To coincide with the release of Pete’s Dragon at the cinema, Hardwick Park are hosting a special Dragon Quest until Tuesday 30th August. The Quest sheets are only 50p and hunting round the grounds in search of the next clue is great fun. Be warned though, some of the questions are quite hard (luckily there’s good phone reception for having a crafty look online!).

Having never been to Hardwick Park before I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I didn’t know how big the place was, whether the kids would get bored etc. The parking was only £3 for the whole day and the park itself is free so even if it was just an hour or two in the fresh air I figured it would be worth it.

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried about the kids getting bored, or getting my money’s worth out of the parking. The place is immense. We followed the route on the map for the Dragon Quest but there were so many places we could have turned off and gone exploring elsewhere. You could probably go back tens of times and discover something new each time.

The whole park is stunning and as you walk around the view is constantly changing, so there are new things for the kids to look at and explore as you make your way round. One minute you are faced with a gothic tower on a hill …

… then you are walking along a river bank feeding the ducks.

After that the park opens up and you can see across a huge lake to a temple on a hill.

Bono Retiro ruins, halfway round the lake.

The Temple of Minerva

This is the view from the temple side of the lake, looking back towards Hardwick Hall, now a beautiful hotel. This is a great spot for a picnic and there was one family with a couple of older boys flying kites, they had M and L mesmerised.

The kids loved seeing the swan with her signets in tow.

But they got a little close for comfort in the end and we decided to move on.

All the way around the Park there are benches to stop and have a rest and each one bears a dedication, showing how many people love this place enough to want a permanent memorial here.

The route we took was a circular one, bringing us around the other side of the lake and then back into some woods where they also have a Gruffalo Trail. We did walk this trail but we hadn’t bought the booklet that goes with it and as we went around we noticed there were places to do rubbings so we will definitely be going back to do it properly.

The kids had a great time on this bridge. M was poking his head through the holes shouting ‘hello’ to L, but she didn’t quite get it and just thought it was fun to shout ‘hello’ through to the river and ducks and anyone within hearing distance. They were both in fits of giggles by the end.

We find this swan sheltering from the heat along the Gruffalo Trail.

We completed the Quest and answered all the questions but we still hadn’t found the Dragon. We had to ask them at the visitor centre. Turns out it is hidden in the trees behind the Gothic Tower we had walked past at the start!

It was lovely and shaded in the trees and the Tower looked even more beautiful from the other side.

Right by the visitor centre there are a few hills that are just begging to be rolled down. I was tempted to have a go myself!

After all that walking and running around you would think the kids would be worn out, but there is also a park on the other side of the visitor centre with sings and slides and obstacle courses, and no kid is ever too tired to go to the park! It was actually a really lovely way to round off the day.

My advice for anyone planning a visit would be:

  • Pack a picnic. There is a cafe on site which we thought would be fairly quite when we arrived at 11:30am but was actually heaving and took forever for our food to arrive (although it was delicious), and the kids really just wanted to get going.
  • Buy two bags of bird food from the visitor centre (they don’t like you to feed the ducks bread). We didn’t realise how big the place was or how many ducks, geese and swans there would be and had used up most of our before we got halfway.
  • Save the play park and the rolling down the hill till the end, it’s a good motivator to keep little legs moving when they start to tire.
  • Plan to spend a good chunk of the day there. I think we were there about 5 hours and we didn’t even explore everything!

All in all we had a really great day out and will definitely be going back. I think this may be my new favourite place for a cheap day out with the kids (along with Hamsterley Forest – read about that here).

Have you discovered anywhere new this summer?

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17 thoughts on “In Search of Dragons at Hardwick Park

  1. This looks lovely. Love the combination of ruins for mummy to take photos of and park with swans for kids. Great choice for a day out. Pen x #fartglitter
    Pen recently posted…How to stay sane when you can’t afford therapyMy Profile

    Posted on 25 August, 2016 at 8:38 am
    1. Thanks. It really is a stunning place x

      Posted on 25 August, 2016 at 8:42 am
  2. Sorry, I should have tagged #anythinggoes and #twinklytuesday rather than #fartglitter. Pen x
    Pen recently posted…How to stay sane when you can’t afford therapyMy Profile

    Posted on 25 August, 2016 at 8:40 am
  3. That place looks fab! Our kids need space at the moment and this looks great, they love hanging around castles and ruins so.. What am I waiting for? #bestandworst

    Posted on 25 August, 2016 at 9:53 am
    1. I can highly recommend this place, lots of space for them to run off some energy!

      Posted on 25 August, 2016 at 9:56 am
  4. This looks like alot of fun and you have captured some lovely shots. Thanks so much for linking up, hope you’ll stop by again! #bestandworst
    helen gandy recently posted…Best and Worst Linky #62My Profile

    Posted on 25 August, 2016 at 10:13 am
    1. Thanks, it was a great day. I’ll be back for sure, great linky x

      Posted on 25 August, 2016 at 10:49 am
  5. this sounds like my type of park 🙂 and having just googled it, it is miles from us 🙁 (Bristol area). three quid for the whole day parking is ideal too. you cant go wrong can you 🙂 sounds like you had a fab day! #whatevertheweather
    Emma recently posted…Six Lunchbox Tips – Variety is Key!My Profile

    Posted on 25 August, 2016 at 2:41 pm
    1. We really did. Yes, Bristol is maybe just a tad too far! x

      Posted on 25 August, 2016 at 3:55 pm
  6. This place sounds amazing! Lovely pics as well x

    Posted on 25 August, 2016 at 9:02 pm
    1. Thank you, we certainly loved it

      Posted on 25 August, 2016 at 10:04 pm
  7. Wow what a great place to explore, looks like your children had a lovely day out! The dragon looks fantastic, the quest is a brilliant idea, I only wish we lived closer as I know my girls would love it 🙂 #whatevertheweather

    Posted on 26 August, 2016 at 10:13 pm
    1. It really is, we can’t wait to go back and explore some more.

      Posted on 26 August, 2016 at 10:45 pm
  8. I don’t live too far from Hardwicke Park myself – I’ve not seen the dragon yet, but we have been on the Gruffalo trail. This is a great post, with great pictures. I’m pleased you got there on a sunny day too! I love Hamsterley forest too! Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes

    Posted on 28 August, 2016 at 5:13 pm
    1. Thanks, they’re such great places aren’t they? The dragon quest is only on till Tuesday I think if you’re wanting to see it, although I imagine they might keep the actual dragon a while longer. Let me know what you think if you do go x

      Posted on 28 August, 2016 at 7:12 pm
  9. Wow, what an amazing place!!! Those swans, ducks, and that dragon? Gorgeous!

    Posted on 31 August, 2016 at 12:09 am
    1. It really is, I was in awe all the way round

      Posted on 31 August, 2016 at 7:43 pm