So last year, we visited a place we’d been meaning to go for ages – The Forbidden Corner in Leyburn. It’s very popular and you have to pre-book. We’d heard lots of good things about it, so set a date to go up there and make a weekend of it. The only tickets we could get were for a 1 pm entry. We weren’t sure this would give us enough time in the park but decided to take it anyway as finding spare days to get anywhere seems to be more effort these days! Did we enjoy it? I think so. I’m still not sure what to make of it, to be honest.
The Forbidden Corner
The Forbidden Corner is a folly in the grounds of an old stately home near Leyburn in North Yorkshire. It’s up a very windy road, and because of the relatively difficult access, you can only go up there if you have pre-booked tickets for a specific time slot. You buy your tickets online in advance. You can, however, turn up early. There are grounds you can explore, picnic areas, and toilets without going through into the ticketed area. Parking is ample. Public transport could be quite difficult.
Our first impressions were good – we loved the whimsical signposts and the wizardly toilets.
The grounds were pretty cool, and there was a lot to see here, as well as have our picnic. Picnics are not allowed inside the main park area, but there is a cafe. We only had ice-creams once inside from the ice-cream kiosk. We went off to have a wander and eat our picnic while whittling down the time until our pre-booked 1 pm entry time.
We entered through the gift shop and though we did have to queue to get in, it wasn’t too long considering it was the Easter holidays at the time.
We were given a spotters’ checklist (but no map), and a brass rubbing sheet each. The twins loved the brass rubbing and were dedicated in their pursuit of finding and rubbing every single one. More on this later.
Obligatory pic with the almost world famous tree
Our first stop was to go through the mouth. The twins were absolutely horrified by the idea. There is a side gate if you prefer, so I went around with them, while the older children braved the burping mouth, emerging from what looks like a giant dragon anus.
And this situation pretty much summed up the rest of the trip – as fun and unusual as this day was, it was also on the tacky side and not to everyone’s taste.
Before our visit I expected something like a National Trust garden but with fun things thrown in. I thought it was more like a plastic theme park but with no rides, and too many crowds. The views from some parts of the park were spectacular, and the clientele, despite some particularly challenging parts accessibility wise, were friendly and cheerful. It was pleasant but with some unpleasant parts, and because of the lack of a map, wasn’t nice when it came to needing to find a loo or even make your way out. If the park is designed to disorient, then it is certainly doing its job.
Anyway, back to the day…..
Using your spotters’ checklist, you are encouraged to look for specific items, which really engages the children. Mine loved parts of the park, and were terrified by others (the Mausoleum springs to mind!), and were just plain confuddled by the rest.
We went up and down steps, through poorly-lit tunnels, around indoor pools (take care with young ones here). We got totally lost in the tunnels and ended up doing the same ones over and over, not really knowing where we were supposed to be going. There was a lot of people doing the same thing and it frequently led to everyone getting stuck going nowhere fast. Personal space seemed to be an optional extra.
We could see parts of the park we wanted to explore and had no clue how to get there. For some, this could be fun. I was beginning to lose the will to live.
There were lots of statues to look at. Some were fun. Some were beautiful. And others were just plain scary.
We really wanted to get to the water parts. We could see them, but it took a couple of attempts to find our way down there. The children loved being squirted with water and navigating the stepping stones – TOP TIP takes wellies and waterproofs. And spare changes of clothing. And waterproof cases for cameras. You WILL get wet.
We found some more parts of the park – another maze (this time out in the open air, which was much better), and some more statues, and some more brass to be rubbed. We were slowly ticking off the items on our checklist, though we had no clue if the ones we hadn’t found yet were still waiting to be found, or we’d missed them altogether. We found some loos and took advantage while we could as we had no clue where the next ones would be.
Eventually, we’d had enough and decided to work our way towards the exit. We had no idea where it was. We followed some people into a part of the park we hadn’t been before and just kept walking. This part was very pleasant – much greener and natural, and far fewer people.
At the end, we found some walled gardens which had froggy fountains which ‘danced’ to music at set times. Here, there was an ice-cream kiosk, so we partook in ice-cream and bench-sitting until the clock croaked and the frogs started up.
Once the frogs had piped down and our ice-creams had been eaten, there was one last loo stop, and then the exit. We managed one more pic (in the rain) with the tree before we escaped. And I did feel like it was a literal escape.
Had we seen everything? Who knows! Our checklist was unfinished, and despite the twins’ enthusiasm for the brass rubbing, their sheets were empty in places. But the girls had fun. Mostly. Not sure we’d go back, but I’m glad that we’ve been to see what it’s all about.
Visit time – 2 to 3 hours. Our fears that we would not have enough time were unjustified.
Top tips –
- If you are…..infirm, claustrophobic, anxious, nervous, or have accessibility issues, then you have been warned!
- Take waterproof everything and a change of clothes.
- There are water hazards all over the place, including in an underground grotto. Please take care with very young children.
- Food is not allowed inside the main park, and the restaurant looked busy. Best to take a picnic and eat in the grounds before you go in.
- You MUST pre-book, but if you turn up early you can play in the grounds for a while. You won’t be allowed in to the main park before your time slot because of the need to keep numbers reasonable
- Grab the loo when you can. I’m not even sure how many toilet facilities there are in there. I can remember two sets of loos, and one of these was literally one single toilet that then created a queue.
You can find out more information at http://www.theforbiddencorner.co.uk/
Need somewhere to stay? We highly recommend the YHA Grinton Lodge which is about a 20-minute drive – Our YHA Grinton Lodge review