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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.

 

Poole’s Cavern & Buxton Country Park – REVIEW, GUIDE and top TIPS

Poole’s Cavern & Buxton Country Park – REVIEW, GUIDE and top TIPS

We take our children to explore spectacular caves on a family day out in the Peak District

Name

Poole’s Cavern & Buxton Country Park

What is it?

Poole’s Cavern is a two milion-year-old limestone cave. It is one of the best show caves in England – there are vast illuminated galleries to explore, filled with fantastic formations like crystal stalactites and stalagmites.

From the car park here is an entrance to Buxton Country Park – an uphill stroll though woodland to a hilltop viewpoint where you can look out across the Peak District.

Where is it?

It is on the edge of Buxton in the Peak District, in Derbyshire.

What did we think?

Poole’s Cavern is a fascinating all-weather attraction. The ancient, natural limestone caves are exciting with fascinating formations and an interesting history, which the guide explains. (All tours are guided).

Visitors explore Poole's Cavern

Visitors explore the cavern (Credit: Visit Peak District & Derbyshire)

To be able to follow our time below ground with a walk high above in the country park, with great views, is brilliant.

Highlights

*Austin, our fantastic guide around the caves, really kept the children (and us) interested with tales including what happened to the cavern’s biggest stalagmite and pointing out graffitti on a cave wall left by the Victorians. He also told us about the geology behind how the caves and formations were created.

*I had a secret chuckle at the prominent shape of the ‘poached egg’ stalagmites – you’ll see why when you get there!

*Solomon’s Temple – a tower at the top of the hill in Buxton Country Park – climb it to appreciate the Peak District views.

Top tips

*The temperature in the cave is always 7C, so don’t forget jumpers or coats, especially in summer when you may not think to bring them.

*Guided tours are every 20 minutes and leave from the visitor centre exhibition area. Tours last around 50 minutes.

*The caves are lit but are still quite dark. At the end of the tour, the guide will turn all the lights off for a few seconds so you can imagine what exploring the cave by candlelight used to be like. You may want to hold your child’s hand for this bit. If one of you would not like this darkness, you can let the guide know beforehand.

*Buxton Country Park – we took the yellow route up to the to Solomon’s Temple and the green route back down again. It is quite steep.

Solomon's Temple in Buxton Country Park, the Peak District

Solomon’s Temple

*Also here is one of Go Ape’s highest adventure courses, with zip wires and aerial walkways. This needs to be booked separately.

Where did we stay?

We stayed at a beautiful five-star, spa hotel, the Buxton Crescent, read our full review of it next.

Poole’s Cavern and Buxton Country Park information

Facilities: There is a visitor centre which shows archaeology found in the cave and is interesting to look around while you are waiting for your tour.

There is also a shop selling rocks and minerals, toys, gifts and books.

And there are accessible toilets with baby changing facilities.

Food: There are two picnic areas plus a cafe selling drinks, snacks and light meals.

Opening hours: First tour at 10am, last tour at 4.30pm, every day.

Cost: Adults (aged over 16) are £12.50, children (aged five to 16) are £6, students and seniors with valid ID are £10 and a family ticket for two adults and two children is £32.

Best for: Ages six and above.

Time needed: The cavern tour takes around 50 minutes. The walk to the top of the hill in the adjoining country park and back can be done in an hour.

Access and restrictions: There are walkways and handrails. The first main chamber is 100 metres long and is accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs. After that are 14 steps up and 14 back down again (you return the way you came).

Are dogs allowed at Poole’s Cavern? Dogs are allowed in the cafe and the visitor centre but not in the cavern, except for guide dogs.

Parking: There is a pay and display car park.

Address: Poole’s Cavern Visitor Centre, Green Lane, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 9DH.

Phone: 01298 26978

Email: info@poolescavern.co.uk

Website: www.poolescavern.co.uk

Book tickets: here.

*Our visit was organised with help from Visit Peak District and  Derbyshire, the official tourist information hub.

For more great ideas of family activites in the area, go to the VIsit Peak District and Derbyshire website.

Peak Wildlife Park – REVIEW, GUIDE and TIPS for this Staffordshire Peak District zoo

Peak Wildlife Park – REVIEW, GUIDE and TIPS for this Staffordshire Peak District zoo

We take our children on a family day out to Peak Wildlife Park

Name

Peak Wildlife Park

What is it?

A small zoo with exotic and endangered animals from three continents including wallabies, lemurs and penguins.

It specialises in walk-through experiences.

Where is it?

Peak Wildlife Park is in Winkhill, Leek in the Staffordshire Peak District.

What did we think?

We had a lovely time here, it’s a nice size attraction to explore, not too big to tire out little legs.

Being able to walk among some of the animals, without enclosures, is fantastic.

Lemurs eating at Peak Wildlife Park

Lemurs

Highlights

*The lemurs

You can walk among the lemurs, who entertained us with their playing and swinging, especially a cute baby lemur.

*The wallabies

You’re allowed go gently stroke the wallabies, which resemble small kangaroos.

Wallabies at Peak Wildlife Park

Wallabies

*The penguins.

The penguins can be seen from three different vantage points, including through a window to watch them swim under water. You can also get right up close to them and they may even cross a path in front of you.

*Play areas

There are different play areas including an indoor soft play which is free to use. Outdoors is a bouncy castle, sandpit and more traditional play equipment.

An outdoor play area at Peak Wildlife Park

An outdoor play area at Peak Wildlife Park

Top tips

*Don’t miss any of the site 

We thought we had explored everywhere but when we were near the exit, discovered an extra bit with more animals and play areas past the cafe.

Food orders

You can pre-order food and drink from your smart phone and collect at a time that suits you by following this link.

We hadn’t done this so ordered, in person, a pizza to share and used the 20-minute wait time while it cooked to explore more. Staff give you a buzzer to carry which alerts you to when your food is ready if you don’t go too far out of range.

Animal experience

If you want go get even closer to the animals or it’s a special occasion, you can buy an Animal Experience.

Where did we stay?

We stayed at a beautiful five-star, spa hotel, the Buxton Crescent, read our full review of it next.

Peak Wildlife Park information

Food

*The Courtyard Cafe serves stone baked pizzas, sandwiches, crisps, cakes and ice creams. There are gluten-free and vegan options.

*There are outside picnic areas and a family room you can eat in.

*Another area serves ice cream.

Opening hours: Peak Wildlife Park opens at 10am. It closes at 6pm in the Spring/Summer season and at 5pm in the Autumn/Winter season.

Cost: Adults aged 17 to 64 pay £12.95.

Children aged two to 16 are £10.95. Under-twos are free.

Concessions – senior citizens from aged 65 and students with valid card photo IDs pay £10.95.

Carers are free.

Annual pass: Peak Wildlife Park offers an annual pass which entitles you to visit as many times as you want for a year.

It costs £35.99 for adults (aged 17 to 64), £29.99 for children aged two to 16 and also for concessions (senior citizens from 65 and students with valid ID cards).

Best for: All ages who like animals but especially two to 10-year-olds.

Time needed: Two to four hours.

Access and restrictions: The park is fully accessible and wheelchairs are available to borrow for free. The paths are wide enough for mobility scooters.

There are disabled toilets.

Baby changing facilities: Baby change facilities are in the ladies toilets, disabled toilets and baby change rooms next to the family room.

Are dogs allowed?: No, dogs are not allowed at Peak Wildlife Park. Foxtwood Kennels, situated 10 minutes from the park, is happy to take dogs for the day, you can call them on 01538 266 667 to make a booking.

Address: Peak Wildlife Park, Winkhill, Leek, ST13 7QR.

Sat nav users should use the postcode ST13 7QR.

Parking: Parking is free

Website: www.peak wildlife park.co.uk

Email: info@peakwildlifepark.co.I’m

Book here: https://www.peakwildlifepark.co.uk/tickets

*Our visit was organised with help from Visit Peak District and  Derbyshire, the official tourist information hub.

For more great ideas of family activites in the area, go to the VIsit Peak District and Derbyshire website.

 

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/

Lappa Valley review and guide – where a steam train ride starts a traditional day out for young children

Lappa Valley review and guide – where a steam train ride starts a traditional day out for young children

We take our children and dog to this outdoor attraction for young children in Cornwall

Name

Lappa Valley

What is it?

Lappa Valley is an outdoor attraction for young children with traditional activities, which you access via a miniature steam train from the car park.

Where is it?

Near Newquay in Cornwall (south-west England).

Our highlights

The trains

At the car park is a ticket office and a station – known as Benny Halt – where you catch a miniature locomotive.

It travels a mile to East Wheal Rose station where the park is nestled in a valley.

There are two other little trains when you get there – one which goes twice around a track and another which takes you to another part of the site.

The park

There is a small lake with swan-shaped pedalos and canoes, a nine-hole crazy golf course, little cars to drive around tracks on, trampolines, trains and play areas.

Swan pedalos at Lappa Valley

Swan pedalos

What did we think?

Starting the visit with a train ride was different and exciting – especially as it was our dog’s first time on one too.

The play areas are varied and there was a quiz to fill in as you walked around the site, which our children enjoyed.

Our two were perhaps a little old at 10 and 7 for Lappa Valley overall but this is a lovely treat for younger children, particularly train fans.

Our top tips

*Check out the train times so that you are not hanging around at the beginning or end of your trip.

*Try to visit on a dry, sunny day – the weather could make or break your visit.

Crazy golf at Lappa Valley

Crazy golf at Lappa Valley

*There is a buggy wagon on the steam railway to put prams and pushchairs.

*Dogs on a lead are welcome, there weren’t many there but we took ours with us. It costs £1 per dog and they are allowed on the train, boats and walks. Assistance dogs are free.

Lappa Valley information

Food

There is a cafe, the Whistlestop Cafe, which includes a children’s menu.

Picnics are allowed and there are several places to eat them.

Opening hours: 10am to 5.30pm

Cost: Adults £13.95, children up to age 16 are £11.95, over 60s are £11.95, children two and under are free.

A family ticket is £47.50 for two adults and two children and is £50.50 for two adults and three children. Dogs are £1.

There are discounts for disabled visitors, carers and public services personnel.

Everything is included in the cost including the trains, boats and crazy golf, except coin-operated rides.

Best for: Children aged three to seven.

Time needed: Two to four hours

Access and restrictions

This site is hilly and half of it is accessible by wheelchair. Wheelchairs of a certain size can fit on the train in adapted, ramped compartments. There are two wheelchairs available to borrow.

Address: Lappa Valley, St Newlyn East, Newquay, TR8 5LX.

Email: info@lappavalley.co.uk

Telephone: 01872 510317

Website: Lappa Valley

More Cornwall content

Don’t miss our reviews and tips for other Cornwall attractions – the Lost Gardens of Heligan and Tintagel Castle.

Plus see the fabulous dog-friendly luxury cottage complex where we stayed: Review: The Valley in Cornwall – we take our children and dog to this five-star site near Truro

And our full Cornwall holiday review is here: We take our children and new dog on a family holiday to Cornwall – find out how we get on

*Our trip was supported by www.visitcornwall.com – the number one website for visitors to Cornwall, helping visitors find everything they need for a great time in Cornwall.

Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall – review, guide and top tips

Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall – review, guide and top tips

We take our children and dog to explore this once secret garden in Cornwall

Name

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

What is it?

The Lost Gardens of Heligan are Europe’s largest garden restoration project.

This secret garden was lost for decades until a door to a walled garden was discovered in 1990.

After an award-winning restoration, there are now 200 acres of subtropical gardens, woodland and jungle to explore.

Where is it?

The gardens cover steep ground in Cornwall, near the town of Mevagissey, not far from St Austell. It is in quite a remote location with small lanes leading to the entrance.

What did we think?

This is a wonderful place for children with a huge playground, lots of space, a farm and a brilliant jungle area. It’s a lot of walking and some of it is steep so younger children may get tired.

A giant's head at The Lost Gardens od Heligan

A giant’s head

Highlights

*The Jungle

This is the best area, jungle plants in a valley with boardwalks to explore and a wobbly rope bridge to cross. This was the part which captured our children’s imaginations the most.

Crossing the rope bridge at the Lost Gardens of Heligan

Crossing the rope bridge

*East Lawn playground

This large playground has a lot of modern equipment and plenty of space to run around. There are also great views and it is a good spot for children to let off some steam

*Home Farm

A small farm with pigs, sheep, chickens and horses. Ideal for younger children to get up close with farm animals. It is also near toilets and food outlets.

*Woodland Walk

A fun stroll through woodland you can do either at the start of end of your visit. There is a small play area called the Giant’s Adventure Trail and look out for the Mud Maid sculpture.

Tha Mud Maid at the Lost Gardens of Heligan

The Mud Maid

Our top tips

*Plan your route

There is a lot of walking involved so we suggest making your way to the furthest point of the site initially and working backwards towards the entrance. That way you will avoid the crowds and won’t be too tired when you are furthest away from the way out!

*It’s uphill on the way back

Take into account that all the routes back to the entrance are uphill. It is a very steep walk back, so plan your route accordingly.

*A manageable route

The simplest way for families to see the most child-friendly parts of the gardens is as follows: Go down the Woodland Walk and then head for The Jungle, go around that area and then visit the East Lawn playground, then you can use the toilets and facilities at the Steward’s House Cafe and enjoy the farm before making your way to the exit through the beautiful Flora’s Green.

*The rope bridge

The rope bridge in the jungle area is 100ft high and among the longest in Britain.

Crossing it is a wobbly, fantastic experience.

But dogs are not allowed across it and people with a fear of heights might not fancy it either.

Fear not, there are ways around it, then you may also be able to get a picture of family members crossing towards you.

*Toilets

There are only two areas with toilet and facilities – at the entrance and then near Home Farm. There are large parts of the gardens with no facilities.

*Dogs

Dogs are welcome on a lead and it is a great place for them to enjoy and explore. The Lost Valley is the quietest area and a good one for those coming with dogs who want a more strenuous walk.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan information

Food:

*Near the ticket office – Heligan Kitchen, Coffee Bar, Ice-cream Hut.

*In the Steward’s Garden near Home Farm – Steward’s House Cafe, BBQ Hut, Ice-cream Hut.

*Picnics are welcome and there are lots of benches to sit on.

Opening hours: Daily April to September 10am to 6pm, October to March 10am to 5pm.

Cost: Adults £17.50, children aged 5 to 15 £8.50, under 5s free. Family ticket £48. Book here.

Best for: Children aged 5-15, you do need some stamina to get around so younger ones may get tired.

Time needed: Minimum of 3 to 4 hours to explore the best parts of the site. You could easily spend a whole day here though.

Access and restrictions: Mostly accessible but some steep slopes to navigate. The Jungle and wider garden routes are not accessible and not open to wheelchairs. Accessible Maps available from the ticket office.

Address: The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Pentewan, St Austell, PL26 6EN.

WebsiteThe Lost Garden of Heligan

More Cornwall content

Can’t get enough of Cornwall? Don’t miss our other stories, including reviews of Tintagel Castle and Lappa Valley.

Find out all about the amazing cottage we stayed in at The Valley in Cornwall.

And read about our whole holiday here: We take our children and new dog on a family holiday to Cornwall – find out how we get on

*Our trip was supported by www.visitcornwall.com – the number one website for visitors to Cornwall, helping visitors find everything they need for a great time in Cornwall.

Tintagel Castle in Cornwall – review, guide and top tips for your visit to the King Arthur attraction

Tintagel Castle in Cornwall – review, guide and top tips for your visit to the King Arthur attraction

We take our children and dog to explore the historical Tintagel Castle in north Cornwall

What is Tintagel Castle?

The ruins of a 13th century Cornish castle with links to the stories of King Arthur and Merlin the magician.

Where is Tintagel Castle?

This English heritage site is in north Cornwall (south-west England), set high on the coast next to the village of Tintagel with stunning views over the Atlantic.

It lies half on the mainland, half on a peninsula in the sea, known as Tintagel Island.

What did we think?

This was a memorable trip, the link to the myth of King Arthur captured the imagination of my son. He also enjoyed reading all the historical information dotted around.

But it is the stunning views from these clifftop ruins that will stay with me (along with the memory of all the steps)!

We all thought our picnic spot was our best ever – we found a little private bit away from the path with the most incredible views over the turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Picnic at Tintagel Castle

Best picnic spot

Our children’s verdict: amazing.

Highlights

The history

Tintagel is thought to have been where Cornish kings lived between the 5th and 7th century.

Then the 12th-century writer Geoffrey of Monmouth named it in his History of the Kings of Britain as the place where King Arthur was conceived.

These legends are said to have inspired Richard, Earl of Cornwall, to build the castle here in the 1230s.

Tintagel Castle Bridge

This stunning footbridge, finished in August 2019, links the two halves of the castle for the first time in over 500 years since an original crossing was lost.

A family cross the Tintagel Castle bridge

We cross the bridge

Before this, visitors had to climb steps and queue for a small bridge at the base of the cliff.

If you fear heights look away now – the bridge travels over a 58-metre drop.

Tintagel Castle bridge

Tintagel Castle bridge

Gallos

This bronze statue of an ancient king stands high on the cliff – popular with photographers, not so much with our dog who didn’t know what to make of it!

Gallos bronze statue at Tintagel Castle

Gallos

The beach and Merlin’s Cave

Below the castle is a secluded beach known as Tintagel Haven with rocks and a waterfall.

Tintagel Castle beach

Best of all, it is where you can explore Merlin’s Cave .

This large cave in the cliffs under the castle is said to have been home to Merlin, the wizard of Arthurian legend. (See our top tips for information about access to the beach).

Tintagel Castle top tips

Mobility and fear of height

This site is not suitable for anyone with mobility issues or a big fear of heights – there are steep paths and sheer drops.

Steep drops and the bridge at Tintagel Castle

When we went, a one-way system was in place due to Coronavirus restrictions and the route included a LOT of steep steps.

The path from the village to the castle and back is steep – so make use of the Land Rover service if you need to, particularly on the way back up. There is a small charge for people and dogs.

Steep road at Tintagel Castle

Beach

Check the tide times and visit when the tide is out. That way you can get to the beach and go into Merlin’s Cave.

The beach is accessed via steep steps and when we went, we also had to clamber over rocks.

Weather

Try to visit on a fine day – the ruins are all outdoors and the area is exposed.

The castle sometimes closes due to bad weather or high winds, so check before you travel, via the website, Facebook or by calling 01870 770328.

Dogs

Dogs are welcome – we took ours – but they need to be kept on leads due to the steps, cliff edges and nesting birds. Water is available for dogs at the cafe.

Tintagel Castle information

Food: There is a cafe at the bottom of the hill (Castle Road) near to the beach. You can also take picnics.

Opening hours: From 10am to 4, 5 or 6pm, depending on the time of year.

Cost: English Heritage members are free. Adults are £15.70 (off-peak £14.50. Children are from £9.40 (£8.70 off-peak). Concessions are £14.10 (£13.10 off-peak)

A family of two adults and up to three children costs £40.80 (£37.70 off-peak) and a family of one adult and up to three children is £25.10 (£23.20 off-peak).

Best for: Children who can cope with the hilly site.

Time needed: We spent three hours here including the beach.

Toilets: At the bottom of Castle Road near to the beach are toilets. And there are others in the village.

Other facilities: A small shop and an exhibition exploring the stories linking Tintagel to King Arthur which includes a 3D model of the site showing how it has changed over the centuries.

Parking: There are pay and display car parks in Tintagel Village, 600 metres away from the site.

Access and restrictions: This site is set on a steep hill and there are uneven surfaces, drops and slopes. A Land Rover service is available along the road – Castle Road – down to the cafe and exhibition and back,. There is a charge and there may be queues. It doesn’t run during winter.

Address: Tintagel Castle, Bossiney Road, Tintagel, Cornwall, PL34 0HE.

Telephone: 01870 770328.

Website: Tintagel Castle

How to book tickets

Advance booking is essential for all visitors, including English Heritage Members who can visit for free. Tickets are timed but once there you can stay as long as you want.

More Cornwall content

Can’t get enough of Cornwall? Don’t miss our other stories, including reviews of The Lost Gardens of Heligan and Lappa Valley.

Find out all about the amazing cottage we stayed in at The Valley in Cornwall.

And read about our whole holiday here: We take our children and new dog on a family holiday to Cornwall – find out how we get on.

*Our trip was supported by www.visitcornwall.com – the number one website for visitors to Cornwall, helping visitors find everything they need for a great time in Cornwall.

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!

The 8 BEST beaches in and around Abersoch in north Wales

The 8 BEST beaches in and around Abersoch in north Wales

The best beaches for children and families around Abersoch on the Llŷn Peninsula

Families staying in Abersoch on the Llŷn Peninsula are spoilt for choice when it comes to fabulous beaches.

It’s one of the reasons that people with children return to the area year after year.

Our two children adore the beaches around the area – here are our favourites.

Abersoch main beach

The main beach in Abersoch is the busiest, easiest to reach and most user-friendly in the area.

Barbecue on Abersoch Main Beach

Beach hut barbecue on Abersoch’s main beach

It stretches about a mile and a half with plenty of golden sand, a steep hill up to beach huts and sand dunes to explore.

At the far left end (if facing the sea), near the South Caernarvonshire Yacht Club/SCYC, there are some rock pools at low tide.

At the other end of the beach towards the lifeboat station, there is less soft sand but it tends to be quieter and dogs are allowed.

The beach is sheltered and safe for swimming under normal conditions, with a motor boat exclusion zone. It is also popular for water sports like sailing and wind surfing.

There are great views – it faces St Tudwal’s islands and behind that, west Wales mountans.

Where is it?

The beach is a short walk from the centre of Abersoch and and can be accessed from two car parks detailed below.

Parking

*The main car park is Beach Car Park, Golf Road, Abersoch. You have to pay to park all year round. A very short walk brings you past a shop/cafe and out on to the slipway in the middle of the beach.

There is another, smaller, pay car park at the SCYC (yacht club) end of the beach and there is also a cafe there. Access to the beach is via a short, steep slope.

Abersoch main beach facilities

*Three cafes along the beach serving ice creams, sandwiches and burgers plus beach equipment.

*Toilets in the main car park.

*Some of the beach huts are available to hire.

Dogs

*Dogs are allowed on the right side of the slipway all year and the rest of the beach except between April 1 and September 30.

The Warren beach

This long sandy beach is mostly used by people with chalets at the upmarket Warren Holiday Park.

 

The Warren Beach in Abersoch

The Warren Beach

However it is still a public beach and one of our favourites. It’s a good beach for bathing and there are several streams to play in.

You can also explore the rocks around Llandbedrog Head. The wide expanse of wet sand at low tide means plenty of space.

It’s usually pretty quiet as it can be harder to access unless you are staying at the Warren.

Where is it?

This one and a half mile long beach is in front of the Warren Holiday Park and stretches from Abersoch harbour to the headland of Mynydd Tir-y-Cwmwd.

The Abersoch end is known as Traeth Tywyn y Fach while the headland side is called Quarry Beach.

Parking

*Abersoch end: Park along the A499, then walk through the National Trust’s Tywyn y Fach property.

*Quarry Beach end: There is a car park behind the beach which can be reached via narrow lanes off the main Abersoch to Pwllheli road by the red postbox.

*Via The Warren holiday park: Park in a layby on the main road and walk through the holiday park along a public footpath.

The Warren beach facilities

There are no toilets apart from at the holiday park for people staying there.

There is no cafe or shop, so take supplies!

Dogs

Dogs are allowed at all times.

Hell’s Mouth (Porth Neigwl)

Porth Neigwl, better known as Hell’s Mouth, is a windswept beach which gets its name from the amount of shipwrecks which washed up here.

Hell's Mouth beach

Hell’s Mouth beach

This is the area’s premier surfing beach and often sees big waves.

The beach is mostly stony with some sandy areas and – at four miles long – has plenty of quiet spots.

Take care when swimming as there are strong currents and undertows – it is only suitable for strong swimmers.

There are low sand dunes with some World War Two concrete training structures to discover but stay away from the crusty cliff edges.

We love it for a wild and windy walk as it’s only a short drive from Abersoch.

Where is it?

It is on the south-west side of the Llŷn Peninsula in Llanengan, near Pwllheli, LL53 7LG.

Parking

There’s a free car park with about 15 spaces and then a five-minute walk down a sandy path to the beach.

Facilities

There are no toilets or catering.

Whistling Sands (Porth Oer)

Porth Oer is better known as Whistling Sands for the noise the sand makes if you step on it. A noise and an idea which children love.

Sand castles at Whistling Sands beach

Whistling Sands beach

This beautiful golden beach is a perfect size for families.

There is plenty of soft sand, a nice gentle bay for swimming and rock pools at either end to mess about in.

The beach is in one of the more remote parts of the Llŷn Peninsula and a 25 minute drive from Abersoch but is well worth it.

Explore the small caves at the right hand end of the beach, and climb up the footpath there for spectacular views (hold on to small children).

Where is it?

It is in Aberdaron, Pwllheli, LL53 8LH. (Not to be mistaken for Aberdaron Beach).

Parking

There is a National Trust car park on the road above the beach. It is a very steep three-minute walk down (and a slower walk back up)!

Facilities

*Toilets

*A cafe on the beach serving hot and cold food and drinks including pizza and ice-cream which you can eat there or take on to the beach. The pizza is delicious.

Pizza at Whistling Sands

Pizza at Whistling Sands

Wishing I was there now and eating this pizza instead of just writing about it!

Llanbedrog Beach

This beach is an easy stop-off with children as there’s a car park, toilets and a cafe.

Beach huts at Llanbedrogg Beach

Llanbedrog Beach

It’s a good place for children to swim, plus there are streams and pools to play in.

Intrepid families can walk from the beach up the steep steps to the top of Llandbedrog headland Mynydd Tir y Cwmwd, but keep hold of children.

hildren play in the stream on Llanbedrog Beach

Llanbedrog Beach

Half way up is the Tin Man sculpture.

You can also walk to Oriel Plas Glyn y Weddw art gallery and cafe.

But there’s a restaurant right on the beach plus as it’s a sheltered spot, you could try a beach barbecue.

Where is it

In Llanbedrog, between Abersoch and Pwllheli on the south side of the Llŷn Peninsula.

Parking

There is a National Trust car park a two-minute walk from the beach (up a hill and steps). Address: Llanbedrog, Pwllheli, LL53 7TT.

Facilities

*Toilets near the beach.

*Restaurant on the beach serving alcohol, hot meals and ice creams Aqua Beach Bar.

Porth Iago Beach

This small horseshoe-shaped bay is spectacular but tricky to reach.

Porth Lago Beach

Porth Lago Beach

To get there you must drive through a private farm and pay an entrance/car park fee to reach a grassy parking area.

From there you walk down narrow and steep tracks to reach the remote beach.

It is a sheltered cove with some excellent rock pools and makes a good swimming spot.

The sand is soft and there are amazing views to be had by following the Wales Coastal Path in either direction from the cliffs above the beach.

Where is it?

Port Iago beach faces south-west on the Llŷn Peninsula in Aberdaron, between the headlands Graig Ddu and Dinas.

Parking

The car park above the beach is accessed through Ty Mawr farm which has a pay and display parking machine so take some £1 coins.

Address: Rhoshirwaun, Wales, LL53 8LP, United Kingdom.

You can also reach the beach on foot from the Wales Coastal Path via sand dunes.

Facilities

None.

Dogs

Dogs are allowed but have to be in vehicles when going through the farm.

Porth Colmon Beach/Penllech Beach

This large beach is a tricky one to get to but is a rewarding find once you get there, at low tide.

Porth Colman Beach

Porth Colmon Beach

It can be muddy as the route from a car park follows a stream. Once you reach the beach, there is a steep walk down to the sand.

The beach itself is wide with dramatic rocks, lots of rock pools and in the middle there is a channel which you can paddle and play in.

There can be strong currents so swimming is not advisable.

Aerial view of Porth Colman

Porth Colmon

Where is it?

Penllech Beach is a mile north of Llangwnnadl on the northern tip of the Llŷn Peninsula.

Parking

You can park at a small car park on Afon Fawr and then follow the beach path for about 10 minutes across a field.

Facilities

None, there is a cafe at a near by campsite about a ten minute walk from one end of the beach.

Dogs

Dogs are allowed.

Morfa Nefyn Beach/Nefyn Beach (Porth Nefyn)

This is a lovely, sandy, two-mile beach but the most memorable part of it is the pub at one end, the Ty Coch.

Nefyn beach with Morfa Nefyn and a heart written in the sand

Picture available to buy as a greetings card or picture at Sand-Writing

There are a few beach huts and some great views as well as rock pools at low tide near the headland.

We like to walk from the car park down on the beach, along to the next section, Traeth Porthdinllaen, where the pub invitingly waits and then back along the road through the golf course.

Where is it?

Between the village of Nefyn and the fishing hamlet of Porthdinllaen on the north coast of the Llŷn Peninsula.

Parking

There is a National Trust car park above the beach – address Morfa Nefyn, Pwllheli , L53 6DA.

Nefyn Beach Facilities

Pub Ty Coch selling lovely food and drink, hailed amongst the best beach bars in the world!

Toilets: at the National Trust car park.

Dogs

Dogs are allowed on one side of the beach all year but are banned for the other side between April and September.

*Main picture available to buy as a canvas, print or greetings card from sand-writing.com.

Lightopia REVIEW: Christmas at Heaton Park, Manchester 2020

Lightopia REVIEW: Christmas at Heaton Park, Manchester 2020

We take our children on a family trip to an award-winning Christmas light festival

Family festive opportunities are in short supply this year so our trip to Lightopia at Heaton Park in Manchester was eagerly awaited.

Organisers promise a safe and socially distanced event.

We took our children after school for a 5.20pm start, here is our full guide to the Christmas festival.

What is it

The Lightopia Festival – Christmas at Heaton Park – is an award-winning and socially-distanced lantern and light festival.

It takes place around a series of lit art installations and laser beams, which have been set up at the park in Manchester.

Heaton Hall

Heaton Hall

When it it

Lightopia at Heaton Park runs from November 20, 2020 to January 3, 2021.

The event is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, except during school holidays and closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Gates Open at 5pm, last entry is 8.30pm and it closes at 10pm.

How much are tickets

Tickets are booked in advance, they are £20 online for adults (or £22 on the day), £13 for children (or £15 on the day) and £60 for families of two adults and two children (£68 on the day). Children under three can go free.

Essential carers of disabled visitors can attend for free, the disabled visitor pays the normal admission fee.

A peacock at Lightopia, Heaton Park, Manchester

Our highlights

*What we called the Rainbow Tree

Children stand on a circle and their moving feet sends different coloured lights shooting up the tree, creating a beautiful display.

Rainbow Tree

Rainbow Tree

*The laser show on the lake.

Visitors are directed to stand in socially distanced spaces to watch this lovely show towards the end of the trail.

*Food and drink

There are stalls and bars dotted around the trail selling food like hot dogs, carvery baps, chips, donuts, malled wine and hot chocolate.

Tunnel of light at Lightopia, Heaton Park, Manchester

Top Tips

*Prepare to queue at the start, entry is in 20-minute time slots and we did have to wait when we arrived, but it is organised very well so that you are spaced out from the groups in front and behind.

*It’s quite a spaced out route, you will walk a bit further than some other light shows, so take a buggy if you have young children.

Tinkerbell/a fairy at Lightopia

*It is all outdoors so dress for the weather and ensure children are wrapped up warm and wearing sensible footwear. You will always be on a path but look out for the occasional bit of uneven ground as it is dark.

Other questions

Is everything included in the price?

All the displays are included in the ticket price. There are stalls selling food, drink and those flashing hand-held contraptions that our daughter loves. It was card only for payment.

How long will it take?

It takes about an hour and a half but that depends on how fast you walk and whether you buy food and drink. Take your time walking around, to take it all in, you certainly don’t need to rush.

Where to park

There are car parks on site and it is best to book in advance, then follow the directions on your email confirmation.

How to book

To book tickets, visit www.lightopiafestival.com

Address:

Heaton Park, Sheepfoot Lane, Manchester, M25 0BP.

Social media

Follow on Instagram and Facebook @lightopiafestival #Lightopia

Animals at Lightopia

(We received free entry for the purpose of this review, all views are our own).

Easter guide 2021 – events and activities for children and families across England

Easter guide 2021 – events and activities for children and families across England

Make your Easter an egg-stremely good one with Visit England

The last year may have been very different for families but children can still have an egg-citing time this Easter.

Visit England has put together a guide including lots of local events to actually attend and online activities.

The list includes Easter eggs hunts, walks, bake-off competitions and virtual campfires.

First up, here is Visit England’s selection of online events that everyone can take part in from the comfort of their own homes.

After that, we will look at local events across the country which you can attend.

Part 1: Virtual Events

Virtual Children’s Chocolate Bake Off

April 6

For budding bakers, The Farm Cookery School in Chippenham, Wiltshire will run a virtual Brownies and Chocolate Nests masterclass and competition.

There are classes for under 7s, 7-10s and 11-16s which will run from 10 – 11am with judging and winners announced at 3pm.

Prices from £10 per device/household.

www.thefarmcookeryschool.co.uk/shop/virtual-2021/virtual-holiday-clubs/virtual-21-chocolate-bake-off-tuesday-6th-april-10am-11am/

Cosy up to a virtual campfire

Easter Monday April 5

Dabble in crafts and sing along with the Girlguiding’s online Spring Social, bringing the magic and excitement of camp to families at home over the Easter holidays.

Be sure to have hot chocolate and Easter eggs at the ready.

www.girlguiding.org.uk/what-we-do/events-and-opportunities/event-and-opportunity-finder/

The Bowes Museum Virtual Family Fun Day

April 10 (register by April 1)

Join guides at different locations aronud the museum to discover the love story of its founders.

A craft pack will be delivered to you with items to create a theatre with characters connected to the museum.

A range of other online Easter activities are available on the museum website.

Locals can visit the Spring trails with guided prebookable outdoor tours available from March 29.

The prices are £3 per person for a Virtual Family Fun Day craft pack and £3 per person for outdoor guided tour.

www.thebowesmuseum.org.uk/

Jane Austen’s House Virtual tour live

April 3, 15 and 24

Join expert guides for a new virtual tour of Jane Austen’s House in Hampshire from the comfort of your home.

A Jane Austen expert will guide you around the house and outbuilding with lots of opportunities to chat and ask questions.

£5 per person.

www.janeaustens.house/

Part 2: Local Easter events, from traditional egg hunts to energetic outings and perfect picnics

Kentwell Hall, Long Melford, Suffolk

Eastertide family walks and trails with friendly activities and acres of gardens and woodland to explore.

Take up the challenge to find the huge wooden eggs hidden around the walk and to ‘scramble’ the clues to ‘crack’ the code they reveal.

From £13.50 to £17.95 (under 4s free).

www.kentwell.co.uk/events/eastertide

Canoe Easter Egg Hunt, New Forest

April 2 to 11

Paddle along the waters of Beaulieu River in Canadian-style canoes, before disembarking for an Easter egg hunt with a twist.

Hidden hidden chocolate eggs are scattered along the riverside.

Adults £34.00 and children £25 (16 years and under).

www.newforestactivities.co.uk/activities/canoeing-easter-egg-hunt/

English Heritage, various sites

English Heritage will welcome visitors back to more of its historic sites from March 29.

All sites scheduled to open enjoy large outdoor spaces, such as historic gardens, extensive grounds and even a battlefield.

www.english-heritage.org.uk/

National Trust Easter Excitement, nationwide

Available from March 29

Easter adventures await in many National Trust locations across the country from Easter Trails to Easter egg hunts.

Bookings and activities for local residents only. Advance bookings required.

www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/join-the-easter-egg-hunts

Sewerby Hall and Gardens, Yorkshire

Sewerby Hall and Gardens in Yorkshire will reopen the gardens, cafe (takeaway-only, no seating available), play area and toilets from March 27.

Adults £3.80, children £2.70.

www.sewerbyhall.co.uk/coronavirus/

Commandery Gardens, Worcester

From April 2 – 18 (excluding Monday, April 12)

The gardens will open free for local residents seeking a breath of fresh air, a walk and a coffee at Easter.

There will also be a free Family Fun Fitness Trail available in the gardens with exciting tasks to complete for budding explorers.

And there will be a Lotrail happening on Fort Royal Hill organised by Friends of Fort Royal Park.

www.museumsworcestershire.org.uk

Bamburgh Castle (grounds only), Northumberland

From March 29

Discover Northumberland’s stunning coast from the grounds of Bamburgh Castle, witness outstanding sea views and explore nine acres of Northumberland with a history dating back thousands of years.

£6 per adult, pre-booking required.

www.bamburghcastle.com

Bolton Castle Gardens, Yorkshire

Available from March 29

Visit the country gardens, including the maze and vineyard. Enjoy superb views of Bolton Castle and the glorious Wensleydale valley.

Falconry displays will recommence from 12 April. Pre-booking recommended.

www.boltoncastle.co.uk/

Raby Castle Easter Trail, County Durham

The park and gardens burst into life in the spring and there is plenty for families to discover in the acres of parkland.

This Easter the castle has a brand new trail for families where you can keep an eye out for the wildlife that calls Raby home.

There are ducks and swans on the lake along with red and fallow deer in the park.

https://www.raby.co.uk/events/easter-trail/

High Force Waterfall, Barnard Castle

Open daily from March 27 to April 11

The Woodland Walk to High Force Waterfall – one of England’s most spectacular waterfalls – is home to a huge variety of birds, insects and animals. The trail is open daily from 10am and is included in the admission ticket to the waterfall.

Newby Hall, Harrogate

Opening from April 1

The stunning gardens and extensive adventure playground at Newby Hall will reopen just in time for the Easter holidays.

This year they are starting the season with an enchanted wood family trail in the magical woodland walk.

www.newbyhall.com

The Arundell Lakeside Easter Egg Trail & Picnic Lunch, Devon

Easter Saturday April 3

Collect your picnic lunch from The Arundell Deli and walk down to the Arundell Lake in Tinhay for the Easter Egg Trail.

Picnic by the lake, follow the trail of clues and walk back to the deli to collect Easter prizes.

From £15 per adult, £10 children (includes picnic lunch and entry for the Easter Egg trail).

www.thearundell.com/

Easter Picnics at Weston Park, Staffordshire

Available: April 2 – 5

This Easter, Weston Park has a real treat  – picnics in the park. Pre-book your picnic, pick it up as you head into the park and settle in for an Easter themed hamper of delights, with plenty of beautiful spots to enjoy, overlooking Temple Pool, by the Deer Park or on the lawns at the front of the house.

Visitors must also pre-book tickets into the estate separately.

From £20 for two – £56 for six people – limited number of picnics available each day, pre-booking required.

www.weston-park.com/event/picnic-tickets/

Picnics at Rufford Abbey from Josephine’s Tea Room, Nottinghamshire

Grab a picnic from Josephine’s Tea Room and take it to Rufford Abbey, a former 12th century Cistercian Monastery and country house.

Take a stroll around the lake, check out the gardens and then find your perfect picnic spot on the large grass area at the side of the magnificent abbey.

From £27 per box, suitable for two.

www.josephinesnottingham.co.uk/ //

www.visit-nottinghamshire.co.uk/things-to-do/rufford-abbey-country-park-p355911

Energetic Easter Experiences for the family, Durham

Easter weekend opening: April 2 – 5

For a more energetic Easter experience for the family, head to Weardale Adventure Centre, with canoeing, rock climbing, archery, and caving.

www.thisisdurham.com/whats-on/easter-weekend-weardale-adventure-centre-p1067431

The Outdoor City SUP (Standup-paddleboarding) Experience, Sheffield

From April 3

For another energetic ways to burn off the Easter eggs, take to Sheffield’s historic Victoria Quays waters for standup-paddleboarding.

After a quick introduction (and once you’ve cracked standing up) set off on a short journey along the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal.

£40 per person

www.dcoutdoors.co.uk/off-the-shelf-adventures

Day Boat Hire with Drifters, various locations

Available from March 29

Drifters day boats will be available to hire to single households to explore England’s network of inland waterways from various boat yards across England.

Full tuition is included so those new to narrowboating can get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.

Pricing from £99 (per boat), day boat hire from £10.00.

www.drifters.co.uk/day-boats/ https://www.drifters.co.uk/enjoy-a-day-out-boating-this-spring-on-your-local-canal/

The Wave, Bristol

Available from March 29

An inland surf destination where everyone can surf on consistent, safe waves all year round. The Wave will be running surf sessions, rolling a fantastic variety of waves to suit all levels of surfer, from beginner to expert.

www.thewave.com/

Egg-straordinary Eggcups at Eastnor Pottery, Ledbury

Making egg cups at Eastnor Pottery, Ledbury

Making egg cups at Eastnor Pottery, Ledbury

April 13 and 14

Take the family for a day of clay modelling to create their very own eggcup.

£20 per person

www.eastnorpottery.co.uk/2021/03/10/easter-themed-pottery-fun-for-families-eggstraordinary-egg-cups/

Hidden Tracks Cycling Tours, London

From March 29

Join a cyclist expert guide for off-road rides both around the city and out of London.

Hidden Tracks Cycling takes groups of up to 10 people. Most rides last between four and a half to five hours.

The cost is from £40.

www.hiddentrackscycling.co.uk

Exmoor Explorer Walks, Exmoor

Launching April 12

A series of 10 short walks showcasing the best landscapes, wildlife and history Exmoor has to offer.

Each route is easy to follow, with relatively gentle terrain and range from taking less than an hour to about two and a half hours for the longest.

Waterproof route guide will be available from Exmoor National Park Centres or from the online shop.

www.exmoorwalks.org/explorers

Easter Breakout, Bristol

April 14 and 15

The Parking Lot Social’s Easter Breakout event offers a variety of entertainment.

There will be an Easter pantomime, family movie, interactive Social Kids party and some live comedy.

Ticket prices vary by event.

www.visitbristol.co.uk/whats-on/the-parking-lot-social-at-bristol-airport-p2897253

*Always check individual websites and government guidance first.

The top 20 best National Trust gardens in the UK revealed

The top 20 best National Trust gardens in the UK revealed

Have you been to any of the country’s favourite National Trust Gardens?

A National Trust garden in Cheshire has been hailed the best in the UK on a list of the top 20.

Tatton Park scooped the top spot in research by Rated People, an index which uses Instagram and Google review data to work out how rated and picturesque each garden is.

The park near Knutsford has 50 acres of landscaped gardens which include a maze and a Japanese garden, plus 1,000 acres of parkland with deer and meres.

There is also a working farm and large playground. Read or full review and top tips here : Tatton Park in Cheshire with children.

Tatton Park

Tatton Park

The second best national trust garden has been named as Corfe Castle in Dorset.

We visited this castle as part of an Enid Blyton holiday.

Corfe Castle was the inspiration for Kirrin Castle in the Famous Five books, full story here: Four holiday in Dorset: Following in the footsteps of the Famous Five

Corfe Castle, the inspiration for Kirrin Castle

Corfe Castle, the inspiration for Kirrin Castle

Here are all the top 20 National Trust gardens.

1. Tatton Park, Cheshire

2. Corfe Castle, Dorset

3. Stourhead Landscape Garden, Wiltshire

4. Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, North Yorkshire

5. Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire

6. Lyme Park, Cheshire

7. Waddesdon Gardens, Buckinghamshire

8. Calke Gardens and Parklands, Derbyshire

9. Hardwick Gardens and Parkland, Derbyshire

10. Chartwell Garden, Kent

11. Belton, Lincolnshire

12. Scotney Castle, Kent

13. Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire

14. Lacock, Wiltshire

15. Nymans, Sussex

16. Mount Stewart, County Down

17. Tyntesfield, Somerset

18. Mottisfont, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight

19. Dyrham Park, Gloucestershire

20. Bodnant Garden, Conwy

 

The eight best places for children on and around the Llangollen Canal

The eight best places for children on and around the Llangollen Canal

Top family activities around the Llangollen Canal

The Llangollen Canal is 46 miles long and crosses the border between England and Wales.

This navigable waterway runs from Llangollen in north Wales, through Ellesmere in Shropshire to Hurleston in south Cheshire.

We travelled much of it with our children: Canal boat family holiday review – we take our children on a 67-foot barge.

There was lots to keep them entertained, here are our top tips for what to do with children on a family boat trip along the canal or a holiday in the area.

Llangollen

The market town of Llangollen is a fabulous day out for children.

When travelling by canal, the part between Trevor Bason and Llangollen town is narrow and not suited to beginners.

If you don’t attempt it, it’s still worth spending time in Llangollen before you collect your boat or after you have finished your canal cruise if you are nearby.

To enjoy the town centre, join families relaxing on the rocks next to the River Dee. There are lots of flat stones to walk acroos on the river and shallow pools in between. Families often pop down there to enjoy an ice cream or fish and chips with a view.

Stepping stones in Llangollen

Llangollen

You reach the river stones via the Victorian promenade, which is a lovely walkway raised above the river. Next to it there is a large playground.

Children will also love the spectacular Horseshoe Falls, where the canal and river meet to form a weir, a couple of miles west of the town.

You can see kayakers flying down this part of the River Dee and there are pleasant walks.

Horseshoe Falls near Llangollen

Horseshoe Falls

Ellesmere

There are three meres near to this stretch of canal. You can moor up to walk around Colemere, or stop at Blakemere to admire the view.

If you moor up overnight in Ellesmere there is a walk to the town’s lake through woodland off the towpath near Blackwater Marina.

Blakemere at Ellesmere

Blakemere at Ellesmere

It is about a 10-minute walk through a lovely wood to the mere, then you can go to the visitor centre, or head clockwise around to the sculpture trail and wide-open playground.

The town itself is pleasant enough to stroll around with a few takeaways and Vermeulens Delicatessen famed for its pork pies. You can walk back to your boat along the canal next to a giant Tesco, which is handy if you need to stock up.

Llangollen Wharf

This wharf in Llangollen is part of a World Heritage site.

Welsh cream teas are served at the Wharf Tea Room, with views out over the town and canal.

You can try a horse drawn boat trip from here – they have been running from the wharf for more than 100 years. Trips are 45 minutes or two hours.

Horse drawn boats from Llangollen Wharf

Horse drawn boats from Llangollen Wharf

Llangollen Steam railway

This heritage railway line starts at Llangollen Station and runs alongside the River Dee, travelling through the picturesque Dee Valley.

It has events for families throughout the year such as meeting Thomas the Tank Engine.

Passengers can enjoy afternoon tea on a Llangollen Steam railway train.

Chirk Castle

This huge National Trust castle with 480 acres of parkland is a popular attraction.

If you arrive by canal, it is a long walk but if you have bicycles it is manageable. If you make it you will discover one of Edward I’s castles.

You might catch a demonstration of the guard’s armour and weapons.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

You can cross the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct by narrowboat or on foot – it’s the highest navigable aqueduct in the world.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

It takes the Llangollen Canal over the River Dee valley and has fantastic views as long as you don’t have a fear of heights as it’s nearly 40 metres high!

Completed in 1805, it was designed and built by Thomas Telford and has 19 arches.

The aqueduct, which has World Heritage status, is a popular tourist attraction.

Trevor Basin

Next to the aqueduct is Trevor Basoi. It is worth stopping at this marina, which is the base for Anglo Welsh boat hire. We hired our boat from here: We review an Anglo Welsh canal boat with our children – is it family friendly?

Canal boats at Trevor Basin

Trevor Basin

There is a small cafe and a couple of lovely walks to view the aqueduct. One walk heads along the Llangollen Canal a short distance, down the original Offa’s Dyke path, through some narrow, steep woodland and out onto a bridge with a great view.

Alternatively, you could head out of the marina towards the aqueduct but before you reach it, turn left onto a public footpath signed Ty Mawr Country Park. Walk along the path and then turn right and head down to the river. It is a lovely spot, with a muddy beach, rocks to climb on and even a paddle in the river on a hot day. You then walk back towards the aqueduct and end up underneath its huge towers. This gives children a chance to appreciate the scale of the 200-year-old structure.

Moor up and explore

The beauty of travellng by boat on the canal is that you can stop almost anywhere. We found lots of lovely country walks this way.

The towpath is usually flat and often gravelled so is fine to cycle or scoot in a lot of places.

If your children are older you can send them off the boat along the towpath and collect them when you catch up with them further ahead.

Enjoy your trip!

RELATED CONTENT: Our 10 top tips for taking children on a canal boat holiday

RELATED CONTENT: Canal boat holiday guide for beginners – EVERYTHING you need to know

RELATED CONTENT: Top 10 canal boat family holiday destinations in England and Wales

The best beaches in and around Dawlish in Devon

The best beaches in and around Dawlish in Devon

Family-friendly beaches that children will love around Dawlish

There are a great selection of lovely beaches in and around Dawlish.

We stayed at Cofton Holiday Park and had a great time exploring the area – read our review and ideas – Delight in Devon on a family holiday to Dawlish with our children.

Here are our pick of the best beaches in and around  Dawlish.

Dawlish Warren

This is a flat, sandy beach with shallow waters. It is very family-friendly with lifeguards keeping watch over the summer months.

It is a Blue Flag beach – awarded for high standards of cleanliness and safety.

The large car park is set behind a grassy area which you walk through to reach the beach.

Dawlish Warren

Dawlish Warren

The sand is separated into sections by rows of wooden groynes. There is a high, sloped wall above the sand so only walk down via the regular steps provided and hold on to younger children’s hands as you approach.

There can be big waves on a windy day which makes the beach good for bodyboards and surfing.

Body boarders in the waves at Dawlish Warren beach

Dawlish Warren

But when the weather is calm it is a safe bathing spot too.

Heading from the town to the beach you drive past a large funfair and there is an ice cream shop and cafe opposite.

If you fancy a good walk, the beach travels up to the mouth of the River Exe. It also backs on to a wildlife reserve.

Dogs are not allowed on Dawlish Warren beach.

Address: Dawlish Warren Beach, Beach Rd, Dawlish, EX7 0NF.

Dawlish

The town of Dawlish has a beach which is a short walk from the centre.

Dawlish railway, beach and sea

Dawlish

It’s quite pebbly and travels all the way to Red Rock at Dawlish Warren.

We went on a windy day and the sight of the big waves bashing the sea wall was spectacular. Although paddling/swimming in the sea was definitely off the agenda.

There’s a railway station next to the beach. The railway line runs alongside the beach and there’s a wide footpath between the line and the sand.

Dawlish is a small but pleasant place for a stroll and there is a car park and on-street parking.

The river and church at Dawlish in Devon

Dawlish

The river runs through a park with ducks and swans. There is mini-golf in the park and plenty of cafes or ice cream shops.

We visited Gaye’s Creamery for their famous ice cream cone with clotted cream on top!

Dogs are allowed on part of the beach.

Address: Dawlish Town Beach, SW Coast Path, Dawlish, EX8 5BT.

We walked right alongside Dawlish beach and found:

Coryton Cove

This beach is about a 10-minute walk from the centre of Dawlish, if you start at the railway tunnel, you can follow the sea path round to the right (with the sea on your left).

Our childen had a great time here, it’s a sandy/stony beach with a sheltered spot/open cave, good for keeping warm unless there’s an easterly wind.

The curved bay is good for swimming and the dramatic red sandstone cliffs with the railway at the bottom forms a spectacular backdrop.

Coryton Cove beach, Dawlish, Devon

Coryton Cove

There are rock pools, a few colourful beach huts (some available for hire), a cafe with ice cream shop and occasional dolphin sightings.

The beach used to be known as Gentleman’s Beach, because in Victorian times only men were allowed to bathe there!

The nearest parking is on the street opposite the railway line. You can cross a footbridge from there to get to the beach or enjoy the view from the coastal path above. There is also a car park and on street parking in Dawlish town centre.

Dogs are not allowed on Coryton Cove beach from May 1 to September 30.

Holcombe Beach

This is one for the adventurous families.

Children on Holcombe Beach in Devon

Holcombe Beach

You park in Holcombe village and then walk down the steep Smuggler’s Lane to access the beach.

From there head under the railway line and up onto a sea wall path.

Keep a close eye on little ones as there are steep drops until you reach some steps down onto the beach. And the steps are narrow and open to the beach.

It is a sandy beach with good waves for bodyboarding.

You also get dramatic red sandstone cliffs at each end which you can imagine as ideal cover for smugglers who made use of this remote beach in years gone by.

There is a kiosk at the bottom of Smuggler’s Lane selling drinks and snacks.

This is also an excellent spot for train spotters as you can get really close to the trains heading in both directions along the line.

Holcombe Beach in Devon

Holcombe Beach

This narrow, isolated beach is used mainly by locals and there are no lifeguards.

Dogs are allowed on Holcombe beach.

Address: Holcombe Beach, Holcombe, Teignmouth, Devon, EX7 0JL.

Harry Potter Studio Tour London to reopen with new safety measures in place

Harry Potter Studio Tour London to reopen with new safety measures in place

Warner Bros Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter gets ready to reopen to wizarding fans following Coronavirus closure

Harry Potter fans will not be waiting much longer for the reopening of the hugely successful Warner Bros Studio Tour in London.

The Making of Harry Potter – a look behind the scenes of the wizarding films – will reopen on Thursday, August 20.

It was forced to close earlier in 2020 due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

The attraction is at the actual Warner Bros studios near London where a lot of the filming for the eight Harry Potter films took place.

It includes sets like the Gryffindor Common Room, Hogwarts Great Hall, Diagon Alley and Gringotts Bank alongside thousands of props and costumes.

The Great Hall in Harry Potter

The Great Hall (Photo: Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter)

And from the opening date, the Slytherin Common Room can be seen for the first time along with iconic costumes and props belonging to some of the house’s cunning characters.

The Slytherin common room in the Harry Potter movies

The Slytherin common room in the Harry Potter movies

So what will be different when Harry Potter Studio Tour London reopens?

There will be a number of Covid 19 safety measures in place.

The attraction has made some changes to manage social distancing and keep everything extra clean.

Do you have to wear face masks?

Visitors aged 11 and over must wear a face mask unless medically exempt. They can be taken off when the wearer is sitting down in a cafe.

How will social distancing be managed?

There will be less visitor numbers and there will be a one-way system around the studios.

The shops and cafés will only accept cashless or contactless payment options .

Cars will be parked with spaces in between.

What will not be open?

Hogwarts Express on plaform 9 and three quarters at the Harry Potter Studio Tour London

Hogwarts Express (Photo: Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter)

The Hogwarts Express train carriage

Inside Privet Drive

The cloakroom and left luggage facilities

The Studio Tour shuttle bus service to and from Watford Junction Station will not be available

Will the toilets be open?

Toilets will be open with extra hygiene measures in place.

Will the studios be cleaned more regularly?

Yes, there will be extra cleaning throughout the day, especially of touch-points such as door handles and barriers.

And hand sanitiser stations will be positioned throughout.

Gringotts Wizarding Bank

Gringotts (Photo: Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter)

Will the cafes be open?

The Hub cafes, Food Hall and Backlot Cafe will be open but there will be less menu choices.

Seating in the cafe will be spaced and visitors must not pay with cash.

We have loads of useful Harry Potter Studio tour information and tips for you

READ NOW: Harry Potter Studio Tour London – our full guide, review and must-read tips

READ NOW: Harry Potter Studio Tour London – EVERYTHING you need to know

The studio tour is still pre-book only, tickets are available now from the website.

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.

 

LEGOLAND Windsor launches the world’s first DUPLO roller coaster for young children

LEGOLAND Windsor launches the world’s first DUPLO roller coaster for young children

A new roller coaster aimed at pre-school children has opened at one of England’s most popular theme parks

The world’s first DUPLO rollercoaster has opened at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort.

The DUPLO Dino Coaster, for children aged around two to five, is part of the attraction’s bigger improved DUPLO Valley area.

The ride has dino-themed carriages which soar around supersized DUPLO dinosaur models, 18 times bigger than if you were to build them at home.

Legoland staff think it will be the perfect first rollercoaster experience for little ones, who need to be 0.9 metres or over to ride it.

The area has also has a new show and new supersized DUPLO models, great for family selfies, plus its own official character, Dexter the Dog.

Outdoor play area Brickville has become DUPLO Playtown with a new rocket play structure for budding astronauts and there is a new puppet show at the DUPLO Puppet Theatre.

DUPLO Valley Airport has a new look with with three coloured helicopters for little pilots to choose from.

Existing family rides at DUPLO Valley include the riverboat Fairy Tale Brook ride and the DUPLO train.

Duplo Valley, Legoland Windsor

Duplo Valley, Legoland Windsor

The area also hosts the resort’s outdoor water play areas – Splash Safari and Drench Towers.

Meanwhile the park has launched a new adult and toddler annual pass to be used while older children are at school.

For £49, a toddler (classed as under 0.9 metres) and adult can visit the theme park as often as they like during term time (Monday to Friday), with 20 per cent off at restaurants and a 10 per cent discount in the shops.

Children under 0.9 metres get free entry anyway to the LEGOLAND Windsor Resort all year round.

Day tickets are from £29 per person when booked online in advance.

Families can book a LEGOLAND short break at the unique LEGOLAND Hotel and enjoy the DUPLO Valley area with stays from £99.25.

The LEGOLAND Windsor Resort is aimed at children aged two to 12 and is open until November 1, 2020, visit here for opening hours.

It has over 55 interactive rides, attractions, live shows, building workshops and driving schools and 80 million LEGO bricks, all set in 150 acres of beautiful parkland.

We’ve got lots of lovely LEGOLAND content here at The Family Holiday Guide for you to enjoy:

LEGOLAND Windsor Resort – read our review and top tips here review and top tips

LEGOLAND Windsor – our 10 top tips to get the most out of your visit

How to beat the queues at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort with the Reserve & Ride (formerly Q-Bot) Ride Reservation System

Will the home of LEGO live up to children’s expectations on a trip to LEGOLAND in Denmark?

Top tips for a family trip to the original Legoland in Billund, Denmark

Easter 2020 ideas for children around the South East of England – our top picks

Easter 2020 ideas for children around the South East of England – our top picks

The best Easter 2020 entertainment from egg hunt to lambing activities, walks and spring festivals

Spring is a great time for family fun and adventures and getting outside with your children.

Here are our pick of the best Easter activities planned around the South East of England.

Buckinghamshire

Waddesdon Manor is having a Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt from April 4 to 13.

Discover fun facts about nature and new parts of the gardens while taking part in an egg hunt around the grounds. Children £3, grounds admission applies.

Children can also enjoy an Easter petting farm at the manor which runs from April 15 to 19.

Get up close and personal with new furry, hairy or feathered friends this Easter, as animals return to Waddesdon’s stable yard. Free with grounds admission.

Dorset

Farmer Palmer’s, just outside Poole, is planning family-friendly Easter-themed activities.

The Easter fun includes hands-on experiences with the animals that populate the farm and an Eggstravaganza featuring hundreds of chocolate eggs over the weekend (April 10 to 13).

Entry from £12.50, children aged two are £5.50 and children under two are free.  For more information go to the website.

East Sussex

The annual Marbles Match and Easter Bonnet Parade takes place in the imposing shadow of Battle Abbey, site of the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

The marbles match at Battle Abbey

The marbles match

Visitors will be able to watch local teams lose their marbles in a traditional competition dating back to 1945. It starts at 10am on Good Friday, April 10.

Spectators of all ages will also be able to give marbles a try or take part in the Easter Bonnet competition. For more information go to the website.

Hampshire

Visit Gambledown Farm where in Spring, lambs are bottle fed, bluebells and daffodils are out and children can see baby chicks.

If you are looking for a family Easter break, the farm offers barn stays and glamping set in 270 acres of Hampshire countryside, go to the website for more information.

Chicks at Gambledown Farm

Chicks at Gambledown Farm

Gilbert White’s House Garden Bird Easter Egg Hunt runs from April 4 to 19. Children can hunt for painted eggs in the gardens and meadow, which are all based on the eggs of the birds which nest in the grounds. Find them all and claim a chocolate egg.

The cost is £3 in addition to the general admission price, adult £12, child under 16 £5, for more information go to the website.

Easter at Gilbert White's House

Gilbert White’s House

There will be an Easter Sunday Cruise and Egg Hunt on the John Pinkerton II canal boat on the Basingstoke Canal through beautiful Hampshire countryside on April 12.

Take a leisurely afternoon cruise to King John’s Castle where children can search out their Easter eggs. All trips are crewed by trained volunteer members of the Basingstoke Canal Society, a charity dedicated to safeguarding the canal. All proceeds are used to maintain the canal for the future. It is a two-and-a-half hour return trip.

The price is adults £12, children £6. Book online here.

The John Pinkerton II canal boat on the Basingstoke Canal

The John Pinkerton II canal boat

Jane Austen’s House Museum is arranging some family-friendly activities. There will be an Easter egg trail, family walks and a Young People’s Writing Workshop.  Booking is required for the workshop (April 4 to 19) and walks (April 8 and 15), go to the website.

Meet Bobtail Bunny and forest friends Betty Bunny, Hennie the Hedgehog and Red the Deer at Paultons Park from April 4 to 19, go to the website.

Easter at Paultons Park

Easter at Paultons Park

Butser Ancient Farm will be celebrating the ancient festival of Eostre and the goddess of Spring. Visitors will be able to meet the Saxons from Herigead Hundas with demonstrations, traditional crafts, cooking and DIY archaeology experiments. There will also be mini-mosaic making, wattling and more.

And Butser’s Roman IX Legion will be in residence in the Roman village with fighting and marching demonstrations, archery, Roman cooking, crafts and more.

It runs from April 10 to 13, prices are from £9 for adults and children aged three to 16 are £5. Go to the website for more information.

Kent

There will be Easter fun at Hever Castle from April 2 to 19 April.

Children can hunt for colourful carrots and bunnies in a free Easter trail in the castle or take part in two free Easter egg hunts in the grounds at 11am and 3pm.

They can also create an egg-shaped decoration to hang on the Easter tree in a free craft activity.

Admission prices, castle and gardens: adults £18.80, children aged five to 15 £10.70 and under-5s free. See the website  for more information.

Easter at Hever Castle

Easter at Hever Castle

Spa Valley Railway in Tunbridge Wells is having Easter activities from April 10 to 13 April.

Spot all the Easter bunnies alongside the railway between Tunbridge Wells and Eridge. A chocolate egg will be available (whilst stocks last) for all children taking part.

Resident steam engine ‘Ugly’ will be in action each day and standard fares apply.

Adult tickers are £10, children aged two to 15 are £5 and a family ticket for unlimited travel on the day is £28.00 when booked online in advance here.

West Sussex

Easter sees the return of the Worthing Observation Wheel. Standing at a height of 46 metres, the WOW is the tallest wheel on the south coast offering views of up to 10 miles across the South Downs and along the coast. See here for information.

Whatever you do, have a fantastic time!

Is the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show 2020 good for children?

Is the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show 2020 good for children?

A family day out at the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show 2020

The Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show 2020 is a popular event every year with families.

The UK’s biggest display of leisure vehicles, static holiday homes, lodges and tents is spread over five halls at the NEC in Birmingham.

We’ve been today with our children – it was very appealing given the constant rain that has plagued the half-term holiday.

It’s a great price – adults are just £10 on the door this year (seniors £9) and children under 15 are free. Parking is free at the NEC but it is a long walk from the car park so consider getting one of the free shuttle buses especially if it is raining.

Once you get inside there are scores of caravans and motorhomes to explore – ours loved climbing inside, trying out the seats, working out how the beds worked and imagining they were ours.

There are lots of tents you can buy too, you can see all the different sizes and types all set up.

There are also extra activities, which make it more worthwhile taking children.

A climbing wall at the Children in a motorhome at the Caravan, Camping & Motorhome Show 2020

There is a climbing wall, a nine-hole mini golf course made out of miniature UK landmarks and a small circuit to try out electric bikes and electric scooters.

Mini golf at the Caravan, Camping & Motorhome Show 2020

The Haven stand had a fantastic ranger from Nature Rockz teaching fire lighting.

A ranger teache fire lighting at the Mini golf at the Caravan, Camping & Motorhome Show 2020

There is a theatre area with special guests like Shane Richie, Matt Allwright, adventurer Darren Hardy and chef, author, and Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain.

We watched a chat with the rather lovely Dr Hilary Jones from ITV’s Lorraine, who was discussing the benefits of breaks and holidays, fresh air and exercise.

There was also a dog arena where we saw an agility demonstration and made friends with some gorgeous cocker spaniels.

The dog arena at The show runs until February 23 2020 at the NEC in Birmingham.

Plus there are holiday lodges and glamping tents and representatives from holiday parks and other destinations offering ideas for family trips.

And lots of stands selling everything you need if you go camping or caravanning.

The show runs until February 23 2020 at the NEC in Birmingham.

Gangsta Granny: The Ride comes to Alton Towers based on the popular book as part of the new World of David Walliams

Gangsta Granny: The Ride comes to Alton Towers based on the popular book as part of the new World of David Walliams

Grannies go free at Alton Towers in 2020 to celebrate the opening of the World of David Walliams

Staffordshire theme park Alton Towers has revealed that the star attraction of its soon-to-open World of David Walliams themed area will be Gangsta Granny: The Ride.

The world-first ride experience is inspired by Walliams’ biggest selling children’s novel Gangsta Granny.

Fans will also be able to stay overnight in one of four Gangsta Granny themed bedrooms in the Alton Towers Hotel.

Stay overnight in a Gangsta Granny room

Stay overnight in a Gangsta Granny room

We revealed last year that the World of David Walliams will be arriving at Alton Towers this Spring (2020) with a host of rides and attractions, bringing to life much-loved characters from the author’s children’s novels.

To celebrate the launch of Gangsta Granny: The Ride, Alton Towers is offering a new Grannies Go Free pass for 2020.

Published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, Gangsta Granny tells the story of Ben who discovers that his Granny is secretly an international jewel thief.

David Walliams works with Alton Towers on the new Gangsta Granny ride

David Walliams works with Alton Towers on the new Gangsta Granny ride

Comedian, actor and best-selling author David Walliams OBE said: “I’m absolutely thrilled that Gangsta Granny is becoming a ride at Alton Towers.

“I never imagined it would happen so it’s a real delight to see my characters brought to life in a ride.

“I’ve worked really closely with the team at Alton Towers to make sure the ride is just as funny and exciting as the book. I think children and their parents and even their grandparents are going to love it!”

The new 4D ride experience will see guests join the main characters as they attempt the greatest heist in the history of the world: to steal the Crown Jewels.

On-board a royal carriage, they will set off on a Crown Jewels tour only to be caught up in Ben and Granny’s adventure.

The ride will whizz, twist and spin passengers 360 degrees through a series of scenes where they will see, feel, hear and even smell an electrifying and unique retelling of the Gangsta Granny story.

Using state-of-the-art special effects, 3D projection-mapping and animation inspired by the artwork of Tony Ross, passengers will descend with Ben and Granny into the sewers, be chased through the streets of London and even come face to face with the Queen.

Gangsta Granny The Ride at Alton Towers

In other parts of the David Walliams area will be Raj’s Shop, a Royal Carousel, Raj’s Bouncy Bottom Burp and other surprises.

John Burton, Creative Lead for Alton Towers Resort, said: “David’s stories are full of witty characters, intrigue and exhilaration so it’s been a fantastic challenge to build all that into a new ride experience.

“It’s the first time we’ve attempted such a complex combination of a physical ride experience, high-tech special effects and brilliant story-telling to ensure guests feel they are with Granny and Ben on every step of their adventure.”

Alton Towers in Staffordshire, a member of the Merlin Entertainments family, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

It opens for 2020 on March 21.

The park says the new area will open in the Spring but has not given an official launch date yet.

Grannies (and Grandads) go free

Alton Towers is offering one free adult (aged 60 and over) ticket per full price child ticket when bought by March 20. The free tickets can be used during the 2020 season (March 21 to November 1, 2020). For full terms and conditions, go to www.altontowers.com/tandcs

Gangsta Granny-themed rooms

There are four themed rooms in the Alton Towers Hotel. They cost from £281.50, based on a family-of-four with bed and breakfast, book via altontowers.com

Gangsta Granny Facts

It was first published on 27th October 2011.

The anniversary edition was published in 2018.

Gangsta Granny was David’s first children’s number one bestseller.

It stayed at the top of The Sunday Times top ten for 24 weeks.

Overall sales of Gangsta Granny are 1.75 million in the UK alone.

Gangsta Granny has also been adapted for the stage by the Birmingham Stage Company.

A television adaptation was commissioned by the BBC in 2013 and first aired on BBC One on Boxing Day 2013. The cast includes Miranda Hart, Rob Brydon, David Walliams as Ben’s Dad and Joanna Lumley as The Queen. It is currently available to view on Netflix.

David Walliams

David closed 2019 as the UK’s biggest-selling author. His titles took three of the top 10 overall bestselling books of 2019 as well as the top three bestselling children’s books of the year.

He is one of the most influential children’s writers and has revolutionised reading for children.

Since the publication of his ground-breaking first novel, The Boy in the Dress (2008), global sales of his books have exceeded 37 million copies.

Across his titles, he has celebrated a total of 55 weeks at number one in the overall book charts and more than 150 weeks at number one in the children’s charts – more than any other children’s writer.

His most recent novel, The Beast of Buckingham Palace, was published in November 2019 and went straight to number one in in the overall industry bestseller charts where it remained for four weeks and included the coveted UK Christmas number one spot.

*For more information on Gangsta Granny: The Ride and other new attractions inspired by the books of David Walliams visit  www.altontowers.com/Walliams.

Winter Funland 2019 Manchester – review and tips

Winter Funland 2019 Manchester – review and tips

We escape the cold and rain for indoor Christmas fun at EventCity in Manchester

Name

Winter Funland 2019

Where is it?

EventCity, opposite the Trafford Centre in Manchester

What is it?

The biggest indoor Christmas event in the UK. It includes a pantomime, ice rink, circus, Santa and huge funfair.

It replaced Winter Wonderland in 2018, which was at the site previously.

When is it?

Before and after Christmas – it runs for a month until January 4, 2020.

How long does it last?

Visits are in sessions of four hours.

What did we think?

It was good value for money compared to other Christmas events as it is mostly all free once you are inside including the fair rides, ice skating and two shows.

Plus it was a relief to know we’d be warm and dry whatever the weather after knowing plenty of people who have got soaked through after paying a lot of money for outdoor festive treats.

It perhaps lacked a big Christmas feel and would have benefited from more staff dressed up or more festive decorations.

But if your children love rides, you are on to a winner.

It includes:

*The funfair with lots of rides suitable for young children up to about 10, including carousels, mini coasters and dodgems. There were queues for most things but not horrendously long. It was a lot quieter in the last hour.

*An ice rink for ages four and up. It is fairly small and was not too busy when we went. There were several penguin supports for children.

*The circus – there are three performance times you can choose from in each session. You sit around a smallish round stage being amazed by a series of performers including a couple on rollerboots, two motorcyclists inside a sphere and acrobats.

*The pantomime/Christmas show – this was in the same area as the circus. It wasn’t quite as good as the circus and a few people walked out of our session. The four actors tried their best but the show wasn’t particularly Christmassy and two of them were in slightly scary alien costumes!

*Santa – this year’s grotto is next to the entrance and is open half an hour before session times so you don’t have to lose any of your four hours waiting to see Father Christmas. Queues to see him close an hour before the end of each session.

Fastpass tickets are available to visit Father Christmas to cut queuing time and give you an allocated 15-minute timeslot. Book when you buy your tickets.

Facilities for parents

*There is plenty of space to park prams and buggies.

*There is a quiet breastfeeding area and baby changing facilities.

*There is a baby chill-out zone where little ones can be out of their prams.

Food

You are not supposed to take your own food and drink inside.

There are stalls selling food and drink including pizza, carvery baps, chips, donuts, popcorn and candyfloss, plus plenty of tables to sit at to eat. There is also a bar.

Cost

All-inclusive tickets are £23.50 per person, under 3s and carers are free. It is £89 for a family of four — two adults and two children or one adult and three children. Children are aged up to and including 16. Tickets available via www.winterfunland.co.uk

Tickets can be printed off or displayed on the screen of your phone/tablet etc.

Parking is included in the cost.

What is not included in the cost

Food and drink, a present from Santa (this can be paid for before if wanted) and photo opportunities.

There is also a cloakroom charged at £1 per item.

Best for:

Children aged three to 10.

Access and restrictions:

The venue is fully wheelchair accessible but check which rides can be accessed. There is disabled parking and disabled toilets.

Address:

EventCity, opposite the Trafford Centre in Manchester.

Winter Funland Manchester postcode for satnavs is M17 8AS.

 

We visit the ‘Christmas capital of England’ whose festive market is hailed the best in Europe

We visit the ‘Christmas capital of England’ whose festive market is hailed the best in Europe

We take a festive family trip to Winchester

The city of Winchester is known as England’s Christmas capital and its market was recently voted one of the best in Europe.

So we take a December trip to the home of Alfred the Great to find out what its Christmas appeal is for children, plus see our video below.

The Winchester Cathedral Christmas Markets

The centrepiece of the city’s festive fun is this beautiful market which runs for 34 days around Christmas.

There are 110 stalls around Cathedral Close. You enter via the side of the building through some arches and onto the market which has dozens of stalls selling Christmas gifts, arts and crafts.

The main food and drink section of the market is at the far side. There are the usual selection of German sausages, Gluhwein and more. Our two enjoyed testing the pancakes from an excellent crepes stall, which was reasonably priced and properly cooked by two ladies from France. There was also a man toasting marshmallows and another roasting nuts.

Buying mulled wine at Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market

There is also a British Crafts Village section, which you enter via a small platform, with a nativity scene at the end.

The market is very popular with 350,000 visitors each year and it was busy when we went which means you need to keep a close eye on your children. Also, there are no toilets in the market itself, the nearest ones are at the Cathedral Visitors Centre.

The ice rink

In the centre of the markets is a covered ice rink. It offers one-hour skating slots through the day from 10am with the final one starting at 8pm.

The busiest times are in the late afternoon but numbers are limited so even in a full session the ice isn’t too busy.

A family skating ticket for two adults and two children costs £37.95. it also costs £5 to hire a Penguin skating aid, which is essential if your children are new to skating and makes for a more fun experience on the ice for beginners.

The rink has a large Christmas tree in the centre and viewing areas at either end for family and friends to watch.

You can collect your skates in the waiting area up to half a hour before your allocated time slot. All children’s sizes are catered for and there is a £1 charge to leave bags in a locker.

It is a great festive atmosphere with lights and music on the ice adding to the fun. There is also an ice bar and cafe next to the rink for hot and cold food.

Across the city

Winchester takes Christmas very seriously and even away from the cathedral there was a large market along the High Street when we visited. There were plenty of local stalls and food outlets at that market as well.

Further afield

The two nearest Christmas activities near Winchester are at Marwell Zoo, which we reviewed earlier in the year, read about it here. The zoo has a special Christmas at Marwell experience which can be booked as either a daytime or evening visit. Only the daytime experience includes a visit to the zoo itself.

The Watercress Line has a Santa Special train running until December 24. Children receive an activity pack and gingerbread on board while adults can enjoy white wine and mince pies. Tickets are available by advanced booking only.

Also, in Winchester there is a Meet Father Christmas event running at the Great Hall. From December 21 to 23, you can meet Santa in one of the city’s grandest buildings. Tickets include that all-important meeting plus a festive gift and Christmas-themed crafts.

Where do I park?

Parking is difficult but there are three park and ride options. If you are coming from the East, you can use either Barfield or St Catherine’s Park & Ride. Visitors from the south can use South Winchester.

If you want to try and get closer to the city centre, then the Chesil multi-storey car park is your best bet. We parked here and it was about a 10-minute walk to the cathedral.

For more information go to visitwinchester.co.uk

(We were given free entry to the ice rink for the purpose of this review. All opinions are our own).

Lapland UK 2019 – our full guide, top tips and review of this popular Christmas day out for families

Lapland UK 2019 – our full guide, top tips and review of this popular Christmas day out for families

We take our children to ‘Lapland’ in the UK for a full family festive experience

It is one of the country’s most popular Christmas days out for families who want to experience Lapland without the cost of travelling to Finland.

So here is all you need to know about Lapland UK, plus our top tips for visiting and please watch our video below!

What is it?

A full Christmas experience for children which tells the story of Father Christmas, complete with elves, snow, a personalized Santa visit, toy making, gingerbread decorating, ice skating and more.

Where is it?

In ‘Lapland’ accessed by magic from Lapland UK, in Whitmoor Forest near Ascot in Berkshire.

How it works

1. Children get a special invitation each to visit ‘Lapland’ through the post telling them they have been chosen to help Santa make toys. There is a special app you can use so that two of the elves you will meet, appear on your invitation through your phone to talk and build the excitement.

2. When you get there and check in, each child is given an Elf Passport to have stamped at various points. You can also buy Jingles here – elf money that the children can spend there – £1 is one Elf Jingle.

A pouch of Jingles

A pouch of Jingles

3. The tour starts in a round room where elves tell the Father Christmas story, teach elf rhymes and the elf wave and build up the excitement for the children (Little Folk) and adults (Big Folk) until finally opening the doors to ‘Lapland’.

The doors to Lapland

The doors to Lapland

4. You walk past snow-topped cabins to the toy workshop. Here, as in other places around the site, children have the option of entering through much smaller doors than the adults, which is a nice touch.

5. Inside the workshop, they are entertained by more elves and then each child helps to make a toy (a soft snowman our year, which they stuffed and added buttons to and a nose and scarf etc), which they hand over to be wrapped for Santa to deliver to children on Christmas Eve.

Making toys at the Toy Factory at Lapland UK

Making toys

6. Then it’s through one of several magical tree tunnels to the next area, a kitchen where Mother Christmas is waiting, she talks to the children, they decorate gingerbread biscuits then listen to a story.

Mother Christmas tells a story at Lapland UK

Mother Christmas tells a story

7. After that it is on to the Elf Village where you have an hour-and-a-half free time to ice skate on the outdoor rink, visit husky dogs and spend your Jingles in the toy and sweet shops, food and drink outlets. There is even a special post office where children can write a letter to Santa, have it sealed and post it themselves.

The ice rink at Lapland UK

8. Then it’s on to the main event – visiting Father Christmas. You walk through a magical forest, past elf homes and past the reindeer to a waiting area.

Elves come and out and call each family group through using just the children’s names. Then you are taken down a winding path to visit Santa in a log cabin, who amazes the children by knowing special details about them. He gives them a present (soft husky toy dogs when we went) and they find their names in his good book. They have a photograph taken by an elf.

Children look to see if they are in Santa's good book at Lapland UK

Are they in his good book?

9. In the next area, you collect your free photograph and are slipped a toy like the one your child made earlier so that Santa can deliver it on Christmas Eve. Then it’s out through a gift shop where there are lots of accessories you can buy for your husky! And then it’s out the door and back into the car park in ‘England’.

What is included in the price at Lapland UK?

*Parking.

*An elf passport.

*Elf newspaper.

*Making a toy activity.

*A version of the toy they made in the toy factory to take away secretly to give them on Christmas day.

*The gingerbread that the children decorate.

*Ice skating and hire of skates.

*Meeting Father Christmas.

*A gift from Santa – soft toy husky dogs our year.

*A printed family picture from the Santa visit.

What costs extra at Lapland UK?

*Food and drink.

*Reindeer food.

*Shop purchases.

*Extra pictures from the Santa visit.

What did we think?

This is a magical Christmas day out for young children and very well organized. The staff are all fantastic, taking on the role of elves and reindeer and the children loved it. It is a fabulous four hours of festive entertainment.

Is Lapland UK worth the cost?

This is a staggeringly expensive Christmas experience. It is a shame this costs so much money as it just isn’t possible for many people, particularly bigger families.

For the four of us it was over £450 on a weekday – which works out at over £100 an hour. We were lucky enough to be treated to it for a special family birthday. I don’t think we would be able to justify doing it again another year.

If you can afford it and want to splash out, make sure your children are the right ages to appreciate it, I would say, no younger than three and of an age where they still believe in the magic of Christmas.

Top tips for Lapland UK

*Do take advantage of the app to make your child’s invitation come to life, it is a magical start to the experience.

*Get there half an hour before your time slot to park, walk to the start, check in etc. You can not start the experience until your time slot so there is no point getting there any earlier.

*Buy Jingles at the start – £1 is 1 Elf Jingle, they come in a red velvet pouch. Children can use them to pay for things in the Elf Village and you can cash in those you don’t use at the end. We bought ours £5 worth each and it was enough (a lead for the toy husky from Santa was just £3 in the gift shop at the end, but beware there are lots of toys which cost a lot more)!

*Personalise your visit online. Make sure Santa has all the details he needs to show your child that he knows all about them. But don’t worry if you don’t get chance to do this as you can tell them at the desk when you are waiting to see the Big Man (just make sure little ears can’t hear you)!

*Ice rink – children can have skates which go over their shoes and are easier to balance on instead of proper ones. There are also support penguins for young children to hold on to or stand on.

*Consider taking a change of clothes in case children fall over on the ice rink. It was raining when we went and there is no cover so the surface was wet even though staff were frantically trying to keep the water off it.

*You could spend a lot of money in the Elfen Village if you aren’t careful as a lot of it is shops and food and drink outlets so take your time doing the ice rink and the Santa letter writing!

Our five-year-old’s verdict

“We saw Father Christmas and he gave us some huskies. And we went in the Enchanted Forest. It was fantastic! I liked seeing Santa Claus best.”

Address

Whitmoor Forest, Swinley Rd, Winkfield Row, Ascot SL5 8BD

Where to stay

We stayed at the Hilton Bracknell Hotel 10 minutes away, which has a fantastic swimming pool, read our review here.

Website

https://www.laplanduk.co.uk

Have you been? What did you think? We would love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

 

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.