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Biddulph Grange Gardens – review, guide and top tips for this National Trust site

Biddulph Grange Gardens – review, guide and top tips for this National Trust site

Everything you need to know about Biddulph Grange in Staffordshire

Name

Biddulph Grange Gardens

What is it?

Biddulph Grange is a series of beautiful landscaped Victorian gardens with surprises around every corner.

A walk here is a feast for the senses through pockets of China, Italy and even ancient Egypt, through tunnels, rockeries, an adventure playground, tree-lined avenues and around a lake.

Part of its magic lies in the way the areas are cleverly hidden from each other through landscaping.

It is a National Trust site – don’t confuse it with Biddulph Grange Country Park next door, run by Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, whose 78 acres of woodland did used to form part of the Grange estate.

Tree-lined avenue at Biddulph Grange National Trust

Tree-lined avenue

Where is it?

Biddulph Grange is in Biddulph, in a valley on the edge of North Staffordshire near to Congleton in Cheshire and north of Stoke.

The history of Biddulph Grange

The house and garden were the creation of James and Maria Bateman, who lived there from 1842 for 27 years and their friend, marine artist Edward Cooke. It had previously been a farm.

James employed specialists to collect plants for him from all over the world. They were placed with trees and eclectic garden buildings.

James moved to London in 1868, his son John remained at Biddulph Grange until he sold it in 1872 to Robert Heath who lived with his family there for 50 years. During this time a fire destroyed the middle section of the original house, an Italianate-style villa and it was rebuilt in 1897.

From 1922 until 1991 it was used as a hospital then it was bought by the National Trust and opened to the public.

The National Trust undertook a huge garden restoration project which continues today.

What did we think?

We have been many times as this is one of our favourite National Trust sites, it possibly even scoops the top spot.

It’s simply stunning and the different sections keep any walk interesting. 

It is especially fabulous for children when they have trails and activities to do.

Highlights

*The view at the start

At the start of your journey, you stand with your back to the house on a terrace above the garden and can take in the view of  the Italian garden. You won’t be able to resist taking a photograph here but you may as well keep your camera or phone out as there are so many picture-worthy spots.

Looking down from the start at the Italian section at Biddulph Grange National Trust

Looking down from the start over the Italian section

*The Chinese Garden

It is easy to miss the Chinese Garden, yet it is arguably the most memorable part, bright with colour and complete with Chinese plants and architecture including a bridge and temple.

*The woodland play area

If you walk up the stunning tree-lined Wellington Avenue (worth a highlight section of its own), there is a path off it which takes you through woodland which is now home to a series of wooden frames and stepping stones for children to negotiate their way along, plus a see-saw. This is a fantastic, more recent addition to the gardens.

Playing in the wooden play area at Biddulph Grange National Trust

The Stumpery 

A stumpery is a garden feature similar to a rockery but made from parts of dead trees. The stumpery here, designed in 1856, was the first to be built anywhere and went on to be widely copied in many Victorian gardens and, even in the woods of Highgrove, Prince Charles’s home in Gloucestershire.

Egyptian Garden

This includes stone Sphynx, topiary obelisks, a topiary pyramid and a temple-style building containing the Ape of Thoth sculpture by Benjamin Waterhouse-Hawkins.

The tennis lawn

There are often activities laid out to do in this section. And in the spring there is a cute little daffodil maze to walk through.

More highlights

There are highlights around every corner including tunnels through rock, a lake, a geological gallery and of course the stunning plants, trees and flowers like monkey puzzle trees, azaleas and dahlias – the gardens are famous for their Dahlia Walk.

Dahlia Walk (taken in March) at Biddulph Grange National Trust

Dahlia Walk (taken in March)

Top tips

Can you see inside the house at Biddulph Grange?

No you can’t. The house itself became derelict until a developer bought it and converted it into nine apartments.

You can still access some of the buildings though, used as a cafe, shop and toilets.

Fish food

You can buy fish food for £1 a bag to feed the big fish in the lake.

Biddulph Grange House

Plant sale

You can buy flowers and plants in an area just past the car park on your way in or out.

Trails

Biddulph Grange really comes into its own for families around special occasions, we particularly love visiting at Easter.

National Trust used to team up with Cadbury but these days organise their own with more emphasis on enjoying nature and the surroundings and carrying out activities rather than solving clues. Children still get a chocolate egg at the end.

The trails are fabulous at taking you around all corners of the garden and Biddulph Grange pulls out all the stops.

See footage of our last Easter trail at the end of this article.

Arrival time

If it’s a Bank Holiday or special occasion, I really advise getting their early to get a parking space and avoid any queuing.

What is the best time of year to visit?

If you have children, it’s lovely to visit when they have an event on like the Easter trails.

The gardens change with the seasons. The dahlias start to bloom in July and reach their peak in early-September.

Biddulph Grange information

Parking: There is a free car park – free for National Trust members and included in the ticket price for non-members. There is also an overflow car park. 

Food: There is a cafe with indoor and outdoor seating, lovely in the sunshine. There is also a picnic spot next to the car park.

Opening hours: Vary depending on the day, but 10am to 5.30pm for much of the year, check out the times for specific dates here.

Cost: Free for National Trust members, £12 adults, £6 children, less for family and group tickets latest ticket prices here.

Are dogs allowed at Biddulph Grange?

No, only assistance dogs.

Best for: All ages.

Time needed: I would say you need at least two hours here, but on a sunny day with friends you could spend much longer.

Access and restrictions: It is not an accessible site, although a lot of the site has pathways, it is on a hill, there are more than 400 steps and uneven surfaces.

Address: Biddulph Grange Garden, Grange Road, Biddulph, Staffordshire, ST8 7SD.

Website: Biddulph Grange Gardens

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National Trust membership – everything you need to know

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A new ride is opening in a few days at Cadbury World chocolate factory in Birmingham

A new ride is opening in a few days at Cadbury World chocolate factory in Birmingham

Cadbury Chocolate Quest gets ready to launch

A new ride is opening soon at Cadbury World in Birmingham.

Cadbury Chocolate Quest opens on Friday (March 29, 2024) for the Easter weekend.

And The Family Holiday Guide has some photos of the ride for fans of the chocolate experience to see.

The new indoor trackless ride has 3D themed sets and virtual screens and will be brought to life with sounds, lights, smells and heat making it an interactive and sensory experience. 

Riders will be set a mission by Freddo then travel in nine Cadbury cars to complete an immersive quest to collect all the ingredients needed to make a bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk using lasers to lap them up.

The ride features 23 cocoa pods, cheeky Buttons monkeys and most excitingly, the end of the ride features litres of liquid chocolate.

Putting the finishing touches to the new ride Chocolate Quest at Cadbury World, Birmingham

After disembarking, guests will collect a Cadbury treat made with all the ingredients they have ‘collected’.

Putting the finishing touches to the new ride Chocolate Quest at Cadbury World, Birmingham

Cadbury Chocolate Quest is part of a wider £8m investment for Cadbury World, with further ambitions for the long-standing attraction after its operation was taken over by Merlin Entertainments in January 2023.

Tim Waters, Regional Director of the Birmingham cluster at Merlin Entertainments, said: “The whole team is so excited to see all the hard work that has gone into this massive project come to life.

“From polishing the cars and testing the flowing liquid chocolate, the team have been working round the clock to prepare the ride in time to welcome guests when it launches on Friday, 29th March.

“We can’t wait to see Cadbury Chocolate Quest in action as we really feel it is a ride that will be enjoyed by everyone.” 

Read our review of Cadbury World, which is a popular family attraction based in the historic village of Bournville, just outside Birmingham city centre, where visitors can learn all about the history, magic and making of Cadbury chocolate. 

Putting the finishing touches to the new ride Chocolate Quest at Cadbury World, Birmingham

With an assortment of interactive zones, a team of in-house chocolatiers, the on-site Cadbury World Café and African Adventure play area, plus the unmissable 4D Chocolate Adventure, there’s so much for visitors of all ages to see and do at Cadbury World. 

Review: Cadbury World, Birmingham – everything you need to know before visiting the chocolate attraction

Review: Cadbury World, Birmingham – everything you need to know before visiting the chocolate attraction

The complete guide to Cadbury World and top tips including how not to get confused and miss half the tour like we did

Name

Cadbury World

What is it?

Cadbury World is a family attraction based around the famous British chocolate maker Cadbury.

It is not a tour of the actual chocolate factory which doesn’t open to the public due to food regulations.

Nor is it a theme park, although it does include a 4D cinema, a gentle ride and yes, some ‘free’ chocolate.

Instead, it is more of a museum or visitor centre – a trip through the history and making of chocolate and Cadbury confectionery.

Where is it?

There is only one Cadbury World and it is in Birmingham. Specifically, it is in the suburb of Bournville – the town that chocolate built – four miles south of Birmingham – in the grounds of the original Cadbury factory.

The village was founded by George Cadbury when he moved his chocolate factory there from Birmingham in 1879, with homes built to house Cadbury workers.

Some of my female ancestors worked at Cadbury including my great grandmother.

She was there for around 10 years before marrying in 1915 and one of her roles was to tie ribbons on the boxes of chocolates.

What did we think?

When you get out of the car, the sweet smell of chocolate tantalisingly fills the air and anticipation is high, particularly as this visit follows our recent viewing of the film Wonka.

But this is not a Willy Wonka-style chocolate factory. And sadly, you don’t get to see any chocolate being made or packaged.

As a reporter in the Midlands years ago, I once filmed inside the actual factory at Cadbury. Wearing a shower cap affair to cover my hair, I watched as Cadbury Creme Eggs were made and wrapped and it was a fascinating experience. I seem to recall that the main taster at the time, wasn’t too fond of Cadbury Creme Eggs, which I thought hilarious and a waste of an excellent job!

It’s a shame families don’t see any of this. What you do get is a history of cocoa beans in the Aztec Jungle, the Cadbury story and how the chocolate is made, over a series of different zones.

Exploring the Aztec Jungle at Cadbury World

Exploring the Aztec Jungle

I will run through all the highlights of our trip first but there were several downsides too, including confusion over the time to arrive, the busy outdoor area, the queue to get in and the fact a lot of visitors (nearly including us) missed a huge chunk of the experience due to bad signage (more on this in top tips).

But the children seemed to get a lot of out of it and are already keen to go back so I’m overall pleased that we made the effort to go.

Highlights

*Do you get free chocolate at Cadbury World?!

Yes. You are welcomed into the tour with a handful of chocolate bars – we were given a Cadbury Wispa, a Dairy Milk Caramel and a Twirl each.

Brandishing 12 chocolate bars at us, we were given the option to buy a small purple Cadbury bag for £1 or a Cadbury tote bag for £2 to put them in – it feels a bit grabby of Cadbury not to present them in a free bag but hey ho.

Free chocolate bars at Cadbury World

Three ‘free’ chocolate bars per person included in the ticket cost

Then, during the tour you are offered warm, liquid Cadbury Dairy Milk in little cups with up to two toppings from a choice of chocolate buttons, fudge, mini marshmallows and crushed Oreos. Delicious but choose your toppings wisely, I felt the Oreo crumbs soaked up too much of the melted chocolate.

*The 4D Cinema

This is in the outdoor area and can be visited before or after (if not closed) your tour. Visitors wear 3D glasses, sit in motion seats and feel as if they are on a chocolate journey which includes a Crunchie rollercoaster.

The 4D cinema at Cadbury World

The 4D cinema

*Demonstration

There is a section where you watch someone demonstrate how chocolates were made by hand using moulds, in years gone by, which I found interesting, given my family connection.

Chocolate demonstration at Cadbury World

Chocolate demonstration

*Drawing with chocolate

You can queue to have a few minutes drawing or writing in melted chocolate from a bottle.

Drawing a heart with melted chocolate at Cadbury World

Drawing with melted chocolate

*Rides

There is a slow ride called Cadabra, where you sit two in the front and two in the back of a moving car around a track. This is a very gentle ride suitable for all ages.

The Cadabra ride at Cadbury World

The Cadabra ride

A new ride is due to open soon called Cadbury Chocolate Quest.

Top tips and downsides

Arrival time.

You would think an ideal arrival time would be shortly before the ticket entry time that you have carefully chosen, but you may be advised to get there much earlier.

When I happened to click on an instructions email on the morning of the day we were going (sent a few days earlier), it advised us to get there an hour and a half earlier if visiting in school holidays which we were (and 45 minutes earlier otherwise).

This is to ensure that you can enjoy the ‘outside activities’ before the tour, including the 4D cinema and play areas, as they may be closed afterwards.

We changed our plans to get there earlier, but wished we hadn’t (see the next top tip).

Outdoor Section

When we arrived at 1.45pm, the outdoor area was so crowded and noisy that it made for a stressful start to the day. We joined a long queue for the 4D cinema.

However, when we returned to the outdoor section at 4pm after our trip around Cadbury World, it was much quieter and there was no queue for the cinema at all.

So if you have children who would be at all sensitive to noise and crowding, check out the later cinema times and play area closing times before you arrive and consider doing this section later. It’s worth it even if you end up being stuck in Birmingham traffic afterwards.

A Cadbury shop front

A Cadbury shop front

Don’t miss any of the route!

It is a self-led tour, which led to some confusion on the day we were there.

Work was being carried out on a new area which may have caused the problem, but we and lots of other people exited the tour into the shop, having missed all the best bits.

I asked someone working there whether they no longer offered the melted chocolate in a cup (my best memory) and found out that we had taken a wrong turning, missing all the upstairs including the ride, demonstration and drawing with chocolate.

We were escorted back in and shown the right way but we had been following dozens of others who I am sure had done the same. I spoke to one woman later who had found the upstairs but still somehow missed the ride.

Tickets and queues

You must book tickets ahead of your visit, don’t just turn up. Even with booked time slots, we were queuing to get in for 10-15 minutes past our designated 2.30pm slot.

Buying chocolate

As well as the free chocolate, you can buy chocolate from the shop at the end or the factory shop if buying in bulk. Prices didn’t seem to be any different to supermarket prices.

You can also pre-order personalised chocolate items.

Cadbury chocolate bars over the years

Cadbury chocolate bars over the years

Cadbury World information

Merlin: Cadbury World is one of the attractions you can visit if you have a Merlin Annual Pass.

Parking: There is a free car park with lots of spaces.

Food: There is a cafe that you can visit on your way in or out, next to reception.

Character afternoon tea is available to pre-book on certain days (normally Monday to Friday, not in school holidays).

There are seats outside for anyone who takes a picnic.

Opening hours: Vary depending on the day, can be 9.30am-5.30pm or 10am-4.30pm, here are the up to date times.

Cost: Latest ticket prices here.

Best for: All ages.

Time needed: It took us an hour and a half to get around the main section, including queueing at the start, allow extra time for the outside section including 4D cinema and outdoor play area.

Access and restrictions: Cadbury World only allows one guest who uses a wheelchair or mobility scooter per timeslot. A wheelchair slot and a standard ticket have to both be booked.

There are some wheelchairs at reception that can be borrowed on a first come, first served basis.

Carer tickets are available if certain criteria are met.

Babies: Children two and under are free but still need a pre-booked ticket.

There are baby changing facilities in all the toilets. There is a baby feeding room in reception and pushchair access throughout.

Address: Cadbury World,  69 Linden Rd, Birmingham B30 1JR.

To book: Cadbury World

Now you can watch our Cadbury World video on Instagram, below, and don’t forget to like and subscribe, thank you!

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Harry Styles Holmes Chapel Walking Tour – full guide and video of the village where he grew up

Harry Styles Holmes Chapel Walking Tour – full guide and video of the village where he grew up

Follow Harry Styles’ footsteps in One Direction around his home town of Holmes Chapel on an official walking tour

Harry Styles fans can now enjoy a fun and completely free day out by touring Holmes Chapel – the village he grew up in.
Harry mentions his pretty Cheshire village frequently and pops home from time to time to see friends and family, so you may even get a glimpse of the star himself.

In fact, fans visit so often that the village has put together a free tour with a safe route around key places like the bakery where he worked, the bridge where he had his first kiss which featured in a One Direction video and even his favourite Chinese restaurant, where he once took Taylor Swift on a date.

Also in Holmes Chapel are his primary and secondary schools and the house he still lived in when he appeared on the X-Factor.

Read on for the full tour and map and our special video tour but first some Harry and Holmes Chapel trivia.

Where is Holmes Chapel?

Holmes Chapel is between Stoke-on-Trent and Manchester in the north-west of England.

It’s an affluent, expanding village in the county of Cheshire next to junction 18 of the M6 motorway.

The village has a lovely, friendly community, churches, independent shops, cafes, thriving pubs and other food outlets and lots of hair salons, perfect for a world famous superstar known for his luscious locks!

Harry himself describes Holmes Chapel as ‘picturesque’ during his X-Factor audition video.

Was Harry Styles born in Holmes Chapel?

Harry Edward Styles was born on February 1, 1994, in Redditch, Worcestershire, but moved to Holmes Chapel as a young child with his mum Anne Twist, dad Desmond (Des) Styles and older sister, Gemma.

A fan poses outside Harry Styles's house

Outside Harry’s former home

Which schools did Harry Styles go to?

Harry’s parents would have been spoilt for choice for great primary schools – there are two in the village – Holmes Chapel Primary School and the smaller Hermitage Primary School – and several others nearby. Harry attended Hermitage Primary School and has been back to visit since he became famous, even welcoming some of his old teachers backstage at concerts in Manchester – the nearest city to Holmes Chapel.

Hermitage Primary School, Holmes Chapel

Hermitage Primary School, Holmes Chapel

He then attended the village’s only secondary school – Holmes Chapel Comprehensive School – known locally as The Comp. He was still at this school, having just taken his GCSEs, when he began filming the X-Factor.

The high school in Selkirk Drive, not included on the official tour, is also where Harry played football with his local team the Holmes Chapel Hurricanes.

Holmes Chapel High School

Holmes Chapel High School

Although a former coach once said he was better at chatting up the girls than playing football!

The Harry Styles Walking Tour

The tour (directions at end) was put together by Holmes Chapel Partnership in a bid to keep fans safe – some had been ‘risking life and limb’ by using a busy road with no pavements to access the famous Harry’s Wall.

Landmark 1: Holmes Chapel Railway Station.

The tour starts at the village railway station as lots of fans arrive by train.  It’s on the Crewe to Manchester Line, with services to Crewe (around 14 minutes) and Manchester Piccadilly (around 40 minutes). Some trains even stop at Manchester Airport, perfect for fans flying in from abroad.

Holmes Chapel Railway Station

Holmes Chapel Railway Station

Harry has used the station a lot, especially while filming in the X-Factor in 2010 when he would regularly leave for London on a Thursday and return to Holmes Chapel on Tuesdays.

Railway ticket officer Graham Blake had known Harry since the Watermelon Sugar star was 10 but got to know the then 16-year-old better during this time.

As he became more and more famous, there would be swarms of fans waiting for him at the station and Graham sometimes had to help him to hide.

Holmes Chapel Railway Station

Landmark 2: Harry’s Wall/Twemlow Viaduct

The route takes fans on a scenic route through the village, passing near to Hermitage Primary School, which Harry attended, over the historic Hermitage Bridge where the impressive Twemlow Viaduct comes into view.

Built in 1841 to carry the railway line over the River Dane, many arriving fans will have already travelled over it in trains from Manchester and Manchester Airport.

Fans walk then through two fields to get to Harry’s Wall.

Harry is famously said to have had his first kiss at this spot.

It’s also well-known to fans as the wall Harry wrote his name on in the One Direction biopic film This is Us.

Harry's Wall where Harry Styles had his first kiss

Harry’s Wall

As he walks up to the viaduct in the video, Harry says: “When I come home, if I walk and like don’t see anyone around, I can feel like I’m six again. Which is pretty crazy. I mean I’m a bit tall for a six-year-old!”

Fans now flock here to take photos and sign messages to the singer on the wall.

Landmark 3: Mandeville’s Bakery

Next on the tour is the bakery where Harry Styles worked on a Saturday, before finding fame on the X-Factor.

Mandevilles Bakery in Holmes Chapel where Harry Styles worked

W Mandeville Bakery

He tells Simon Cowell about his job while on stage during his X-Factor audition and he visits W. Mandeville Bakery during the This is Us video, to reminisce and meet his former boss and colleagues.

Harry says: “I remember when they said that they wanted me to work on Saturdays, I felt like I’d won the lottery. I was like, weekend job, I’m gonna be rich!”

Inside the bakery is a cardboard cut-out of Harry Styles, perfect for having your photo taken with, plus you can grab some lunch at the same time.

Harry Styles cardboard cutout in the bakery where he worked in Holmes Chapel

Have your picture taken with Harry Styles

The bakery opened 94 years before Harry was born, in 1900 and sells an array of delicious cakes, bread and pastries.

Landmark 4: Fortune City Chinese restaurant

Next you get to walk through the centre of Holmes Chapel, passing St Luke’s Church, the jewel in its crown.

Here you are spoilt for choice for food options including cafes, pubs and takeaways.

After passing the precinct, which includes the library and post office, you’ll cross at traffic lights to head to the Chinese restaurant where Harry took his then-girlfriend, Taylor Swift.

The family home where he lived is just before the restaurant on the right.

Harry Styles former home in Holmes Chapel exact location

Harry’s former home

His mum eventually had to move out of this house due to her son’s fame when he was in One Direction and Harry bought her a new home nearby.

Harry said Fortune City was his favourite Chinese restaurant and it was certainly handy for the family, being just a stone’s throw from their front door.

Fortune City Chinese Restaurant Holmes Chapel where Harry Styles took Taylor Swift

Fortune City

Our comprehensive video tour of Harry Styles’ most important places in Homes Chapel

Here is the Harry’s Home Village Tour map and directions, produced by Holmes Chapel Partnership:

Holmes Chapel Partnership Harry Styles Trail

Credit: Holmes Chapel Partnership

Land of Lights Festival Warrington at Gulliver’s World Resort 2023: Guide and review

Land of Lights Festival Warrington at Gulliver’s World Resort 2023: Guide and review

All you need to know about the new Christmas trail Land of Lights Festival North 2023

A new festive lights trail has joined the list of popular illuminations events in the north-west of England.

The theme park Gulliver’s World Resort in Cheshire has launched its Land of Lights Festival 2023.

Read everything you need to know about it after our video tour.

 

Name:

Land of Lights Festival North (there is another one in Milton Keynes).

A girl at the entrance to Land of Lights Warrington, Gullivers World Resort

What is it?

A lantern trail through 12 themed areas.

Visitors walk through illuminations including giant animal and monument lanterns, enjoying festive food and drink.

Where is it?

It is at Gulliver’s World Resort in Warrington, Cheshire.

What did we think?

This was a lovely, long route, longer than most festive trails, past a lake, through play areas which younger children made the most of and felt really magical in places with lots and lots of illuminations.

Highlights

*Our favourite bit was a mesmerising walk through an insect and bug section with blue lights cascading down from above.

The insect-themed area at Land of Lights Warrington, Gulliver's Resort

The insect-themed area

*It was great seeing all the different themed areas, ranging from dinosaurs in a Jurassic section through to skeletons in a Halloween part. Illuminations included Dennis the Menace, animals and Santa.

A T-Rex dinosaur at Land of Lights Warrington, Gulliver's Resort

*A naughty highlight was a ride on the log flume – naughty as we found out afterwards, this wasn’t included in our lights package (see top tips).

Top tips

*Offers – there is a Land of Lights Festival voucher code if you book for a date in January or February – LIGHTS20 gives you a 20 per cent discount.

*Will you get to go on any rides at Gulliver’s World? Not with just a ticket to the lights, this is a separate event. It can be a bit confusing as some of the rides might still be open for other guests – we had two goes on the log flume, without realising that we shouldn’t! Also not included is a Christmas show that visitors were queuing for and a train ride to Santa’s grotto. It is useful to know this before you go else it can get confusing particularly towards the exit and you don’t want your children spotting other things going on and being disappointed. There are different Christmas packages that include the various options if you want to do more than just the lights. One of the festive packages this year called Twinkle includes the Christmas activities (rides, North Pole Express, Elf Workshop and Santa’s Grotto) and also allows access to Land of Lights.

Dennis the Menace at Land of Lights Warrington, Gulliver's Resort

Dennis the Menace

*Gulliver’s Annual Passport holders must still by tickets and don’t receive any perks as this is a stand alone event, say organisers.

*What to wear? This is all outdoors so make sure to wrap up warm and bring waterproof clothes.

*There are some dog-friendly nights (they must be kept on a lead) on November 16 and 30, December 14 and 28, January 7 and 21 and February 4 and 18.

*Can you buy tickets at the event – yes, at the higher price if they have not sold out.

*There is no strobe lighting but some lantern features do include flashing, twinkling and colour changing lights.

Land of Lights Festival Warrington information

Dates: It runs until February 25, 2024.

Food: There is festive food and drink to enjoy at The Food Hub at Safari Kingdom where you can buy churros, Yorkshire pudding wraps, German sausages and drinks.

There are other drinks stalls around the trail. And Lagado’s Restaurant and Grill (next to the entrance and exit plazas) is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings if you prefer to sit down in the warm.

Opening hours: Depending on the night, it runs from about 4.45pm until 8pm or 9pm

Cost: Depending on the date – there are peak and off-peak dates), tickets bought in advance online are £15 or £19 for adults and children. Concessions £9 and £11.

Tickets not bought in advance are £18 or £22 for adults and children and £9 and £11 concessions.

Under-twos are free.

There is no senior rate, the concessionary rate is for those with a Blue Badge, DLA or PIP letter and their carer.

Best for: All ages.

Time needed: The trail takes around 90 minutes, depending on walking speed and how much you stop to eat, drink and look at the lights.

Access and restrictions: The route is mainly flat and firm, with some slight inclines.

There is a boardwalk which will not suit all mobility requirements but marshals will assist people on an alternative route if required.

Accessible toilets are available along the route.

Address: Gulliver’s World Resort, Old Hall, Warrington, Cheshire, WA5 9YZ.

To bookLand of Lights Festival Warrington

Parking: Parking is free

Chester Zoo Lanterns and Light 2023 – all you need to know about this Christmas lights trail

Chester Zoo Lanterns and Light 2023 – all you need to know about this Christmas lights trail

Full guide and review of Lanterns and Light at Chester Zoo

The UK’s most popular zoo has launched its Christmas lights event for 2023.

Visitors will be flocking to the festive trail in Cheshire – Lanterns and Light – which is one of the most talked about in the North West of England.

And we were lucky enough to visit on opening night for this review and guide – here is everything you need to know plus our exclusive video.

 

Name:

Chester Zoo Lanterns and Light

What is it?

This animal-themed festive lights trail takes place after opening hours at Chester Zoo.

Visitors walk through new illuminations, lanterns and light installations meeting characters along the way and festive food to buy and enjoy as you go.

An illuminated rhino at Chester Zoo Lanterns and Light

An illuminated rhino

Where is it?

Chester Zoo is on the northern outskirts of Chester in North West England.

What did we think?

The lovely lights and music of this trail are a great way to get into the Christmas mood.

It’s quite a relaxing trail, with cute touches and some stunning moments.

Highlights

*The flickering fire gardens – it was quite breathtaking to see real fire used as opposed to more modern illuminations – in hundreds of little lanterns.

*Person-controlled animal puppets dance and interact with visitors including elephants, an octopus, wild dogs and a rather enthusiastic zebra.

A person-controlled puppet wild dog at Chester Zoo Lanterns and Light

A person-controlled puppet

*A woolly mammoth makes a grand entrance on a large 3D projection screen.

a 3D woolly mammoth at Chester Zoo Lanterns and Light

Woolly mammoth

*Marshmallow toasting with different flavoured chunky marshmallows including salted caramel, vanilla and chocolate orange.

Marshmallow toatsing at Chester Zoo Lanterns and Light

Marshmallow toasting

*A lane filled with larger than life pea-lit animals such as a stag, penguins and a giraffe.

Illuminated penguins at Chester Zoo Lanterns and Light

Illuminated penguins

*The children enjoyed a virtual reality experience at the end of the trail.

*Knowing that every ticket helps the zoo in its conservation work supporting projects in more than 20 countries, helping animals to survive and thrive.

Top tips

*Will you see any animals? You will sadly not get to see any of Chester Zoo’s 27,000 animals – the trail follows a specific route and the animal habitats are all closed. The zoo, a world-leading conservation charity, is home to nearly 600 species, many endangered in the wild and is well worth a visit during normal opening hours – Chester Zoo – our top tips to save you time and money on a family day at this hugely popular attraction for families

An octopus puppet at Chester Zoo Lanterns and Light

An octopus puppet

*Is Lanterns and Light free for Chester Zoo members? Chester Zoo members pay the same price for tickets as everyone else. Organisers say this is because it is a special event outside usual opening hours which raises funds for the zoo and its mission.

*What to do if you are visiting the zoo in the day – you need to go back to the main entrance at 3.30pm when it closes and wait for your ticket time so book as early as you can.

*What happens if the weather is bad? The event will only be cancelled in extreme weather and you will be contacted in advance.

*What to wear? This is all outdoors so make sure to wrap up warm and bring waterproof clothes.

*There are three little rides for younger children including a carousel, which cost £3 each. The virtual reality experience at the end costs £6 each or £10 for two and there are three different options. Ours enjoyed a Christmas experience where they became an elf – the other two are animal-based.

The map of Lanterns and Light at Chester Zoo

Lanterns and Light map

*You might catch a glimpse of Santa.

Father Christmas at Chester Zoo Lanterns and Light

Chester Zoo Lanterns and Light information

Dates: It runs on various dates from November 17 to December 31.

Food: There is festive food and drink around the trail to enjoy, mostly within a Christmas Market Foodhall. Stands include pizza, burgers, hot chocolate, popcorn, crumble and giant, stuffed Yorkshire puddings.

Yorkshire pudding menu at Lanterns and Light at Chester Zoo

Yorkshire pudding menu

You are also allowed to take your own food, just no alcohol.

Opening hours: There are timed tickets every 15 minutes with sessions from 4.15pm to 8pm. The event closes at 9.15pm.

Cost: Prices for Lanterns and Light range from £18 to £22 for adults and £12 to £17 for children, depending on the day. Children under two and carers are free but still need a booked ticket.

Best for: All ages.

Time needed: The trail takes 60 to 90 minutes.

Access and restrictions: The trail is flat but a bit uneven in places, plus it can be hard to see in the dark.

You can hire a mobility scooter or wheelchair by emailing guest.services@chesterzoo.org or a buggy at rentals when you get there.

For guests who need a quieter environment there are quiet times at 4pm on November 18, 23, 24, 25, 29 and December 6, call 01244 380280.

Address: Chester Zoo, Upton-by-Chester, Chester, CH2 1LH. How to get to the zoo.

To book:   Lanterns and Light

Parking: Parking is free

Website: Chester Zoo Lanterns and Light

We review The Bay Filey – a dog-friendly Yorkshire holiday park on a beach

We review The Bay Filey – a dog-friendly Yorkshire holiday park on a beach

We take a family holiday to a holiday park on the beach in Filey, Yorkshire

Name

The Bay Filey Holiday Resort

Where is it?

On the North Yorkshire coast near to Filey, south of Scarborough.

What is it?

A dog-friendly holiday park where you can stay in a house or a lodge, with access to a sandy beach.

Facilities include a swimming pool, gym, restaurants, pharmacy, playground, shop and arcade.

A lodge at Bay Filey Holiday Park in Yorkshire

Our lodge at Bay Filey Holiday Park in Yorkshire

Is it family friendly?

Yes, there’s lots for children to do – there’s an indoor heated swimming pool (and separate baby pool), arcade and small adventure playground. They can play tennis, basketball or football and you can book activities (for an extra charge) such as pottery painting, archery and teddy-bear making.

The arcade at The Bay Filey holiday park

The arcade

Plus, of course, the beach – Hunmanby Gap Beach – is a short walk away for long, sunny days or even rainy day walks.

The beach at Bay Filey Holiday Park in Yorkshire

The beach

Is it dog friendly?

Yes, it really is and a lot of the people staying here had a dog with them. There was a box of goodies waiting in the lodge for our dog Charlie, containing a ball, travel bowl, blanket, poo bags and bag holder.

A dog present at Bay Filey Holiday Park in Yorkshire

Charlie’s box of dog goodies

They are even allowed in the pub and pizza restaurant – which is good as holidaymakers are encouraged not to leave their pooches alone in the accommodation.

Although they need to be kept on a lead around the site, the beach is a perfect place for well-behaved dogs to stretch their legs and enjoy the ball from their goody bag.

A dog on the beach at The Bay Filey Holiday Resort

Charlie on the beach

The accommodation

When you first drive into this park, it feels like you are entering a modern housing estate. There are lots of pretty houses to stay at, but further into the park, you find sections with roomy lodges.

Houses at The Bay Filey

Houses at The Bay Filey

We stayed in a four-person lodge near to the lake – larger six-berths are also available.

It had an open plan lounge/kitchen-diner with two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Inside our lodge at Bay Filey Holiday Park in Yorkshire

Inside our lodge

One bedroom had a double bed, the other had two singles and both rooms had tvs, plus there’s one in the lounge.

A bedroom at our lodge at Bay Filey Holiday Park in Yorkshire

A bedroom at our lodge

A sliding glass door at the front opened out on to a small outside terrace with a table and chairs and a partial view of the lake.

The lodge outdoor terrace at The Bay Filey Holiday Resort

The outdoor terrace

The kitchen was well-equipped with an oven, hob, microwave, dishwasher and even a washing machine.

Wi-fi was available in our lodge. But it is not available in every holiday home here, so check before you arrive.

Food and drink

The kitchen in our lodge was big enough to make self-catering a breeze.

There are also two restaurants on site – a pizza restaurant and takeaway called The Four Cats and a pub called John Paul Jones – both with great menus.

The Four Cats pizza restaurant/takeaway

The woman making delicious pizzas at The Four Cats was lovely and worked so hard, with takeaway orders coming in as well as for those dining in. Two pizzas was plenty for the four of us. There is even a dessert pizza, topped with chocolate and marshmallows.

Our highlights

*Access to the beach – being able to walk to a lovely beach has to be a big tick on anyone’s holiday wishlist – see our top tips for more details of how to access it.

*Arrivals – unlike many parks, here you can arrive any day at any time of the year, even during peak times. The only requirement is that stays are a minimum of two nights.

*Dog walking – outside our lodge was a lovely meadow with paths to walk dogs and explore, plus the footpath to the beach via the cliffs and other walk along footpaths in the area.

Top tips

Activities

Activities need to be booked in advance – download the Away Resorts App to book.  The tennis court also needs to be booked this way. You can start booking 21 days before your stay so make sure you download the App in advance especially during busy periods to reserve the activities you want.

Making a glitter globe activity at The Bay Filey Holiday Resort

Making a glitter globe activity

How to get to the beach

There are two paths to the beach from the site – the main route off Silversands Way is steep in places, not suitable for anyone with mobility issues.

The path to the beach from Th Bay Filey holiday park

The main path to the beach.

The second way, from a gate on Sunrise Way, is a longer and narrow walk with clifftop views towards the end (and steep drops). It takes you through the beach car park and past a lovely beach café at the end.

Alternative path to the beach from Th Bay Filey holiday park

Alternative way to the beach

If you don’t want to walk too far or have a lot of beach paraphernalia to transport, you can drive a mile to the beach car park, which costs £5 for the day. There’s a steepish slope down to the beach but it’s not too far this way.

You can pay to use Portaloo-type toilets here at 20p a go.

Beach cafe

There is a beach cafe in a glorious spot overlooking the beach and sea. It serves food like toasted sandwiches, all-day breakfast, cakes and quiche and is great value. We had a lovely lunch, enjoying the view.

The beach cafe overlooking Hunmanby Beach

The beach cafe

If you are driving, turn left out of The Bay Filey and go left at the first roundabout and the car park is about 1 mile down the road.

But you will walk directly past it if you travel to the beach from the beach car park or if you take the clifftop walk from the site.

Swimming pool

You don’t need to book the pool but this can mean it is full when you arrive and you will have to return at another time, so check with staff when the best time would be. It’s a nice big pool but can get very busy and the changing rooms are a bit tight and could do with a revamp.

The swimming pool at The Bay Filey Holiday Park

The swimming pool

The gym at The Bay Filey Holiday Resort

The gym

Nearby

Hunmanby Gap Beach

The nearest attraction is obviously the beach. Hunmanby Gap Beach is a big sandy beach with a lovely café overlooking it. Great for swimming in the sea and perfect for dogs.

The beach when the tide is in at The Bay Filey Holiday Resort

The beach when the tide is in

When the tide if out, you can walk from here to Filey Beach.

Filey

The traditional seaside town and former fishing village of Filey is a couple of miles away. There is a promenade and an award-winning beach. Filey Beach is dog friendly but they are only allowed on certain parts of it from the start of May to the end of September.

Aerial clifftop view of Filey Beach

Filey Beach

Parking can be tricky, we parked at Filey Country Park and walked down steep steps and a steep slope to get to the beach. Attractions on the seafront include crazy golf, a bouncy castle and arcade.

Mini-golf at Filey Beach

Crazy golf at Filey Beach

Scarborough

Scarborough is around 25 minutes away and has beaches, a busy town centre, harbour and attractions like Sealife, Escape Rooms, Burton Riggs Nature Reserve and Alpamare Waterpark.

The wave pool at Almpare Waterpark

Alpamare Waterpark

The waterpark has an indoor wave pool and an indoor splash area with two toddler slides. There are four big water slides, one that you slide down on a mat and two on inflatables. There are also two gorgeously warm outdoor pools – which we surprisingly loved and spent a lot of time in on a cold, rainy day, while feeling sorry for the lifeguards on duty under umbrellas.

Away Resorts exclusive discount code

Away Resorts is a UK holiday park operator with 20 parks across the country in locations including Scotland, Lincolnshire, Isle of Wight, North Wales, Hampshire and Dorset, Cornwall, Hayling Island and Essex.

The company says its sites are all different but make the most of their individual surroundings.

We have an exclusive discount code for you when booking a holiday with Away Resorts until September 3 for 2023 holidays.

Use the code FAMHOLGUIDE10 for your excusive discount.

This offer excludes Away Resorts Boston West, Clumber, Gara Rock, Kenwick, Piperdam and Woodland Lakes.

The football pitch at The Bay Filey holiday park

The football pitch

More information

Address: The Bay Filey, 1 Moor Rd, Primrose Valley, Filey YO14 9GA

Telephone: 0330 0537000.

How to book: The Bay Filey Holiday Park

RELATED CONTENT: Review: Love2Stay – a fantastic holiday park in the middle of Shropshire with loads for children to do (and dogs)!

RELATED CONTENT: Cofton Holiday Park near Dawlish in Devon – Family Holiday Guide review

*We received a complimentary stay for the purpose of this review, all reviews and tips are our own.

 

Things to do in Bath for families

Things to do in Bath for families

What to do in beautiful Bath

England’s popular spa town is named after and famous because of its Roman-built baths.

Often voted among the best places in the country to live, work or visit, the city boasts stunning architecture, Roman remains, was once home to the author Jane Austen and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Bath is on the banks of the River Avon, in the west of England.

More specifically, it’s in the north-east of the county of Somerset, 97 miles west of London and 11 miles south-east of Bristol.

The city is brimming with things to do, here are some of the best attractions and ideas:

Roman Baths

With more than one million visitors a year, the Roman Baths are a huge tourist pull.

The Romans built this grand temple, bathing and socialising complex in around 70AD.

Constructed around Britain’s only hot spring, it is now one of the best-preserved Roman remains in the world.

Sadly, it’s not possible to swim in the Roman Baths today but you can taste the water which has been freshly pumped.

Roman Baths

Roman Baths

Spoiler: The drinking water is warm and rather unpleasant but a good experience!

Tip: Make sure everyone takes an audio guide. You wear them around your neck and hold them to your ear like a phone. In each area is a number to type in and there are different guides for children – theirs are the numbers on orange backgrounds.

There are separate audio guides for children at the Roman Baths

There are separate audio guides for children

For more information visit the website: Roman Baths

Bus Tour

The city is not huge but if it’s your first visit, you struggle to get around, need a rest or just fancy a fun way to see the city, take a hop-on, hop-off bus.

On a sunny day, it’s a treat for children (and grown-ups) to sit on top of an open-air bus.

We went with TOOT BUS and tried both their tours – the City Tour and the longer Skyline Tour, take a look at the route maps.

They stop near all the major attractions and have audio in 10 languages – you collect headphones when you get on and plug them in next to your seats under the window.

TOOT open-top bus tour in Bath

TOOT BUS Tour

Why is travelling by open-topped bus so much more fun and relaxing than going anywhere by car?

Tip: The app works well for showing where all the buses are so you aren’t waiting around. Your e-ticket is swapped for a paper ticket when you first board and you will need it every time you hop on and hop off so don’t lose it!

The Royal Crescent

As we said at the start, the architecture in Bath is a sight to behold.

And The Royal Crescent is one of the best examples of Georgian architecture in the UK – this iconic landmark was built between 1767 and 1775.

Formed, as you would expect, in the shape of a crescent, it’s a 538-foot wide, curved row of 30 terraced houses overlooking Royal Victoria Park.

Many important people have lived or stayed here and it has been the location for films and dramas including Bridgerton, Persuasion, Inspector Morse and The Duchess.

Curious visitors can even get a look inside one – a museum resides at Number 1 Royal Crescent. This restored town-house shows what fashionable life would have been like in the 18th century. Children are enthusiastically welcomed and can turn detectives on a trail around the house.

Inside Number 1 Royal Crescent, Bath

Inside Number 1 Royal Crescent

There is also a hotel located in two of the town houses – The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa.

Tip: Make the most of the staff’s expertise and don’t miss the chance to dress up in Georgian clothing. Also, there is a lovely small park opposite the Crescent, which makes an excellent picnic spot.

Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House

This cafe/restaurant – hailed a world-famous tea and eating house – is set in one of the oldest houses in Bath.

It is known for its regional speciality – Sally Lunn Bath Bunns – a type of bun baked to a secret recipe.

The Bunns are similar to brioche and can be eaten with sweet or savoury toppings.

Sally Lunn’s is open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.

Sally Lunn's cafe and restaurant window, Bath

Sally Lunn’s

Tip: The restaurant gets really busy, if you don’t want to queue (you can only book if eating after 5pm), you can bypass the queue to visit a tiny museum and shop downstairs which sells Bunns to take home to toast and eat at your leisure.

Address: Sally Lunn’s House, 4 North Parade Passage, Bath, BA1 1NX.

Tip: Confusingly, there’s another regional speciality you can find in this city, called the Bath Bun, sprinkled with fruit and crushed sugar.

Try both to decide which wins the battle of the buns.

American Museum and Gardens

This Georgian estate on the outskirts of Bath, includes an American museum, beautiful gardens with valley views and a lovely children’s outdoor play area.

It was founded in 1961 to bring American culture and history to Europe.

Its cafe, The Deli, sells America favourites such as macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, filled bagels, hot sandwiches, cakes, scones and American cheesecake.

American Museum and Gardens, Bath

American Museum and Gardens

The museum recreates American houses through different decades and the enthusiastic staff will let you play games in a replica saloon bar.

Tips: If it’s a nice day and you buy food from the café, take it outside and enjoy it on the terrace with fantastic views over the garden.

Website: www.americanmuseum.org

Pulteney Bridge

As well as being a much-photographed example of Georgian architecture, this is one of only four bridges in the world to have shops all across it on both sides.

Walk across it or view it from the crescent weir or Parade Gardens (you have to pay to enter these gardens).

Pulteney Bridge, Bath

Pulteney Bridge

Interesting fact: It featured in the 2012 film version of Les Miserables.

Park and Ride

If you have a car, there are three excellent park and ride options around the edge of the city.

We used the one at Odd Down. The buses run every 10 to 15 minutes and this is a much less stressful option than trying to drive and park in Bath.

Parking is free all day if you buy a return bus fare (£2.70 per adult with children free).

For more ideas of what to do in Bath, visit the city’s official tourist information site Visit Bath.

*Have we missed any of your favourite attractions? Let us know of any attractions you would like us to add.

RELATED CONTENT: Cheddar Gorge – all you need to know about this natural phenomenon

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*We received free or reduced rates for the purpose of this story, all views are our own.

Cheddar Gorge – all you need to know about this natural phenomenon

Cheddar Gorge – all you need to know about this natural phenomenon

England’s largest gorge is a great family adventure but follow our advice to stay safe and enjoy it for free

Name

Cheddar Gorge

What is it?

A popular tourist attraction, Cheddar Gorge is a stunning limestone gorge in the Mendip Hills with show caves.

Visitors can complete a three-mile circular walk around the naturally-formed gorge – up one side, along the cliffs 900 feet above sea-level and back down the other side and through the village of Cheddar.

You can also visit the caves where the so-called Cheddar Man was discovered – a 9,000-year-old skeleton. There are two – the largest is Gough’s Cave which is over 500,000 years old with cathedral-like caverns, a large underground river system, stalagmites and stalactites.

Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge

Where is it?

It’s near the village of Cheddar in Somerset in the west of England.

What did we think?

This stunning landscape is well worth a look.

The walk would be quite tough for younger children and less fit adults – there are lots of steep parts and the pebbly way means you have to watch your feet a lot of the time.

But the views at the top, and the satisfaction of completing the route, make it worthwhile.

We can see why it is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

How to enjoy Cheddar Gorge for free.

If you do the circular walk clockwise, like we did, you will descend Jacob’s Ladder – not a ladder but a challenging 274 steps – down from the cliff tops into the village, for FREE.

If you want to walk UP the steps instead (there are four resting stops on the way up) – you will need to buy a Cheddar Gorge Caves and Day Ticket. If you’ve got any leg power left, another 48 steps takes you to the the top of the Lookout Tower and some fabulous views.

The ticket includes entrance to the steps and the Lookout Tower, both caves, the Museum of Prehistory and a cinematic experience called Beyond the View.

But it’s a fantastic experience without the extras and you can even park for free too if you park on the road instead of in one of the car parks.

There are more spaces further up the road away from the village – a good place to park is near to the Black Rock entrance to the trail.

Top tips

*There are some incredibly steep, sheer drops, keep an eye and a hand on children and keep dogs on a lead. I wouldn’t risk this with a child who could run off or anyone who wouldn’t appreciate the dangers.

*Wear walking boots or other suitable footwear, it’s a rocky walk.

*In need of some Christmas decorations? There is an all-year round Christmas shop in Cheddar!

Cheddar

Cheddar

*There is rock climbing and adventure caving for adults and children aged eight and above. Thrillseekers can also try out the Black Cat Freefall – where participants (minimum age 11), climb a 30-foot ladder and take on a big cave jump, attached to a safety line.

*If you want to find out more about the area, visit the Cheddar Man Museum of Prehistory.

Cheddar Gorge information

Food: The route around the gorge takes you through the village of Cheddar where you can buy ice-cream and other food or try cheese tasting at The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company. Alternatively, take a picnic like we did, to enjoy at the top (it can get very blustery but the views are fabulous).

Cost: The cliff-top walk is free if you do the circular route and descend Jacob’s Ladder. Fees apply to ascend the ladder, visit the caves or museum or to take part in the activities like caving and rock climbing.

Best for: Older children and relatively fit adults.

Time needed: Around 2.5 hours for the walk, longer if you include the caves, museum, activities or a look around the town.

Access and restrictions: The walk, the caves and the Jacob’s Ladder steps are not suitable for wheelchairs or anyone with limited disability. You can get a sense of the place via car – the drive through the gorge is one of the most scenic in Britain.

Address: Cheddar Gorge and Caves, The Cliffs, Cheddar, Somerset, BS27 3QF.

Parking: We parked by the side of the road – there seemed to be more spaces further up the road away from the village. A good place to park is near to the Black Rock entrance. Car parks include Cheddar Gorge Car Park and Cliff Street Car Park.

To book: The walk is free but to book paid-for parts of the experience go to the website Cheddar Gorge

Where to stay: We stayed at Wookey Hole Hotel, just eight miles from Cheddar Gorge and on the site of Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions, if you are inspired to explore more cavern, don’t miss our hotel review here.

RELATED CONTENT: Review: Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions – kooky by name and kooky by nature

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Review: Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions – kooky by name and kooky by nature

Review: Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions – kooky by name and kooky by nature

All you need to know about Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions, near Wells in Somerset

Name

Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions

What is it?

A family attraction centred around one of the UK’s largest series of show caves, said to be home to the Witch of Wookey Hole.

Aside from the caves, there is crazy golf, dinosaurs, a vintage penny arcade, 4D cinema, soft play and a circus theatre.

Where is it?

In the Mendip Hills near Wells in Somerset, in the south-west of England, 20 miles south of Bath.

What did we think?

The caverns are well worth a look, a stunning natural phenomenon. Eight of the chambers are open to visitors. You can see underground pools and even a cheese tunnel, home to Wookey Hole cheese.

Cave-aged cheddar cheese at Wookey Hole Caves and attractions

Cave-aged cheddar cheese

The rest of the attraction is curious in that it is quite a mish mash of themes and ideas filling the space – I still can’t decide if that makes it charming or confusing.

Nevertheless, we easily filled over half a day and all enjoyed ourselves.

Highlights

*The caves – they are filled with history – they began to be formed millions of years ago and have been used over the last 50,000 years by various inhabitants including giant hyenas, lions, bears, Neanderthals and Romans. More recently they have featured in films and tv shows such as Doctor Who.

Inside the caves at Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions

Inside the caves

The temperature is a constant 11° Celsius.

*The Enchanted Valley area when you exit the caves is great for dinosaur fans – there are lots of them to see, some moving and roaring, along with a huge King Kong and a woolly mammoth.

A dinosaur fossil dig at Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions

Digging for dinosaur fossils

*There’s a maze of mirrors which is fun to explore, inside a traditional arcade area.

*The circus theatre is worth a look – it stars local young performers who really impressed us with the scale of their skills including aerial, unicycles and even a sprinkling of magic.

Circus at Wookey Hole Caves

Circus at Wookey Hole Caves

*The 4D cinema plays different films – we saw a Scooby Doo show.

*There’s a nine-hole pirate-themed golf adventure course (crazy golf) included in the ticket price.

*We all enjoyed an area with soft foam balls that you can fire out of cannons.

*The staff are very friendly with some getting into character dressed as wizards and witches to enhance the experience.

Top tips

*The layout can be confusing. Buy/collect your tickets opposite the ice cream parlour near to the hotel (we stayed here, don’t miss our review), then cross the road and walk up the slope to access the caves first.

A t-rex at Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions

You walk past the dinosaurs on your way to the caves and through them afterwards.

*The caves take around 35 minutes to get around. They are dimly lit and a bit slippery, with some steps. And watch your head as it can be low in places, but this all adds to the fun of exploring.

*We went during school holidays, but during term-time, you book on a guided tour of the caves. Make the most of the staff stationed in the different caverns to ask them questions as it enhances the experience.

*Wookey Hole Caves is one of over 200 attractions around the UK that Blue Peter badge holders can get into for free. Badge holders with a valid badge card must be accompanied by a full paying adult.

* Look out for the human-shaped stalagmite that legend says is a witch turned to stone by a monk from Glastonbury, hence the legend.

*When you first go into the 4D cinema experience, you enter a room with a talking bat (he natters on for rather a long time) and a witch on a big phone screen – it could be rather dark and scary for some younger children. The 4D cinema experience involves the chairs moving and shaking at times and sensations such as puffs of air. Children under three are not allowed in.

Our video

Wookey Hole Caves information

Where to stay: We stayed at the hotel on site Wookey Hole Hotel, which means we were first in the caves in the morning, read our review to find out more.

Wookey Hole Hotel

Wookey Hole Hotel

Food: There’s a large restaurant on site selling meals such as chicken nuggets and sausages and chips. There are a few sandwich and cake options too. It has a bit of a canteen feel so could be nicer to sit on one of the few tables outside.

Next to the car park is an ice cream parlour with a delicious array of flavours.

Opening hours: For current opening times visit Wookey Hole Caves

Cost: For current cost visit Wookey Hole Caves

Best for: Ages five to 12 but adults will love the caves.

Time needed: At least half a day.

Access and restrictions: The caves are not accessible for wheelchairs or prams, the ground is bumpy and slippy and there are around 200 steps. The rest of the site is said to be accessible.

Parking: There’s a large car park and parking is free.

Address: Wookey Hole Caves, The Mill, Wookey Hole, BA5 1BA.

Telephone: 01749 672243

Email: witch@wookey.co.uk

To book: Wookey Hole Caves

RELATED CONTENT: Review: Wookey Hole Hotel in Somerset (at Wookey Hole Caves)

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*We were given free admission for the purpose of this review, all views are our own.

Review: Wookey Hole Hotel in Somerset (at Wookey Hole Caves)

Review: Wookey Hole Hotel in Somerset (at Wookey Hole Caves)

We stay at the hotel next to the famous Wookey Hole Caves in Wells

Our video tour of the hotel and attraction

Name

Wookey Hole Hotel

Where is it?

At the famous Wookey Hole Caves attraction in Somerset, two miles from the cathedral city of Wells and 20 miles from Bath.

What is it?

A 58-room hotel with a memorable turret shaped like a witch’s hat.

There’s a nod to witches in other details too including the curtains in our room.

A witch statue peers out of a bush at Wookey Hole Hotel

A witch peers out of a bush at the hotel

This is due to the legendary Wookey Hole witch – said to have lived in the caves until she was killed by a monk.

Is it family friendly?

Yes, there were lots of families here when we stayed and it is the target market for the hotel. Many are likely to be here to visit the adjacent Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions.

Children also benefit from a well kitted out games room and a great children’s menu in the restaurant.

The rooms

We had a family room with a comfortable double bed and two singles, a great alternative to the usual offering of two double beds and the children were pleased to have a bed each.

There was lots of good storage space, tea and coffee facilities and a tv plus free WiFi for unlimited devices.

A family room at Wookey Hole Hotel

Our family room

There are also double, superior and luxury family rooms. And a Witch’s Hat Suite for two adults with a bedroom and lounge. It can be found, as you might imagine, under the Witch’s Hat tower turret.

Food and drink

The Bistro is the bar and restaurant on site. It’s a nice room with wide windows on two sides.

The restaurant/bar at Wookey Hole Hotel

The restaurant/bar

Breakfast is served between 7.30am and 10am daily and there’s the choice of a buffet-style continental or a cooked alternative such as an English breakfast or eggs benedict.

There’s a good selection of evening meals, with something for everyone, served from 5.30pm to 8.30pm.

Our highlights

*The location – this is fantastic if you want to visit Wookey Hole Caves as it’s right next door. You can also do some scenic walks around the village and to Ebbor Gorge, which is about a 30-minute walk from the hotel.

*There is free car parking.

*The games room includes a giant Connect Four, air hockey table, table football, Jenga and classic arcade games.

Part of the games room at Wookey Hole Hotel

Part of the games room

Top tips

*As you’re staying on the same site, make sure to get up and out early as you can be first in the caves like we were – they opened at 9.30am when we stayed.

*Book the restaurant for breakfast or evening meals before you arrive to make sure you get one at your preferred time.

*Adjoining rooms are available if needed as are travel cots – only the bottom sheet is provided so bring your own bedding.

*There are often special packages available with stays including tickets to Wookey Hole, breakfast and discounts to other attractions, if you book directly with the hotel.

Nearby

*The adjacent Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions is a series of show caverns which date back millions of years. Alongside the caves are a dinosaur park, 4D cinema, adventure golf, soft play and circus theatre. Read our full review of Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions.

Dinosaurs at Wookey Hole Caves

Dinosaurs at Wookey Hole Caves

*The hotel is just eight miles from the stunning Cheddar Gorge, don’t miss our full guide to this natural phenomenom.

Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge

*It’s two miles from beautiful Wells – the smallest city in England. We spent a fantastic afternoon here, spending ages exploring the Bishop’s Palace glorious gardens.

Bishops Palace and Gardens, Wells

Bishops Palace and Gardens, Wells

*It’s 20 miles from Bath, where we spent a lovely couple of days visiting attractions like the Roman Baths, the Royal Crescent and the American Museum and Gardens as well as enjoying hop-on, hop-off open air bus tours. Read our full guide: Things to do in Bath for families

More information

Address: Wookey Hole Hotel, The Mill, Wookey Hole, Wells, Somerset, BA5 1BB.

Telephone: 01749 672243.

Email:  hotel@wookey.co.uk

How to book: Wookey Hole Hotel

RELATED CONTENT: Review: Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions – kooky by name and kooky by nature

RELATED CONTENT: Things to do in Bath for families

RELATED CONTENT: Cheddar Gorge – all you need to know about this natural phenomenon

*One night of our stay was free for the purpose of this review, all views are our own.

We enjoy an action-packed family break in delightful Durham

We enjoy an action-packed family break in delightful Durham

We take our children on a fantastic short break to Durham city and county

There aren’t many places where you can enjoy an historic city, visit the beach and explore dramatic countryside all in one day.

But you can in Durham where we began an action-packed short break with a trip to the sea at Seaham.

A striking stretch of sand where the main attraction is what’s washed up by the incoming water.

Some of the sea glass we found at Seaham beach, Durham

Sea glass

The beach is famous for its sea glass with dozens of hunters at a time scouring the sand for tiny bits of the precious material.

We found searching for sea glass strangely addictive – within a few minutes all four of us had joined everyone else on our hands and knees looking for it.

It wasn’t so tricky to find the main attraction at another of our early stops – Locomotion railway museum.

This home to trains of all shapes and sizes in Shildon – Britain’s first railway town – is a free attraction.

Testing reaction times on railway signals at Locomotion.

Testing reaction times on railway signals at Locomotion.

Also free to visit – though you are encouraged to donate £5 per person – is the striking Durham Cathedral.

The incredible 11th century building stands over the city, its three towers regularly visible as you stroll the riverside and the cobbled streets.

Inside, you can learn about the history of the building and, if you’re fit enough and eight years old or over, you can climb the 325 steps to the top for views over the city.

The spiral staircase gets increasingly narrow at the top but makes for an exhilarating destination when you step out onto the roof.

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral

The busy cathedral is also a great place for Harry Potter fans with several scenes from the first two movies filmed there. You can stroll the cloisters where Harry, Ron and Hermione walked.

Apparently, the scene where Ron’s spell backfires and he starts throwing up slugs was filmed here (find out more in our video below).

If the thought of this doesn’t put you off your lunch, you can buy something to eat and drink from the Undercroft cafe and eat it opposite the atmospheric square.

Thanks to its compact size, Durham is an excellent city to walk around – with riverside strolls and car-free cobbled streets. 

We even managed to get out on the water when we hired a traditional rowing boat from Browns Boats.

The hand-made boats fit a family of four and you can spend an hour exploring both directions on the River Wear.

A girl rows on a Browns Boat rowing boat hire on the River Wear in Durham

Rowing on the River Wear

The sweeping, wide waters of the river were visible from our hotel – the Radisson Blu – read our hotel review and guide.

The hotel is really well-positioned about 10 to 15 minutes from the city centre in a quiet spot next to the river.

Radisson Blu Hotel Durham on the River Wear

Radisson Blu Hotel Durham

It’s idea for families – our large, modern family room contained two TVs and excellent WiFi.

Its indoor swimming pool is a real bonus for children and we used it every day. And parents can enjoy the jacuzzi, sauna or a spa treatment if they’re lucky.

However, for us there was too much to do to spend long relaxing.

We even managed to take a trip back in time at Beamish – the living museum of the north.

This popular day out is great fun for all the family as you travel by tram or old bus to different eras.

An old bus on a cobbled street at Beamish Museum in County Durham

Beamish

We visited the 1950s, 1940s, 1910s and 1820s with a cast of staff and volunteers in period costume manning traditional bakeries, sweet shops and hairdressers.

Particular highlights for us was our daughter getting a 1950’s hair-do and having a family photo in Edwardian outfits.

Our Edwardian family photo at Beamish museum in Durham

Our Edwardian family photo

The museum is on a large site in lovely countryside with woodland walks between some of the different attractions.

But we had to wait until our last day to fully explore County Durham’s countryside.

Heading inland, our destination was the Northern Pennines. On the edge of the hills lies Raby Castle – a beautiful castle with deer park to explore and a new play area called Potters Forest with a wooden assault course for adults and children to explore.

Our final stop was England’s highest waterfall.

A few miles outside the pretty village of Middleton-in-Teesdale lies High Force.

You can buy a ticket and snacks at a kiosk next to the High Force Hotel and then set off towards the waterfall.

An accessible 15-minute walk brings the gushing water into view. It is a spectacular sight and you can get right down onto the rocks near the waterfall.

High Force Waterfall

High Force Waterfall

Once you’ve enjoyed the sight and sound of High Force, the trail takes you through woodland back to the car park – but don’t forget to keep an eye out for the wooden carvings of people and animals on the route.

A visit to High Force makes for a suitably spectacular end to a wonderful mini-break with a little bit of everything.

More details on the all the attractions we visited here: Best places to visit around the English city of Durham and the wider county

This is Durham

For more great ideas, visit the county’s official tourism website This is Durham.

Telephone: 03000 26 26 26

Email: visitor@thisisdurham.com

RELATED STORY: Best places to visit around the English city of Durham and the wider county

RELATED STORY: Radisson Blu Hotel in Durham City Centre – review and guide

(We received complimentary accommodation and entry to attractions for the purpose of this review, all views are our own).

Best places to visit around the English city of Durham and the wider county (plus video guide)

Best places to visit around the English city of Durham and the wider county (plus video guide)

All you need to know about the top family attractions in Durham

Durham is a wonderful county in north-east England, with loads for families to do, stunning scenery and excellent food and drink.

It’s the perfect place for a family getaway with city, coast and countryside all within one county.

Here are some of the best places to visit if you are visiting Durham City and the wider county and don’t miss our video too.

Durham Cathedral (Durham City)

Durham City is lovely to walk around and at its heart is this magnificent cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which has been in use for almost 1,000 years.

But Durham Cathedral has also been used in several movies including the first two Harry Potter films – the Philosopher’s Stone and the Chamber of Secrets.

Durham Cathedral exterior landscape front
Durham Cathedral

The Cloisters served as Hogwarts’ quadrangle and outdoor corridors including the scene where Ron has a spell backfire and pukes up slugs.

And the Chapter House was used as McGonagall’s Transfiguration class.

This part is usually closed but we managed to see a bit of it by peering through the keyhole!

If you are eight and over, you can buy tickets to climb the cathedral tower – there are 325 steps to get to the top where there are great views of the city.

Food: The cathedral has a nice restaurant, the Undercroft, serving light lunches including sandwiches, cakes, baked potatoes and quiche, plus they do meal boxes for children.

Cathedral entry cost: Free, £5 suggested donation.

Tower cost: £5.50 adults and £2 children.  

Address: Durham Cathedral, Palace Green Town Centre, Durham, DH1 3EP.

The Undercroft restaurant at Durham Cathedral
The Undercroft restaurant at Durham Cathedral

Palace Green Library (Durham City)

Also in the city, near to the cathedral’s main entrance on the Green, is this small museum.

It contains treasures detailing the history of Durham dating back more than 2,000 years. There are also rooms dedicated to the history of the Durham Light Infantry and another with information about Durham’s UNESCO World Heritage status.

Palace Green Library, Durham

Palace Green Library

And there’s a children’s trail you can collect at reception for them to do.

Cost: Free.

Address: Palace Green Library, Palace Green, Durham, DH1 3RN.

Riverside walks (Durham City)

There are some beautiful riverside walks around Durham. We started from Framwellgate bridge along the River Wear in the city centre and headed towards Prebend’s Bridge.

Once there you can head up the hill towards the cathedral or for a longer stroll, keep going alongside the water around the bend in the river and take the Elvet Bridge into the city centre.

It is a one-mile flat walk from Framwellgate Bridge to Elvet Bridge.

Walking by the River Wear in Durham
Walking by the River Wear

There is also this Durham Riverside Walk plus lots of trails around Durham Cathedral along Woodlands and Riverbanks.

Our hotel the Radisson Blu Durham was on the river and was a great base to explore from: Radisson Blu Hotel in Durham City Centre – review and guide

Browns Boats (Durham City)

You can hire traditional, hand-made rowing boats to explore the River Wear from Browns Boats. The river is nice and wide so ideal even for novice rowers. 

Browns Boats on the River Wear in Durham
Browns Boats on the River Wear

The team at Browns will give you advice and guidance on where to go and how to row safely before you get on board.

The boats have one seat at the front and two at the back with the oarsman in the middle.

In an hour you have time to head in both directions along the river. 

Cost: Adults £8, children £5 (plus £10 refundable deposit).

Address: Browns Boats, The Boathouse, Elvet Bridge, Durham, DH1 3AF.

Dig for Sea Glass at Seaham Hall beach (Durham Heritage Coast)

It’s a strange sight to arrive at the beach at Seaham Hall, everyone is either stooping over as they walk or sitting and digging at the sand.

They are hunting for sea glass and it’s strangely addictive.

So, what is sea glass? It is coloured gems found along the shore.

They are formed from bottles, jars and other discarded glass which have been weathered, smoothed and rounded into frosted glass.

Our haul was mostly green and white in colour but there was the odd blue, yellow and even pink find.

Some of the sea glass we found at Seaham beach, Durham
Sea glass

Parking: There are steps down to the beach from the free car park above.

Address: Seaham Hall Beach Car Park, SR7 7AF.

Locomotion railway museum (South Durham)

Locomotion museum has all sorts of different trains from the national collection of railway vehicles.

It’s in the town of Shildon, which was the world’s first railway town.

Highlights include peeking inside a Royal Train which carried Edward VII’s wife and a game where you test your reaction times on railway signals.

Looking at the royal carriage at Locomotion railway museum

Looking at the royal carriage

There are locomotives from different eras from the 1830s onwards with a huge variety including cattle carriages, 19th century fire engines and more.

Food: There is a small cafe but you can also bring picnics to eat inside or out.

Cost: Parking and entrance to the museum is free.

Address: Locomotion, Shildon, County Durham, DL4 2RE.

Beamish (North Durham)

Beamish is a living, working museum, where the staff are dressed up to bring to life people and places from the past.

You can experience life in the 1820s, walk around a 1900’s town, a 1900’s pit village, a 1940’s farm and a 1950’s town.

Our highlights included dressing up for an Edwardian family portrait and our daughter having her hair styled in a 1950’s hair salon.

Having her hair done in a 1950's salon at Beamish museum, Durham
Having her hair done in a 1950’s salon at Beamish

You can get around the sprawling site by tram or old-fashioned bus and buy food from places like an Edwardian bakery or a 1900’s sweet shop.

Tickets are booked in time slots at 10am, 11am and 12noon, try to get 10am as it seemed to get busier later. If you arrive after 1pm you don’t need to reserve a timeslot. We were among the first to enter and went straight to the hair salon first for our daughter and managed to get an appointment straight away.

Food: There are various takeaway and sit-in places to eat, we bought some delicious savoury pastries from a takeaway in the mining village.

Cost: Payment includes membership for a year, it costs £21 per adult, £15.50 for students and seniors aged 60 plus and £12 for children (aged 5 to 16). Family reductions start at £37 for one adult and two children.

Address: Beamish Museum, Beamish, County Durham, DH9 0RG.

Raby Castle (Durham Dales)

This is one of England’s best medieval castles and was built in the 14th century.

The grounds of Raby Castle include a scenic deer park with lakes.

A real highlight here is The Plotters’ Forest, a woodland adventure playground for children.

Raby Castle gv

Raby Castle (Credit: Visit County Durham)

Food: Take a picnic or enjoy lunch or a snack at the Yurt Cafe.

Cost: Raby Castle opening times and prices

Address: Raby Castle, Staindrop, DL2 3AH.

High Force Waterfall (Durham Dales)

This spectacular waterfall drops 21 metres (70 feet) into a pool below, in the Durham Dales.

A girl at High Force Waterfall

High Force Waterfall

It’s a relatively short and well-maintained woodland walk for the reward you get at the end.

The sight and sound is spectacular although be careful with children as the viewpoint is down steep steps and on rocks in the River Tees.

We parked at the High Force Hotel, paid at the kiosk in the car park and the children took part in a dinosaur trail too.

We took a longer, steeper, circular walk back round and didn’t see anyone else this way at all.

Cost: Adults £2.50, children under 16 £1, children under five free.

Parking at hotel: £3.

Food: There is a kiosk in the car park selling snacks and drinks or you can have breakfast, lunch or dinner at High Force Hotel.

Address: High Force, Forest-in-Teesdale, DL12 0XH.

Where to stay

With so much to see and do around Durham, you will need a good base to stay. We stayed at the Radisson Blu Hotel in a great location in Durham City on the River Wear: Radisson Blu Hotel in Durham City Centre – review and guide.

And read all about our Durham trip here: We enjoy an action-packed family break in delightful Durham.

Radisson Blu Durham hotel

Radisson Blu Durham

This is Durham

For more great ideas, visit the county’s official tourism website This is Durham.

Telephone: 03000 26 26 26

Email: visitor@thisisdurham.com

RELATED STORY: We enjoy an action-packed family break in delightful Durham

RELATED STORY: Radisson Blu Hotel in Durham City Centre – review, guide and video tour

*We enjoyed complimentary accommodation and access to attractions for the purpose of this review, all views are our own.

Radisson Blu Hotel in Durham City Centre – review, guide and video tour

Radisson Blu Hotel in Durham City Centre – review, guide and video tour

We take our children to stay at the Radisson Blu hotel on the River Wear in a great location in Durham

Name

Radisson Blu Hotel

Where is it

It is overlooking the River Wear in Durham city centre, in the northeast of England, a mile from the cathedral and the castle.

Durham is a really beautiful city, full of culture and charm and there’s also loads to see and do.

What is it

This is a four-star hotel with 207 bedrooms.

Radisson Blu hotels are part of the Radisson Hotel Group. (Other brands in the group are Radisson Collection, Raddison, Radisson Red, Radisson Individuals, Park Plaza, Park Inn by Radisson, Country Inn & Suites by Radisson and prizeotel).

The hotel reception at Radisson Blu Hotel Durham

The company describes the Radisson Blu hotels as ‘memorable, stylish and purposeful’.

Is it family friendly?

Yes, our room was perfect for a family and the swimming pool is the icing on the cake.

The rooms

Our family room was a good size, split into two areas – a spacious bedroom for us and around the corner, an area for the children with a sofa bed. Both areas have a tv and a desk.

One part of our standard family room at the Radisson Blu Durham

There’s also an en-suite bathroom with an array of toiletries. The room was equipped with tea and coffee facilities, dressing gowns, iron and ironing board, safe, hair dryer and ice bucket (ice is available along the corridor).

The children's part of the hotel room at the Radisson Blu Hotel Durham

Food and drink

The hotel’s Collage restaurant serves breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner.

Breakfast is a buffet with a range of good quality hot and continental items including pastries, croissants, cereals, bacon, egg, mushrooms, toast, cheeses, fruit and yoghurt.

Breakfast at Radisson Blu Hotel Durham

We stayed over a weekend and it seemed particularly busy on the Sunday morning.

There is a separate big bar area too, serving drinks and bar snacks.

The bar area at Radisson Blu Hotel Durham

Our highlights

*Our room was a fabulous size and a perfect layout for us with the two sections.

*The location is brilliant – we could walk everywhere we wanted to visit in the city centre.

At night, it’s a short stroll along the river to bars and restaurants and an Odeon cinema at The Riverside.

Inside the Food Pit in Durham - a restaurant/market hall with street food and a bar.

We particularly like the relaxed nature of the Food Pit – a street food hall. Set up like a restaurant but with seven independent food vendors offering different menus, so everyone can choose from a different section but all sit together. Food included Greek, Thai, Mexican, plus there’s a bar and an ice cream/waffle dessert option. There’s even pizza and chicken nuggets and chips if you look hard enough.

*The swimming pool – we LOVE a pool and this one, at 15 metres is a great size. There were even a couple of lanes sectioned off for lane swimming.

The swimming pool at Radisson Blu Hotel Durham

*There is also a good-sized gym/fitness suite, but we didn’t have the tine to try it out, we were too busy swimming!

The gym/fitness suite at Radisson Blu Hotel Durham

Our video tour

Nearby

*Durham Cathedral

This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the best examples of Norman architecture in England and has been in use for almost 1,000 years.

Durham Cathedral exterior landscape front

Of more interest to us though, is the fact that it has been used in the Harry Potter films.

The Cloisters served as Hogwarts’ quadrangle and outdoor corridors including the scene where Ron has a spell backfire and pukes up slugs.

And the Chapter House was used as McGonagall’s Transfiguration class.

This part is usually closed but we managed to see a bit of it by peering through the keyhole!

Browns Boats

Hire a traditional rowing boat and make your way along the River Wear.

A girl rows on a Browns Boat rowing boat hire on the River Wear in Durham

Seaham

Collect sea glass along the shore at Seaham, it’s surprisingly addictive.

The beach at Seaham, County Durham

Locomotion

This railway museum is a free attraction. It has trains of all shapes and sizes and is in Britain’s first railway town, Shildon.

Locomotion railway museum in County Durham exterior building gv

Beamish

Beamish – the living museum of the north, is a great day out for all the family. Near the town of Stanley, it tells the story of the people of North East England in the 1820s, 1900s and 1940s.

An old bus on a cobbled street at Beamish Museum in County Durham

For our full guide to local attractions read: Best places to visit around the English city of Durham and the wider county.

Hear all about our trip here: We enjoy an action-packed family break in delightful Durham.

More information

Check-in and out

Check-in is from 2pm and check-out is by 12noon.

Parking

There is a car park behind the hotel which offers a discounted rate for hotel guests. At the time of writing it was £14 for 24 hours,

Address:

Radisson Blu Hotel, Frankland Lane, Durham, DH1 5TA.

Telephone number:

0191 3727200.

How to book:

Radisson Blu Hotel Durham

RELATED STORIES: We enjoy an action-packed family break in delightful Durham

RELATED STORIES: Best places to visit around the English city of Durham and the wider county

This is Durham

For more great ideas, visit the county’s official tourism website This is Durham.

Telephone: 03000 26 26 26

Email: visitor@thisisdurham.com

*We enjoyed a complimentary stay for the purposes of this review, all views are our own.

Grosvenor Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon – review and guide

Grosvenor Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon – review and guide

We take our children to stay at a landmark hotel in the centre of Stratford

Name

Grosvenor Hotel

What is it

The Grosvenor Hotel is a landmark hotel in Stratford town centre with 76 rooms. It used to be known as the Villare Hotel but now has its original name back.

Where is it?

It’s in the centre of Stratford, a few minutes’ walk from the main attractions.

The rooms

Our ground floor room had a large bed and a sofa bed, tv, desk and en-suite. It was very hot but a fan was set up ready.

Our room at the Grosvenor Hotel in Stratford upon Avon

our room

Our room was a good size and simply decorated.

It is family friendly?

There were quite a few families staying here when we visited. There is nothing specific designed for children but the rooms are a reasonable size and it is walking distance into Stratford.

Food and drink

Breakfast was a simple choice of cereals, toast, fruit and hot options like egg, bacon, sausages and tomato. Our children enjoyed having branded cereals they could choose from.

Breakfast at the Grosvenor Hotel in Stratford upon Avon

Breakfast at the Grosvenor Hotel

We also had afternoon tea here which included a selection of sandwiches – egg, cheese, coronation chicken and tuna, plus chocolate brownies, lemon cake, strawberries and scones with cream and jam.

Afternoon tea at Grosvenor Hotel, Stratford upon Avon

Afternoon tea at the Grosvenor Hotel

There is a lounge and bar area which serves discounted drinks during Happy Hour between 9pm and 11pm.

Our highlights

*The hotel’s position is good, it’s a nice walk along the canal to the very centre. Don’t miss the entrance to the canal, which is across the road from the hotel.

The reception area at the Grosvenor Hotel in Stratford

Reception

*The staff did their best but I felt like more were needed, they were run ragged on reception and at breakfast. The young man who served us afternoon tea did an excellent job and seemed happier than some of the other employees.

The hotel bar at the Grosvenor Hotel in Stratford

The hotel bar

Top tips

*There is a back entrance from the car park so you don’t need to keep going up and down the front steps.

An outdoor area at the back of the Grosvenor Hotel, Stratford

An outdoor area at the back of the hotel

*As it is a grade two-listed building there is no lift so let the hotel know if you need a downstairs room.

Nearby

It’s a short walk into Stratford town centre if you cross the road, turn right and take the canal path.

There is loads to do in Stratford – Shakespeare-related attractions such as his birthplace and school, shops, boating on the River Avon, restaurants and cafes and of course theatres. See our top picks here.

More information

Address: Grosvenor Hotel,12-14 Warwick Road, Stratford upon Avon, CV37 6YW.

Parking: There is a car park and it costs £9 per night to park your car. The car park did get full when we visited so arrive early to park and then leave your car to walk into Stratford.

How to book: Grosvenor Hotel

We received a complimentary stay for the purposes of this review but all views are our own.

The best things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon for families

The best things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon for families

Where to visit with children in stunning Stratford, home of William Shakespeare

The medieval market town of Stratford-upon-Avon is famed for being the birthplace of English playwrite and poet William Shakespeare.

Many of the family attractions here are linked with the famous writer of plays such as Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth, but not all.

Here are some of our favourite places to visit in Stratford.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Shakespeare's Birthplace

Shakespeare’s Birthplace

This restored 16th-century half-timbered house in Henley Street was William Shakespeare’s childhood home.

His father lived and worked in the house for 50 years and William was actually born there in 1564.

After William married Anne Hathaway at the age of 18, they stayed at the house and their own three children were born there.

We really liked using the QR codes dotted about which we could use via a mobile phone to bring the information to life.

QR code at Shakespeare's Birthplace

Using QR codes

Another great resource is a wall of synopses of Shakespeare’s different plays which my son spent some time reading.

Wall of play synopses at Shakespeare's Birthplace

Wall of plays synopses

It is great to go inside the small house at the end of the tour, where knowledgeable guides in each room explain to children what life would have been like in Tudor times.

Time taken: Allow around an hour.

Address: Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6QW.

Website: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Guildhall

This is the school where William Shakespeare was taught in the 1570s, where he wrote his first works and saw inspiring actors perform plays.

Shakespeare was able to attend this local grammar school as his father was Mayor of Stratford.

The attraction is guide-led and their passion and enthusiasm for the building shines through.

The best bit is where you get to sit in the schoolroom with an actor playing the part of Shakespeare’s teacher Master Thomas Jenkins. We even had a Latin lesson. It is very interactive with adults and children getting involved in the fun. The 20-minute lesson was a real highlight of our visit, especially when our daughter got to play the part of Julius Caesar.

A lesson at Shakespeare's school

A lesson at Shakespeare’s school

The visit here starts with a guide explaining about the history of the building, visitors watch a short video and then learn about a painting discovered in the Guildhall.

Later, you can dress up in Tudor clothes and learn to write with a quill and ink in a classroom still used by King Edward VI School in Stratford.

Writing with a quill at Shakespeare's School

Writing with a quill

Time taken: One to two hours.

Address: Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Guildhall, Church Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6HB.

Website: Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Guildhall

Shakespeare’s New Place

New Place, built in the 1480s, was William Shakespeare’s home from 1597 until he died there in 1616.

At the time it was also known as the Great House as it was the largest in Stratford and the only one with a courtyard.

Sadly, the medieval house was demolished in 1759, today you will find a museum there and an Elizabethan garden.

The gardens at Shakespeare's New Place

The gardens at Shakespeare’s New Place

The museum has a nice introductory animated video about Shakespeare and his return to Stratford which was interesting.

However the gardens are definitely the best part of New Place, they are beautiful with space to run around and lots of statues and information boards for children to learn about Shakespeare and his plays.

Time taken: Around 45 minutes with children

Address: Shakespeare’s New Place, 22 Chapel Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6EP.

Website: Shakespeare’s New Place

Stratford Butterfly Farm

This lovely place to visit has been open in Stratford since 1985.

A butterfly at Stratford Butterfly Farm

Stratford Butterfly Farm

You can leave your coats in a cloakroom before you enter the warm, tropical areas where hundreds of butterflies from all over the world flutter around you.

Try to identify the ones you spot using a picture guide. There is also plenty of information on the butterflies on a big board where you queue to get in.

Tickets are for timed entry to avoid it becoming too crowded inside the butterfly farm.

It isn’t only about butterflies, there is also a great minibeasts area where we saw creatures from ants through to a tarantula and snakes.

And there’s a nice shop and a pretty, small, garden area outside.

Time taken: Allow an hour to explore the farm at a leisurely pace.

Address: Stratford Butterfly Farm, Swan’s Nest Lane, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 7LS.

Website: Stratford Butterfly Farm

River Avon

The River Avon meanders through Stratford and there are plenty of ways to enjoy it. You can hire your own boat or take a boat trip as we did.

The river cruise with Avon Boating, which has been operating since 1898 – was a pleasant 30-minute journey up and down the river on an Edwardian passenger launch.

Cruising with Avon Boating

Cruising with Avon Boating

We passed the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare is buried and under the 15th century Clopton Bridge.

There is a map on board and a free audio guide you can use along the river.

You can also hire a small boat, a motor boat, an electric launch or Cambridge punts with the company.

Loaction: We boarded at Bancroft Gardens.

Website: Avon Boating

Royal Shakespeare Theatre

This grade two-listed theatre is the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company and is dedicated to William Shakespeare.

Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Royal Shakespeare Theatre

It has over a thousand seats and is located next to the River Avon in the centre of Stratford.

It’s the RSC’s main theatre where they regularly perform Shakespeare’s plays and other works.

Also on the site is the smaller Swan Theatre, a rooftop restaurant, a shop and a cafe.

Address: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Waterside, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6BB.

Website: Royal Shakespeare Company

Have we missed your favourite Stratford attraction? Let us know in the comments.

We used a Shakespeare’s England Explorer Pass which gives you entry to 10 top attractions across Warwickshire including Warwick Castle, Avon Boating and Stratford Butterfly Farm.

Where to stay in Stratford

Hotel Indigo Stratford-upon-Avon review and guide

*We had complimentary entry to the attractions, all views are our own.

Hotel Indigo Stratford-upon-Avon review and guide

Hotel Indigo Stratford-upon-Avon review and guide

We try out a city centre hotel in Stratford close to its top family attractions

Name

Hotel Indigo Stratford upon Avon.

Where is it

It is in a great location in the centre of Stratford, opposite two tourist attractions – Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Shakespeare’s New Place.

Hotel Indigo sign and frontage, Stratford upon Avon

Hotel Indigo

What is it

It’s a boutique hotel with 93 rooms in a stunning building made up of a Georgian townhouse, a 16th century building and a modern wing.

Is it family friendly?

Our children really enjoyed our stay but we didn’t see any others during the trip – this classy hotel seems more aimed at couples, friends and older families.

Inside Hotel Indigo, Stratford upon Avon

Inside the hotel

However, staff couldn’t have been nicer.

The rooms

Our suite was in the Tudor section of the hotel and was a heady mix of modern comforts and 16th century character.

The main bedroom in our suite at Hotel Indigo, Stratford

The main bedroom in our suite

The fun layout was made up of two rooms with a Jack and Jill bathroom in between and a wide, furnished corridor which also links the two.

The main bedroom had a big comfy bed and the second room had a sofa bed which the children loved.

The second room in our suite at Hotel Indigo in Stratford

The second room

The decor was modern and quirky. There are plenty of nods to Shakespeare with paintings of characters from his plays on the walls. Our children enjoyed discovering which plays the characters were from.

Further rooms are in the Georgian townhouse section and the contemporary wing. There are rooms suitable for families in all three areas of the hotel depending on if you want traditional Tudor or a more modern-style room.

Food and drink

Breakfast was served in the ‘Feasting Room’ and included a good continental spread of cereals, pastries, toast, hams, cheeses and extras like carrot muffins.

Breakfast at Hotel Indigo, Stratford

Breakfast at Hotel Indigo

Hot food to order such as a cooked breakfast, French toast with fruit and honey or egg, hash brown and spinach on a brioche bun, was delicious.

You can book a table to eat dinner in the upscale, on-site restaurant The Woodsman, which serves a changing menu made up of farm-to-table dishes like deer, boar, beef and lamb.

The chefs cook in an open kitchen, using a wood fired oven and charcoal grill.

It is quality over quantity – there were five main course options when we ate there including cod and a vegetarian mushroom option. My pork was melt-in-the-mouth delicious with a side dish of crunchy potatoes.

This is not the restaurant for you if you are after very simple food or pub favourites, but we really enjoyed the tasty fare and the desserts were equally delicious and well presented.

There was no printed children’s menu, but they offered to make a smaller version of any of the main meals or serve sausage and mash, chicken or fish goujons and chips.

Chicken goujons for the children at the Woodsman, Hotel Indigo, Stratford

Chicken goujons for the children

Our highlights

*The snacks in the hotel room like popcorn and crisps, are complimentary.

*The fun layout of our room.

*The great central location – we could just leave our car here and explore the town, without having to worry about finding somewhere to park in Stratford.

Anything else?

There is a gym/fitness room, bar, nice little seating areas dotted around and also a pretty little garden with tables to sit at.

Nearby

Opposite is Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Guildhall. This is where William Shakespeare went to school and has guides showing you around the different sections who are passionate about the site and its history.

Also opposite is Shakespeare’s New Place – the site and gardens that housed his home for 19 years.

Plus, there are other interesting places to see nearby, boat trips on the River Avon, shows at the Royal Shakespeare Society and dozens of places to eat and drink on the doorstep.

Read our full, detailed round-up of the best places to visit in Stratford.

More information

The hotel entrance at the back of the building, Hotel Indigo, Stratford

The hotel entrance at the back of the building

Address: Hotel Indigo, Chapel Street, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire, CV37 6HA.

Parking: There is a small car park which costs £10 per car per night. It can not be booked in advance and is first come, first served.

How to book: Hotel Indigo Stratford

Hotel Indigo is a chain of small, individually owned boutique hotels, which is part of IHG Hotels & Resorts.

NOW READ:

The best things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon for families

We received a complimentary stay, all views, as ever, are our own.

 

Mallory Court Country Hotel and Spa in Warwickshire – review and guide

Mallory Court Country Hotel and Spa in Warwickshire – review and guide

We stay at the magnificent Mallory Court Hotel in Leamington Spa

Could there be a warmer welcome than the one we received at the glorious Mallory Court Country Hotel and Spa in Warwickshire.

This stunning venue is everything a hotel should be – a luxurious home from home, exquisite food, wonderful staff and beautiful gardens – take a look at our exclusive video tour below.

We were thoroughly spoilt here and loved every second.

Name

Mallory Court Country House Hotel and Spa.

Where is it?

Between Warwick and Royal Leamington Spa in Warwickshire.

What is it?

This beautiful country house hotel and award-winning restaurant is set in 10 acres of gorgeous gardens.

The rear of Mallory Court Hotel and gardens in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

Mallory Court Hotel

It also has a spa, function suite and civil license. Plus, some of the rooms are dog-friendly.

It’s privately owned by the Eden Hotel Collection and is one of the most prestigious hotels in the county.

Is it family friendly?

Yes, our two loved it here and made the most of the grounds, exploring every lovely section.

The hotel’s main market is for adults who enjoy fine-dining and luxury but there is still a very relaxed vibe.

Our suite was fabulous for them – they had their own room, sofas and bathroom. They were even given a mini-welcome pack on their beds including a mini-bathrobe, slippers and a soft toy.

Slippers, robes and toys left on the twin beds at Mallory Court Hotel, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

The ability to swim and play tennis or croquet, plus use the gardens to burn off energy is another plus.

There are other family rooms in the hotel plus standard rooms can take an extra foldaway bed or cot. Children are £25 per night including breakfast. Cots are £15.

The rooms

There are 43 luxurious bedrooms.

We stayed in the Blenheim Suite, a very spacious two-bedroom, two-bathroom area with its own private corridor. In both rooms there are desks/dressing tables, televisions, coffee machines, lots of storage and plenty of places to sit and relax.

The master bedroom in the Blenheim family suite, Mallory Court Hotel, Leamington Spa

One of the bedrooms in our suite

It really was so easy to unwind here, there is everything you could need including toiletries, drinks and snacks.

Relaxing in their bedroom in the Blenheim Suite at Mallory Court Hotel

Relaxing in their bedroom in the Blenheim Suite

The main bathroom even has two baths as well as a shower.

Food and drink

There are two options for dinner – we ate in The Dining Room. This restaurant offers fine dining at its best and has three AA rosettes.

The dining room at Mallory Court Hotel, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

The dining room

We enjoyed a five-course tasting menu, which was absolutely delicious including a choice of two main courses of lamb or plaice.

They use organically grown, seasonal produce from the hotel’s kitchen gardens to keep the menus fresh.

For children, they can make separate dishes such as sausages, chicken or pasta. Their children’s desserts included a heavenly sticky toffee pudding.

There is another restaurant called the Brasserie in the spa building where they do a £12.50 three-course dinner for children.

The breakfast is of a high quality – there is continental or cooked – both are served to the table by the attentive staff. They didn’t even act surprised when my daughter asked for three different types of cereal at once.

Our highlights

*The swimming pool is lovely and warm and a nice size to enjoy a family swim. It’s located in the spa in the grounds.

The swimming pool in the spa area at Mallory Court Hotel in Leamington Spa

The swimming pool in the spa area

*The grounds are stunning – there is even a huge croquet pitch and equipment to play as well as a tennis court.

A pond in the grounds of Mallory Court Hotel in Warwickshire

In the grounds

*Enjoying a drink on the terrace in the sunshine before going inside to eat.

*The welcoming staff throughout the hotel – on reception, at dinner and at breakfast they were so lovely and interested in how the children were enjoying the stay.

Top tips

*Swimming costs extra, it is not included and is pricey at £15 per adult and £7.50 per child for one hour. Children under four can’t use the pool and family access is at set hours and needs to be booked.

*Car parking is free and there are plenty of spaces.

*Dogs are welcome at the hotel but check in advance to see if there is a dog friendly room available. We saw several dogs during our stay enjoying the grounds!

Nearby

Warwick Castle – review, guide and top tips 2022

The best things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon for families

Our video tour

More information

Address: Mallory Court Hotel & Spa, Harbury Lane, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, CV33 9QB.

How to book: Mallory Court Hotel and Spa

*We received a complimentary stay, all views as ever are our own.

The Gresham Aparthotel, Leicester – review and guide

The Gresham Aparthotel, Leicester – review and guide

We stay at this revamped aparthotel in the centre of Leicester with our children

Name

The Gresham Aparthotel.

What is it

This is an aparthotel (apartments with a hotel booking system), which opened at the end of 2021 following a £17 million refurbishment.

It’s in an iconic building which was once a department store, made up of several buildings designed in the 1800.

There are 121 apartments, a restaurant and bar, a gym and conference facilities.

Where is it

It’s in Leicester city centre, a five-minute walk from the cathedral.

Rooms

Rooms range from a studio through to a two-bedroom apartment and a sky room with city views.

Sofas, lou0nge area, dining table in a two-bedroom apartment at Gresham Aparthotel in Leicester

Our two-bedroom apartment

They all have a kitchenette, dining area and lounge area with television.

The one we stayed in was modern and clean with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. It was one of the apartments on the inside of the building so only had one window, but the lights are bright.

A double bedroom in Gresham Aparthotel in Leicester

One of the bedrooms in our apartment

Is it child friendly?

It is not in the most salubrious of areas, but once inside, the children loved exploring the apartment. We entered through one of the bedrooms and gradually discovered more and more rooms, there was definitely plenty of space.

Another bonus was the smart tvs in both rooms which enabled them to catch up with YouTube and Disney+.

A twin room at Gresham Aparthotel in Leicester

The other bedroom

Their bedroom was bright and spacious and it’s great having access to kitchen facilities, a fridge and dining table.

The lounge area was big enough for us all to sit down and enjoy a movie although the sofa could have been comfier.

An open plan kitchen-diner and living space at our apartment at Gresham Aparthotel in Leicester

It’s an open plan kitchen-diner and living space

Food

There is a restaurant and bar on the ground floor called Black Iron Social which serves breakfast, brunch, bar snacks and dinner and seems really popular.

Black Iron Social bar and restaurant at Gresham Aparthotel in Leicester

The bar and restaurant Black Iron Social

Plus there’s a Tesco Express around the corner if you want to eat in.

Our highlights

*The rooms are modern, fresh and clean. The size is great with lots of space to relax in.

*The modern facilities are a big bonus

*It’s a good central location in Leicester, you can walk to all the major attractions in the city centre.

Top Tips

*Make sure to ask for a room on the outside with windows, if you want them.

*It is on a pedestrianised street so if you have heavy luggage, get one person to drop the other off nearby before going to park your car.

Nearby

Leicester has some great family attractions, including the National Space Centre and the Richard III Centre, read our full guide to places to go in the city here.

More information

Address: The Gresham Aparthotel, 36 Market Street, Leicester, LE1 6DP.

Parking: The hotel does not have its own car park. There are car parks within a short walking distance, we used Newarke Street car park, which is about a 2/3 minute walk.

Book here: The Gresham Aparthotel

We had a complimentary stay, all views are our own.

 

The best things to do with children in Leicester

The best things to do with children in Leicester

The top family attractions in Leicester

Leicester is a city in the East Midlands area of England with plenty for families to do, here is our guide to the best attractions to visit with children.

The National Space Station

The National Space Station is arguably the main family attraction in Leicester.

The National Space Centre, Leicester, exterior

The National Space Centre

It’s been open for around 20 years and although the outside looks a little dated now, inside is a fresh and modern museum with plenty of hands-on attractions.

There’s a large ground floor area which explains all about the galaxy, with plenty of interactive elements.

You can also see space suits worn by the likes of Buzz Aldrin and Tim Peake.

Space suits at the National Space Centre in Leicester

Space suits

There is a planetarium showing a film narrated by Ewan Macgregor which lasts around 20 minutes and explains the life of an astronaut.

You book a time slot and sit watching a domed-shaped projection screen above and around you – we made the mistake of sitting at the front so I would suggest sitting towards the back.

It feels as if you are moving around space which can be a bit disorientating plus it’s worth noting that it includes some medical details about the human body and sickness.

When getting to floors two, three and four you pass two rockets which are inside the centre.

The second floor showcases the UK’s contribution to the space race. There is a good video about some of the country’s pioneers and a nice interactive screen where children can design their own rocket  and then see it fire into space.

Floors three and four are all about the Space Race between the Soviet Union and USA.

The third floor talks about the Russians’ role and you can take control of a capsule similar to Yuri Gagarin’s – the first man in space.

The top floor explains the timeline of the moon landings, telling the story of Apollo 11 and subsequent flights.

A rocket at the National Space Centre

The timeline is clear and simple for children and they can feel a replica of the moon’s surface, as well as having a look at tiny piece of the moon too.

Suitable age: Best for children aged eight and above as some of the exhibits are quite detailed.

Food: There are cafes and snacks available on the ground floor. There was an ice cream van outside when we visited too plus picnic benches outside.

Parking: There are two large car parks with tickets costing £3 for the whole day.

Where is it: Two miles north of Leicester City Centre, off the A6 between Leicester’s inner and outer ring roads.

Address: National Space Centre, Exploration Drive, Leicester, LE4 5NS.

Website: National Space Centre

Abbey Pumping Station

If you are parked at the National Space Centre, you can also visit Abbey Pumping Station next door.

Abbey Pumping Station exterior

Abbey Pumping Station

A museum based on sewage doesn’t sound too exciting but this free museum has a good playground, old diggers and cranes, a narrow gauge railway which runs occasionally and a small garden.

Older visitors may like the museum’s collection of industrial, technological and scientific items relating to Leicester.

I wouldn’t go especially to visit but it is worth stopping by if you are already at the space centre.

Play area at Abbey Pumping Station in Leicester

Play area at Abbey Pumping Station

Parking: At the National Space Centre next door, cost £3.

Address: Abbey Pumping Station, Corporation Road, Leicester, LE4 5PX.

Website: Abbey Pumping Station

Richard III Centre

The discovery of Richard III’s remains under a Leicester car park in 2014, led to this excellent new museum.

Set over two floors, the first explains the story of Richard and the Wars of the Roses. It uses videos, timelines and interactive screens to set out how Richard became king between 1483 and 1485 and how he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth.

Screens at the Richard III Centre in Leicester

The second floor details how Richard’s remains were discovered.

A group of dedicated historians and enthusiasts thought he may be buried under a city car park. A huge dig proved them right and this exhibition shows how DNA testing and various techniques proved it was the king.

It is mostly aimed at adults but there is a good dressing up area where children can wear Tudor clothes.

Dressing up in Tudor clothes at the Richard III Centre in Leicester

Dressing up in Tudor clothes

The centre also gives children an activity sheet on entry with a quiz, colouring and a wordsearch to do around the museum.

The end of the museum is a simple room with an area of glass floor through which you can see where Richard’s remains were discovered.

The room has a friendly member of staff on hand to answer questions and children will enjoy walking over the glass to look closely at the site.

The glass floor through which you can see the spot where Richard III's remains were found

The glass floor through which you can see the spot where Richard III’s remains were found

Parking:  There is no parking and the area around is pedestrianised. Long-stay nearby car parks include St Nicholas Circle NCP (next to the Holiday Inn, postcode LE1 4LF) and at the Highcross Shopping Centre (accessible from Vaughan Way, postcode LE1 4QJ).

Where is it: In the heart of the city centre, next to Leicester Cathedral.

Address: King Richard III Visitor Centre, 4A St. Martin’s, Leicester, LE1 5DB.

Website: King Richard III Visitor Centre

Leicester Museum and Art Gallery

Leicester Museum is free to enter and has lots of sections including Ancient Egypt, dinosaurs, wild space, Leicester stories, the Victorian Art Gallery, arts and crafts, Picasso Ceramics along with the Attenborough Collection and Leicester’s German Expressionism collection.

A dinosaur skeleton at Leicester Museum and Art Gallery

Leicester Museum and Art Gallery

It also hosts lots of temporary exhibitions and has activities including talks and lunchtime concerts, plus there is a gift shop.

Food: There is a museum cafe.

Parking: The museum’s own car park is in Princess Road West, use the postcode LE1 6TR.
The nearest major car park is the NCP on East Street, use postcode LE1 6NB.

Where is it: In the south of Leicester city centre.

Address: Leicester Museum & Art Gallery, 53 New Walk, Leicester, LE1 7EA.

Website: Leicester Museum and Art Gallery

Ninja Warrior UK Leicester

This is an indoor adventure park inspired by the ITV hit programme Ninja Warrior UK.

Participants climb, swing, balance and jump their way around different obstacles.

Ninja Warrior UK in Leicester

Ninja Warrior UK in Leicester

It is not a set course, you can have a go at any section you like.

Children and adults can all take part and there’s a separate smaller area for under-fives.

Participants have coloured wristbands to show which hour-long time slot they are in – if doing two hours you get two.

Everyone waits in the café area for a quick safety briefing before you can start.

What to wear: Trainers have to be worn around the course except on the inflatable section where provided Ninja socks must be worn. Jeans can’t be worn – only appropriate attire for exercise.

Food: There is a good-size cafe area serving food and drinks.

Parking: There is free parking outside in the retail park.

Where is it: It is on St George’s Retails Park in Leicester.

Address: Ninja Warrior UK, Unit 8 St George’s Retails Park, Leicester, LE1 1SG.

Website: Ninja Warrior UK Leicester

Treetop Adventure Golf

There are two indoor 18-hole mini golf courses at Treetop Adventure Golf in Leicester.

Treetop Adventure Golf in Leicester

Treetop Adventure Golf in Leicester

One is called Tackle the Tropical Trail which has a rainforest theme.

The other, called Ancient Explorer, is in a temple setting.

There is also a bonus hole – the 19th hole – where everyone can try to get a hole in one for the chance to win a free round of golf.

Food: There is a pizza restaurant, cafe and even a cocktail bar. Picnics are not allowed.

Parking: Park at the Highcross Rooftop car park or the John Lewis car park.

Where is it: At the High cross shopping centre in Leicester.

Address: Treetop Adventure Golf, Highcross, 3 Shires Lane, Leicester, Leicestershire, LE1 4AN

Website: Treetops Adventure Golf Leicester

For more ideas go to the Visit Leicester website.

Have we missed your favourite attraction in Leicester? Let us know in the comments!

Where to stay

There are plenty of places to stay in Leicester, we stayed in a good central spot at the Gresham Aparthotel, read our review and guide.

Warwick Castle – review, guide and top tips

Warwick Castle – review, guide and top tips

All you need to know about popular Warwick Castle – the perfect family attraction

Name

Warwick Castle.

What is it?

Warwick Castle is a medieval castle, originally built by William the Conqueror as a wooden fort in 1068, and rebuilt in stone in the 12th century.

This historical tourist experience is hugely popular and attracts visitors from all over the world – we heard plenty of American accents on our visit.

Suits of armour inside Warwick Castle

Inside the castle

There is lots of to see and do plus there are live shows and experiences during the year including large arena jousting performances and the UK’s biggest birds of prey show, to help bring the castle alive for visitors.

Where is it?

It is unsurprisingly in the town of Warwick in Warwickshire on the River Avon, less than two miles from junction 15 of the M40.

Highlights

*A fantastic show, the Falconer’s Quest – an outdoor bird show, made into a story.

There are a few rows of benches, but hundreds of other people sat around on the grass and on picnic blankets nearby to watch and had just as good an experience.

*The Horrible Histories Maze, where children can get a little book stamped at various stages.

*Archery and jousting lessons with enthusiastic staff dressed in medieval outfits.

Archery lessons at Warwick Castle

Archery lessons at Warwick Castle

*Interactive storytime in the Princess Castle.

*For younger children, there are attractions based around the Julia Donaldson character Zog, including a great outdoor play area.

Zog play area at Warwick Castle

Zog play area

Warwick Castle Top Tips

*The Castle Dungeon is a 50-minute walk with live actors and special effects but is scary and so for over-tens only. You have to pay extra for this attraction, it isn’t included in the entry price.

*Get there early – we arrived about 9.30am for a 10am opening which meant we were at the front of the car park – although it was still a bit of a trek – and one of the first through the doors.

*Pay for your car park at the start  – about 50 yards before the entrance on the right  – there can be queues if you leave it to the end and it’s a set price (£6) anyway.

*If you want to extend your stay, you can sleep over at Warwick Castle in the Knight’s Village. There are 24 standard Woodland Lodges which sleep up to five and four Knight’s Lodges which are bigger and sleep up to seven people.

*There are tours running every half an hour covering different areas of the castle and its history. We joined a 30-minute tour which explained the 1,000 year story of the castle with an enthusiastic guide. It was well explained to suit children and gives you a good grounding for your day at the castle.

*You can scale the towers and ramparts but be aware this is a one-way trip and there are a lot of spiral stairs to climb that will tire out little legs (and big ones). But there’s a great view from the top.

*We used a Shakespeare’s England Explorer Pass which gives you entry to 10 top attractions across Warwickshire including Warwick Castle, Avon Boating and Stratford Butterfly Farm.

View from the top at Warwick Castle

View from the top

Food

There are plenty of food and drink options but it isn’t cheap. There was a pizza van making fresh pizzas (£11.90 for a basic Margherita), along with a fish and chip stall, ice cream vans and drinks outlets.

Lots of people brought their own picnics and there are plenty of lovely places to eat on the lawns and loads of benches to sit at.

Our video tour

Where did we stay?

We stayed at the gorgeous Mallory Court Country Hotel and Spa, which was about 15 minutes away.

More information

Address: Warwick Castle, Warwick, CV34 6AH.

Parking: The castle’s car parks are a fair walk from the castle as its grounds are protected.

Accessibility: There is a drop-off point where people with mobility restrictions can be dropped off.

Some areas of the castle are not wheelchair accessible – see here for a full guide.

The castle supports the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme for those with hidden disabilities.

Opening times: Open every day except Christmas Day. Hours vary.

Prices: From £24. Under threes go free.

Website: Warwick Castle

MORE

The best things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon for families

The best things to do with children in Leicester

The Masked Singer Live UK tour 2022 – review and guide

The Masked Singer Live UK tour 2022 – review and guide

The very first Masked Singer Live UK tour has begun

The Masked Singer is the surprise television hit that is part singing competition and part guessing game which sees celebrities dress up in crazy costumes.

Clues are given about each celebrity so you can try and guess ‘who is behind the mask’.

In our house we are avid viewers – the children love it – so we were thrilled when it was announced that a stage version was to tour the UK.

We bought tickets to the first night in Liverpool, so here is our review plus all you need to know.

Name

The Masked Singer Live

Venue

We saw it at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool for the very first live show.

It will also be in London, Birmingham, Newcastle upon Tyne, Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Nottingham.

Who is in it?

*The host – as in the ITV show – is comedian and presenter Joel Dommett.

He got a great reception from the audience.

Joel Dommett on stage in Liverpool at The Masked Singer Live

Joel Dommett on stage in Liverpool

*The panel is made up of singer and tv personality Denise Van Outen (Fox in Series one) and JLS star Aston Merrygold (Robin in series two), plus a different third celebrity judge in each city. Ours in Liverpool was Samia Longchambon from Coronation Street.

*Five of the favourite characters sing and dance – at ours were Panda, Badger, Dragon, Unicorn and Traffic Cone.

Sadly it is not the original celebrities inside the costumes, but other great singers. They don’t take their masks off so younger children may not realise.

*Then there are two new celebrities to sing and be unveiled at each venue in new costumes – Space Pug and Baby Dino.

Who was behind the mask?

In Liverpool we had Simon Gregson (Steve McDonald, Coronation Street), who performed as Space Pug.

Simon Gregson (Steve McDonald, Coronation Street) performs as Space Pug at the Masked Singer Live in Liverpool

Simon Gregson as Space Pug

And singer and friend of Simon Cowell, Sinitta, as Baby Dino, voted best by the audience clapometer.

Best bits

*Solos, duets and group numbers from the favourite characters.

Badger, Dragon and Panda at the Masked Singer Live

Badger, Dragon and Panda, plus Unicorn heading out on stage

*Most of the audience and all of the judges (including his Coronation Street colleague) guessing Simon Gregson to be Space Pug. The clues are much easier to guess than the television series thankfully.

*Joel going into the audience to ask people who they thought the masked stars were.

When is it?

April 2, 2022: M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool

April 3, 2022: The O2, London

April 5, 2022: Utilita Arena Birmingham

April 8, 2000: Utilita Arena Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne

April 9, 2022: OVO Hydro, Glasgow

April 10, 2022: AO Arena, Manchester

April 13, 2022: First Direct Arena, Leeds

April 15, 2022: Utilita Arena Sheffield

April 16, 2022: Motorpoint Arena Nottingham

April 18, 2022: OVO Arena, Wembley, London

Who are the guest judges at each venue

The third judge at each venue to sit alongside Denise Van Outen and Aston Merrygold will be:

O2, London: Jonathan Ross

Birmingham: Mo Gilligan

Newcastle: Scarlett Moffatt

Glasgow: Sanjeev Kohli

Manchester and Leeds: Nicola Roberts

Sheffield: Martine McCutcheon

Nottingham: Natalie Imbruglia

OVO Arena Wembley: Davina McCall

Tickets

Tickets are available here.

Conclusion

A great family night out for fans of the show.

 

 

BeWILDerwood Cheshire’s Christmas lights trail – all you need to know

BeWILDerwood Cheshire’s Christmas lights trail – all you need to know

Full guide and review of BeWILDerwood Presents Christmas – A Sparkly Light & Panto Trail

BeWILDerwood Cheshire’s first ever Christmas lights event has begun.

The woodland attraction is already an established favourite day out for lots of families since it opened last year.

And now lots are going to experience its Sparkly Light and Panto Trail by night.

We were lucky enough to get a sneak preview, here is everything you need to know.

Name

BeWILDerwood Presents Christmas – A Sparkly Light & Panto Trail

What is it?

It is a light trail along new woodland pathways, a 10-minute pantomime, BeWILDerwood characters and a glimpse of Santa Claus himself, with a special gift for all children to take home.

A giant Christmas pudding at BeWILderwood Cheshire Christmas lights

A giant Christmas pudding

BeWILDerwood itself is a family attraction based on magical characters and their adventures from children’s books written by Tom Blofeld. The adventure park is all in woodland and includes treehouses, slides, den building, storytelling and zip wires – BeWILDerwood Cheshire – review, guide and top tips.

Where is it?

At BeWILDerwood Cheshire – north of Whitchurch on the A49 in south west Cheshire near the border with Shropshire.

What did we think?

This was a lovely Christmassy, magical evening out to get you in the festive mood.

Snowmen at BeWILderwood Cheshire Christmas lights

It’s a lengthy walk along twinkly trails through gingerbread men, candy canes, disco lights, snowmen and more with occasional interactions with BeWILDerwood characters.

Halfway around is the mini pantomime and food stop, the second half of the walk is even better with Christmas trees, a lake and fake snow falling.

The 10-minute pantomime at BeWILderwood Cheshire Christmas lights

The 10-minute pantomime

As it was the launch night, we were lucky enough to talk to the BeWILDerwood author himself Tom Blofeld, who was walking the route to see everyone’s reactions.

He has written a new Christmas-themed story to add to his collection of books, which introduces new characters. There are glimpses of the story along the route.

Highlights

*The staff are welcoming and friendly.

*There is hot chocolate available to buy before you begin the trail.

*There are a couple of parts in the second half where ‘snow’ falls – you will still be wearing dots of it in the car on the way home.

*Every child receives a copy of Tom Blofeld’s new Christmas story to take home as well as a craft.

Trees reflected in the pool at BeWILderwood Cheshire Christmas lights

Top tips

*You get to see Santa at the end, you can wave at him but there is not a meet and greet or grotto situation.

*Tickets need to be booked in advance and you are given an arrival timeslot of 4pm, 4.30pm, 5pm, 5.30pm, 6pm or 6.30pm.

*The park closes at 8pm.

*This event runs when it is dark so all the play structures, zip wires, slides etc are closed. Also, parts of the trail are very dark such as around the pantomine area, you might need to use a phone light to see where you are going.

*Annual pass holders get free entry but still need to book a space by calling 01829 830 730.

The author

Tom Blofeld’s books include A Boggle at Bewilderwood, The Bewilderbats and A Bewildermuddle.

He hopes the event will bring the magic of Christmas and the magic of BeWILDerwood together.

BeWILDerwood Presents Christmas – A Sparkly Light & Panto Trail information

Dates: It runs on selected dates from December 2 to 23.

Food: Food is available at the Munch Bar where there are warm snacks and hot drinks for sale including hot dogs, turkey baps, steak slices, cheese slices and picnic boxes for children including a ham or cheese roll and crisps.

Munch Bar menu at BeWILderwood Cheshire Christmas lights

Munch Bar menu

Opening hours: Time slots start at 4pm and the park closes at 8pm.

Cost: Tickets must be booked in advance online and cost £15.50 per person. Children under 92cm, carers and wheelchair users are free but everyone needs a ticket.

Best for: All ages.

Time needed: An hour and a half.

Access and restrictions: The trail is accessible for wheelchairs, pushchairs and mobility scooters but can be very dark, narrow, bumpy in places and may be muddy.

Address: BeWILDerwood Cheshire, Bickley Moss Cheshire SY13 4JF.

To book: www.cheshire.bewilderwood.co.uk

Why Cornwall is the perfect place for a sea-view or beach cottage

Why Cornwall is the perfect place for a sea-view or beach cottage

How to pick the best cottage near the beach in Cornwall

This post was brought to you in collaboration with Classic Cottages – all words and opinions are my own!

If you are dreaming of a family holiday near a world-renowned beach making happy memories with your children, look no further than Cornwall.

Its striking coastline and golden sands are among the reasons why it is one of the leading holiday destinations in the UK.

And if you want to wake up just a stone’s throw from one of its glorious beaches, there are a lots of holiday cottages you can stay in.

They make the ideal base for a family, allowing you more space and freedom plus the ability to prepare your own meals, picnic on the beach or dine out when you choose. Cornwall has fabulous restaurants and delicious produce, not forgetting of course Cornish pasties and cream teas.

Some cottages have spectacular sea views and many also welcome dogs, so you don’t have to leave your pooch behind. Classic Cottages offers beach-side retreats of all sizes from cosy through to big properties for large groups.

They are all handpicked, inspected, regularly maintained and equipped with everything from bed linen through to coffee pots.

So, all you need to decide is which part of this beautiful county do you want to visit.

Where to stay in Cornwall

The Far West

If you are drawn to the turquoise waters of the unspoilt Far West, there is lots to do, including a trip to the island of St Michael’s Mount.

You can see this jewel in Cornwall’s crown from the village of Perranuthnoe, where you can stay at Classic Cottages’ The Hideaway.

This intriguing ‘Hobbit-style’ glamping retreat is on the edge of the village with a beach, pub and cafe on the doorstep.

The Hideaway in Cornwall, Classic Cottages

The Hideaway

The North

The waves of the North offer famously good surfing conditions.

The area is great for all types of extreme sports including scuba diving and rock climbing. If you fancy staying here in a beach hut by the sea, you’ll love the accommodation known as Krowji.

Krowji cottage in Cornwall with sea view

Krowji

It’s in the popular seaside resort of Polzeath and has wonderful sea views and even a conservatory.

The South Coast

A holiday home on the south coast of Cornwall is perfect for a family-friendly getaway, with fabulous beaches at Mevagissey, Falmouth, Looe and St Mawes. And if it’s sea views you are after, 4 The Beach has got them in abundance through floor to ceiling bi-fold doors.

4 The Beach cottage in Cornwall

4 The Beach

The apartment, north of Cadgwith, has board games to keep everyone entertained, plus a lawn and patio.

It’s a short stroll down the hill to Kennack Sands, which has a lifeguard in the main season and a beach cafe selling drinks, snacks and ice cream.

Further east on the south coast you’ll find Mimosa Cottage in the heart of St Mawes with views over the Percuil River.

Mimosa Cottage in Cornwall

Mimosa Cottage

It’s just a two-minute walk to the waterfront with restaurants, cafes and shops to explore and boats offering fishing trips, sunset cruises and regular ferry services to Falmouth.

Whether you want a cottage with sea view or a beach cottage, there is somewhere for you.

And when you fancy a day exploring inland, you will find beautiful Cornish countryside, a fascinating history, fabulous walks and legends plus family attractions.

Our children love the Lost Gardens of Heligan, Tintagel Castle and Lappa Valley.

Wherever you stay, have a fantastic holiday.