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Thrilling UK holidays

A break in the UK is a far from dull experience, and there's something to suit everybody whether you are a little historian or a curious explorer...


Posted: 9 August 2011
by Junior

Planning the family holiday this year could present us all with some exciting challenges. After all, the economic downturn not only makes the working week a little more worrisome, but when you finally do take a break, you feel like you need to save money, which may be why a recent survey revealed that more than half of us will stay in the UK for our holidays this year.

The good news is that while a break in the UK may not seem like the most exciting prospect to you, to your children there is a world of adventure to be had upon these fair shores. “You don’t have to opt for the seaside,” says Julia Hart, publisher of the Let’s Go With The Children guides – a series of 14 books designed to help parents find fun things to do with the family around the UK. “Head inland to the Midlands, Yorkshire, Herefordshire or Wiltshire for example, and you’ll find beautiful countryside and little-known attractions. There are hundreds of ways to be thrifty without compromising.” 

So how do you begin your family’s big UK adventure? Well, start with your child’s passion. After all, for aspiring historians there are ancient sites and castles, for a little naturalist there are untamed moors and forests, while for an adventurous explorer there are solar systems and forensic science. There are haunts for mini foodies, as well as rural escapes for a wannabe farmer, and places to inspire an energetic sports fanatic. So with some helpful suggestions from Julia and the Let’s Go With The Children guides, here are a few ideas for getting out and exploring the hidden gems in the UK. You can stay for a week, a weekend, or (if the belt needs a little more tightening) just for the day…

FOR LITTLE FARMERS...

STAY Feather Down Farms These fun farm experiences can be found across the countryside, with 21 farms located as far afield as Boswarthen in Cornwall to Lochhouses Farm near Dunbar in Scotland. While the Feather Down experience is certainly rural, tents are equipped with flush toilets, a large dining table and are incredibly spacious. Visit www.featherdownfarms.co.uk

…OR JUST A DAY

Old Dairy Farm Centre Drop in for a Meet The Alpacas afternoon, or for one of the four lambing weekends held on weekends during March. Upper Stowe, Northamptonshire NN7 4SH. Tel: 01327 340525 or visit www.old-dairy-farm-centre.co.uk

Amerton Farm Children will adore visiting the animals – deer, owls, chipmunks, foxes, hedgehogs, lambs, even ferrets – who are ‘in hospital’ here at the British Wildlife Rescue Centre. Stowe By Chartley, Stafford ST18 0LA. Tel: 01889 270294 or visit www.amertonfarm.co.uk

Over Farm Market Meet water buffalo, donkeys, pot-bellied pigs, dogs and chickens before taking an Over Farm trailer ride or stopping to pick your own strawberries or raspberries. Over, Gloucester, GL2 8DB. Tel: 01452 521014; www.over-farm-market.com

Forge Mill Modern Dairy Farm and Visitor Centre Watch the Jersey cows and calves at milking time and follow the farm trail, feeding goats and hens along the way. Forge Lane, West Bromwich B71 3SZ. Tel: 0121 588 7210 

Weston’s Cider Visitors Centre & Farm Park Goats and alpacas will have your child enchanted, and you can also take a tour of the famous Weston’s cider mill. Ledbury, Herefordshire HR8 2NQ. Tel: 01531 660233 or visit www.westons-cider.co.uk  

FOR ADVENTUROUS EXPLORERS… 

STAY Bedruthan Steps Hotel Open year round, this hotel has childcare for five age groups, starting from birth (so there will be one to suit your child!). Mawgan Porth Beach, with rockpools to explore, is just outside the front door. Prices start from £1,487 for a family of four to stay for a week. Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, TR8 4BU. Tel: 01637 860555 or visit www.bedruthan.com

…OR JUST A DAY

Caen Hill Café and Information Centre Walk the towpath to discover how engineers brought the Kennet & Avon Canal uphill to the town of Devizes. Devizes Locks, Caen Hill, Devizes, Wiltshire. Tel: 01452 318000 or visit www.waterscape.com

Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences A magnificent collection of fossils and plants will enthral mini-geologists, with hippopotamus, wolf and bear fossils that were all found locally. University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EQ. Tel: 01223 333456 or visit www.sedgwickmuseum.org

RNLI Henry Blogg Lifeboat Museum Discover the history of saving lives at sea at this Royal National Lifeboats Institution Museum. The Rocket House, Cromer, Norfolk NR27 9ET. Tel: 01263 511294; www.rnli.org.uk

Somerset Space Walk Take a stroll along the solar system: start at the Sun at Higher Maunsel Lock and walk the towpath to visit the planets in their orbits. Maunsel Canal Centre Bank Land, Somerset, TA7 ODH. Tel: 01823 330665; www.waterscape.com

Greater Manchester Police Museum Step back into unruly Victorian Manchester when you head down into the Victorian cells at this museum and learn about forensic science. 57a Newton Street, Manchester, M1 1ES Tel: 0161 856 3287; www.gmp.police.uk

FOR A LITTLE HISTORIAN...

STAY Cawdor Castle Located in a beautiful part of the Highlands of Inverness, this 14th-century castle (above) was built as a private fortress by the Thanes of Cawdor, and the Cawdor family live here to this day. You too can stay in the shadow of the castle at Cawdor Estate’s elegant cottages. A week costs around £1,000. Cawdor, Nairn IV12 5RE. Tel: 01667 402402 or visit www.cawdor.com

…OR JUST A DAY

King Alfred Trail Named in honour of the Anglo-Saxon king, this trail runs through the beautiful Wiltshire countryside. Remember to bring crayons and paper for collecting brass rubbings of plaques along the way. The PACT Centre, 16 High Street, Pewsey SN9 5AQ. Tel: 01672 562000; www.kingalfredtrail.com

Captain Cook Birthplace Museum Experience life below the decks and learn about the world-famous navigator through the interactive displays at this museum. Marton, Middlesbrough TS7 8AT. Tel: 01642 311211 or visit www.captcook-ne.co.uk

Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum More than 50 aircraft have been restored by enthusiastic volunteers at this museum, which also has an indoor exhibition of aviation items. Flixton, Bungay, Suffolk NR35 1NZ. Tel: 01986 896644; www.aviationmuseum.net

Mythstories Museum Of Myth And Fable Listen to stories and myths from lands near and far before visiting the displays about legends and folklore. The Morgan Library, Aston Street, Wem, Shropshire SY4 5AU. Tel:01939 235500; wwwmythstories.com

Stafford Castle Get hands on with history at this motte and bailey castle. Discover how heavy an iron sword is, try helmets and armour and mint pennies. Newport Road, Stafford ST16 1DJ. Tel: 01785 257698; www.staffordbc.gov.uk

FOR TOMORROW’S SPORTS STARs…

STAY Foxhills  With 11 outdoor tennis courts and two 18-hole championship golf courses, your budding Andy Murray or Tiger Woods will love staying at this luxury family hotel. Classes are specifically tailored for ability and are available from three years of age. A family suite costs £300 per night. Ottershaw, Surrey KT16 0EL. Tel: 01932 872050 or visit www.foxhills.co.uk

…OR JUST A DAY

National Football Museum A celebration of the beautiful game with shirts and footballs on display from the world’s biggest games and players. Sir Tom Finney Way, Preston, PR1 6PA. Tel: 01772 908442 or visit www.nationalfooballmuseum.com

Burton Dassett Hills Located between Warwick and Banbury, the wide-open spaces are superb for kite flying, followed by a climb up the beacon. Country Park, Burton Dassett, Warwickshire, CV47 2AB. Tel: 01827 872660 or visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk  

The Climb If your child can’t pass a tree without climbing it, then this state-of-the-art indoor climbing centre is perfect. There are weekend climb parties with games and fun for climbers from five years of age. Bensheim Way, Chiltern Avenue, Amersham HP6 5AH. Tel: 01494 721112 or visit www.chiltern.gov.uk

Oxstalls Indoor Tennis Centre Children as young as three can have fun on Saturday mornings with tennis coaching on Plock Court. Plock Court, Tewkesbury Road, Gloucester, GL2 9DW. Tel: 01452 396969; www.gloucester.gov.uk

Extreme Motion The bungee trampoline and skate park here are a dream for young fans of extreme sports. There’s also minigolf for younger children. Alexandra Gardens, Alma Road, Windsor, SL4 5HZ. Tel: 01753 830220; www.extrememotion.com  

FOR A BUDDING NATURALIST...

STAY Chanonry Point This Point is one of the best places in Europe to catch sight of dolphins, and Chanonry Point Cottage is just yards from the lighthouse on the point. The Cottage, part of the Ecosse Unique group, sleeps four, and you can hop directly over the garden wall onto the shingle beach. A week’s stay here in March costs £425. Tel: 01835 822277; www.unique-cottages.co.uk

…OR JUST A DAY

Nagshead Nature Reserve Enjoy Mother Nature in full bloom, with bluebells in spring, butterflies and dragonflies in summer and birds all the year round in this ancient woodland. Forest of Dean. Tel: 01594 562852 or visit www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk

Paxton Pits Nature Reserve This Huntingdonshire reserve has one of the largest inland cormorant colonies in Britain and is home to wildflowers, butterflies, dragonflies and kingfishers. Little Paxton. Tel: 01480 406795; www.paxton-pits.org.uk

Toad Hole Cottage This 18th-century eel-catcher’s tiny cottage is set in the delightful fens and woodland of the How Hill nature reserve. Ludham, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, NR29 5PG. Tel: 01692 678763 or visit www.northnorfolk.org

Symonds Yat Rock From the viewing point, watch peregrine falcons through powerful telescopes, then take a walk through the Wye Valley where you can spot deer, badgers and otters Coleford, Gloucs, HR9 Tel: 01594 833057 or visit www.forestry.gov.uk

The National Herb Centre See a variety of herbs and learn about their uses before taking a walk through the fields. Banbury Road, Warmington, Warwickshire. Tel: 01295 690999 or visit www.herbcentre.co.uk

FOR FOOD AND CRAFT LOVERS...

STAY Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons Little gastropups can polish their culinary skills with special children’s cookery classes at Raymond Blanc’s stately hotel and restaurant. Children also get to explore the grounds and indulge in chocolate tasting. Rooms start from £395 per night. A one-day cookery course is £225. Church Road, Milton, Oxford. Tel: 01844 427 18881; www.manoir.com

...OR JUST A DAY

Cheshire Farm Enjoy a tasting session at this working dairy farm, which is famous for its delicious ice cream and sorbets. Tattenhall, Chester, Cheshire CH3 9NE. Tel: 01829 770446; www.cheshirefarmicecream.co.uk

Cheddar Sweet Kitchen See traditional sweets (stripey humbugs, sherbet lemons and sticks of rock) in the making at this tiny sweet factory. Daghole Cottages, Water Lane, Cheddar, Somerset BS27 3QJ. Tel: 01934 743810; www.somersettouristguide.com

Caithness Crystal Children can see how this world-famous glass is made and then make their own paperweight or have their hands or feet cast. Paxman Road, King’s Lynn, Norfolk E30 4NE. Tel: 01553 765111; www.caithness-crystal.co.uk

The Pen Room Steeped in Victorian history, you can doodle with quills and make your own pen using the old factory presses at this pen museum. The Argent Centre, 60 Frederick Street, Hockley, Birmingham B1 3HS. Tel: 0121 236 9834; www.penroom.co.uk

Hat Works View the history of hat making. Children’s craft workshops run during school holidays. Wellington Road South, Stockport SK3 0EU. Tel: 0161 355 7770; www.hatworks.org.uk

Check out England's Famous Five locations in our UK section.


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Feather Down Farms, Cornwall, Scotland, Dunbar, Old Dairy Farm Centre, Northamptonshire, Amerton Farm, Stafford, Over Farm Market, Gloucester, West Bromwich, Herefordshire, Wiltshire, Cambridge, Norfolk, Manchester, Suffolk, Shropshire
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