You can take your pick from some wonderful days out in Kettering. They range from sublime stately homes with vast estates and exceptional collections right the way through to watching piglet races at a working farm. Read through our local guide and see how much you can tick off during your stay.
Activities in Kettering
Kettering is home to the second-oldest theme park in Britain. Wicksteed Park is a fantastic day out, especially if you’re visiting Kettering with kids. It began life as an open space for local families and was owned by Charles Wicksteed, an engineer whose factory in Kettering produced the original automatic gearbox, as well as power drills and wooden toys.
Following the First World War, piping was taken from Wicksteed’s factory and used to build swings in Wicksteed Park. Thus, the first commercial playground was born. Since then, Wicksteed Park has grown to become the largest free children’s playground in Europe and home to the oldest working ride in the UK, the Water Chute, which you’ll find in the Lakeside area along with rowing boats, the monorail and a marvellous population of swans, geese and peacocks.
The lake is one of four areas you’ll find in Wicksteed Park. As we mentioned earlier, the playground marks the entrance to the park and is free for anyone to enjoy. The fairground area is home to heaps of rides for young children. And last but not least, the Arena is where you’ll find the park’s largest rides and rollercoasters. There are different tickets depending on how much of Wicksteed Park you want to see. Pop down and take your pick; the theme park is just a 10-minute drive from our Kettering hotel.
For fans of all things creepy-crawly, Bugtopia is absolutely brilliant. It’s one of the smallest zoos you’ll ever visit. But great things can come in small sizes, as is the case with much of the zoo’s population of fascinating creatures. There are more than 75 species to see at Bugtopia, ranging from scorpions and spiders to frilled dragons, armadillos and meerkats. One of the great things about Bugtopia is that almost all of the animals it houses are rehomed. However, the thing we love most about Bugtopia is the hands-on nature of its ‘Meet & Greet’, when you can hold tarantulas, scorpions, millipedes and more. Bugtopia recently relocated away from Kettering to Rutland Water. It’s not quite as convenient a day out as it used to be. However, if you’re interested in bug life, it’s well worth the trip.
Arguably the very best thing to do in Kettering is pay a visit to the sublime Boughton House estate. Sadly, it’s only open to the public at select times of the year. However, we highly recommend coinciding a stay in Kettering with an opportunity to explore this most magnificent of stately homes.
Boughton House is revered for the fact that it survives relatively unchanged from the 17th century and boasts a quite exceptional collection of furniture, art, ceramics and textiles. To give you an idea of its brilliance, Boughton House has been nicknamed ‘The English Versailles’ due to the French-chateau styling of its exterior.
If you are fortunate enough to visit Boughton House, be sure to give yourself enough time to explore its extensive grounds. The estate spans a whopping 11,000 acres, so you’d have a hard job of seeing it all. The highlights include ‘The Grand Etang’ lake, which reflects the house’s frontage, the immaculate rose garden and the iconic Orpheus landform at the heart of the park.
Manor House Museum
If you want to find out more about the fascinating history of Kettering, make your way to the Manor House Museum on Sheep Street. It traces the town’s roots to the Roman times and does a great job of delving into the importance of the local shoe industry in the town’s historic growth. There’s also an ever-changing range of exhibits, which means there’s always something new to see at the Manor House Museum, and best of all, it’s absolutely free. So if you’re looking for a cheap way to kill an hour or two in Kettering town centre, it’s a good option to have.
West Lodge Rural Centre
Another top activity, if you’re visiting Kettering with a young family, is the West Lodge Rural Centre. It’s a working farm in the nearby town of Desborough. You can enjoy scenic walks through the Northamptonshire countryside, let the kids tire themselves out on the play areas or visit the petting zoo that’s home to pigs, sheep, cows and plenty more. You can bring along a picnic when the weather’s nice, or alternatively grab a meal in the family restaurant. It costs a few pennies more, but kids love the pony rides. Our top tip is to try and watch the piglet race; it’s a lot of fun. A word to the wise, Bodenham Arboretum is not free, and the price of tickets changes with the seasons of the year but at roughly a few pounds for adults it's worth it for a peaceful afternoon outdoors.
Rushton Triangular Lodge
The Rushton Triangular Lodge, architecturally, is well and truly one of a kind and worthy of a trip to nearby Rushton. It is a folly – a building made entirely for its aesthetics – that was designed and built by Sir Thomas Tresham following his 15-year imprisonment for refusing to become Protestant.
The building itself is a protest. Every aspect refers to Tresham’s unwavering belief in the Holy Trinity. Most obviously, it’s triangular; the building has three walls and three corners. Each wall is 33-feet long, each has three triangular windows and three gargoyles guard each. The building has three floors, and each facade is marked by a Latin inscription 33-characters long. The triptych features don’t end there, but you get the point.
The building and the life of Sir Thomas Tresham are both fascinating. English heritage does a good job of bringing them to life for anyone visiting the attraction. A word to the wise, admission isn’t free, but the fee is used to maintain this marvellous piece of history.