Holidays In Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire
Prebendal Manor. Dating from the C13, this is part house, part museum and with gardens too.
Flag Fen. A Bronze Age site and dig. As a Northampton fan who always saw Peterborough supporters as throwbacks from a darker age, I wasn't surprised when they found this 3000 year old settlement. They probably played the offside trap as badly then too.
Oundle Museum is only open at weekends but occasionally has really good exhibitions. Why not park your car in the free carpark round the corner, pop in to see whatever exhibitions are on and then walk two or three hundred yards down West Street to the shops in the Market Square?
Stamford Museum. Stamford is well worth a visit. You will have seen it many times in movies and costume dramas.
Cromwell Museum. The dissolution of the monasteries put large chunks of land into the hands of a few local families who got a bit religious when threatened with a return of the old order. The mixture of piety and self interest is a potent one and these families were instrumental in financing and fighting the Civil War. Perhaps the best illustration of the ability to adapt is that the Cromwells were related to the Montagus of Hinchingbrook (and Kimbolton). Yet it was Montagu who went to Holland with Samuel Pepys (from Brampton, just outside Huntingdon) to offer Charles II the throne. We can be pretty flexible in these parts.
78, Derngate, Northampton. Stunning Rennie Mackintosh interiors commissioned by the Bassett Lowkes when their son married Miss Jones of Crocket and Jones (who, incidentally, still make the best shoes in the world not far from here. Cottons in Oundle can get them for you. They even got me some made from discontinued lines which is the sort of service you don't get in Saxones).
Abington Park Museum.
On a lovely day, visit Abington Park and remind yourself of something we all knew before we had town planners; that open spaces, preserved houses and trees are a huge amenity that make a town. It isn't highbrow but the museum is worth a visit and a Gallones icecream, which some say justifies a trip to Northampton on its own, can be bought from a nearby van whatever the weather.
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. When I was a student, I used to pop in and look at one picture at a time for five minutes on the way back to my rooms. It is as good now as I remember it then. Entrance is free but beware: you may catch that terribly expensive disease known as love of art for which penury is the only known cure.
Botanic Gardens, Cambridge. I have to confess that I never went but I am sure I was put off by Brideshead. I know it happened at another place and have absolutely nothing against men holding hands but it never seemed quite me when I was 21.
Kettles Yard, Cambridge. Combine it with a trip to the Fitzwilliam, taking in Kings College and Peterhouse to get the grand and intimate ends of the University spectrum and have one of the great days out.
National Stud. For those interested in racing, a day or evening at the races together with a visit to the National Stud is horse heaven.
Imperial War Museum, Duxford. An original Concorde, a stealth bomber, a B17, lots of other great planes all in a Norman Foster building more than justify the trip. On the way back, call in at the American Cemetery at Madingley to get the other half of the story. Thousands of American sons lie in perfect ranks; you won't leave with dry eyes.
The Shuttleworth Collection is in Old Warden Park, near Biggleswade and comprises planes and vehicles from the earliest days of flying and motoring. Starting with a 1909 Bleriot, the collection contains planes from both World Wars including a Sopwith Triplane and a Spitfire and Hurricane for the romantics among us. The cars start in the nineteenth century. There are numerous events during the year when parts of the collection can be seen in action. Consult their website for details.
There is something for everyone at the Park with a late Regency garden laid out in the then fashionable Swiss style, a bird of prey centre where you can even take part in flying an owl or hawk and, for the little ones, an excellent play area. Just off the A1, it will take about 45 minutes to get there. But you may find it a useful break in the journey home or when you arrive if you live in the South.
Sulgrave Manor. Originally the family home of George Washington.
Canal Museum, Stoke Bruerne. To be honest, I haven't been for years but it is a great little museum in a lovely spot with a good pub. What more do you want?