Calke Abbey – The ‘Unstately’ Stately Home

Calke Abbey has to be one of our favourite places to visit.  We’ve been National Trust Members for over a year now and I’d say we’ve probably visited Calke around 5 or 6 times at various times of the year.  You can easily spend a full day here exploring the house and grounds.  We feel that this National Trust property has a great family balance, giving both interest and intrigue for the adults along with lots of fun for the kids.  In the past, we’ve always assumed that National Trust properties would be ‘stuffy’ and not welcome families with excited (and occasionally crazy) kids, however this property couldn’t be further from that judgement.  The guides are all so friendly and make all guests – including the kids – feel more than welcome.

There’s various activities on throughout the year, inkeeping with the seasons.  A ‘What’s On’ guide can be found here.

What’s to see (grown ups)

I can’t find many photos of the inside of this house (will update this post with some next time we visit) – but its fascinating!  Whilst all other National trust properties have been caringly restored to their former glory – Calke Abbey simply hasn’t! As stated on the website – “Calke Abbey tells the story of the dramatic decline of a country house estate. The house and stables are little restored, with many abandoned areas vividly portraying a period in the 20th century when numerous country houses did not survive to tell their story”.

With the paintwork peeling away, rooms dark and carpets torn, Calke tells the story of the Harpur-Crewe family, an eccentric family who grew a massive collection of hidden treasures, whilst allowing the estate to fall slowly into decline. Every room shows the MASSIVE collection of stuffed animals and other fascinating artefacts, including a beautiful state bed which had lay unopened in crates since the 18th century, until the National Trust took over the property.

Mum and Dad score – 8 out of 10

What’s to see (kids)

Whilst parents are wandering around the house, the kids are given sheets with various items for them to look for in each room. If they manage to find all of the items, then they are given a sticker at the end.  The guides are always on hand to give sneaky clues if the kids (and their useless grown ups) are struggling!

One of the highlights for our kids was the brew tunnels underneath the house! Nothing better than dark tunnels for the kids to explore.

There’s also dark tunnels in the garden, a massive ice house and an unusual grotto.

Bobby and Isla’s score – 8 out of 10

The beautiful deer and other livestock are wandering around all year round too.  We especially love visiting during the spring when the lambs can be seen.

There’s always childrens activities in Squirts Stables too, whether its Christmas decoration making, dress up or colouring, it’s always worth a stop by

Food & Drink

This is where we feel National Trust properties really let themselves down – the cafe’s are SO expensive!  The café at Calke is the only place to eat/drink (including their outdoor barbecue) and the food really does look delicious, however we have always chosen to take our own pack up rather than pay the Trusts prices.

The prices

So lets finish with the price.  And being a National Trust site – it’s not cheap…!

The standard price for adults is £13.50 and children £6.95.  Alternatively a family ticket is £33.75.  As we’re National Trust Members (costs us around £9 per month), it’s totally free for us to enter both the house and gardens.  In reality, the price of our family visiting Calke 3 times as a non-member almost covers our National Trust membership fee for the whole year.

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