal house, which was closed on the day we visited, but which is turning into an Art Centre (and has different exhibitions through the year).
Through an archway and you reach the glorious Edwardian Formal Gardens. The foxgloves, blue delphiniums, phlox, ceanothus, giant alliums and roses were surrounded by herbs and lavenders creating such a warm and heady scent - so evocative. The kids loved jumping from side to side of the little stream, and the water fountains. My parents loved the planting schematic (as did I) and my husband loved the peace and quiet of it all, though it wasn’t the kind of peace and quiet where you felt that children should be “seen and not heard”!
At this point we rather rushed through the Octagon Summerhouse and The Terrace Walk, the Chinese Seat, the Valley of Cascades and Pope’s Urn, but my son loved the restored 17th century Water Mill with its Dynamo House and Mill Room.
The two ponds (Box and Pear) were a great place to imagine The Octonauts appearing (Cbeebies anyone!) and heralded the start of the wooded area. As I said earlier, around every corner there really was a new surprise, including the Gothic Alcove, the Witch House (again much more imagination being fired up here!) and the Temple Arbour.
By this time we were ready for yet more sustenance, so headed back to the cafe for delicious homemade cakes (the gluten-free chocolate brownie and the shortbread were particular favourites), and generous cappucinos, with a pot of lemon and ginger tea for Mum and raspberry and cranberry for my husband (always a surprise isn’t there!) Finally we enjoyed a mooch around the shop, which sells lots of local items from small businesses, toys and wellness products, as well as a small but really well-kept garden nursery.
We had a great day out, and would definitely come back. If you’re looking for somewhere where the kids can run free, you can be inspired by the beauty of nature and have a great cappucino this is the place for you. My only improvement would be an additional kids play area within the main garden area - otherwise this is a really excellent place to visit (and it’s so close off Junction 25 of the M5 it’s an amazing alternative to the Services!)
NEED TO KNOW (taken from the website - always check directly with Hestercombe as details may change).
Hestercombe is open all year round, except Christmas Day.
Summer: 10am – 6pm, last entry at 5pm
Hestercombe House: Gallery & Secondhand Book Shop
11am – 5pm
The Column Room Restaurant (Wed – Sun)
12 – 5pm (last seating 4.45pm)
The Stables Cafe
10am – 5.30pm
Gardens Shop & Plant Centre
10am – 5.30pm
FREE entry to the Stables Cafe, Gardens Shop, Plant Centre and under 7’s play area - all other prices as per website.
and they’re now doing an epic Brunch on weekends!