Visiting Rufford Abbey Park During The Covid-19 Pandemic

image title reads 'days out visiting rufford abbey country park, ollerton, nottinghamshire, NG229DF,'. Image to the right is of the woodland, pram and disabled friendly pathway and the large lake with ducks and geese that is in the centre of the park.

Rufford Abbey is one of my favourite places in existence. I've been a regular visitor for the last 10 years and even have old camcorder footage of me there with my grandparents when I was just a toddler. We love it so much it is our wedding destination of choice when the coronavirus allows us to resume our wedding plans. It's a place firmly etched into my heart but like everywhere it's undergone some changes recently.

Do I Need To Book In Advance To Visit Rufford Abbey Park

Firstly I think it's important to establish that there are two areas to Rufford Abbey park, the Abbey Ruins themselves which are NOT open to visit and the country park surrounding the ruins which is open to visit. 

The ruins are run by English Heritage but the park grounds are separate and managed by Parkwood Outdoors, thus English Heritage members must always pay the parking fees. Parking is currently £4 for all day. You can purchase Rufford Abbey annual parking passes for a very reasonable £40 and they are available to purchase on site and also online. We've had one since the beginning of the year and have already saved money despite the park closure during lockdown. 

Whether you need to book in advance was a little confusing. We tried to go to Rufford Abbey Park but were told it was pre-paid parking only. We were unsure whether that included those with passes or not  but as the people we were visiting with didn't have passes anyway we decided to go to Thoresby Park instead.

When we visited by ourselves there was no signage indicating pre-paid only, just that it was card payment and that you could pay for parking at the Mill Tea Shop, Coach House Cafe, Gift Shop and Ice Cream Parlour, although on a subsequent visit the staff had handheld card machines so you can now pay for parking via card on entry to the car park.

Looking on the website there is an option to pre-book parking but it also states that you are able to pay on the day as well. The park will close to visitors if it gets too busy so my advice would be to pre-book to ensure you get to visit. 

What To Expect When You Arrive At Rufford Abbey Park

When you first arrive you are directed to a parking spot. Cars are directed to park next to each other. We left enough space to allow for social distancing but were asked to park closer. This wouldn't be an issue but all cars were being directed to the same area so people were exiting their cars all at the same time. It was easily handled by being polite and waiting for those around you to leave but I personally found it a little illogical to direct cars all to one area. I actually think it would have been better to not have anyone directing cars so people could park away from others if they wanted to do so. 

How Well Can You Adhere To Social Distancing At Rufford Abbey Park?

This depends on the area you are in. The main courtyard areas are usually very busy but there are clear directions on which way to go and the areas in which to queue are sectioned off with cheerful bunting and have floor markers for standing on. The narrow archways have been divided into two to allow for designated two way traffic. It's all been done in a very pretty and non-intimidating way. 

On one of our visits there was a vintage carousel in the courtyard. The staff member running the ride was very friendly and was very good at ensuring a Covid compliant experience. Money was placed in a fishing net to avoid hand to hand contact, there was hand sanitiser at the ride entrance and everyone was encouraged to use it and the ride was immediately wiped down once the children had exited. 

Visiting Rufford Abbey Park During The Covid-19 Pandemic Katrina Over 30s UK blogger talking about parenting, autism, mental health, books and coeliac disease.

The area beyond the main courtyard opens up to the orangery, the herb gardens, maze and a walkway with sculptures. This area wasn't very busy and it was easy to walk without encountering others. Some of the usual gateways were locked to control the traffic. Usually there is access to the children's play park via this route but it has (understandably) been blocked off, however there is no way of knowing this until you get there. A little sign saying something like 'access to the play ground via the main entrance only' would be very helpful especially as we saw at least five other families do the same as us and have to do a u-turn, a minor inconvenience for us adults but an earth shattering disaster to an excited toddler with tired legs!

The large open fields around the abbey ruins were the busiest we've ever seen them- in 10 years of visiting! Although busy there was ample space for social distancing, people were respectful and we saw a few grounds people pottering around that were very friendly.

Visiting Rufford Abbey Park During The Covid-19 Pandemic Katrina Over 30s UK blogger talking about parenting, autism, mental health, books and coeliac disease.

As you approach the circular walk around the lake there is supposed to be a one way system in place. If you approach from the smaller car park near the fjord then it's clearly signposted that there's a one way system in place. If you enter from the field area then it's unclear which way you are supposed to go. Fortunately we chose the right way but there were people that went the opposite way which is fine for the majority of the walk but when it comes to the long, narrow bridge it causes a problem. A big sign pointing the way around the lake from the fields would solve this problem. I suspect that there has been a sign at some point but it has been accidentally damaged or removed.

Visiting Rufford Abbey Park During The Covid-19 Pandemic Katrina Over 30s UK blogger talking about parenting, autism, mental health, books and coeliac disease.

Overall the designated walkways around the park are wide enough to allow for ample social distancing and even though the park was at it's busiest it was still enjoyable to visit and I felt safe walking around. 

Social distancing in relation to the play park, the food areas and the toilets are covered in the section below.

What Facilities Are Available At Rufford Abbey Park

You'll be pleased to know that there are two sets of toilet facilities open at the park. One in the main entrance near the ruins and one near the fjord. We used the ones at the fjord but saw that the main entrance ones had excellent signage. There would be a small issue if you need to queue as the toilets are situated in a narrow archway but it didn't appear to be an issue on the day we visited as there was no queue. 

The toilets near the fjord were excellently managed. The toilet area is quite small so I was pleased to see a member of staff outside directing people. There is a designated area to queue and two metre markers clearly placed on the floor, the person behind me did choose to ignore these though and stood directly behind me which was a bit annoying. On our first visit you weren't required to wear a mask to use the toilet but I was pleased to see that a lot of people did, myself included. Now masks are mandatory in all indoor spaces you will be required to wear a mask to use the facilities. These are available to purchase in the cafe area. Toilets were clean and sinks are available for hand washing and also hand sanitizer on the table as you exit. 

Visiting Rufford Abbey Park During The Covid-19 Pandemic Katrina Over 30s UK blogger talking about parenting, autism, mental health, books and coeliac disease.

We love the food at Rufford. We've enjoyed meals at both The Pizza Shed and at The Coach House Cafe . I was ecstatic to see that The Pizza Shed do gluten free pizza! All the food outlets were open, offering take away food and drinks. There was plenty of seating available outside all the food outlets and tables were clean, and a majority have umbrellas for shade and rain- we are in England after all!

Visiting Rufford Abbey Park During The Covid-19 Pandemic Katrina Over 30s UK blogger talking about parenting, autism, mental health, books and coeliac disease.

The play park at Rufford Abbey is open but if it becomes too crowded they close the gates and only let people enter when the crowds die down. Social distancing on a play park is always going to be difficult, children love to play together and make friends so in that regard it is the parents responsibility to ensure as little contact as possible. Rufford Abbey advise that only one adult accompany their child if required which worked in my favour as I got to sit back, relax and read my book! 

Visiting Rufford Abbey Park During The Covid- 19 Pandemic

There are plenty of picnic tables surrounding the area and ample grassy areas to sit. Once we found the only currently available entrance to the play park I was pleased to see a hand sanitizer station and even more happy to see everyone that entered using it. Rufford had implemented an exit only route to avoid people crossing paths too much which worked well. I didn't notice if there was sanitizer at the exit as we used our own but there was sanitizer available at the food kiosk situated in the play park.

My Thoughts On Visiting Rufford Abbey Country Park 

During The Covid-19 Pandemic.

Rufford Abbey Park was one of the first destinations to re-open in our area and they've managed to do so in a calm and organised way. The changes to the park have been important but it's managed to maintain a sense of freedom whilst ensuring visitor safety. I maybe biased because I love the place so much but I felt safe there, I think the park have done all they possibly can to ensure a safe visit. The staff were so friendly, the majority of other visitors were careful and respectful of the rules and I can't wait to go back and tuck into a delicious gluten free pizza! 

 Thanks For Reading 

Katrina Fox UK based parenting blogger. Writing about Coeliac / celiac disease, Aspergers Syndrome and Autism, Pregnancy, Parenting and both Childrens and Adults Books


  1. This place looks lovely. I hope you manage to have your wedding there eventually. #KCACOLS

  2. This post is really helpful - chocful of useful and detailed information for a visitor. It certainly looks like a gorgeous place and I wish you well with your wedding plans - hopefully that will be sooner rather than later! Thank you for linking up with #KCACOLS, we hope to see you again next time. :)

  3. This looks like a lovely place :) Great info! #KCACOLS

  4. Rufford Abbey Park looks like such a gorgeous place to visit! What a fab and detailed post on what to expect when visiting - so helpful. It's just too bad we don't live closer. Thank you for joining us for #mischiefandmemories

  5. Rufford Abbey Park looks like a fab place to take the family. I like the covid measures they have in place to keep visitors safe. Thanks for linking up with MischiefAndMemories.

  6. What a beautiful place to go out and explore x #mischiefandmemories


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