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Harry Potter: The Forbidden Forest Experience – guide, review, video and top tips

Harry Potter: The Forbidden Forest Experience – guide, review, video and top tips

We follow Harry Potter, Ron and Hermione into the Forbidden Forest and test our nerve among the creatures who live there

Name

Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience.

What is it?

A night-time trail through the ‘Forbidden Forest’, known from being in the grounds of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books and films.

You walk at your own pace around an illuminated route, seeing and hearing some of the iconic forest scenes as well as magical creatures from Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts such as Hippogriffs, centaurs and spiders.

Hagrid ad Fang at Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

Hagrid and Fang

Where is it?

At the gorgeous Arley Hall & Gardens, in Northwich, Cheshire, England.

What did we think?

This is a magical trail as befits a magical world. The experience is carried out on an impressive scale – it was created by Warner Bros. Themed Entertainment, in partnership with Thinkwell.

It is very atmospheric and spooky, with Harry Potter music, sound effects, characters talking and eyes watching you pass, which could be a bit too scary for some younger children.

It would make a great Halloween or pre-Christmas treat for fans of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts.

Ron's flying Ford Anglia at Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

The flying Ford Anglia

Highlights

*Conjure a Patronus – choose your wand, point it and utter the words ‘Expecto Patronum’ to cast this spell, which sees off Dementors.

The Patronus Charm at Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

Expecto Patronum!

*Bow to a hippogriff and it will bow back.

Hippogriff at Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

*Try some Butterbeer (it’s alcohol-free), the wizarding drink loved by Harry Ron and Hermione.

Buy a butter beer at Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

Buy a butterbeer

*The food is delicious.

*Try out a deluminator – to put out the lights like Dumbledore.

*Hear Harry and Ron crashing in the flying Ford Anglia and see the car lights sweeping through the forest.

*Catch a glimpse of a white unicorn slinking through the trees.

Top tips

*Spiders: Aragog and other big spiders lived in the Forbidden Forest and scare Ron in the Harry Potter books and films. They lurk in this forest too but those with arachnophobia don’t have to see them. You will walk through a section with ‘webs’ in the trees, then can choose to divert from the path if you DO want to see the spiders. Those who don’t, stay on the path. If you do divert, you will see large spiders drop down from overhead, stopping just above your heads.

*It is an outdoor trail in the dark so dress warmly with sensible shoes.

Light trail at Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

*You can buy Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts merchandise.

Access and restrictions

It is a woodland walk so can be uneven so is not the best terrain to push a wheelchair. Motorised wheelchairs can be hired.

Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

Age

All ages are welcome, younger children may be frightened in places.

Time taken

Allow about an hour and a half to do the trail and eat at the end.

Food

There are places to buy food along the way or you can stop at the magical village at the end where our highlights included big marshmallows on sticks you can toast and smother with chocolate sauce , fish and chips, Cornish pasties and a roast dinner in a Yorkshire pudding. My son also enjoyed an edible wand.

Enjoying toasted marshmallows with chocolate sauce at Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

When is it on?

It runs from Mondays to Sundays, from October 16 to December 15, 2021.

Opening hours:

Sessions start at 6.30pm (October 16 to 31), 5pm (November 1 to 9), 4.30pm (November 11 to 28) and 4pm (November 29 to December 15). All sessions finish at 10pm.

Cost

Ticket prices vary by date and time, starting from £19.

Children under five are free and from five to 15 are a reduced price.

Buy tickets here.

Address

Arley Hall & Gardens, Arley, Northwich, CW9 6NA.

Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

*We were given complimentary entry for the purposes of this review, all views are our own.

 

Cheshire’s best traffic-free family cycling routes

Cheshire’s best traffic-free family cycling routes

Take children on a new bike ride in Cheshire with our guide to the best cycle routes

Cycling has never been so popular and it’s a great way for families to be together for exercise, fresh air and fun.

When children are confident on their bikes, it’s great to find safe new cycle routes to explore and there are lot to choose from in Cheshire.

So here is our round-up of some of Cheshire’s best traffic-free cycling spots for families.

Make sure to check out the routes in advance for hazards such as drops, gates or roads to cross.

Middlewood Way

Middlewood Way is a 10-mile, traffic-free path through beautiful scenery along the route of the former Macclesfield, Bollington and Marple Railway.

You can start in Macclesfield, Marple in Stockport or at other points along the way such as Middlewood, Poynton or Bollington.

The Salt Line

Children cycle the Salt Line

Salt Line

The Salt Line, south of Sandbach, makes for a lovely family bike ride although keep an eye out for some steep drops to the side.

This former railway line, the North Staffordshire Railway, runs through part of Cheshire that was once famous for salt making.

It is 1.8 miles long and there is a small car park at one end near the canal at Hassall Green.

Wheelock Rail Trail

North east of the Salt Line is the Wheelock Rail Trail which follows the same former railway line.

The 1.24-mile path links Elworth and Malkins Bank near Sandbach.

Biddulph Valley Way

This disused Cheshire railway line was used by trains carrying coal from the Potteries to Congleton.

It is a traffic-free, flat route for cyclists, walkers and horse riders.

The Cheshire section is 2.1 miles through countryside but the route continues into Staffordshire.

It can be reached from the car park off A54 Brook Street, Congleton (CW12 1RG) and via the local public rights of way network.

Connect 2 Crewe to Nantwich Greenway

Cycling Connect 2 Crewe to Nantwich Greenway

Connect 2 Crewe to Nantwich Greenway

This five-mile traffic-free route goes between the Cheshire towns of Crewe and Nantwich along the A530 corridor.

It’s well-surfaced and takes in parks and open countryside with plenty of places to stop and eat along the way.

Chester to Connah’s Quay 

This route follows the disused railway from Chester into Wales and can be linked up with a ride along the River Dee on the way back.

It’s an eight-mile surfaced path with countryside views.

Delamere Forest

Children will love to ride through the forest – there are two cycle routes here with sandy tracks.

Hunger Hill trail is four miles and Whitemoor trail is 6.8 miles.

There are hills to navigate so wait until little legs are ready.

There is also a cycle hire shop here and electric bikes are available.

The Whitegate Way

This six-mile traffic-free route is from Winsford to Cuddington.

The Whitegate railway line, which closed in 1966, carried salt for almost 100 years.

Old A556

Just north of Knutsford, the old A556 dual carriageway through Mere has been turned into a single-track road and a separate cycle path.

It is around three miles long, wide and relatively flat with good visibility.

Bridgewater Way

This traffic-free route links Altrincham to Manchester city centre and the Trafford Centre.

Cyclists can ride on the resurfaced canal towpath from Broadheath, through Sale, Stretford and Trafford Park where you can pick up paths to Salford Quays and MediaCity.

There are lots of places to join the 11-mile route.

*Anywhere we have missed? Let us know in the comments. Happy cycling!

BeWILDerwood Cheshire – review, guide and top tips on this family attraction

BeWILDerwood Cheshire – review, guide and top tips on this family attraction

The woodland adventure where adults can join in the fun as well as the children

Name

BeWILDerwood Cheshire.

What is it?

BeWILDerwood Cheshire is a family attraction based on the adventures of magical characters from children’s books written by Tom Blofeld.

BeWILDerwood author and creator Tom Blofeld at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

BeWILDerwood author and creator Tom Blofeld

It’s all in a wood and includes treehouses, slides, den building, storytelling and zip wires.

Where is it?

It’s north of Whitchurch on the A49 in south west Cheshire near the border with Shropshire.

Balancing on a beam at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

What did we think?

This is a lovely day out for families.

It’s a great size and laid out nicely in a circle so it’s easier to navigate.

The best bit for me was that adults are encouraged to join in all the fun!

A mum and daughter on the zip wires at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Racing my daughter on the zip wire

Highlights

*The zip wires: There are three sets of two zip wires with staff helping people on and off them. They are longer and faster than the ones you get at play parks and exhilarating to do together.

*The slides: You grab a little bag to sit in to ride the ‘slippery slopes’.

*Parents included: the fact that children and grown-ups are all allowed on everything together is really fun.

*Toddlers: There are smaller sized versions of the equipment for really little ones to go on.

*The mazes: The mazes are all created from wood and go up and down steps and over little bridges.

Tree trails at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Tree trails

Top tips

*Get there early: We were there at 10am when it opened on a Sunday and got straight on everything and nowhere was crowded. After lunch, we spotted queues for the zip wires.

*Times: Make a note of the times for any events like the storytelling (every hour from 12noon) and get there early to get a seat.

*Crafts: There is a craft activity on every day so remember to leave time for this.

My daugher wears her craft creation at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

My daugher wears her creation

*Clothes and shoes: Wear comfortable clothes and shoes such as trainers. If the weather is wet, you may need a change of clothes.

*Other BeWILDerwood sites: This is the second Bewilderwood, the first is in Norfolk.

*How to pronounce BeWILDerwood: the WILD is not pronounced wild but willed – I asked as  I like to know these things.

BeWILDerwood information

Food: You can buy food and drink from two places – the Munch Bar and Cosy Cabin.

There are lots of places to eat a picnic.

Opening hours: 10am to 5pm, last entry at 4pm.

Cost: Prices are based on height and everything is included in the cost. Under 92cm are free, 92cm to 105cm are £17.50, those over 105cm are £19.50. Adults 65 and over are £12.50. Wheelchair users are free. Parking is free.

Best for: Children aged 2 – 12 but adults will enjoy it too.

Time needed: We stayed for four hours but you could stay longer.

Access and restrictions: There’s a path around the site which slopes in places. There is no access on the equipment for wheelchairs or pushchairs/buggies/prams but they can be taken in to the park.

Are dogs allowed at BEWILDerwood: No.

Address: BeWILDerwood Cheshire, Bickley Moss, Whitchurch, Cheshire, SY13 4JF.

Website: https://cheshire.bewilderwood.co.uk/

New Cheshire family attraction BeWILDerwood has opened

New Cheshire family attraction BeWILDerwood has opened

A 70-acre adventure park has opened in South Cheshire a year later than planned

Tickets are now on sale for a new family day out, which opened its doors for the first time on April 12 (2021).

BeWILDerwood Cheshire – the Curious Treehouse Adventure – was meant to open last May (2020) but this was delayed due to the Covid pandemic.

The park encourages children and their families to enjoy traditional, imaginative, and healthy outdoor play.

We’ve already been and our children loved it, read our full review, guide and top tips here.

The multimillon-pound woodland adventure park is based on the BeWILDerwood book series by Tom Blofeld and follows the success of a first site in Norfolk.

BeWILDerwood author and creator Tom Blofeld at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

BeWILDerwood author and creator Tom Blofeld

Tom said: “We can’t wait to finally open the gates to the people of Cheshire and beyond.

“When thinking about opening a second park and after looking at a few options, I just knew Cheshire was the right choice.

“The woodland is the perfect setting for the Boggles and Twiggles and all the other curious characters from the books.

“I hope our visitors love the wonky world of BeWILDerwood just as much as the Norfolk folk. The key is to use your imagination and simply have fun together as a family”.

The woodland adventure park is located next to Cholmondeley Castle, in South Cheshire.

Tree trails at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Tree trails

It is in a forest setting where children can ‘run wild’ and promises ‘no noisy rides, no technology and no junk food’.

It includes big wonky wooden play structures and treehouses in the trees, a massive maze to get lost in, wobbly zip wires and giant slippery slides.

Slides at Tree trails at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Park manager Hannah Monteverde said: “We’d originally planned on opening last year, but due to the pandemic, we’ve had to push it back.

“It’s given us even more time for our team to ensure everything is extra WILD before our visitors enter through our wonky gates.”

Swings at Tree trails at Swings at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Face painting and activities like interactive storytelling shows and crafting sessions are included in the ticket price and parking is free.

It is aimed at children aged two to 12 but teenagers and adults can enjoy the equipment too as the focus is on family fun.

Grandparents having fun at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Fun for all the family

Toddlers and children who are too small to go on the bigger bits have their own areas, Toddlewood on the Hill and Tiptoe Valley.

A todder at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Food can be bought at the Cosy Cabin and Munch Bar and picnics are welcome.

Tickets are based on height rather than ages and can be bought online.

Grandparents having fun at Tree houses at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Books from the BeWILDerwood series including A Boggle at BeWILDerwood, The BeWILDerbats and A BeWILDermuddle are also available to buy online.

Gate admission prices for 2021 are:

Born to BeWILD (Under 92cm): Free

Almost WILD (92-105cm): £17.50

BeWILD Now (over 105cm): £19.50

Still WILD (65 years+): £12.50

Address: BeWILDerwood Cheshire, Whitchurch Road, Bickley, Malpas, Cheshire, SY13 4JF.

We’ll be visiting to review soon and will report back!

Review and pictures: Abbeywood Estate and Gardens in Cheshire

Review and pictures: Abbeywood Estate and Gardens in Cheshire

We take our children to Abbeywood Estate and Gardens in Delamere

What is it?

A country house with 45 acres of gardens, a small playground and woodland trails. Also a wedding venue.

Children at Abbeywood Estate in Delamere, Cheshire

Where is it?

Between Northwich and Chester directly off the main A556 road.

What did we think?

This is a quiet, relaxing spot for a fun family walk with an excellent cafe. The gardens are beautiful.

Gardens at Abbeywood Estate in Delamere, Cheshire

Highlights

Woodland trail – The landscaped gardens are stunning but the best part for our children was the woodland trail around the perimeter of the site.

You can follow the signs around, with a few shortcuts available if you want. The walk takes around an hour.

Woodland trail through Abbeywood Estate in Delamere, Cheshire

Playground – There is a small playground in shaded woodland with a climbing frame, swings and trampoline (closed when we went due to the Coronavirus).

Play area at Abbeywood Estate in Delamere, Cheshire

Animals – You can spot different animals on your walk.

There are a few horses, goats, sheep and an enclosure with chickens and rabbits. There aren’t loads of animals like a petting zoo but they are a pleasant distraction on the walk.

Animals at Abbeywood Estate in Delamere, Cheshire

Top tips

The map you are given at the entry doesn’t show the full size of the gardens so make sure you don’t miss out on parts of the woodland trail.

You can’t take picnics so make sure you eat in the car park or use the cafe.

Gardens at Abbeywood Estate in Delamere, Cheshire

Abbeywood Estate and Gardens information

Food: There is a large, pleasant cafe with indoor and outdoor seating, selling hot meals, sandwiches, cakes, drinks and tubs of ice cream.

Opening hours: The gardens are open Wednesday to Sunday in summer between 9am and 5pm.

Cost: Adults £6 each, children free.

Best for: Ages three and above.

Time needed: 90 minutes.

Access and restrictions: The site is mainly lawned with a few gravel paths. It is fairly flat but isn’t fully accessible for wheelchair users and for prams and pushchairs.

Address: Abbeywood Gardens, Chester Rd, Delamere, Northwich, CW8 2HS.

 

Dunham Massey Christmas Lights 2019 – our review and guide

Dunham Massey Christmas Lights 2019 – our review and guide

The National Trust property in Cheshire hosts its popular illumination display for the third year

Thousands of visitors will be heading to Dunham Massey over the festive period to enjoy the magical light trail around the park and garden.

And we’ve had sneak preview of this fabulous Christmas display, so here is our review, top tips and all you need to know, plus watch our video below.

What is it?

Dunham Massey – a National Trust property with deer park and gardens – is hosting its third annual Christmas Light Trail.

Thousands will head to the Cheshire site for the fabulous experience, which is perfect for families.

It features dazzling light displays, music, fairground rides, food and drink.

When is it?

The illuminations run from November 22 to December 30, 2019.

Ticket start times run every 20 minutes between 4.30pm and 8pm.

How much are tickets?

Tickets are prices from £17.50 for adults, £11 for children aged three to 16 and under-threes are free. A family ticket is £54.00.

Our highlights

*Before you go into the formal gardens, the house itself is lit up at the front with a fabulous laser display.

Dunham Massey Christmas Lights house

There is also a light display when you reach the back of the house, along with rings of fire.

Dunham Massey Christmas Lights house

*There are lots of memorable features as you go around including huge glittering reindeer near the start – apt for a park which is home to lots of deer, firework lights in the trees, a laser walk and lots more.

*The large lawn area inside the gardens is lit up in a sea of lights, changing pattern, in front of a tunnel of glittering lights.

*You can toast marshmallows in fire pits in the rose garden. These can be bought at a stand in the corner of the garden – £1.50 for a large marshmallow on a stick – there are several flavours including gingerbread and caramel.

Toasting marshmallows at Dunham Massey Christmas Lights

*There is different music as you go around including songs from Christmassy films – a Frozen song at the start thrilled our daughter.

*There are a few fairground rides in the Stables Courtyard for younger children – a carousel, helter skelter, merry-go-round and swing boats.

*There are food and drink stalls selling mulled wine, hot chocolate, hot dogs, chips, pizza, churros etc.

Top tips

*You are not supposed to take your own food and drink but I did see several people with their own marshmallows (and sticks) to toast.

*Wrap up warm – it is all outdoors.

*Book a parking space in advance – even if you are a National Trust member with free parking.

*Father Christmas appears on the trail as part of a small show. There is no grotto or individual meeting.

Other questions

Is everything included in the price?

Fair rides, food and drink are extra. You buy ride tokens – £2.50 each or £10 for five if bought in advance when you book your tickets.

Some stalls accepted payment by card. There is no cash machine.

How long will it take?

The route keeps to the paths and ensures you don’t miss anything. It is around a mile long and takes around an hour and a half but you can stay as long as you like until it closes. It is wheelchair and buggy-friendly but is dimly-lit in places and can get busy.

Can you catch a glimpse of the lights if you happen to be already at Dunham Massey when it gets dark?

If you are there just before the gardens close at 3.30pm, you may see some of the lights as it starts to get dark but you will not get anywhere near the full effect.

Do National Trust members need to pay?

National Trust members pay full price, there is no discount. Parking is free for NT members, but you still have to reserve a space ahead of time as the car park gets busy.

Address

National Trust Dunham Massey, Altrincham, WA14 4SJ

For more information and to book go to the website.

Chester Zoo – our top tips to save you time and money on a family day at this hugely popular attraction for families

Chester Zoo – our top tips to save you time and money on a family day at this hugely popular attraction for families

How to guarantee a fun day out for children at the UK’s most popular zoo

Chester Zoo is the UK’s most visited zoo and one of the country’s largest. It is a favourite of ours and is home to 21,000 animals and 500 different species. Here are our top tips to get the most out of a day at Chester Zoo.

Get there early

Chester Zoo is the most popular attraction outside London and has nearly two million visitors a year, so can get busy really quickly.

To maximise your time, arrive about 20 minutes before it opens (it opens at 10am, so arrive at 9.45am at the latest).

That way you can park nearer to the entrance in the main car park rather than being ushered further away into a field. You can then hit the gates as soon as they open.

(Alternatively, if you want a short visit, you could get there two hours before closing, for the late entry discount).

painted dogs eat meat at Chester Zoo

The painted dogs enclosure at the edge of the zoo is one of the quieter areas to explore

Walk to the furthest point first

As everyone else heads straight to the elephants which are directly inside the entrance, you need to keep walking and walking.

Either turn right and head towards the rhinos and the Islands or turn left, over the bridge and towards the chimpanzee section.

Ignore everything you see until you get to the further reaches of the zoo, then work your way BACK towards the start.

If you do this you will get around 90 minutes – even on the busiest days – when it feels like your own private zoo.

The Islands boat ride

The queues can be long at peak times and your chances of actually seeing half of the animals lurking around the waters are mixed at best.

Either head straight for the Islands as soon as the zoo opens or give it a miss until nearer the end of the day.

You can easily waste an hour queuing and doing the boat ride at busy times when you would be better off seeing other attractions.

A boat at the centre of the islands development at Chester Zoo - a recreation of a tropical coastal area

The Islands at Chester Zoo

Think of the zoo as two halves

On the map, split the zoo in two using the public footpath. Do one half at the start of the day and the other after lunch if you are making a full day of it.

Use the monorail to speed up the process and give weary little feet a break – a single ride is a quick way of skipping to another part of the zoo in double quick time. And it’s fun to see everything from above.

The monorail at Chester Zoo

Use a single monorail journey to save time

Favourite picnic spots

There are loads of places to picnic and plenty of quiet corners away from the busy eating areas.

Our favourites include the benches next to the giraffes (especially when they are outside feeding), by the painted dogs enclosure at the far right corner of the zoo next to the antelopes, in the sunken garden and in the Islands section – although seating here is a bit limited for picnics.

What if it rains?

Most of the zoo is outside so it isn’t an ideal wet weather location but there are several good areas, which will take at least an hour or two to complete. The elephant enclosure and the monkey house near the entrance are good first or last stops.

The area with most undercover sections is on the far side of the zoo around the Realm of the Red Ape, which has orang-utans and snakes indoors.

It is also close to the small aquarium near the penguin enclosure, the Tropical Realm with birds and small crocodiles and the Spirit of the Jaguar.

Another good way of staying dry and seeing the zoo is to do the monorail, you can stay on and do a lap of the park. The Islands boat ride is also an undercover ride.

Chester Zoo membership

If you pay to be a member of Chester Zoo, you can visit as often as you like for free, plus you get other benefits. Children under three are free.

In conclusion

Our children love Chester Zoo and it always feels clean and spacious for the animals. But it is an expensive day out so maximise your time and take a picnic.

Top tip

*Head for the farthest point of the zoo as soon as you get in and work backwards. There are fewer crowds and more time to see the animals up close.

Chester Zoo Information

Address: Chester Zoo, Moston Rd, Upton-by-Chester, Upton, Chester CH2 1EU.

Opening hours: Open daily except Christmas Day and Boxing Day from 10am. Closing depends on the time of year, 4pm in winter and 6pm in summer holidays.

Cost: On the gate, adult £26, child (3-17) £22. It is cheaper to buy online in advance with a family saving for three or more people.

Best for: Ages 2-10

Time needed: It takes a full day to see the whole zoo. Minimum time to see a good selection of animals is 2 hours.

Note: All pictures in this article are courtesy of Chester Zoo.

Tatton Park in Cheshire with children – read our review and top tips to make the most of a family visit

Tatton Park in Cheshire with children – read our review and top tips to make the most of a family visit

Read our review of all the best bits of the fabulous Tatton Park in Cheshire plus the costs for National Trust members

What is it?

Tatton Park is one of England’s largest historic estates – it has a stately home, 50 acres of landscaped gardens, 1,000 acres of parkland with deer and meres. There is also a working farm and large playground.

Where is it?

Tatton Park is near Knutsford in Cheshire a few miles from junction 19 of the M6 motorway.

What do we think?

There are so many options for children on a day out here, truly something for everyone. You can explore the parkland for just £6 a day for a family – or pay extra for the other attractions.

Our highlights

The park

The park is vast with plenty of different areas to explore.

There are two large meres where sailing takes place, woodland walks with deer to spot and places to picnic.

The wide paths through the park for cars are also popular with cyclists and supervised children on bikes and scooters.

You can park at different points inside (it is £6 per car, there is no National Trust discount for parking).

The gardens

The gardens cost extra (free for National Trust members) but can be a quieter, different and beautiful area to enjoy on busy days.

They begin with fruit and vegetable patches before expanding off a central path to some fabulous areas.

Our particular favourites are around the Japanese Gardens (you can only venture inside on a guided tour) and the bridges over the pools. There is quite a tricky maze, regular family trails to follow, a fun scarecrow hunt in February, Easter Egg hunts at Easter time and other activities all year round.

Note – you are not allowed picnics, bikes or scooters in the gardens.

colourful flowers in a Japanese garden at Tatton Park

The peaceful Japanese Garden at Tatton Park

The farm

A five-minute walk from the main car park is Tatton Park farm. Entry is £7 for adults, £5 for children (half price for NT members). It is a traditional 1930’s working farm with pigs, horses, donkey and chickens.

There are old tractors to sit on and Aunt Mary’s 1940’s cottage. In one barn you can ride on toy cars and tractors.

Next to the farm is a good adventure playground, picnic area and woodland trails.

pigs and piglets walking at a farm

Pigs are just one of the animals at Tatton’s working farm

The mansion

Home to the Egerton family, the house contains a huge library and other artefacts.

The main interest for children is exploring the large servants’ kitchen and living quarters, which are nicely done. The mansion is used for events at Easter and Christmas geared to children.

Child-friendly facilities

There is a huge playground next to the main car park which is always very busy.

There is often a small train to take children from the playground to the farm (at a cost). Burger and ice cream vans are on site too.

In the main stables courtyard near the garden’s entrance there is often a couple of carousels (£2.50 a go). There are also two restaurants – a large self-service area and the smaller Gardeners’ Cottage.

National Trust

Unlike most National Trust sites, National Trust members still have to pay to park at Tatton Park, which costs £6, unless you park in Knutsford and walk in, but it is quite a walk to the main part.

However, entry to the house and gardens is free to National Trust members and entry to the farm is half price.

Conclusion

Tatton Park is geared towards children – you can have fun here without entering any of the paid attractions but if you do choose – the farm and gardens are the best value.

Our top tips

*Enter Tatton Park from the smaller, less-used Knutsford entrance and you can drive through the park to get a feel for it and park next to Melchett Mere for a good picnic spot.

Tatton Park information

Food: Picnics are welcome, except in the gardens. There are two cafes/restaurants in the courtyard, near the garden’s entrance – a large self service area called the Stables Restaurant, perfect for children and the smaller and more formal Gardeners’ Cottage. There is also a shop selling ice creams.

Opening hours: It varies depending on the time of year and the farm is open at more limited times, check here for details.

Cost: Car parking costs £7 (even to National Trust members). A Totally Tatton family ticket to all attractions is £33. Adult ticket £7 per attraction, child (aged four to 15) £5. National Trust members – free entry to gardens and mansion, half-price entry to farm.

Best for: ages three to 10.

Time needed: Doing every attraction is a full day out. Visiting the park for a walk or bike ride can be done in 90 minutes.

Access and restrictions: All Tatton’s shops and the Stables Restaurant are fully accessible to wheelchair users. Electric buggies (gardens only) and manual wheelchairs are available for loan but can not be used to move between attractions and in the park. Book a wheelchair loan on 01625 374400.

Address: Tatton Park, Knutsford, Cheshire, WA16 6QN.

Have you been to Tatton Park? Do you like it as much as we do? Let us know in the comments.

(Pictures in this article are courtesy of National Trust Images and Tatton Park).

Is the National Trust’s Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire a fun day for all the family?

Is the National Trust’s Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire a fun day for all the family?

Read our review of this popular park and mill near Manchester

What is it?

Quarry Bank Mill, also known as Styal Mill, is one of the best preserved textile mills of the Industrial Revolution.

Built in 1784, it was the inspiration for Channel 4’s popular drama, The Mill.

Now it is a museum of the cotton industry where visitors can discover the story of mill workers and how the Industrial Revolution changed the word.

It is set amid lovely gardens to explore.

Where is it?

Quarry Bank Mill is in Styal, Cheshire, south of Manchester Airport, on the bank of the River Bollin, which provided water to power the waterwheels.

What did we think?

The gardens are very child friendly and the short walks and playgrounds are good too. The mill is interesting and fun but may be a bit much for younger children.

Highlights

The Gardens

Recent improvements have made the gardens far more child-friendly and accessible.

The paths are new and varied, the 43 steps down towards the river proves a popular counting challenge for our little ones.

The stroll along the River Bollin is fun with weirs and colourful trees and flowers lining the route. It is an easy, safe and manageable place to explore.

a couple stroll next to Quarry Bank Mill

There are plenty of places to stroll around

The play areas

There are two main play areas. A traditional playground with small slide, fireman’s pole and a few swings. It is small and gets packed on busy days.

There is also what they call a natural play area. This has logs to carry, tree stumps to step across and a muddy hill to scramble up.

Despite falling over and getting covered in mud, on our last visit, both areas took up an action packed 20 minutes each.

The mill

(NB The mill is closed until some time during summer 2018 for major works to install a lift).

The mill is a fun experience although best suited to those over six.

They have volunteers explaining what life was like in full costume and you can watch hand spinners at work.

The scale of the pump room and water wheel are amazing. There are good exhibits on how they made clothes in the Victorian era and many of the exhibits are hands-on.

a woman dressed in old clothes operates a cotton spinner

Hands-on exhibits take you back in time inside the mill

The water works

If you head away from the mill toward the large weir, there is another short walk around a lake.

It is not a taxing stroll, you can spot birds and fish in the lake, or take a footpath towards open fields above the site. Watching the machines control the water flow keeps little eyes interested.

Conclusion

Quarry Bank Mill is a good wet and dry weather option. On a sunny day the gardens and walks are beautiful, on a rainy day the museum is fascinating.

Our top tip

*Eat at the garden cafe and then go for a riverside stroll in the woods next to the garden.

Quarry Bank information

Food: There are two cafes on site. The main cafe has a bit of a canteen feel but the cakes are tasty.

The new garden cafe is in a much nicer location and serves all its food and drink in disposable crockery to be kind to the environment.

Opening hours: Open daily, the estate is open 8am to 6pm, attractions open from 10.30am. The Mill is closed until summer 2018 but everything else is open.

Cost: Entry costs £50.50 for a family ticket, adults £20.25, children £10. Free for National Trust members.

Best for: ages five to 12.

Time needed: At least two hours, more if you want to take in all the talks and activities in the mill.

Access and restrictions: A lift is currently being installed so that for the first time the whole mill will be accessible to everyone.

Address: Quarry Bank, Styal Rd, Styal, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 4LA.

(The pictures in this article are courtesy of National Trust Images).