From heritage properties, to interactive displays, to the wonders of nature, Britain is brimming with days out for the whole family to enjoy.
With our wide, open spaces, rich heritage and sense of adventure, Britain has a whole host of attractions to help bring our history and natural world to life for children. But while it’s important to keep little ones amused (a bored child is not fun for anyone) it’s nice to think that us adults can factor in some fun, too. With this in mind, we’ve compiled our favourite spots for the whole family to enjoy, whether you want to keep spending to a minimum or you simply want to treat the family to an experience they’ll always remember.
Wookey Hole Caves, Somerset
This collection of caves, which dates back millions of years and once housed early cavemen, through to the Celtic people of the Iron Age, is mesmerising. Stand among the stalactites and stalagmites carved by the River Axe and marvel at the clear pools and dramatic rock formations that are hidden within Somerset’s Mendip Hills and which have inspired pagan and Christian folklore. Younger children can explore themed areas such as Pirates of the River Axe, Monster Mill and Fairy Garden.
This summer from 23 July to 31 August, Captain Jack from the Pirates of the Caribbean will be returning to Wookey Hole. He’ll be meeting and greeting visitors and giving you the chance to try and outwit him in a range of challenges…
Find out more at the Wookey Hole website.
Battle Abbey, East Sussex
Audio guides bring the blood and gore of the site of one of Britain’s most infamous bloodsheds to life – the 1066 Battle of Hastings, which was immortalised on the Bayeux Tapestry. You can even see the very spot where King Harold is said to have died following fierce fighting against William the Conqueror and his Norman army. Explore the evocative battlefield and abbey to get a sense of this historic encounter, which brought to an end
This summer, kids can get involved with the more genteel side of Battle Abbey’s history. The Camelias and Croquet weekend shows you the world of the Duke and Duchess of Cleveland who opened the Abbey to visitors. Enjoy croquet, garden games and afternoon tea.
For tickets and more about the event see the Camelias and Croquet page here.
Weald & Downland Open Air Museum, West Sussex
Visit this piece of living history, where traditional buildings set in a rural landscape tell the story of the lives of people who lived and worked here over a 600-year period. Explore the 50 historic buildings, from the 13th century peasant house, to a 17th century cottage and a pair of mid-Victorian railway workers’ cottages, while authentically
dressed staff transport you back
to another time.
In its centenary year the Great War is being commemorated in all manner of ways throughout Britain and this June, the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum is remembering the role that the horses played in the war. There will be fantastic displays of horsemanship and traditional demonstrations on the 7-8 June.
Walk with monkeys and fairies, Staffordshire
A stately home with a monkey forest in the middle of the English countryside? Surely not. It might seem hard to believe but at the Trentham Estate you can walk with 140 barbary macaques amid 60 acres of woodland and meadows. Listen out as they rustle through the trees. Alternatively, join the Fairy Trail around the gardens: indeed a new fairy has landed in the form of a 1.5-metre-tall statue to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the estate being reopened to the public.
Open throughout the summer holidays from 10am until 6pm, make sure you schedule a trip to Monkey World with the family. For more information on visiting, see the website here.
WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre, Gloucestershire
This nature reserve has more than one trick up its sleeve and top of them all is Welly Boot Land – after all, who doesn’t like splashing about in muddy puddles? With a channel of water running through the playground, children can create dams, shut sluice gates and take a ride on the magic roundabout to make the water spout rise. Visitors can also meet the resident otter family, take a 4×4 safari or learn about how the centre is trying to reintroduce cranes into the wild.
From 19 July to 31 August, children can take part in the Wildlife Explorers programme. Whether your little ones want to go on a mini-beast hunt or try pond dipping – there’s something for everyone.
Visit the website here.
Imperial War Museum Duxford, Cambridgeshire
In this, the centenary year since the outbreak of World War I, step back in time at the Imperial War Museum Duxford, an airfield used in both the First and Second World Wars and Britain’s largest aviation museum. Five hangars show historic aircraft, such as the legendary Spitfire, Lancaster and the Blackbird spy plane. You can also visit the Battle of Britain exhibition and let little (and big) kids get stuck in at the Land Warfare Hall where you’ll find giant tanks and military trucks.
The Duxford airbase welcomes back the Flying Legends Air Show this June (12/13). With impressive flying displays and 1940-style activities harking back to the flying days at RAF Duxford.
For more information on visiting, see the IWM Duxford website here.
National Motor Museum, Beaulieu, Hampshire
Set within the grounds of the Beaulieu Estate in the New Forest, where donkeys and ponies roam freely, is this attraction, which fuses the new with the old. Watch as your little ones set eyes on some of the first motorcars created, or let them get behind the wheel of exciting modern models in the World of Top Gear. The museum was founded in 1952 by Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 3rd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu, as a tribute to his father, who was the first person to drive a motor car into the yard of the Houses of Parliament, and who is credited with introducing King Edward VII (then the Prince of Wales) to motoring during the 1890s.
Put yourself in the driving seat over the summer holidays as the Motor Museum sets up its go kart track for children.
Visit the National Motor Museum website for more information and other summer holiday activities.
Go dinosaur hunting, Dorset
The Jurassic Coast in Dorset is the only natural UNESCO World Heritage Site in England and it is truly deserving of its status. Join one of the regular fossil hunts with a reputable local guide for a small fee or simply stroll beaches such as Lyme Regis or Charmouth with your family on the lookout for bonafide fossils, for free. If you’re lucky you may even come across dinosaur footprints, a winning find for any budding paleontologists. Our tip is to ensure that you do your homework before you set off as it pays to know what you’re looking for.
Take part in the weekly Geology Walk along the seafront from Sidmouth every day at 2pm. Find out more on the Jurassic Coast website.
Royal Chelsea Hospital, London
Many people wrongly assume that the home of the Chelsea Pensioners is out of bounds to visitors. To the contrary, anyone can stroll the grounds of the hospital, an elegant retirement village for veterans of the British Army. Set up by King Charles II in 1681 to care for those ‘broken by war’ the original building and so called Long Wards, where until recently residents lived, were designed by Sir Christopher Wren and later added to by Sir John Soane. Visit on a Sunday to attend a service held in the chapel, which has an ornate painting of Queen Anne and her 17 perished children, and also watch the weekly procession with the pensioners dressed in their ‘scarlets’.
The Royal Hospital Chelsea in London celebrates the Founders’ Day every summer on the 5th June. Join in the annual celebration which commemorates the escape of the future King Charles II from parliamentary forces after the Battle of Worcester (1651). Find out more about the celebrations on the Royal Hospital Chelsea’s website.
The Natural History Museum, London
Did you know that entry to all museums in Britain is free? Yes that’s right, you pay nothing to visit these heritage buildings that house historic collections unique to Britain and there are few places as inspiring for children than the Natural History Museum. As with many museums, you may have to pay for some temporary exhibitions but permanent exhibits such as the imposing dinosaur that greets you as you enter the Gothic confines of the beautiful museum is gratis, as is the giant replica of the largest animal on Earth – the blue whale. For curious youngsters, a visit to the Cocoon where you can glimpse the working life of the museum’s scientists is very special. See the previously hidden world of scientific research through viewing decks, video, intercom and more than 40 high-tech installations and hands-on activities.
Check out the Natural History Museum’s outdoor butterfly house filled with wriggly caterpillars, beautiful butterflies and majestic moths. Book your tickets on the museum’s website here.
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