A mere stone’s throw from Lake Windermere in the small picturesque town of Ambleside is Hayes Garden World, which you could be forgiven for driving past not giving it a second glance. Its façade isn’t particularly impressive, nor does it appear very big, but this is certainly not your average garden centre by a long way!
It has been around 20yrs since I last made the trip to South Lakes to visit and my memory of the place was pretty hazy at best. We decided to make the trip to take a look at their Christmas Shop having heard positive things from friend’s and really hoped that the nearly hour and a half car journey would be worth it.
Arriving mid-morning the car park was already filling up – we took this as a good sign! – So we quickly parked up and made our way inside to escape the rain (Welcome to Cumbria!). Inside we were greeted by a talking Post Box where children are able to post Letter’s to Santa – Leo loved this especially the funny eyes! We also discovered there was a kids Christmas themed treasure hunt in the store to do so we collected a sheet and set off on our way.
Very quickly we realised just how large the centre is, I would liken it to an animal’s warren with so many twists and turns with each one uncovering different surprises. At the end of the day we discovered there are two ways into the store and that we had entered via the one furthest away from the Christmas Shop which actually worked out really well as we could browse everything else saving the best till last.
The store has a massive toy section with plenty of toys that the kids can play with and try out – we got stuck here for quite a while playing with the large Big Jigs train set! It also has huge home ware, food, clothing and gift sections plus of course everything you could ever need for the garden.
The outdoor garden centre was very impressive despite it being winter and the scenery was spectacular with the centre being nestled below the fells. There is also a dedicated barbecue store – I NEVER knew how many different types of BBQ’s there are – plus an aquatics store where we spent a lone time looking at all the fish and crabs.
Finally however we reached the Christmas Shop and I literally thought I had died and gone to heaven! It is enormous and so beautifully done. The theme is Alice in Wonderland with characters to spot throughout the displays, our favourite was the Mad Hatter’s chair with a range of headwear to try on. There is also an enchanted forest section and many other displays including a Cumbrian display featuring highland cattle and sheep.
Their range of decorations and trees to buy are truly mind blowing, I haven’t seen anything like it and they are all displayed according to colour and theme making it so easy to co-ordinate your Christmas Décor.
Whilst inside the Christmas Shop we managed to find quite a few of our treasure hunt clues, however we still had a few more to find so ventured outside again and accidentally stumbled upon Santa’s Grotto and despite the fact that the big man wasn’t in residence on the day of our visit we did get to see his singing reindeer. Not only did they sing but they moved and blinked which really captivated Leo and he pushed the button (many) more times than we would have liked so he could carry on dancing!
We had originally thought that we wouldn’t be at Hayes for long but we ended up being there for hours and of course this meant that we needed some lunch. The onsite Café, Four Season’s Terrace Café, is on the second floor and has a wonderful outside terrace area which would be wonderful during the summer. Having a fussy four year old we are always wary of new places to eat in case they don’t cater for his tastes, but we needn’t have worried! Leo had the children’s chicken nuggets and chips and it was huge with obviously handmade ‘real’ chicken nuggets. We both had the Christmas dinner – when in Rome – and it was delicious with everything else on offer looking equally as mouth-watering, highly recommended.
We could have spent much longer browsing had we not had to get back home for the older girls after school. We will definitely be making a return visit in the future and think it would be great to see the centre at different times of year as I’m sure there is plenty to see regardless of season.
I hope you enjoy the photos (apologies for there being so many!) and that they give you a feel of just how magical their Christmas shop really is!
You can order online or find out more about Hayes Garden World by clicking here