First signs of Spring at Kingston Lacy National Trust
One of the first National Trust properties I recall visiting as a child was Kingston Lacy in Dorset. I remember it being a special day and one that instilled a fascination in me for all things Egyptian. Recently I had a chance to return with the Tin Box girls on a road trip between seeing their grandparents in Hampshire and our home in Devon. It was here that we saw the first signs of Spring.
The history of Kingston Lacy
Kingston Lacy was once home to the renowned Egyptologist William John Bankes. In the early 1800s he acquired a 6.5m high obelisk from the Temple of Isis on the River Nile. It dates from about 150BC and was built on the Isle of Philae in the Nile in honour of King Ptolemy.
After being brought to the UK in 1821, the six tonne obelisk played an important role in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs. There are two faint inscriptions in the granite tower – one in hieroglyphs and another in ancient Greek. This helped historians translate the Egyptian on this obelisk and at numerous other sites.
Kingston Lacy is a treasure trove of Bankes’ other finds, many of which are still on display today.
Exploring the gardens at Kingston Lacy
Sadly much of the house was closed for the winter season when we visited at the end of January but we were able to burn off some mid-road trip energy in the gardens. This is where we saw the first signs of Spring.
But first, the lure of the obelisk was too much. After an obligatory trip to the National Trust cafe in the old stables we turned right to explore the grounds. There’s a T junction where you can either wander off into the wider estate, which is suitable for dog walking, or turn towards the house and the more formal gardens. As we’d already given Tin Box Dog a run before lunch we left her in the car for a nap while we sought out the famous obelisk.
We weaved through some boxed hedges and emerged in front of Kingston Lacy house. The needle-like structure of the Philae Obelisk stood about 100m away down a gravel walkway. The girls set off toward the alien looking monument, completely oblivious to its significance.
In more recent years the obelisk has given its name to the European Space Agency’s Philae lander that accompanied the Rosetta spacecraft to the 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko comet.
The first signs of Spring
After navigating our way around the ancient pedestal several times, with me reading as much of the 1820s explanatory inscriptions as I could (thank goodness I was also able to snap them with my iPhone camera), we decided to look at the fernery.
This is an informal garden with meandering paths. Under the yew trees we could see the first snowdrops peeking through the soil. Apparently there are 40 different types of fern in this garden and, in Spring, 40 varieties of snowdrop. The girls enjoyed toddling around the winding gravel walkways where they found child-sized benches built into the borders.
Things to do at Kingston Lacy with children
Our visit to Kingston Lacy was a flying one but, as with any National Trust property, there’s lots of things to do with children:
- The house reopened on 1 March, so budding historians will enjoy exploring the Bankes family home with all of its historic curiosities. It’s essential to book tickets for viewing the house in advance.
- In the garden, kids will love exploring the winding paths of the fernery and building dens.
- In the wider estate there are 72 miles of foot and cycle paths.
- Older children may like to go on one of the free guided walks of the estate’s many historical features including burial mounds, Medieval hunting lodges and an Iron Age hill fort.
- Visit in late April and May to see the bluebell woods in full bloom.
Are you a budding Egyptologist? Have you visited Kingston Lacy in Dorset?
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