Family-friendly fun doesn’t have to be all about fluorescent-lit indoor-play centres or expensive trips to theme parks. Try another type of park experience that will be easy on the eye and your budget, too.
These 15 parks have been handpicked by the UK Association of National Parks Authorities. It has partnered up with hiking boots manufactuers, Merrell, to encourage people to use national parks.
How Hill National Nature Reserve forms a large area of established fen that is remarkable for its variety of Broads habitats. Visit How Hill to see Toad Hole Cottage – where you’ll find heaps of information and can learn how life was for a marshman and his family in the Broads many years ago – and take a boat trip on the environmentally friendly Electric Eel.
Keep the kids entertained (and maybe even impress your teenagers) with a podcast trail to discover the geology and waterfalls of the western section of Brecon Beacons National Park. There are several walks to choose from and podcasts range from 15-20 minutes. Download the podcast onto your mobile phone before you start (some places in the park have a weak or non-existent mobile phone signal so do this before you go).
Discover Scottish wildlife as well as endangered animals from mountain and tundra regions around the world in the Highland Wildlife Park. From native species such as the capercaillie and Scottish wildcat to those from further afield such as the Amur tiger and polar bear.
Geocaching and Letterboxing are great ways of having fun in the countryside. Geocaching involves hunting out carefully hidden caches using maps and satellite navigation devices. Letterboxing is the original form of Geocaching and uses a combination of orienteering and treasure hunting where clues are used to locate boxes placed on the moor by others. Letterboxing originated on Dartmoor and is now becoming internationally popular.
West Somerset and Devon
Exmoor National Park hosts free family events during the school holidays, taking place at amazing locations across Exmoor, and featuring games and activities, guided walks with local experts. There are also many other child-friendly events and activities on offer throughout the year.
Get active at Brockhole, the National Park Visitor Centre on the shores of Windermere, with different Treetop Treks appropriate for 5-to-7-year-olds, or 7 years and up. You’ll find rope bridges, wobbly logs and, of course, the thrill of the zip wire from a 14-metre high treetop tower (it’s a 250m adrenaline rush). Adults can join in, too!
Join a family-friendly walk on Inchailloch Island on Loch Lomond to find out about the special flora and fauna of the island. You’ll get the added excitement of a boat trip to the island, too! Trips run every Sunday from May to July and fortnightly during August and September. It’s a free event (donations welcome), however boat fare is £5 per adult and £2.50 for under 16s. Booking essential.
Enjoy the forest (it’s easy walking for the little ones and you might even meet some New Forest ponies) then book a barbecue for an alfresco lunch or evening get together with a group of families. There are two sites in the forest where you can book barbecues for groups of 20 or more people, at Anderwood and Wilverly.
Horrible Histories fans should head to Northumberland’s UNESCO World Heritage Site: Hadrian’s Wall. Why not visit several sites along the wall? Or walk a section of it one-way and return using the bus which runs along its length in summer: the AD122. Start your visit at the Once Brewed National Park visitor centre for family-friendly ideas, special events and information.
Steam trains on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway puff their way from Pickering through gorgeous moorland to the seaside at Whitby. Kids love the hustle and bustle at the yesteryear stations, while school holidays bring magicians, teddy bears, witches, wizards and even Santa to the railway.
Visit the village of Castleton for a wealth of family fun activities. Discover the village’s castle, take an underground boat ride in Speedwell Cavern, explore the provocatively named ‘Devil’s Ar*e’ in Peak Caverns, and more.
Rockpooling is an amazing world within arm’s reach, filled with hunters and the hunted. Head to beaches like Manorbier or Dale for a great day out. But remember: be gentle, be tidy, be slow, and be careful you don’t get caught by tides.
Let the train take the strain in Snowdonia National Park as you enjoy the spectacular views from the Welsh Highland Railway. The railway is Snowdonia’s newest railway (it fully re-opened in 2011) and the 25-mile line from Porthmadog to Caernarfon takes you through stunning countryside and along the foothills of Snowdon.
Enjoy a great day out in the woods! You can walk, cycle, play or have a picnic in these lovely woods. Experience life in the trees with Go Ape, take a relaxing break in the café or take a quiet stroll in one of the more remote parts of the forest. Alice Holt Forest is also a great starting point to explore the new Shipwrights Way trail with its new sculpture trail opening in summer 2013.
The search for a geocache using a GPS receiver and the promise of finding hidden treasure is a great way to engage children’s interest while on a walk in Yorkshire Dales National Park. Our geocaching trail around the Malham area starts at the spectacular Malham Cove and provides loads of interesting information about the limestone geology of the area.