How to plan a one-day trip to Northampton
One of England’s largest towns, Northampton lies on the banks of the River Nene between London and Birmingham. It was largely destroyed by a devastating fire in 1675 and was rebuilt to become what the “Robinson Crusoe” writer, Daniel Defoe, described as “the handsomest and best-built town in all this part of England”. With its fine churches, cultural museums and picturesque green spaces, Northampton makes a worthy day trip.
If you’re thinking about visiting this attractive market town, this article highlights what you can see and do. It also includes useful information about reaching Northampton by public transport and getting around the town. If you prefer to stay a night or two, you’ll find plenty of accommodation online at rentola.co.uk. It’s a user-friendly resource for finding apartments, townhouses and country homes in Northampton and the surrounding East Midlands region. Thanks to the area’s convenient public transport system, you’re never more than a short bus or train ride from the area’s attractions.
Take a train from Weybridge Rail Station to visit Northampton
Things to do on a one-day visit to Northampton
Visit the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery
Boasting one of the world’s largest shoe collections, this fascinating museum was originally established in 1865 and moved to its current location 20 years later. It has been collecting footwear ever since, with more than 12,000 pairs now housed within the museum. You can get up close to shoes worn by the Ancient Egyptians and learn about the craft of shoemaking, then see how footwear fashions have changed throughout the centuries. Paintings depicting cobblers by 17th-century Dutch and Flemish masters are also on display.
Admire the Northampton Guildhall
Nearby is the Northampton Guildhall, a magnificent Gothic Revival building designed by Edward William Godwin. It was completed in 1864, complete with a clock crafted by J. Moore & Sons. A highlight of the interior is the Great Hall, which houses a statue of former prime minister Spencer Perceval and a mural of “The Muses Contemplating Northampton” by Henry Bird. Step into the courtyard to see a collection of bronze statues by the British sculptor Richard Austin.
Explore the grounds of Abington Park
To the northeast of Northampton’s centre is this historic estate, which has been transformed into a public park with tree-lined walkways, sparkling lakes and ornamental flower gardens. It features a playground where kids can let off some steam, as well as tennis courts and a sensory garden. Occupying a medieval manor house is the Abington Park Museum, which tells the property’s story from a private estate to a leafy Northampton suburb. In the Military Galleries, you can learn about the role of the Northamptonshire Regiment and the Northamptonshire Yeomanry in conflicts around the globe.
Relax in Becket’s Park
Hugging the banks of the River Nene, this picturesque green space was first developed as a park back in 1783. It was originally used as a county cricket ground known as Cow Meadow before its tree-lined walkways became a popular area for promenading. Becket’s Park now encompasses a children’s playground and tennis courts, plus a laid-back cafe serving drinks and snacks. On the northern edge of the park is the Charles Rennie Mackintosh House, an award-winning residence designed by the Scottish architect. After exploring the Art Deco-style interiors, you can dine at the boutique restaurant or pick up unique gifts in the design store.
Stroll through the Barnes Meadow Nature Reserve
A short stroll east of Becket’s Park is this designated nature reserve, which encompasses almost 30 hectares of meadow and wetland habitat and is arguably one of the top birdwatching destinations in Northamptonshire. You can explore along the Nene Way footpath, which hugs the banks of the River Nene and offers regular sightings of kingfishers and herons. Peregrine falcons can sometimes be spotted hunting in the skies above while the sheltered wetlands provide a habitat for dragonflies and damselflies.
Getting to and around Northampton
Northampton is around 1.5 hours’ drive from the centre of London and is connected via regular trains to the recently renovated Northampton railway station. Trains also travel from Birmingham to Northampton, with the journey taking roughly one hour.
The closest airport is London Luton Airport, which is just 45 minutes away. Buses travel from London Luton Airport to Milton Keynes, which has rail connections to Northampton.
Buses also travel from surrounding towns to the Northgate Station, from where you can connect to a local service or explore on foot. If you plan on using public transport multiple times during your stay, it might be worth investing in a Northampton Buzz Card. It allows unlimited travel on local bus services for a day or a week and can be purchased directly from the bus driver.
If most of your sightseeing is in the town centre, you’ll find Northampton to be an easily walkable destination.