Upton Country Park is a grand property on the outskirts of Poole. Its main focal point is the magnificent country house set on over 130 acres of parkland, but the surrounding landscape, with pretty shoreline and formal gardens is spectacular too.
Upton Country House
Upton Country House is a Grade II listed Georgian mansion built back in 1816. Today, it’s a popular venue for special occasions like wedding ceremonies and receptions, ideal for corporate away days, big events and conventions – and it’s also commonly requested as a filming location.
The house is open to the public on certain Sundays throughout the year, when tours are provided by The Friends of Upton Country Park. Look out for the fascinating Heritage Information Banners scattered around the grounds, which tell of the House’s 200 -year history.
Time for Tea
Upton Country House’s Tea Rooms are a popular venue for visitors throughout the day. Come and grab a coffee and a snack, warm up with a hearty panini or jacket potato or meet a friend for a naughty cream tea. If it’s baking hot outside you can bet there’s an ice cream in the freezer that will take your fancy!
Pop in and grab a table or take your refreshments out on to the terrace facing the walled garden or into the courtyard. You can also snap up a variety of gifts from here, like mugs, coasters, jams and tea towels as a memento or your day or thoughtful, local gift. If you’re visiting alone and fancy a bit of “me” time, you can grab a book from the community library here to enjoy while you rest. The tea rooms are open daily 9.30am – 4pm.
There’s also a convenient kiosk right behind the house for all types of refreshments. It’s open from midday every weekend and serves cooling treats and warming drinks for you to enjoy in the extensive grounds.
The Walled Garden and Splash Fountain
The beautiful botanical walled garden is a very attractive and welcoming space in all seasons. In spring and summer, it comes into bloom, with glorious colours set against the walls of this pretty quadrant. In the summer months, you can keep the kids entertained by letting them play in the splash fountain (open 11am-1pm and 2-4pm).
In autumn and winter the rainbow colours turn to vivid greenery while the walled garden’s cosy nooks make for welcoming hideaways if you want a sit down or you need a ready shelter from the elements. This is another vast space – ideal for safely exercising frisky dogs and lively children!
While the house itself only throws open its doors for open days and functions, the country park itself is open 7 days a week every day of the year. Admission is free, with parking a voluntary donation (compulsory from April 2017.) The front lawns are vast and green – ideal for enjoying a picnic or perhaps a spot of football, Frisbee or an impromptu game of hide and seek (stay off the flowers but there are plenty of trees to hide behind and cosy corners to tuck inside!)
The lawns and gardens are meticulously maintained and make for an enjoyable stroll or toddler-speed sprint depending on your company! At the end of the lawns you’ll find the shoreline overlooking Poole Harbour and home to an abundance of wildlife including dragonflies and greedy ducks. Take a stroll along the waterside, in and out of the woodlands and other terrain that Upton Country Park spoils you with.
The lawns just by the Education Centre give the kids some tempting timber frames to scramble up. You might notice the metal plaques – ideal for taking a rubbing if you’ve got a crayon and piece of paper handy. Keep them safe though, as you’ll be able to complete your collection along the Woodland Play Trail.
As you wander the grounds, you might notice the nature trail boards hidden around, each marked with an oak leaf. There are 12 to spot and each one features fascinating facts and questions which change seasonally – ideal for repeat visitors. If you fancy a spot of orienteering, pick up a map at the tea rooms or kiosk and follow the numbered posts set up by Wessex Orienteering.
Woodland Play Trail
If the sprawling lawns of Upton House aren’t expansive enough or you need to give the dog a proper run out, Upton Country Park has created a fun woodland play trail with plenty of activities for (big and little) kids to climb up, scramble across and swing over! The vast expanse of wooded area – Grove Wood – is fun even without these attractions – you’ll find logs for den-making, tree stumps for balancing across and soaring banks to scurry up and sprint down. If you keep your wits about you, this is another great spot for hide-and-seek too!
You could easily kill an hour marching through the woods, taking rubbings from the metal plaques on the play structures featuring woodpeckers, bats and more while enjoying nature’s unspoilt beauty. To make sure you find them all, you can get a map from The Kiosk or Tea Rooms.
The Gallery Upstairs
As the name suggests, the Gallery Upstairs, just above the tearooms, showcases paintings, sculptures and other artworks by visiting artists. Come and browse around, sit down and spend a few peaceful minutes or buy a picture as a memento of your visit. The gallery is open from 10.30am to 3.45pm and hosts a mixture of traditional and contemporary exhibitions throughout the year. Exhibitions change every 2-3 weeks so there’s always something new for you to see up here.
Even if you’ve just popped by with the dog for a quick run around the grounds, pulling up to the spectacular mansion and roaming the lawns makes you feel incredibly grand. So just imagine how special your wedding day or family celebration would feel if you spent it here. There are a variety of venue hire options to shape your own special event – perhaps an anniversary, children’s birthday or corporate team building day – whether you want it set in the magnificent main house, the pretty walled garden or the on-site education facility.
You can have your civil wedding ceremony or grand wedding breakfast in the Drawing Room and adjoining Library, which holds a maximum of 70 guests. For a more intimate celebration, the study can accommodate up to 40 people. The Walled Garden can fit a marquee for a drinks reception or sit-down wedding breakfast. Upton Country Park’s wedding team will work with you to help plan the perfect day.
There are five ground floor rooms you can access for your celebration or ceremony. The house can hold up to 150 people for an evening celebration complete with band, DJ, casino, photo booth and more.
Wedding ceremonies can be accommodated on any day of the week depending on the availability of the House and the Registrars and the in-house caterers can devise a menu to impress – whether you’re after a full three courses or a divine cream tea.
You’re welcome to use the grand entrance hall and the House’s extensive parkland and gardens, the Walled Garden or shoreline overlooking Poole Harbour as stunning backdrops for your wedding photos.
All rooms can be booked out for corporate away days and meetings, fully catered, and kitted out with everything from whiteboards and projectors to team-building games!
Despite the vast lawns, slopes and wooded areas, Upton Country Park is more than able to accommodate guests with disabilities. Around the park there is a network of hard surfaced footpaths which are wheelchair friendly. While the kissing gates around the estate are a pretty feature, at first glance you could fear an access problem – but they’re all accessible too with a RADAR key.
Accessible toilets are located in the car park and by the Tea Rooms (RADAR key) and access to The Cabin and Upton House itself includes entrance/exit ramps and toilet facilities.
Explore on two wheels
Upton Country Park boasts mile-upon-mile of cycle and walking paths mapped up so you can enjoy the property’s extensive grounds and beyond using your preferred mode of transport. The Castleman Trailway crosses the Park, so whether you’re cycling along it or exercising your dog on the 100 acres of land there are many ways to stay active. If you’re feeling a little daring or want to book something new, why not sign up to a Segway Tour? A fully qualified Dorset Segways instructor will help you master this unique mode of transport before taking you on a guided tour of the attractions amenities, wildlife and plants.
There’s even a dog training area – an ideal secure space for your new puppy or to give your four-legged friend some time off the lead with peace of mind they can’t go far!
Taken inspiration from the Walled Garden and want to work on your green fingers? Pop in to Upton’s Plant Centre, open 12-4pm Tuesday to Sundays from Easter and through the summer, to source plants for your own patch of land.
While Upton Country Park is an undoubtedly great day for all ages, its bespoke classroom facility, The Cabin, is the ideal venue for more formal learning activities and lessons. Upton House can provide resources for environmental education and, in association with Poole Museum, runs outdoor learning and historically themed workshops linked with the National Curriculum.