I was told to visit Waddesdson Manor whilst chatting to one of my clients. I take suggestions from locals very seriously and after seeing Waddesdon for myself, I understood why it’s considered a bit of a “must-do” in the area (it’s located in Buckinghamshire, about a 45 minute drive from Banbury). Everything about the place is grand.
Waddesdon Manor is absolutely picturesque. It’s a stunning building set among plenty of woodland and pretty gardens. I had gone out the night before and slept in on the day of heading out to Waddesdon. Part of me thought about whether I should have postponed the trip for another day and that I wouldn’t be able to see everything in the short few hours I had. Luckily it’s very do-able and although I wish there were more tours available, I had a lovely time. I got a bit lost in the gardens as there is so much land, but most of the points of interest (rose gardens, the Aviary) are actually close and an easy walkable distance from the Manor.
The manor itself is entrenched with a rich history with its Rothschild owners playing host to royalty and holding influence in important political events. I’m not a history buff and there was a lot of it so it was hard for me to absorb it all, but if you have a love of history, embellished French-style furniture, wine or just would love to see how the rich live, Waddesdon is perfect.
Here are some tips to make the most out of your trip to Waddesdon Manor:
Keep in mind the house and gardens are both only open from Wednesday to Sunday. You can’t see the house without buying a pass into the gardens but you can see the gardens by themselves. If you’ve seen the house already, the gardens are a really nice place to chill out for a good few hours. Check the website for admission prices and opening and closing times.
Contrary to what I did, make sure to keep the day free especially if it’s pleasant weather. There are so many places around the gardens to have a picnic and really soak up the sun and scenery. I would highly recommend seeing the house earlier in the day and then spend the rest of the day taking your time exploring the Gardens. My biggest regret is that I spent so much time fitting everything in (seeing the Manor and most of the landmarks in the garden), I wish I laid out in the sun for a bit.
Buy a Waddesdon made baguette! It’s so tempting to dine-in at the restaurant located at the exit of the manor. But it’s easier on your pocket to head to the Stables and order from the kiosk. Although the kiosk deceivingly looks like it only serves coffee, scones and sausage rolls, there’s also a selection of baguettes which are made at Waddesdon.
Another idea for a lovely souvenir from your trip is to buy some of the handmade fudge which is also made at the Waddesdon. I bought some Waddesdon-branded chocolate too however that’s just chocolate made elsewhere and rebranded as Waddesdon. The chocolates are easily available online and they aren’t amazing quality. On the other hand, the fudge is delicious! The flavours are very distinct and don’t blend into one sugary mess. My favourite was the caramel and sea salt (cannot resist a salty sweet dessert!) and since you can’t get them easily, definitely indulge when you have the chance!
Download the app beforehand.
I cringed at the extra £3 fee for the tour guide handset so I didn’t indulge. I’m not exactly huge on history or architecture so it was enough for to walk around and think to myself about how ‘pretty’ things were, but if you want to know more background, the app is perfect and a little preparation beforehand will solve the issue of having to dish out any cash on the day.
I missed the sole 11.30am tour of the house, so this is a nice back-up plan or a way to see the house at your own pace. I happened to make the wine cellar talk which was definitely interesting and from what I understood from it, it helped give me a little bit more knowledge about Mouton and Lafite wine. There is an assumed knowledge that you already know a bit about wine and the industry however it might just be me, but I do love listening to a talk or going for a tour over reading bucketloads of information through leaflets available throughout the Manor. I wish they did more tours of the house, at least a morning and afternoon one! (For us latecomers..)
Pencil in the tours keeping in mind it’s a hassle to leave the house before seeing everything
There’s a fair bit to see at Waddesdon. There’s the Manor, the wine cellar, the Stables, the Powerhouse if you want to catch a rolling 20 minute film, the Aviary, Woodland Playgrounds and then various landmarks within the garden.
If I had to do it all over again, I would see the house first thing in the morning. This is because there is timed entry into the house. You can take as long as you like in the house but it’s a pain to leave the house for a tour (they let me out for the wine cellar tour which I didn’t realise was a separate building but it was a bit of a pain). So come early in the day, see the house, hopefully join in a tour there or download the app and then you have the rest of the day to enjoy the gardens or pop into the wine cellar for a tour.
Waddesdson Manor was a great experience. There were a few let downs, getting there late, getting lost in the gardens which I would usually see as a positive opportunity to explore but I didn’t have much time left to see everything I wanted to see plus there weren’t enough signs the further away you venture. I wish there were more tours, that the wine vaults weren’t closed and that both the tulips and the roses were in bloom (they weren’t). The rose garden looks a bit new or newly planted with not a single rose in sight. But despite its flaws, Waddesdon is still an example of grandeur.