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

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

Everything you need to know about Biddulph Grange in Staffordshire

Name

Biddulph Grange Gardens

What is it?

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

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

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

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

Tree-lined avenue at Biddulph Grange National Trust

Tree-lined avenue

Where is it?

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

The history of Biddulph Grange

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

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

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

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

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

What did we think?

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

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

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

Highlights

*The view at the start

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

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

Looking down from the start over the Italian section

*The Chinese Garden

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

*The woodland play area

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

Playing in the wooden play area at Biddulph Grange National Trust

The Stumpery 

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

Egyptian Garden

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

The tennis lawn

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

More highlights

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

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

Dahlia Walk (taken in March)

Top tips

Can you see inside the house at Biddulph Grange?

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

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

Fish food

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

Biddulph Grange House

Plant sale

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

Trails

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

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

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

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

Arrival time

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

What is the best time of year to visit?

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

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

Biddulph Grange information

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

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

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

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

Are dogs allowed at Biddulph Grange?

No, only assistance dogs.

Best for: All ages.

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

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

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

Website: Biddulph Grange Gardens

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

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

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

Name

Cadbury World

What is it?

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

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

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

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

Where is it?

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

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

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

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

What did we think?

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

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

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

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

Exploring the Aztec Jungle at Cadbury World

Exploring the Aztec Jungle

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

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

Highlights

*Do you get free chocolate at Cadbury World?!

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

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

Free chocolate bars at Cadbury World

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

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

*The 4D Cinema

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

The 4D cinema at Cadbury World

The 4D cinema

*Demonstration

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

Chocolate demonstration at Cadbury World

Chocolate demonstration

*Drawing with chocolate

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

Drawing a heart with melted chocolate at Cadbury World

Drawing with melted chocolate

*Rides

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

The Cadabra ride at Cadbury World

The Cadabra ride

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

Top tips and downsides

Arrival time.

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

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

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

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

Outdoor Section

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

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

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

A Cadbury shop front

A Cadbury shop front

Don’t miss any of the route!

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

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

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

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

Tickets and queues

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

Buying chocolate

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

You can also pre-order personalised chocolate items.

Cadbury chocolate bars over the years

Cadbury chocolate bars over the years

Cadbury World information

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

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

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

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

There are seats outside for anyone who takes a picnic.

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

Cost: Latest ticket prices here.

Best for: All ages.

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

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

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

Carer tickets are available if certain criteria are met.

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

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

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

To book: Cadbury World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where is Holmes Chapel?

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

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

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

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

Was Harry Styles born in Holmes Chapel?

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

A fan poses outside Harry Styles's house

Outside Harry’s former home

Which schools did Harry Styles go to?

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

Hermitage Primary School, Holmes Chapel

Hermitage Primary School, Holmes Chapel

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

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

Holmes Chapel High School

Holmes Chapel High School

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

The Harry Styles Walking Tour

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

Landmark 1: Holmes Chapel Railway Station.

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

Holmes Chapel Railway Station

Holmes Chapel Railway Station

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

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

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

Holmes Chapel Railway Station

Landmark 2: Harry’s Wall/Twemlow Viaduct

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

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

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

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

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

Harry's Wall where Harry Styles had his first kiss

Harry’s Wall

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

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

Landmark 3: Mandeville’s Bakery

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

Mandevilles Bakery in Holmes Chapel where Harry Styles worked

W Mandeville Bakery

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

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

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

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

Have your picture taken with Harry Styles

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

Landmark 4: Fortune City Chinese restaurant

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

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

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

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

Harry Styles former home in Holmes Chapel exact location

Harry’s former home

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

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

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

Fortune City

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

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

Holmes Chapel Partnership Harry Styles Trail

Credit: Holmes Chapel Partnership

Merlin Pass attractions, benefits, top tips and is it worth the money?

Merlin Pass attractions, benefits, top tips and is it worth the money?

We investigate the popular annual membership for Merlin Entertainment and its big list of popular attractions

There are a lot of perks to annual memberships for families. They can encourage us to get out and about more in a bid to make use of them and there are potential cost savings. Here we explore one of the most popular – the Merlin Pass. 

What is it?

The UK’s biggest annual pass offering entry to 32 Merlin attractions including Alton Towers, Legoland and more with prices starting at £99.

What do you get?

Entry to 33 attractions including:

The different types of Merlin passes offer other savings depending on which you choose including free parking, discounted fastrack and cheaper food and drink.

Children on LEGO Ninjago the Ride

Ninjago the Ride at LEGOLAND Windsor

Different Merlin Passes

There are four standards of Merlin passes – Merlin Discovery Pass, Merlin Silver Pass, Merlin Gold Pass and Merlin Platinum Pass.

The cheapest option is the Merlin Discovery Pass. It gives off-peak entry only (so excludes entry during school holidays, some weekends and special events) and access to Merlin attractions for over 200 days.  Excludes entry during school holidays, some weekend dates and special events.

Next cheapest is Merlin Silver Pass which also includes some weekends and school holidays, giving over 300 days of entry and 10 per cent off shops, food and drinks. It also includes discounted friends and family tickets.

The Merlin Gold Pass has even less exclusion dates, giving access over 340 days. It also includes free parking, fastrack vouchers and benefits like 20 per cent off shops, food and drinks.

The most expensive option is the Merlin Platinum Pass which gives 364 days entry, with no excluded dates other than paid events. It also includes free parking, £5 off fastrack and Share the Fun vouchers and £19 tickets for friends and family.

How much are the Merlin passes?

Merlin Discovery Pass is from £99 per person.

Merlin Silver Pass is from £169 per person (renewals from £119 per person).

Merlin Gold Pass is from £239 per person (renewals from £169)

Merlin Platinum Pass from £299 per person (renewals from £229).

Can I pay monthly?

Yes you can spread the cost with a monthly membership, on all but the cheapest Merlin Discovery Pass option.

You need to pay a joining fee and then a set monthly rate.

Silver Pass – joining fee £39.99, £10.99 a month, total cost £171.87.

Gold Pass – joining fee, £49.99, £15.99 a month, total cost £241.87.

Platinum Pass, joining fee, £59.99, £20.99 a month, total cost £311.8.

What about the small print?

The passes are delivered digitally to your email inbox ready to use.

You still need to pre-book tickets to attractions online.

How much could you save?

This depends on which pass you go for and how often you visit Merlin attractions.

Merlin have an online calculator tool to show you how much you can save.

For a family of two adults and two children with Merlin Discovery Passes, visiting just Alton Towers once a month, could save £2,868, so a huge saving.

In fact just going to Alton Towers twice would save you £148. But you would have to go to a Legoland Discovery Centre five times to make your money back.

Nobody should be paying the full price for tickets though with offers available on cereal packets and in newspapers – although always check as often booking online in advance can work out cheaper.

Verdict

If you are a fan of Merlin attractions, know you will be going anyway and can afford it, these passes would seem like a fantastic investment which will encourage you to get out and make the most of them for a fun-filled year.

Carer passes

Carers of Merlin Annual Passholders with additional needs who require assistance, can receive a free Merlin Annual Pass.

The passes are transferable between carers. They just include the name, date of birth and a photo of the guest with additional needs.

You need to submit your request here.

Top Tip

Look out for Merlin Pass discounts – this usually happens in January and June.

Related stories

We investigate Merlin and other popular family membership schemes including National Trust, English Heritage, RHS and Chester Zoo – Annual passes and membership at top attractions across the UK in 2024 – our tips and advice

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Another popular article tells you How to beat the queues at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort with the Reserve & Ride (formerly Q-Bot) Ride Reservation System.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Name:

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

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

What is it?

A lantern trail through 12 themed areas.

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

Where is it?

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

What did we think?

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

Highlights

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

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

The insect-themed area

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

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

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

Top tips

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

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

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

Dennis the Menace

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

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

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

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

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

Land of Lights Festival Warrington information

Dates: It runs until February 25, 2024.

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

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

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

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

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

Under-twos are free.

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

Best for: All ages.

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

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

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

Accessible toilets are available along the route.

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

To bookLand of Lights Festival Warrington

Parking: Parking is free

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

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

Full guide and review of Lanterns and Light at Chester Zoo

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

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

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

 

Name:

Chester Zoo Lanterns and Light

What is it?

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

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

An illuminated rhino at Chester Zoo Lanterns and Light

An illuminated rhino

Where is it?

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

What did we think?

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

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

Highlights

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

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

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

A person-controlled puppet

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

a 3D woolly mammoth at Chester Zoo Lanterns and Light

Woolly mammoth

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

Marshmallow toatsing at Chester Zoo Lanterns and Light

Marshmallow toasting

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

Illuminated penguins at Chester Zoo Lanterns and Light

Illuminated penguins

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

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

Top tips

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

An octopus puppet at Chester Zoo Lanterns and Light

An octopus puppet

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

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

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

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

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

The map of Lanterns and Light at Chester Zoo

Lanterns and Light map

*You might catch a glimpse of Santa.

Father Christmas at Chester Zoo Lanterns and Light

Chester Zoo Lanterns and Light information

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

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

Yorkshire pudding menu at Lanterns and Light at Chester Zoo

Yorkshire pudding menu

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

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

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

Best for: All ages.

Time needed: The trail takes 60 to 90 minutes.

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

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

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

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

To book:   Lanterns and Light

Parking: Parking is free

Website: Chester Zoo Lanterns and Light

Things to do in Bath for families

Things to do in Bath for families

What to do in beautiful Bath

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

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

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

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

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

Roman Baths

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

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

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

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

Roman Baths

Roman Baths

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

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

There are separate audio guides for children at the Roman Baths

There are separate audio guides for children

For more information visit the website: Roman Baths

Bus Tour

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

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

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

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

TOOT open-top bus tour in Bath

TOOT BUS Tour

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

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

The Royal Crescent

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

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

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

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

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

Inside Number 1 Royal Crescent, Bath

Inside Number 1 Royal Crescent

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

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

Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House

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

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

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

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

Sally Lunn's cafe and restaurant window, Bath

Sally Lunn’s

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

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

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

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

American Museum and Gardens

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

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

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

American Museum and Gardens, Bath

American Museum and Gardens

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

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

Website: www.americanmuseum.org

Pulteney Bridge

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

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

Pulteney Bridge, Bath

Pulteney Bridge

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

Park and Ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Name

Cheddar Gorge

What is it?

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

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

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

Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge

Where is it?

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

What did we think?

This stunning landscape is well worth a look.

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

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

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

How to enjoy Cheddar Gorge for free.

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

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

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

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

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

Top tips

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

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

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

Cheddar

Cheddar

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

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

Cheddar Gorge information

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

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

Best for: Older children and relatively fit adults.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Name

Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions

What is it?

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

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

Where is it?

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

What did we think?

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

Cave-aged cheddar cheese at Wookey Hole Caves and attractions

Cave-aged cheddar cheese

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

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

Highlights

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

Inside the caves at Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions

Inside the caves

The temperature is a constant 11° Celsius.

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

A dinosaur fossil dig at Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions

Digging for dinosaur fossils

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

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

Circus at Wookey Hole Caves

Circus at Wookey Hole Caves

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

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

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

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

Top tips

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

A t-rex at Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our video

Wookey Hole Caves information

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

Wookey Hole Hotel

Wookey Hole Hotel

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

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

Opening hours: For current opening times visit Wookey Hole Caves

Cost: For current cost visit Wookey Hole Caves

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

Time needed: At least half a day.

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

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

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

Telephone: 01749 672243

Email: witch@wookey.co.uk

To book: Wookey Hole Caves

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

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

All the best places to visit around Porthmadog

All the best places to visit around Porthmadog

Our guide to where to go in and around Porthmadog in North Wales

Porthmadog is a small coastal town on the Glaslyn Estuary in North Wales.

It was once a busy port for the international slate trade and its name means Madog’s Port.

There’s lots to do in and around this pretty town.

Black Rock Sands (Morfa Bychan)

Black Rock Sands is the closest major beach to Porthmadog, it’s a 10-minute drive.

It’s very accessible as you can park your car on the beach itself.

Cars parked on the beach at Black Rock Sands, near Porthmadog, Wales

Cars parked on the beach at Black Rock Sands

This is fantastic if you have loads of beach stuff to carry like chairs, blankets, boards, a picnic, buckets and spades etc.

But beware of being so distracted by having fun that you don’t realise the tide is creeping in.

On our last visit, we witnessed several owners running to rescue their cars and one even had to be pulled to safety by beach patrol.

A long, wide stretch of sand with warm, shallow waters at low tide, Black Rock Sands has good rock pools and caves at the far end towards Criccieth with view across to Criccieth Castle.

Car parking on the beach costs £5.

Steam Railway

Porthmadog Railway Station on the high street is very popular as it is a hub for three lines.

*The Welsh Highland Railway is the UK’s longest heritage railway and runs 25 miles between Porthmadog and Caernarfon.

*The Ffestiniog Railway is a vintage railway which has been running for nearly 200 years. It is 13.5 miles long and runs from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

*And the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway offers a short train ride in historic narrow-gauge railway carriages to Pen-y-mount station and back.

The Ffestiniog Railway in North Wales – our review and top tips

Opposite the hotel is the railway and the estuary.

Porthmadog railway station

Harlech Beach

Harlech Beach is about a 20-minute drive from Porthmadog.

It has lovely soft sand and fun, high sand dunes to explore.

The wide bay is inviting for paddlers and swimmers.

Harlech Beach in Wales

Harlech Beach

It is a fairly long walk from the pay and display car park (about 10 minutes), which also houses the nearest toilets, along a footpath which cuts through the golf course (watch out for flying golf balls).

Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle is set on a steep hill in this small village and proves very popular with visitors.

A girl in front of Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle

The fortress, built by Edward I nearly 800 years ago, is in superb condition.

You can scale the castle walls and see stunning views across North Wales.

There are good explainer boards around the castle showing what each area was used for in the 13th century.

Entrance costs £27.50 for a family of four unless you are members of Cadw (a Welsh version of English Heritage). There is also a small shop, bustling cafe and a short video you can watch before walking across the bridge to the castle.

There aren’t many parking spaces at the castle and it’s a steep walk to other options, so it’s best to drop off children and passengers who may struggle before finding somewhere to park.

Harlech

While you are at the castle, it’s worth walking a few metres up the road to see what claims to be a Guinness World Record-breaking road.

Ffordd Pen Lech is apparently the World’s Steepest Street with a 40 per cent gradient.

Well worth a quick walk to say you’ve scaled a spot in the record books.

There are also cafes, ice cream parlours and shops on the high street in Harlech.

Porthmadog walks

Walking is a great way to explore this pretty town.

We stayed at the Premier Inn, which is in a great location, opposite the railway station – Hotel review: New Premier Inn in Porthmadog, North Wales.

(Our video of the hotel above, includes many of the attractions in this article).

You don’t have to go far from the hotel for a stunning stroll, you can head around the back of the building to a footpath which takes you around a lake. A 20-minute walk brings you back to the hotel.

If you want to head further you can walk along the harbourside and down Lombard Street to the small cove of Borth-y-Gest which has a nice, small beach.

Walks towards Snowdon

We did two brilliant walks in the hills above Porthmadog heading towards Snowdon.

Beddgelert

We walked along the Aberglasyn Gorge from the National Trust car park at Aberglasyn to the village of Beddgelert.

The walk is challenging, particularly the first mile from the car park along the side of the river. There are some steep drops and no barriers in places.

Our children aged 12 and 8 loved the adventure but younger ones will need to be watched throughout. After the first mile,the path changes to a more straightforward flat, paved walk all the way to Beddgelert.

Beddgelert in Wales

Beddgelert

There are places to stop and have a paddle in the river along the way so bring a towel and some swimming gear if it is a warm day.

The walk ends at Beddgelert – the pretty village made famous by the story of the faithful dog Gelert slain by Prince Llewellyn after he mistakenly thought the dog had attacked his baby son.

You can visit Gelert’s grave under a tree and read about the tale. Beddgelert has several cafes, a busy ice cream parlour and a village shop if you need supplies for the walk back.

Gelert's grave at Beddgelert in Wales

Gelert’s grave at Beddgelert

Llyn Dinas

Further towards Snowdon into the mountains is another great walk we tried. This one starts from the National Trust site at Craflwyn. You can park there and cross the busy A498 onto a riverside footpath, which runs for just over a mile to Llyn Dinas.

The footpath goes past the Sygun Copper Mine, where you can take a self-guided tour down the mine.

If you carry on along the footpath towards Nantmor, you emerge at the stunning lake Llyn Dinas.

This is a wonderful spot for a swim on a hot day, there were lots of people out on the water on paddleboards and canoes. You can also walk around the lake on a solid, flat path. There are a few picnic tables near the small boathouse next to the main road but apart from that, no other facilities.

Llyn Dinas lake

Llyn Dinas lake

For anyone who doesn’t fancy the walk from Craflwyn, there is roadside parking alongside the lake but it gets busy quickly on a sunny day.

RELATED CONTENT: Hotel review: New Premier Inn in Porthmadog, North Wales (and our video tour)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Durham Cathedral (Durham City)

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

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

Durham Cathedral exterior landscape front
Durham Cathedral

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

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

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

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

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

Cathedral entry cost: Free, £5 suggested donation.

Tower cost: £5.50 adults and £2 children.  

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

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

Palace Green Library (Durham City)

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

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

Palace Green Library, Durham

Palace Green Library

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

Cost: Free.

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

Riverside walks (Durham City)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Browns Boats (Durham City)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Locomotion railway museum (South Durham)

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

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

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

Looking at the royal carriage at Locomotion railway museum

Looking at the royal carriage

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

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

Cost: Parking and entrance to the museum is free.

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

Beamish (North Durham)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raby Castle (Durham Dales)

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

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

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

Raby Castle gv

Raby Castle (Credit: Visit County Durham)

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

Cost: Raby Castle opening times and prices

Address: Raby Castle, Staindrop, DL2 3AH.

High Force Waterfall (Durham Dales)

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

A girl at High Force Waterfall

High Force Waterfall

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

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

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

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

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

Parking at hotel: £3.

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

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

Where to stay

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

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

Radisson Blu Durham hotel

Radisson Blu Durham

This is Durham

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

Telephone: 03000 26 26 26

Email: visitor@thisisdurham.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Shakespeare's Birthplace

Shakespeare’s Birthplace

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

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

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

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

QR code at Shakespeare's Birthplace

Using QR codes

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

Wall of play synopses at Shakespeare's Birthplace

Wall of plays synopses

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

Time taken: Allow around an hour.

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

Website: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Guildhall

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

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

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

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

A lesson at Shakespeare's school

A lesson at Shakespeare’s school

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

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

Writing with a quill at Shakespeare's School

Writing with a quill

Time taken: One to two hours.

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

Website: Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Guildhall

Shakespeare’s New Place

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

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

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

The gardens at Shakespeare's New Place

The gardens at Shakespeare’s New Place

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

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

Time taken: Around 45 minutes with children

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

Website: Shakespeare’s New Place

Stratford Butterfly Farm

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

A butterfly at Stratford Butterfly Farm

Stratford Butterfly Farm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Website: Stratford Butterfly Farm

River Avon

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

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

Cruising with Avon Boating

Cruising with Avon Boating

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

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

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

Loaction: We boarded at Bancroft Gardens.

Website: Avon Boating

Royal Shakespeare Theatre

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

Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Royal Shakespeare Theatre

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

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

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

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

Website: Royal Shakespeare Company

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

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

Where to stay in Stratford

Hotel Indigo Stratford-upon-Avon review and guide

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

The best things to do with children in Leicester

The best things to do with children in Leicester

The top family attractions in Leicester

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

The National Space Station

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

The National Space Centre, Leicester, exterior

The National Space Centre

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

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

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

Space suits at the National Space Centre in Leicester

Space suits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A rocket at the National Space Centre

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

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

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

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

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

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

Website: National Space Centre

Abbey Pumping Station

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

Abbey Pumping Station exterior

Abbey Pumping Station

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

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

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

Play area at Abbey Pumping Station in Leicester

Play area at Abbey Pumping Station

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

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

Website: Abbey Pumping Station

Richard III Centre

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

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

Screens at the Richard III Centre in Leicester

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

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

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

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

Dressing up in Tudor clothes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Website: King Richard III Visitor Centre

Leicester Museum and Art Gallery

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

A dinosaur skeleton at Leicester Museum and Art Gallery

Leicester Museum and Art Gallery

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

Food: There is a museum cafe.

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

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

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

Website: Leicester Museum and Art Gallery

Ninja Warrior UK Leicester

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

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

Ninja Warrior UK in Leicester

Ninja Warrior UK in Leicester

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Website: Ninja Warrior UK Leicester

Treetop Adventure Golf

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

Treetop Adventure Golf in Leicester

Treetop Adventure Golf in Leicester

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Website: Treetops Adventure Golf Leicester

For more ideas go to the Visit Leicester website.

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

Where to stay

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

Warwick Castle – review, guide and top tips

Warwick Castle – review, guide and top tips

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

Name

Warwick Castle.

What is it?

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

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

Suits of armour inside Warwick Castle

Inside the castle

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

Where is it?

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

Highlights

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

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

*The Horrible Histories Maze, where children can get a little book stamped at various stages.

*Archery and jousting lessons with enthusiastic staff dressed in medieval outfits.

Archery lessons at Warwick Castle

Archery lessons at Warwick Castle

*Interactive storytime in the Princess Castle.

*For younger children, there are attractions based around the Julia Donaldson character Zog, including a great outdoor play area.

Zog play area at Warwick Castle

Zog play area

Warwick Castle Top Tips

*The Castle Dungeon is a 50-minute walk with live actors and special effects but is scary and so for over-tens only. You have to pay extra for this attraction, it isn’t included in the entry price.

*Get there early – we arrived about 9.30am for a 10am opening which meant we were at the front of the car park – although it was still a bit of a trek – and one of the first through the doors.

*Pay for your car park at the start  – about 50 yards before the entrance on the right  – there can be queues if you leave it to the end and it’s a set price (£6) anyway.

*If you want to extend your stay, you can sleep over at Warwick Castle in the Knight’s Village. There are 24 standard Woodland Lodges which sleep up to five and four Knight’s Lodges which are bigger and sleep up to seven people.

*There are tours running every half an hour covering different areas of the castle and its history. We joined a 30-minute tour which explained the 1,000 year story of the castle with an enthusiastic guide. It was well explained to suit children and gives you a good grounding for your day at the castle.

*You can scale the towers and ramparts but be aware this is a one-way trip and there are a lot of spiral stairs to climb that will tire out little legs (and big ones). But there’s a great view from the top.

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

View from the top at Warwick Castle

View from the top

Food

There are plenty of food and drink options but it isn’t cheap. There was a pizza van making fresh pizzas (£11.90 for a basic Margherita), along with a fish and chip stall, ice cream vans and drinks outlets.

Lots of people brought their own picnics and there are plenty of lovely places to eat on the lawns and loads of benches to sit at.

Our video tour

Where did we stay?

We stayed at the gorgeous Mallory Court Country Hotel and Spa, which was about 15 minutes away.

More information

Address: Warwick Castle, Warwick, CV34 6AH.

Parking: The castle’s car parks are a fair walk from the castle as its grounds are protected.

Accessibility: There is a drop-off point where people with mobility restrictions can be dropped off.

Some areas of the castle are not wheelchair accessible – see here for a full guide.

The castle supports the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme for those with hidden disabilities.

Opening times: Open every day except Christmas Day. Hours vary.

Prices: From £24. Under threes go free.

Website: Warwick Castle

MORE

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

The best things to do with children in Leicester

BeWILDerwood Cheshire’s Christmas lights trail – all you need to know

BeWILDerwood Cheshire’s Christmas lights trail – all you need to know

Full guide and review of BeWILDerwood Presents Christmas – A Sparkly Light & Panto Trail

BeWILDerwood Cheshire’s first ever Christmas lights event has begun.

The woodland attraction is already an established favourite day out for lots of families since it opened last year.

And now lots are going to experience its Sparkly Light and Panto Trail by night.

We were lucky enough to get a sneak preview, here is everything you need to know.

Name

BeWILDerwood Presents Christmas – A Sparkly Light & Panto Trail

What is it?

It is a light trail along new woodland pathways, a 10-minute pantomime, BeWILDerwood characters and a glimpse of Santa Claus himself, with a special gift for all children to take home.

A giant Christmas pudding at BeWILderwood Cheshire Christmas lights

A giant Christmas pudding

BeWILDerwood itself is a family attraction based on magical characters and their adventures from children’s books written by Tom Blofeld. The adventure park is all in woodland and includes treehouses, slides, den building, storytelling and zip wires – BeWILDerwood Cheshire – review, guide and top tips.

Where is it?

At BeWILDerwood Cheshire – north of Whitchurch on the A49 in south west Cheshire near the border with Shropshire.

What did we think?

This was a lovely Christmassy, magical evening out to get you in the festive mood.

Snowmen at BeWILderwood Cheshire Christmas lights

It’s a lengthy walk along twinkly trails through gingerbread men, candy canes, disco lights, snowmen and more with occasional interactions with BeWILDerwood characters.

Halfway around is the mini pantomime and food stop, the second half of the walk is even better with Christmas trees, a lake and fake snow falling.

The 10-minute pantomime at BeWILderwood Cheshire Christmas lights

The 10-minute pantomime

As it was the launch night, we were lucky enough to talk to the BeWILDerwood author himself Tom Blofeld, who was walking the route to see everyone’s reactions.

He has written a new Christmas-themed story to add to his collection of books, which introduces new characters. There are glimpses of the story along the route.

Highlights

*The staff are welcoming and friendly.

*There is hot chocolate available to buy before you begin the trail.

*There are a couple of parts in the second half where ‘snow’ falls – you will still be wearing dots of it in the car on the way home.

*Every child receives a copy of Tom Blofeld’s new Christmas story to take home as well as a craft.

Trees reflected in the pool at BeWILderwood Cheshire Christmas lights

Top tips

*You get to see Santa at the end, you can wave at him but there is not a meet and greet or grotto situation.

*Tickets need to be booked in advance and you are given an arrival timeslot of 4pm, 4.30pm, 5pm, 5.30pm, 6pm or 6.30pm.

*The park closes at 8pm.

*This event runs when it is dark so all the play structures, zip wires, slides etc are closed. Also, parts of the trail are very dark such as around the pantomine area, you might need to use a phone light to see where you are going.

*Annual pass holders get free entry but still need to book a space by calling 01829 830 730.

The author

Tom Blofeld’s books include A Boggle at Bewilderwood, The Bewilderbats and A Bewildermuddle.

He hopes the event will bring the magic of Christmas and the magic of BeWILDerwood together.

BeWILDerwood Presents Christmas – A Sparkly Light & Panto Trail information

Dates: It runs on selected dates from December 2 to 23.

Food: Food is available at the Munch Bar where there are warm snacks and hot drinks for sale including hot dogs, turkey baps, steak slices, cheese slices and picnic boxes for children including a ham or cheese roll and crisps.

Munch Bar menu at BeWILderwood Cheshire Christmas lights

Munch Bar menu

Opening hours: Time slots start at 4pm and the park closes at 8pm.

Cost: Tickets must be booked in advance online and cost £15.50 per person. Children under 92cm, carers and wheelchair users are free but everyone needs a ticket.

Best for: All ages.

Time needed: An hour and a half.

Access and restrictions: The trail is accessible for wheelchairs, pushchairs and mobility scooters but can be very dark, narrow, bumpy in places and may be muddy.

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

To book: www.cheshire.bewilderwood.co.uk

Pantomime review: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Blackpool Grand Theatre 2021/2022

Pantomime review: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Blackpool Grand Theatre 2021/2022

Family fun, laughter, dance and song – plus Covid references – in Snow White panto at the Blackpool Grand

Christmas pantomimes are a fun festive tradition that fans had to forgo last year – oh yes they did!

So we decided to enjoy a bit of ‘he’s behind you’ this year with a trip to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in Blackpool.

Pantomime

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Venue

Blackpool Grand Theatre

The cast

It stars Vicky Entwistle (Janice Battersby, Coronation Street) as the Wicked Queen and Steve Royle (Britan’s Got Talent finalist/presenter/juggler/comic) as Muddles in his 18th annual Christmas appearance on the Blackpool Grand stage.

Jamie Steen plays Nurse Dolly, Chris Warner-Drake is Prince Frederick and Ellie Green is Snow White.

Warwick Davis’s son Harrison plays Soppy, one of the seven dwarfs. While another of the dwarfs, Pip, is played by Harrison’s auntie Hayley Burroughs.

Snow White and Muddles

Snow White and Muddles

Best bits

*An alternative, frantic and very funny version of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

*A TikTok segment with audience participation.

*Vicky Entwistle is excellent with no trace of her Coronation Street character Janice Battersby!

*Steve Royle and Jamie Steen are hilarious and work well together – Steve even gets in a bit of juggling.

*The modern references to Covid alongside traditional Panto slapstick.

*The first half felt a little long but the laughs and the silliness really build in part two.

*The dancing and songs.

*The venue – it’s a lovely traditional theatre, plus you can combine the trip with a visit to the Blackpool Illuminations which run until January 3 for a double dose of festive magic.

When is it?

The show runs until Sunday, January 2

Tickets

Tickets are £20.50 and £25.50 for adults, children and those aged 65+ are £2 less and a family ticket is £84.

They are available here.

How long is it?

The first half is said to be an hour, the interval is 20 minutes and the second part an hour. But when we went, we were two and three quarter hours in total, a great afternoon out.

The seven dwarfs in Snow White, Blackpool

Next year

Meanwhile tickets are already on sale for next year’s offering from the theatre.

Sleeping Beauty will be on from December 2, 2022 to January 1, 2023.

Lightopia 2021: A Christmas Fantasy at Heaton Park, Manchester

Lightopia 2021: A Christmas Fantasy at Heaton Park, Manchester

We take our children on a family trip to a Christmas light festival in Manchester

We return for a second year to Lightopia, here is our full guide.

What is it

The Lightopia Festival – A Christmas Fantasy – is an award-winning and socially-distanced lantern and light festival, which also runs in London and at Alton Towers.

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

Snowman and lights at Lightopia Heaton Park, Manchester, 2021

When is it

Lightopia at Heaton Park runs from November 5, 2021 to January 3, 2022.

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

How much are tickets

Tickets booked in advance 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 girl enjoys Lightopia Heaton Park Manchester

Food and drink

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

There are also Dine in the Light experiences, a formal and a less formal.

The Dome dining experience is a three-course meal in one of 10 illuminated Dining Domes which seat up to six or twelve people, before or after the light trail. This must be pre-booked.

Also new for Lightopia Manchester 2021 is a more casual dining experience at The Stables Courtyard Bar and Dining.

Tables are under a heated canopy and guests choose from a variety of food and drink outlets serving things like tacos, pizza, roasted chestnuts and festive beverages. You can reserve a seat or walk in on the evening.

Top Tips

*Prepare for a bit of a walk from the car park and a queue at the start.

*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.

*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.

*We have tried both car parks and the walk from the North, St Margaret’s Road, car park is slightly easier and quicker than walking from the South, Sheepfoot Lane, car park.

A fairy and pile of books at Lightopia Heatonn Park, Manchester

Other questions

Is everything included in the price?

All the displays are included in the ticket price. You pay extra for fairground rides, food and drink and those flashing hand-held contraptions that our daughter loves.

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.

Unicorn at Lightopia Manchester

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.

North – St Margaret’s Road, M25 2GT

South – Lake Car Park, Sheepfoot Lane, M25 0DL

Buy a parking ticket here – the same page you book your event tickets and scroll down – the parking is below event tickets.

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

Now enjoy our video from last year:

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

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.