An autumn weekend in the Nene Valley

Come to the Nene Valley for a relaxing weekend exploring landscaped gardens and a watery wildlife haven – with some entertainment and retail therapy to round it off. We’ve put together an itinerary for a two-night autumnal getaway to give you some inspiration to plan your own escape to rural Northamptonshire…

Stay The Falcon Hotel, Castle Ashby

A coaching Inn built in 1594, The Falcon Hotel has been thoughtfully restored as a hotel, restaurant and retreat for those in need of rest and renewal. Discover ancient woodland, lakes, fields and meadows with a private nature walk on the Castle Ashby Estate ­– there’s even an opportunity to do some wild swimming too!

Each of the hotel’s bedrooms are individually and beautifully decorated – the cottage bedrooms are perfect for a cosy break for two, while the two-bedroom cottage is a woodland retreat perfect for family stays. There are three bars to choose from and the Eyas restaurant offers a delicious choice of dishes on its seasonal menu.

The Falcon Hotel’s Weekend Escape package, available on Friday and Saturday for two people, includes a two-night stay with a full breakfast each morning, with an option to add a three-course dinner for two people on one of the evenings.

To discover other hotels in the Nene Valley, head to

Visit Castle Ashby House Gardens

Enjoy a wander through these outstanding gardens and you’ll be taking a walk through history. Set in the heart of a 10,000-acre estate, the ancestral home of the 7th Marquess of Northampton, there are 35 acres of extensive gardens to explore. It’s a garden lover’s idea of heaven, with several styles to discover including the romantic Italian Gardens, a unique Orangery, Butterfly and secret gardens, and an impressive Arboretum and nature trail.

The landscape and avenues of trees around the impressive Elizabethan house (not open to the public) were originally designed by Capability Brown. The gardens, which are continually undergoing change and restoration, are open daily for all to enjoy.

Ideal for an autumn visit is the Arboretum, which dates back to the 1860s and features what is thought to be the UK’s largest Weeping Beech. Weaving through the trees and along the nature trail will give you the opportunity to spot all sorts of wildlife.

Away from the gardens, animal lovers will enjoy visiting the menagerie complete with pigs, rabbits, monkeys and meerkats, a miniature pony and a collection of birds.

And when it’s time for a break, head to the Walled Garden Tea Room for hot drinks and a bite to eat. Relax in the oak beamed indoor seating area or enjoy a spot of autumn sunshine on the attractive terrace. (Note, the tearoom is closed after November 1 until the spring.)

It is essential to book your tickets for Castle Ashby Gardens in advance via their website. The gardens are open from 10.30am to 4.30pm. Allow two to three hours for your visit.

Lunch If the tearoom is closed when you visit, head to the Rural Shopping Yard in the nearby village of Castle Ashby where you’ll find The Buttery, a traditional English Tearoom. Expect freshly prepared homemade lunches, cakes, paninis, sandwiches, jacket potatoes, soups, and more. Refreshed, why not have a wander around the neighbouring shops where you can find a variety of local crafts together with an artisan delicatessen.

Visit 78 Derngate

Head into Northampton to discover a unique terrace house remodelled by the renowned architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, famous for designing The Glasgow School of Art and the Willow Tea Rooms. The Charles Rennie Mackintosh House at 78 Derngate, Northampton has been meticulously restored with the original Mackintosh designed wallpapers and furniture, along with fascinating exhibits relating to the businessman who owned the house and commissioned its transformation into a stylish and innovative home. The museum is open to the public daily. Fancy afternoon tea? The adjacent Dining Room restaurant will be the icing on the cake of your visit!

Night out Royal & Derngate Theatre

Why not round off your day in the Nene Valley with a memorable night out at Royal & Derngate Theatre in Northampton, a top venue for arts and entertainment. There’s a diverse choice of drama, dance, stand-up comedy, classical music and opera.

Day 2

Visit Nene Wetlands Nature Reserve

Park up your car ready for a great day out combining the best that the natural world has to offer with some excellent retail therapy. This destination is perfect if you feel the need to stretch your legs and get some fresh air, discovering the natural world of the Nene Valley, with the option of a restaurant lunch and big name shopping close by.

Wrap up warmly and head along the boardwalk at Rushden Lakes to find The Wildlife Trust’s visitor centre and your welcome to the Nene Wetlands Nature Reserve, part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Here you’ll find a square mile of water, meadows, wet woodland and reed beds. It’s home to a vast number of wild species. Take a stroll on one of the numerous trails and you may be lucky enough to spot a kingfisher or an otter. The autumn and winter months are a great time to visit if you enjoy birdwatching as it’s a destination for thousands of interesting migratory birds. The Visitor Centre is open every day except Christmas Day, from 10am- 4pm*. For details of activities and events, head to

Lunch Whatever you fancy to eat and drink, you’ll find a good choice at Rushden Lakes, including stylish coffee shops, street food, and all sorts of well-loved restaurants too.

Visit Shops galore at Rushden Lakes

This the home of numerous big name brands, Rushden Lakes has an impressive A to Z of almost 50 stores including Accessorize, Barbour and Beaverbrooks, through to Fat Face, Frasers department store, Joules, L’Occitane, M&S, to Swarovski, and White Stuff to name a few. It’s the ideal one-stop location for your Christmas shopping.

Don’t miss the Made in Northamptonshire store which showcases the county’s food and drink producers including bakers, distillers, brewers and many more. It’s the ideal opportunity to take home some amazing produce that’s all been lovingly created here in the Nene Valley. Find it within the Recovery Through Enterprise hub at the West Terrace.

Relax Shopping list ticked off, how about spending the rest of the afternoon chilling in front a big screen, watching a film in the on-site Cineworld cinema ­– there are 14 screens to choose from!