Trust the National Trust to deliver a brilliant British day out for all
In need of some quality family time? These family-friendly National Trust days out will keep the whole family entertained, with plenty of great activities whatever the weather…
1. Dyrham Park, near Bath
Dyrham Park is perfect for families. Little ones can try the Journey of Discovery family trail which meanders through lime avenues, open parkland and wooded areas, with eight wooden animal sculptures hidden in the trees.
The wider parkland is great for building dens, or you can head to the natural play areas with balancing beams, stepping stones, mini maze and much-loved mini tractors to play on. Look out seasonal events too, from wild art sessions to nature walks and toddler trails.
2. Chedworth Roman Villa, Gloucestershire
Cradled in a beautiful Cotswold valley you’ll find the remains of one of the grandest Roman villas in Britain. Chedworth Roman Villa was rediscovered by the Victorians over 150 years ago, and now it’s a great place for little ones to learn more about the history of Roman Britain. They can dress up as gladiators, try brass rubbing and play Roman table games.
Children’s trails show what life was really like in a Roman villa, and during school holidays there are craft activities and special events on offer as well.
3. Tyntesfield, Somerset
With four fantastic play areas designed for kids of different ages, there is something for everyone at Tyntesfield. Search for the enchanted tree house in the woods, play on the rope swing, or test your balancing skills in the Orchard.
For kids that like to get their hands dirty there’s also a den building village, with plenty of sticks to create your very own woodland fortress. You will also find brass rubbings on the trail, so pack some paper and crayons to create a rubbing at every plaque you find.
4. Studland Bay, Dorset
With four miles of golden sand there’s plenty of space to blow off steam at Studland Bay. Soak up views of Old Harry Rocks and the Isle of Wight, explore the dunes behind the beach or take to the water in a kayak.
With gently shelving bathing waters, Studland’s sheltered beach is also an ideal place for little ones to have their first go at paddling in the sea. There are National Trust beach huts for hire too, so don’t forget your bucket and spade!
5. Emmetts Garden, Kent
Adventurous little ones can get stuck in at the wild play area, located past the old stables café. Can you walk across the balance beams without falling off? Why not challenge each other to see who can build the biggest den?
Explore the new wild play area at Emmetts Garden and scramble through branches, climb over logs and hide out in the den. Play a game of skittles or giant dominoes on the meadow and relax afterwards with a picnic.
6. Cliveden, Buckinghamshire
Get lost in the giant yew tree maze, marvel at the skilful topiary, and explore the wild woodland play trail. There’s plenty of space at Cliveden for a good run around, as well as lots of family-friendly events.
When you need a sit down, head for the Doll’s House Café next to the Storybook Play Den and recharge with drinks and cakes.
7. St Helens Duver, Isle of Wight
Situated at one end of the beach at St Helen’s Duver, Node’s Point is one of the Isle of Wight’s top spots for rock pooling. The area is covered with limestone outcrops, whose crevices provide shelter for whelks, limpets, barnacles and periwinkles. Pose for a picture by the colourful beach huts, too.
There are lots of family-friendly walking routes in the surrounding countryside, taking in sandy beaches, rockpools and woods. The picturesque village of St Helens is nearby, with a rather lovely pub and restaurant too.
8. Blickling Estate, Norfolk
With 55 acres of perfect hide and seek spots as well as rounders and old-fashioned games to play, the Blickling Estate is a fun, outdoorsy day out. The kids will love den building in the woods, so you might even get five minutes’ peace.
There are cycling trails throughout the estate too, plus secret tunnels and a beautiful hidden garden.
Visit during December to see the impressive Christmas lights display which sees the entire estate lit-up in glorious technicolour.
9. Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire
Head into the woods in the grounds of Anglesey Abbey and you’ll soon spot the Lime Tree Lookout. This giant two-storey treehouse offers great views through the trees – perfect for a spot of wildlife watching.
Relax in a hammock or join the story-telling circle, build a den or create a piece of wild art. There’s a working watermill too, where you can learn all about how grain is turned into flour. n
10. Museum of Childhood at Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire
The Museum of Childhood is a delight for all ages. Watch your children discovering something new, or relive nostalgic memories by exploring the childhoods of times gone by. Little ones can try their hand at being a chimney sweep, visit a Victorian schoolroom, and explore the exhibitions of toys through the ages.
Budding storytellers can create their own characters and stories in the performance area. On sunny days, explore the Outdoor Adventure Gallery and play jacks and marbles along a Victorian street.
11. Calke Abbey, Derbyshire
Come rain or shine, Squirt’s Stable provides fun for children of all ages at Calke. It’s divided into themed bays, one of which recreates a Victorian natural history collector’s camp where children can investigate the specimen cabinets and equipment for gathering butterflies and fossils. There’s also a dressing up bay and a reading bay.
The house is full of eclectic curiosities (crocodile skulls – eek!), while out in the parkland there’s lots of space to run around. If you visit in spring you might even see newborn lambs among Calke’s herd of rare Portland sheep.
12. Belton House, Lincolnshire
For action-packed National Trust days out, Belton House‘s adventure playground is a favourite with young visitors. There are I-spy trails, a miniature train ride, geocaches and pop-up hides in the garden – can you find them all? If it’s raining, there are indoor tunnels to scramble through and a mini Belmont tower to climb.
Flagging? You’ll find cupcakes and coffee at the café. There’s also a popular under-fives toddler group, Button Bucks, on the first and third Thursday of the month.
13. Wray Castle, Cumbria
Much-loved children’s author Beatrix Potter visited Wray Castle on a family holiday to the Lake District when she was 16. While staying here she met Hardwick Rawnsley who encouraged her to follow her love of nature and writing and helped her get her first work published.
There’s plenty for families to do here: have a go on the outdoor play trail, build a den or explore the tree house. If it’s raining you can have a go at dressing up inside instead, with outfits fit for a knight or princess in all sizes – so parents can join in too.
14. Quarry Bank, Cheshire
Children love the clattering, hissing and clanging of the machinery at Quarry Bank, which runs every day that the Mill is open. Expert demonstrators are on hand to help you and the kids imagine the working conditions in the late 18th century.
Once you’ve taken in the sights and sounds of the Mill you can tour the Apprentice House, which was built to house the pauper children who worked here. Youngsters can also try dressing up as a young apprentice and discover how cloth is made on the working machinery.
15. Cragside, Northumberland
Enter into the world of Lord Armstrong: Victorian inventor, innovator and landscape genius. Cragside was the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity, and it’s still crammed full of ingenious gadgets.
Children will love exploring Nelly’s Labyrinth, a network of paths and tunnels cut out of a vast area of rhododendron forest – the perfect place for a game of hide and seek. There’s also a play area where youngsters can swing across monkey bars, fly down the spiral slide, or kick off their shoes to try the barefoot trail.
Keep an eye out for red squirrels too – if you head to the wildlife hide and keep very still, you might just be lucky enough to see one.
16. Colby Woodland Garden, Pembrokeshire
With rope swings, picnic areas and duck racing, the National Trust’s Colby Woodland Garden is jam-packed with things to do.
Clamber across the streams on stepping stones, or pick up a kit from reception and delve into the watery world of pond dipping. Alternatively, build a cosy den in the woods, then rustle up something to eat – mud pie is a speciality here.
17. Erddig, Wrexham
Have-a-go history days take place throughout the year at Erddig, where youngsters can discover more about life ‘upstairs and downstairs’ in a big house.
The wider parkland is a great playground of intrepid adventurers: especially the Wolf’s Den with its rope swing, den-building area and balance beams.
For a true adventure you can even take a ride around the estate on a horse-drawn carriage, and then meet those gentle giants at grooming time.
18. Castle Ward, County Down Kids
Kids love the Georgian farmyard at Castle Ward. There’s plenty of room indoors and outdoors, so they can pedal mini tractors, dress up as farmyard animals, play farm-themed board games, or do some colouring in inside the barn. Look out for the unusual ‘boxing squirrels’ taxidermy in the main house too!
There’s plenty on offer for older children too, with canoeing climbing and raft-building. Meanwhile, Game of Thrones fans will recognise the historic farmyard – it was the setting for Winterfell in the epic TV series.