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Review: A family trip to Stonehenge with children and our tips for visiting this wonder of the world

Review: A family trip to Stonehenge with children and our tips for visiting this wonder of the world

All you need to know about Stonehenge in Wiltshire

What is it?

Stonehenge is one of the wonders of the world and the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe.

It is a huge man-made circle of standing stones, built over hundreds of years. Nobody knows exactly why Stonehenge was built, but people probably gathered there for religious ceremonies.

Research shows that the site has continuously evolved over 10,000 years. The structure that we call Stonehenge was built between 5,000 and 4,000 years ago and was once part of a larger sacred landscape.

With over 10 million visitors a year, Stonehenge is one of the UK’s most popular tourist attractions

Where is it?

It stands on Salisbury Plain, in Wiltshire, England and its giant stones can be seen from miles around.

Highlights

Visitor Centre

There is a £27 million visitor centre, 1.5 miles from the stones, which opened in 2013. There is plenty of free parking and it is very nicely done.

The entrance to Stonehenge Visitor Centre

The entrance to Stonehenge Visitor Centre

Once you’ve got your tickets you can go into the new museum. Our children were encouraged to enter through a ‘magic door’ into a 360-degree video of Stonehenge in all weathers.

Our children loved pretending it was really snowing and it got them excited about the museum.

A 360-degree video of Stonehenge

A 360-degree video of Stonehenge

A 5,500-year-old skeleton and a timeline of Stonehenge proved the other most interesting items for our seven and three-year-old children in this museum.

Outside there are examples of how hard it was to move the huge stones and recreations of Neolithic Houses. You  can go inside them to see how some of the earliest settlers lived.

Reaching the stones

You can walk but it is 1.5 miles and would take a long time with small children. Stonehenge put on regular buses, every five minutes, shuttling from the visitors centre to the stones and back.

Our three-year-old loved the bus ride and it made the experience more exciting for her. You can stop off half way and walk up to the stones if you prefer but in February it was easier for us to take the bus all the way.

The bus you catch at Stonehenge from the museum to the stones

The bus to catch to the stones

The Stones

Visitors are dropped off a few hundred yards away and then make their way up a wide path.

You can get within about 30 yards of the stones, there are a range of viewing points but on a busy day it can be a battle to find a clear spot to take a photo.

Part of the fun is seeing tourists from around the world posing for their snaps – we even found one American doing a handstand! There are information boards around the site, which are child-friendly.

 

A visitor does a handstand in front of the stones at Stonehenge

What a pose

In conclusion

The facilities, which also include a shop and busy cafe, are good. The museum, although small, is thoughtfully done and the 4,500 year old stones inspired all ages.

At £50, it isn’t a cheap way to spend a couple of hours but this is a child-friendly attraction.

Top Tip

It costs £50 for a family ticket to Stonehenge but it is free to English Heritage and National Trust in England members (not National Trust Scotland members) if booked in advance.

If you take into account that family membership of either is around £100 per year (National Trust £114, English Heritage £96) it is worth joining before you visit.

If you are paying on the day, £50 is quite a lot for what will probably only take a couple of hours – unless you are going for a long walk in the woods on site.

Stonehenge information

Food: Picnics are welcome and there is a cafe near the shop in the visitor centre.

Opening hours: Varies depending on the time of year. Entrance through timed tickets.

Cost: Entry costs £49.40 for a family. Adult entry is £19.00, child (5-15) is £11.40. Free entry for National Trust in England (not Scotland) and English Heritage members if booked in advance.

Best for: ages eight to 15

Time needed: Two hours

Access and restrictions: The main areas are accessible by wheelchair.

Address: Stonehenge, near Amesbury, Wiltshire, SP4 7DE

Have you been? Tell us what you thought of Stonehenge below.

Our top tips to get the most from a family day out at Dunham Massey in Altrincham, Cheshire

Our top tips to get the most from a family day out at Dunham Massey in Altrincham, Cheshire

What to see and do with children at the National Trust’s Dunham Massey near Manchester

What is it?

A stately home with gardens, a large deer park, good walks and cafes, run by the National Trust.

Where is it?

Dunham Massey is near Altrincham in Cheshire, just a few miles from the main A556 dual carriageway.

What did we think?

This is one of the best places to take children, the grounds are safe and large, there are good facilities, regular special family trails, shows and events.

There is enough to keep you interested at Dunham Massey for at least half a day.

Our highlights

The park

The large deer park has long paved stretches for scooters and bikes (child bikes only allowed), plus lots of areas to build dens, play hide and seek, explore fallen trees and small ponds.

There are lots of deer in the park and they are fairly tame so you can get quite close – sometimes they even hang around by the house and cafe area. It is a very safe, flat and expansive park to play in.

deer at Dunham Massey

The deer are regular visitors to busy areas

The gardens

You have to pay extra to enter the gardens (free to National Trust members). There are paths throughout with flowers all year round. It claims to be one of Britain’s biggest winter gardens.

There are regular children’s trails to pick up at the entrance and follow, especially at Christmas and Easter.

The rose garden and bridge over the lake are fun parts for children. It is a lovely area to explore and enjoy.

rhododendrons in bloom at Dunham Massey

Dunham Massey’s gardens are colourful and host regular family trails

The house

Pretty much your traditional National Trust old house, of interest to lots of adults but a bit dark and gloomy for children, without a great deal to keep them amused.

However, it does have regular exhibitions and events – it was turned into a World War One hospital recently which was an interesting experience for our little ones. It costs extra to enter the house (free to National Trust members).

an aerial view of Dunham Massey

The house at Dunham Massey from above

Facilities

A newish visitor centre has a shop, cafe and toilets at the entrance. Remember to get your garden or house tickets from there before you go any further – even NT members need a ticket.

The cafe at the visitor centre has a nice outside seating area but it gets busy.

We prefer the restaurant in the park, which is large with family seating area, but this also gets busy and peak times. There is an ice cream shop in this area too and toilets and it is nearer the gardens and house entrance.

Conclusion

Dunham Massey is a great place to take scooters or bikes and explore the parkland, the gardens are also worth a visit although you can probably give the house a miss.

Our Top Tips

*You need tickets for the house and garden even if you are National Trust members. Get them at the main entrance before you go any further – you can’t buy them anywhere else.

*It gets very busy at weekends in good weather – and you often have to queue for the car park so try and go very early or later in the day.

Dunham Massey information

Food: There are two nice places to eat, a cafe in the visitor centre at the entrance and the other,our favourite of the two, a restaurant off the courtyard, with hot food and delicious cakes. It is big but very popular and can get very busy. There is also an ice cream parlour in this part. Picnics are also welcome in the park but not the gardens.

Opening hours: Open every day in school holidays from 10am to 5pm. During term time, it is open Tuesday to Sunday and closed on Mondays.

Cost: Car parking £7, includes entry to the park (free for NT members). Family entry to house and gardens £36.25, garden only £25. National Trust members free.

Best for: ages three to eight.

Time needed: Can easily fill half a day or just pop to the park for an hour or so.

Access and restrictions: There is free disabled parking. The ramp running from the car park to the Visitor Centre is accessible by wheelchair and mobility scooter, but is quite steep. Wheelchairs and personal mobility vehicles (PMVs) are available to borrow from reception. Book in advance to ensure availability on 0161 941 1025.

Address: Dunham Massey, Altrincham, Cheshire, WA14 4SJ

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