Bradgate Park is one of those places we visited often as kids and fills me full of nostalgia every time I visit. Located in the heart of the Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire, just 20 minutes from our family home, Bradgate Park makes for a great day out especially during the warmth of summer, although we often braved the cold and visited on Boxing Day as a family tradition.
The park itself is thought to date back to the 11th century where it was first mentioned as a deer park, covering around 850 acres of countryside in the Charnwood Forest. The vast open spaces made it ideal for hunting deer and the park was eventually enclosed with wooden fences and ditches in around the 12th-13th century. Today, the majority of the park is designed for deer to roam freely, although they tend to steer clear of the more traversed areas.
Throughout its history, Bradgate Park was acquired by several noble families and houses, the most famous of which was the Grey family who retained the park for around 500 years. The Grey family constructed Bradgate House as a private residence inside the park, whose construction was thought to be completed in the 1500s and whose ruins can still be seen today. Bradgate House was thought to be the home or at the least the birth place of Lady Jane Grey during the Grey family’s acquisition. The great grand-daughter of Henry VIII, Lady Jane Grey and was famously known as the ‘Nine Days Queen’ – quickly deposed of her rule and subsequently executed for treason in 1554 by the Roman Catholic Queen Mary.
Bradgate Park is a fine example of historic English countryside with vast open spaces covered in dense fern and bracken in the summer, surrounded by pockets of woodland, scrub, rocky hills and outcrops with the River Lin gently flowing through. Some of the twisted and eerie oak trees are thought to date back almost 500 years, although some have unfortunately suffered from recent fires and have been left blackened and charred. If you’re lucky enough, you may spot some of the park’s famous deer. Known for being shy creatures, the deer are often spotted in herds peacefully grazing away at a distance from the visiting crowds.
My last visit to Bradgate Park was in March of this year, just after the first round of snow from the ‘Beast from the East’. Desperate to get out of the house, we headed to Bradgate Park on a fine but brisk sunny day. Since we visited mid-week, we missed the usual crowds of visitors and enjoyed a tranquil stroll before the freezing winds took hold.
We decided to grab a spot of lunch in the surrounding village of Newtown Linford at a charming country pub aptly named The Bradgate. With its cosy decor and smoky open fires (not lit when we visited), The Bradgate creates a delightful atmosphere fitting with the history of the park and surrounding areas.
Luckily for me, their lunch menu consisted of an array of gluten-free options. Already on a break from my somewhat healthy Australian diet, I opted for a gluten-free chicken burger with a side of skinny fries and a glass of my favourite Riesling (why not). Dad opted for a classic beef burger which he was pretty impressed with – a good sign since he’s usually somewhat of a food critic! The gluten-free chicken burger was delicious and the bun held together for the most part. The crispy fries came in a generous portion and were the perfect accompaniment.
An avid fan of ale, Dad ordered a pint of Tiger Copper Ale which is brewed locally by Everards of Leicestershire (you learn something knew everyday!) Unfortunately the ale is not gluten-free, though perhaps they will add an option to their range soon.
The great thing about The Bradgate is it celebrates local produce, even listing where it sources some of its ingredients on a large display in the dining area. They have an open stone-baked pizza oven for fresh pizza cooked right before your eyes (and yes they do gluten-free pizza bases!) Continuing with the indulgent theme, we ordered desserts to share – one chocolate mousse cake and one chocolate chip ice-cream sundae (ensure you specify gluten-free when ordering). The chocolate chip sundae was to die for and although the mousse on the cake was creamy and delicious the base was a bit too nutty and bitter for my liking.
Overall, we had a splendid day out enjoying the very best the Leicestershire countryside has to offer.
If you’re planning on visiting Bradgate Park, be sure to check out opening times and park announcements here.
Happy reading! 🙂