25 Best Things to Do in Northampton

In the heart of England, nestled amidst the rolling hills lies Northampton – a market town steeped in history.

From historic landmarks to gorgeous parks, you’ll find a variety of Northampton attractions well-worth visiting.

To help you plan your visit, we’ve put together this guide to 25 things to do in Northampton.

1. Visit the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery

Northampton Museum and Art Gallery

Photo: northamptonmuseums.co.uk

Located in the heart of Northampton, the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery is a key cultural attraction.

This establishment features an impressive range of art collections and historical exhibits, including the largest assortment of historical footwear globally.

This footwear collection reflects Northampton’s significant history as a leader in the shoemaking industry.

As such, a visit to the museum offers insightful understanding into local history, art and industry trends.

2. Experience 78 Derngate

78 Derngate is the only house in England designed by the acclaimed Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

The property was transformed radically by Mackintosh in 1916 at the request of his client, W.J. Bassett-Lowke.

Today, it serves as a museum, capturing the essence of Mackintosh’s unique blend of Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts, and early Modernist influences.

Visitors can explore the distinctive interiors, marked by geometric patterns and meticulous detailing.

Alongside the house, 78 Derngate also features rotating exhibitions of modern and contemporary art in its gallery.

A visit to 78 Derngate offers a captivating glimpse into the architectural brilliance of Mackintosh – as far as Northampton cultural highlights go, this is one of the most noteworthy.

3. Visit Abington Park and Museum

As Northampton’s largest open space, Abington Park is a haven of tranquility and natural beauty.

Within its confines stands the 15th century manor, Abington Park Museum which features exhibits from the Northamptonshire Regiment and the Northamptonshire Yeomanry.

The manor itself, much of it comprising elegant Elizabethan oak panelling, offers a peek into the architectural finesse of bygone times.

The park, with its serene lakes, Victorian bandstand, and charming aviary, forms the perfect backdrop for this historical exploration, making it a must-visit destination for holiday-makers seeking Northampton activities.

4. Tour the Guildhall

One of the major Northampton landmarks, the Guildhall is a showcase of splendid Victorian Gothic architecture. This significant Northampton landmark serves both as an active municipal building and a historical attraction.

Visitors are treated to a visual feast of ornate stone and wood carvings, along with meticulously crafted stained glass windows.

The Guildhall remains a bustling centre of town activities, hosting council assemblies, public ceremonies and matrimonial events.

A tour of this grand building provides a fascinating glimpse into Northampton’s historical tapestry, underscored by the magnificence of Victorian architectural aesthetics.

5. See Delapré Abbey

Delapré Abbey

Photo: delapreabbey.org

Delapré Abbey is an illustrious historical and architectural treasure that’s ideal for those of you looking for important Northampton historic sites to visit.

Originally established as the Cluniac monastery of St. Mary de la Pré, it transitioned into a private residence following the dissolution of the monasteries under King Henry VIII.

Now meticulously restored, Delapré Abbey allows you to explore its captivating history and architectural beauty.

From wandering through its grand rooms filled with the whispers of centuries past, to strolling amidst the tranquil gardens and parklands that envelop the Abbey, you can be assured of an enriching and serene experience.

Delapré Abbey’s multifaceted history, combined with its captivating natural surroundings, make it a pivotal cultural and historical attraction in Northampton.

6. Take in a Show at Royal & Derngate

As Northampton’s key cultural hub, Royal & Derngate serves as the main venue for arts and entertainment in the town.

It comprises two distinctive theatres – the Royal, a splendid Victorian theatre and the Derngate, a contemporary and adaptable auditorium.

This cultural complex is the stage for a myriad of performances. Whether it’s drama, dance, music, comedy, or musical theatre, the venues cater to diverse artistic preferences.

Renowned for staging acclaimed productions from the West End to Broadway, Royal & Derngate fosters a vibrant cultural atmosphere in Northampton.

The institution’s commitment to promoting local, national, and international talent makes it an indispensable hub for artistic exploration.

If you’re wondering what to see in Northampton, then Royal & Derngate is a must-visit.

7. Explore Althorp Estate

A quintessential English country estate, Althorp is deeply steeped in history and tradition.

Home to the Spencer family for over 500 years and the childhood home of Diana, Princess of Wales, Althorp Estate offers an intimate look into British aristocratic life.

The majestic stately home, surrounded by 550 acres of verdant parkland, houses an exquisite collection of furniture, paintings, and ceramics.

A visit to Althorp Estate provides an opportunity to tour the stunning house and grounds, experience a wealth of history and pay tribute at the memorial of Princess Diana located on the grounds.

The annual Althorp Literary Festival held at the estate is also a significant cultural event attracting authors and book lovers from around the world.

If you’re looking for things to do in Northampton, then Althorp Estate comes highly-recommended.

8. See the the Canal Museum

Just outside Northampton, The Canal Museum offers insights into the history Britain’s canals.

Occupying an old corn mill, the museum showcases artefacts and displays chronicling the lives of people who lived and worked on the UK’s network of man-made waterways.

From traditional narrow-boats and canal side equipment to personal belongings of the boat people, the museum showcases the rich heritage of Britain’s canals.

A visit to the museum also allows you to explore the picturesque canal village of Stoke Bruerne, with its traditional pubs, charming cottages and beautiful canal side-walks.

9. Take in the Tranquility of Pitsford Water Park

Nestled on the outskirts of Northampton, Pitsford Water Park provides an idyllic escape into nature.

The park is built around the vast Pitsford Reservoir, a crucial source of potable water for the region, and a thriving habitat for wildlife.

Visitors to the park can engage in a range of outdoor activities, from leisurely walks or cycling trips along the seven-mile path that hugs the reservoir, to sailing and fishing adventures on the water.

Punctuating the natural beauty are mesmerising views of the reservoir and the surrounding landscapes.

Also on site is the Brixworth Country Park Visitor Centre providing informative displays about the park as well as refreshments.

10. Enjoy a Day Out at Billing Aquadrome

Billing Aquadrome

Photo: billingaquadrome.com

Billing Aquadrome is a premier leisure park located in the picturesque Nene Valley, close to Northampton.

This expansive park covers 235 acres and offers a variety of attractions and activities for all ages.

From a leisurely stroll around the park’s lakes and rivers to high-energy fun at the fairground, Billing Aquadrome has something for everyone.

The park is also populated by a collection of holiday properties and lodges which attracts both day-trippers and short break holiday-makers.

Whether you’re a fan of relaxed outdoor pursuits or prefer more adventurous activities, Billing Aquadrome offers a delightful experience.

11. Visit Northampton Cathedral

This Gothic Revival masterpiece, constructed in the 19th century, is a beacon of spirituality for the Catholic Diocese of Northampton, sitting on the remnants of an earlier, medieval church.

It boasts stunning stained glass installations and impressive arches, creating an atmosphere of tranquility and reverence.

As an active centre of worship, the cathedral invites visitors not only to participate in Mass but also to enjoy a quiet moment of reflection amidst its peaceful ambiance and the splendour of its architecture.

Northampton Cathedral continues to enhance the town’s rich cultural tapestry with its historical significance and spiritual resonance.

12. Pay a Visit to Museum of Leathercraft

The Museum of Leathercraft stands as an exceptional museum and educational space that’s consistently one of the most popular Northampton attractions.

Housing a collection that represents over 3,000 years of global history, the museum showcases a diverse range of artefacts – from ancient Egyptian sandals to modern designer purses.

Visitors are invited to delve into the comprehensive exhibits that detail the journey of leather production, its multifaceted applications, and its global cultural footprint.

The experience is further enriched by a program of workshops, lectures, and live demonstrations, making the Museum of Leathercraft a fascinating stop for enthusiasts of craftsmanship, design, history, or fashion.

13. Beckets Park

Set on the River Nene, Becket’s Park offers a tranquil oasis amidst Northampton’s urban landscape.

The park, bearing the name of the renowned Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, is a haven of leisure and recreation.

Features such as a well-appointed children’s play area, sports amenities, and ample open space for picnicking or casual walks, cater to a range of interests and ages.

The park’s historic bandstand often becomes a stage for live performances, infusing the park with a lively cultural energy.

Moreover, Becket’s Park serves as a welcoming portal to the River Nene and Northampton Marina, earning a spot in the hearts of boating enthusiasts.

This delightful urban park masterfully blends relaxation, recreational opportunities, and cultural experiences, creating an appealing destination for locals and visitors alike.

14. Go on a Shopping Spree at Weston Favell Shopping Centre

Located in the heart of Northampton, Weston Favell Shopping Centre is a popular retail destination, boasting over 65 stores spanning a variety of retail categories.

These include high-street fashion brands, boutiques and an assortment of eateries.

Additionally, the centre often hosts community events, creating a vibrant shopping environment.

Whether you’re on a shopping spree, catching up over a meal, or attending a community event, Weston Favell Shopping Centre provides a dynamic and enjoyable retail experience.

15. Visit Sywell Aviation Museum

Sywell Aviation Museum

Photo: sywellaviationmuseum.org.uk

Positioned on the grounds of Sywell Aerodrome, the Sywell Aviation Museum is a treasure trove of aviation history.

The museum offers a unique journey through Northamptonshire’s rich aviation past, presenting a collection of artefacts, memorabilia and exhibits that cover military and civilian aviation.

From local aeronautical endeavours to wider national and international events, the museum provides a compelling exploration of the impact of manned flight.

Complementing the indoor exhibits is a collection of aircraft and aviation equipment on outdoor display – a must-visit for history buffs and aviation enthusiasts alike.

16. Take a Ride on the Northampton and Lamport Railway

The Northampton & Lamport Railway is a heritage railway in Northamptonshire operated by a team of dedicated volunteers.

It runs on a part of the former Northampton to Market Harborough line, offering visitors the chance to travel through the beautiful Northamptonshire countryside in vintage steam and diesel trains.

The railway is a popular tourist attraction, offering regular weekend services, as well as a range of special events throughout the year, including Santa Specials during the Christmas season.

The Pitsford and Brampton station, where the trains depart from, also hosts a small museum and a gift shop, making a trip to the Northampton & Lamport Railway a nostalgic and fun day out for all ages.

17. Relax at Coton Manor Garden

Coton Manor Garden is a peaceful ten-acre garden that captivates with its harmonious combination of structure, colour and scent.

The garden unfolds in a series of distinct ‘rooms’, each with their unique character and style, ranging from formal lawns and rose gardens to wildflower meadows and woodland walks.

It also houses a renowned Bluebell Wood, a flamingo sanctuary, and an impressive nursery with a variety of plants for sale.

The historic manor, serving as a picturesque backdrop, completes this idyllic setting.

Whether you’re a gardening enthusiast or simply looking for a peaceful retreat, Coton Manor Garden offers a serene and enriching experience, brimming with horticultural inspiration.

18. Stroll Around Castle Ashby Gardens

Set within the expansive Castle Ashby Estate, the Castle Ashby Gardens are a horticultural spectacle spread across a generous 25 acres.

These gardens are divided into distinct areas, each with its unique theme and flair – from the meticulously designed Italian garden and the exotic Orangery to the diverse Arboretum and the enchanting Butterfly garden.

The gardens are also home to a small menagerie featuring charming animals like meerkats and marmosets, adding an extra touch of appeal for younger visitors.

The imposing Castle Ashby House serves as a historical backdrop, enhancing the beauty of the year-round floral displays.

The Castle Ashby Gardens offer an immersive experience in the artistry of horticulture and the soothing essence of nature.

As such, it’s a perfect destination for gardening aficionados, nature enthusiasts,or those in pursuit of serene surroundings.

19. Enjoy Rushden Lakes

Offering an exceptional fusion of retail therapy and natural beauty, Rushden Lakes stands as a unique destination within Northamptonshire’s picturesque Nene Valley.

Beyond being a conventional shopping centre, it flaunts a diverse range of stores from big-name brands to boutique retailers.

But the true charm lies in its location – nestled beside a tranquil lake and enveloped by a 200-acre nature reserve.

This allows visitors the rare opportunity to pair shopping sprees with wildlife spotting and scenic walks.

A wide array of eateries provide perfect spots for lakeside dining, and a state-of-the-art multiplex cinema entertains movie buffs.

At Rushden Lakes, whether it’s shopping, dining, appreciating nature, or catching a film, there’s an experience tailored for every taste.

20. Make a Splash at Nene Whitewater Centre

Nene Whitewater Centre

Photo: northamptonactive.com

The Nene Whitewater Centre offers thrill-seekers an exciting opportunity to experience the rush of white water rafting.

This unique facility uses a system of pumps to create artificial rapids on a circular course, allowing for a controlled yet authentic white water experience.

There are a number of programs to suit all skill levels, with kayaking and canoeing sessions also available.

The centre offers a variety of programs catering to different skill levels, from beginner to advanced.

In addition to rafting, the centre also offers kayaking and canoeing sessions, as well as team-building activities.

With a fully qualified team of instructors on hand to ensure safety, the Nene Whitewater Centre provides an adrenaline-filled adventure right in the heart of Northampton.

Visit the official tourism site, for more ideas about top visitor attractions and things to do in Northampton.

Dale Shelabarger

Dale is the owner and founder of Cottages to Rent which he launched back in 2005. As well as promoting holiday cottages, Dale blogs regularly about top UK holiday destinations, visitor attractions and places of historical interest.