Northamptonshire reveals a mosaic of quaint villages, expansive vistas and age-old landmarks beckoning to be discovered.
Though it may not shared the limelight that shines on some of the more popular UK tourist destinations, those in the know are well-aware of the top visitor attractions found throughout the county.
From the thrumming heartbeat of Northampton town to the serene trails of the Nene Valley, Northamptonshire offers a delightful blend of the old and the new, the tranquil and the lively.
Regardless of your reasons for visiting, be it on a history tour, a short-break or holiday, this county promises an array of experiences.
Read on for some of the most popular things to do in Northamptonshire.
Althorp Estate, Northampton
Althorp Estate has been the seat of the Spencer family for over half a millennium and is one of the most important Northamptonshire attractions.
This majestic estate is wonderful showcase of England’s storied and eventful past.
The house itself is an architectural masterpiece, seamlessly blending elements from the Tudor and Georgian eras.
Each brick and beam whispers tales of the many generations of Spencers who have called it home.
Within its walls, a treasure trove awaits: rooms adorned with exquisite furniture, priceless ceramics, and an enviable collection of European paintings.
Yet, Althorp’s significance transcends its physical beauty. It is intrinsically linked to the life of Lady Diana Spencer, the beloved Princess of Wales.
Her memory is lovingly preserved within the estate, with a serene memorial set by the Round Oval lake, where she rests in peace.
Silverstone Circuit, Silverstone
Amidst the rolling landscapes of Northamptonshire lies Silverstone Circuit, an emblematic cornerstone of motorsport and a testament to Britain’s racing pedigree.
Born from the remnants of a World War II airfield in the late 1940s, Silverstone quickly metamorphosed into a racing coliseum, setting benchmarks for speed and competition.
The track’s configuration, a meticulous interplay of long straights and demanding bends, offers a theatre of speed and strategy, challenging the prowess of every racer who graces its tarmac.
The crescendo of Silverstone’s racing calendar is undoubtedly the Formula 1 British Grand Prix.
This event, a magnet for motorsport aficionados, showcases the pinnacle of racing technology and human talent, drawing eyes from every corner of the globe.
Rockingham Castle, Corby
Rockingham Castle right up there when it comes to important Northamptonshire historical sites and is thus, a must-visit destination for anyone interested in British history and architecture.
This historic castle was built on the instruction of William the Conqueror in the 11th century and has been owned by the Saunders Watson family for over 450 years.
It features a stone keep, a large motte, and an outer bailey enclosed by a curtain wall.
Visitors can explore the castle and its beautiful gardens, which command splendid views over the surrounding countryside.
Rockingham has also been used as a filming location for various movies and TV shows, including “The Da Vinci Code” and “Poldark”.
78 Derngate, Northampton
In the heart of Northampton lies 78 Derngate, a distinctive gem of early 20th-century design.
This terraced house, unassuming from the outside, holds a unique place in British architectural history.
It is the only house in England designed by the renowned Scottish architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Commissioned by businessman Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke in 1916, Mackintosh transformed the property into a beacon of modernist design.
The interiors showcase his signature style: a harmonious blend of bold geometric patterns, innovative use of space, and meticulous attention to detail.
From the iconic black and white chequerboard hallway to the avant-garde furnishings, every element reflects Mackintosh’s visionary approach.
Another significant Northampton historical site that’s well-worth a visit for the entire family.
Canons Ashby, Daventry
This historic sixteenth century manor house offers visitors a journey through time, with its well-preserved interiors that vividly exhibit the tastes and traditions of the time.
Originally the home of the Dryden family, Canons Ashby boasts a rich tapestry of architectural styles, from its Tudor origins to later Jacobean and Georgian additions.
The house is surrounded by tranquil gardens, meticulously maintained to reflect the horticultural practices of the Elizabethan period.
Topiary, ornamental lakes, and formal gardens create a peaceful retreat, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the past.
The adjacent priory church, remnants of a medieval Augustinian priory, adds to the site’s historical allure.
Another worthy addition on our list of things to do in Northamptonshire.
Delapré Abbey, Northampton
Situated amidst the lush landscapes of Northampton, Delapré Abbey stands as a testament to England’s rich monastic and aristocratic history.
Founded as a Cluniac nunnery in the 12th century, the abbey has witnessed pivotal events, including the Battle of Northampton in 1460.
Over the centuries, Delapré evolved from a spiritual sanctuary to a grand family residence, reflecting the changing socio-cultural dynamics of the region.
Its architecture, a blend of medieval, Tudor, and Georgian styles, offers a visual journey through time.
The abbey’s gardens, with their intricate designs and diverse flora, complement its historical allure.
Today, as a public heritage site, Delapré Abbey invites visitors to explore its storied halls and verdant grounds, as well as learn about the events that shaped its legacy.
Stanwick Lakes, Stanwick
Stanwick Lakes, in the picturesque village of Stanwick, is a haven for nature enthusiasts, families, and history buffs alike.
This unique 750-acre countryside attraction, managed as part of the Rockingham Forest Trust, offers a mosaic of beautiful lakes, meadows, and wetlands.
Renowned for its biodiversity, the site is a magnet for birdwatchers, with a plethora of avian species making it their home.
Beyond its natural allure, Stanwick Lakes boasts traces of ancient human settlements, including Iron Age roundhouses and Roman artefacts, offering a glimpse into the region’s rich past.
With its extensive network of trails, adventure playgrounds, and visitor centre, Stanwick Lakes promises a blend of relaxation, recreation, and discovery.
As a result, it’s must-visit attraction for those seeking Northamptonshire countryside activities.
Lyveden New Bield, Oundle
Lyveden New Bield, situated near Oundle in Northamptonshire, stands as a poignant symbol of ambition and unfinished aspirations.
Commissioned by Sir Thomas Tresham in the late 16th century, this Elizabethan garden lodge remains incomplete, a testament to Tresham’s devout Catholic faith during a time of religious persecution.
The structure, with its intricate symbolism and unique design, is surrounded by moats and set within an expansive garden landscape, reflecting Renaissance ideals.
Today, managed by the National Trust, Lyveden offers visitors a serene escape, where history, nature, and the mysteries of an unfinished vision converge, making it a compelling destination for those seeking historical Northamptonshire attractions.
Billing Aquadrome, Northampton
Billing Aquadrome, set within 235 acres of Northampton’s picturesque countryside, is a premier leisure destination that perfect for Northamptonshire day trips.
This expansive park, centred around several scenic lakes, offers a plethora of activities catering to all ages.
From serene boating and fishing experiences to the thrill of watersports, there’s never a dull moment.
For land lovers, the park boasts well-equipped caravan sites, luxury lodges, and a range of amenities including restaurants, play areas, and entertainment venues.
Regular events, from music festivals to car shows, ensure that the Aquadrome remains vibrant throughout the year.
Coton Manor Garden, Northampton
Coton Manor Garden, situated just outside Northampton, is a captivating blend of horticultural artistry and natural splendour.
Spread over ten acres, this family-owned garden is a testament to decades of passion and dedication.
Visitors are greeted with a symphony of colours, textures, and fragrances as they wander through its diverse sections.
From the vibrant bluebell woods in spring to the serene water gardens, every corner offers a unique sensory experience.
The garden is also home to a variety of birds, with the flamingo-filled pond being a particular highlight as well as the resident parrot.
Beyond its natural beauty, Coton Manor Garden also boasts a renowned nursery, allowing gardening enthusiasts to take a piece of this paradise home.
Kelmarsh Hall and Gardens, Kelmarsh
Kelmarsh Hall and Gardens, located in the quaint village of Kelmarsh, Northamptonshire, stands as a testament to the elegance and sophistication of the Regency era.
This Grade I listed country house, built in the 1730s, showcases the architectural brilliance of James Gibbs, with interiors later influenced by Nancy Lancaster, the doyenne of English country house style.
The hall, with its beautifully preserved rooms, offers visitors a journey through time, revealing insights into the lives of its past inhabitants.
Each room, from the grand ballroom to the intimate chambers, is adorned with period-appropriate furnishings, art, and decor, reflecting the tastes and trends of bygone eras.
Complementing the hall’s grandeur are the magnificent gardens. Designed by Geoffrey Jellicoe, they blend formal and informal elements, comprising terraces, lakes, and woodland.
If you’re looking for memorable things to do in Northamptonshire, this majestic estate should be part of your itinerary.
Brixworth Country Park, Brixworth
Brixworth Country Park is a haven for nature enthusiasts and families seeking a day of relaxation and exploration. Spanning the scenic shores of Pitsford Water, the park offers a a wide array of activities.
Visitors can embark on leisurely walks along well-marked trails, soaking in panoramic views of the reservoir and the diverse habitats it supports.
Cyclists find solace in the dedicated bike paths, which meander through woodlands and meadows, providing a perfect blend of exercise and nature appreciation.
The park’s birdwatching spots are a delight for ornithologists, with the reservoir attracting a myriad of bird species throughout the year.
For families, Brixworth Country Park offers picnic areas, children’s playgrounds, and interactive sessions that educate young minds about local flora and fauna.
Rookery Open Farm, Towcester
Rookery Open Farm offers visitors a refreshing journey into the vibrant world of farming.
This expansive farmstead is a bustling hub of activity, teeming with a variety of animals including hens, sheep and pigs.
While traditional farm animals form the core of Rookery’s attractions, it’s the presence of more exotic inhabitants, like the graceful alpacas and the enchanting reindeer, that sets it apart from other farms.
For children, Rookery is a paradise of discovery. The farm has meticulously designed play zones, ensuring that the little ones can burn off energy while parents relax.
The hands-on petting areas are particularly popular, allowing children to touch, feed, and bond with some of the farm’s friendliest residents.
Castle Ashby Gardens, Castle Ashby
Castle Ashby Gardens, nestled within the historic estate of Castle Ashby House, stands as a beacon of horticultural excellence in Northamptonshire.
This botanical haven unfolds in a series of thematic sections, from the geometric precision of the Italian Garden to the tropical allure of the Orangery.
The expansive Arboretum boasts a global array of trees, while the Butterfly Garden is a riot of colour, alive with fluttering wings.
The Secret Garden, with its hidden pathways, offers a more organic experience, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in nature’s untamed beauty.
Ancient yew trees and serene water features further enhance the landscape, adding layers of history and tranquillity.
The Pinnacle Climbing Centre, Northampton
The Pinnacle Climbing Centre is perfec for novices and experts with a passion for climbing.
This modern facility offers a diverse spectrum of climbing experiences, ensuring that both novices and experts find challenges tailored to their skills.
Beginners can embark on their climbing journey under the watchful eyes of seasoned trainers, ensuring a foundation built on safety and technique.
For the more experienced, a myriad of complex routes await, each designed to emulate the thrill of natural rock faces.
Beyond the physical challenges, The Pinnacle is a hub for the climbing community, hosting events that encourage networking, skill-sharing, and friendly competition.
Irchester Country Park, Wellingborough
Irchester Country Park, located near Wellingborough in Northamptonshire, offers a serene escape into nature’s embrace.
Spanning a vast expanse, this park is a haven for both nature enthusiasts and families seeking a day of relaxation and exploration.
Formerly an ironstone quarry, the park now boasts lush woodlands, picturesque trails, and a rich array of local wildlife.
The park’s famed Jungle Parc Adventure offers treetop challenges for the adventurous, while the on-site Narrow Gauge Railway Museum pays homage to the area’s industrial past.
Play areas for children, well-maintained picnic spots, and a welcoming visitor centre enhance the overall experience.
Boughton House, Kettering
This stately mansion, often overshadowed by its continental counterparts, holds its own as Northamptonshire’s testament to the golden age of English aristocracy.
Initially serving as a humble monastery, the Montagu family’s vision transformed it in 1528, sculpting its evolution into the palatial wonder we see today.
Within its walls, visitors are treated to an exquisite array of art pieces, ornate furniture, and historic tapestries, each narrating tales of bygone eras.
The gardens, reminiscent of European elegance, are a harmonious blend of structured parterres, tranquil water bodies, and expansive green stretches.
Boughton House serves as a vibrant canvas of history, artistry, and nature’s splendour and is one of the finest historical attractions in Northamptonshire.
Sywell Aerodrome, Sywell
Established in 1928, this historic airfield originally facilitating leisure flying in its early days before serving as a pivotal training base during World War II.
Over the decades, Sywell has seamlessly blended its rich history with modern aviation needs.
Today, the aerodrome is a hub of activity, catering to both general aviation and corporate flights.
Its meticulously preserved Art Deco facilities, including the iconic Aviator Hotel, transport visitors back to the golden age of flying.
Sywell also boasts a renowned Flying Academy, nurturing the next generation of pilots with expert training and state-of-the-art equipment.
Annual events, like the Sywell Classic Pistons and Props, draw enthusiasts from across the country, celebrating the fusion of vintage aircraft, classic cars, and motor racing.
Sulgrave Manor, Sulgrave
Sulgrave Manor stands as a testament to the intertwined destinies of Britain and America.
This historic building, dating back to the 16th century, was the ancestral abode of the Washington lineage, directly linking it to George Washington, the inaugural President of the United States.
The manor’s design, a harmonious fusion of Tudor intricacies and Georgian elegance, narrates tales of architectural evolution and familial legacy.
Inside is a curated array of heirlooms, period furniture, and evocative portraits transports visitors to an era of ancestral prestige and societal grandeur.
Complementing the manor’s structural allure are its meticulously landscaped gardens, epitomizing quintessential English horticultural aesthetics.
Fermyn Woods Country Park, Brigstock
Set in the heart of Northamptonshire, near the village of Brigstock, Fermyn Woods Country Park caters is an idyllic sport for visitors looking for Northamptonshire countryside activities.
This expansive haven, with its lush woodlands and sun-dappled clearings, is a tapestry of nature’s finest offerings.
Ancient trees stand tall, their branches whispering tales of yesteryears, while the undergrowth teems with a myriad of flora, painting the ground in vibrant hues.
Wildlife enthusiasts find delight in the park’s diverse inhabitants, from the chirping birds overhead to the rustling creatures in the underbrush.
Meandering pathways beckon visitors to wander, each turn revealing a new facet of the park’s beauty.
For families, dedicated play zones and serene picnic spots provide the backdrop for cherished memories.
Wicksteed Park, Kettering
Wicksteed Park was founded by industrialist Charles Wicksteed in 1921 and was designed as a space for outdoor recreation.
It has since blossomed into a multifaceted attraction. Amidst its sprawling grounds, visitors are treated to an array of rides, from nostalgic fairground classics to contemporary adrenaline boosters.
The park’s centrepiece, a tranquil lake, offers a peaceful respite, inviting guests for leisurely boat rides or picnics by its banks.
Architectural aficionados can admire structures like the iconic pavilion, echoing the park’s storied past.
Seasonal events and live performances infuse Wicksteed Park with a constant buzz of activity, ensuring it offers a great Northamptonshire day out for families.
Northampton Museum and Art Gallery
Northampton Museum and Art Gallery showcases Northampton’s distinctive past, especially its pivotal role in the world of shoemaking.
With a vast collection of footwear, spanning various epochs and cultures, it beautifully encapsulates the art and evolution of shoe design, underscoring Northampton’s revered status in global shoemaking history.
The museum branches into broader narratives as well, intertwining the stories of the people, the events, and the innovations that have carved out Northampton’s legacy.
Wander through its halls, and you’ll be transported through time, from ancient eras to contemporary moments.
Adjacent to these historical displays is an art gallery pulsating with creativity.
These artworks, some by local talents, resonate with themes both universal and intimately tied to Northampton’s spirit.
Salcey Forest, Hartwell
Salcey Forest in Hartwell is a serene woodland haven that’s home to majestic oak, ash, and lime trees, some of which have stood tall for over 600 years.
Wending through the forest landscapes are well-marked trails, from leisurely walks to more strenuous hikes, all while soaking in the sights and sounds of nature.
One of Salcey’s most iconic attractions is the ‘Tree Top Way,’ a suspended walkway providing unparalleled views from a height of 15 meters above the woodland floor.
Alongside its natural beauty, the forest is a hub for activities, including horse riding, cycling, and bird watching.
As a haven for wildlife, Salcey is teeming with diverse species, from fluttering butterflies to elusive deer.
Harrington Aviation Museum, Harrington
The Harrington Aviation Museum is houses at the former RAF Harrington airfield and offers a poignant tribute to the aviators of World War II.
The museum is dedicated to the memory of the 801st/492nd Bombardment Group of the USAAF – visitors will find a great collection of artefacts, photographs, and personal accounts which transport you back in time to the perilous days of war.
One of its standout features is the Carpetbagger exhibit, detailing clandestine operations and the incredible sacrifices made by airmen.
Not just a place of remembrance, the museum educates visitors on the intricate dynamics of wartime aviation and the technological advancements of the era.
As one strolls through the exhibits, the museum offers a somber reflection on the costs of conflict and the indomitable human spirit that endures.
Official Northamptonshire Tourism Site