‘Ride the giant boat wheel’: readers’ favourite bank holiday family days out | Day trips


Winning tip: Boating in the sky, Falkirk

Easily reached from Edinburgh and Glasgow, the Falkirk Wheel and Kelpies on the Forth and Clyde canal make for a superb family day out. The Falkirk Wheel is a giant boat lift between different levels of the canal. You can actually ride the wheel on a boat trip. As well as the wheel, there is a great free play area, crazy golf, cafe and boating lake. Parking is £3.50 for the day. Bring a bike or hire one for the four-mile ride along the canal to see the giant Kelpie sculptures – billed as the largest equine sculptures in the world – at Helix Park. The immense size of these incredible structures never fail to wow adults and children. Entry to the park is free.
Adult £13.50, child £7.50 for one-hour boat trip including wheel revolution
Amy Lane

Saunter with sculptures, Lancashire

White unicorn on the Pendle sculpture trail.
White unicorn on the Pendle sculpture trail. Photograph: Paul Adams/Alamy

The walk around the Pendle Sculpture Trail in Aitken Wood in the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is an amazing day out for all ages. A good place to start the stroll is the lovely Barley picnic site (with car park) near the centre of Barley. I took my three children ranging from toddlers to teenagers and they all enjoyed it. It’s free, a good (three-mile) walk and includes great views of the Black Moss reservoirs. You can enjoy the evocative sculptures, work out the puzzle, take some photos and just enjoy the walk. At the end you can finish with the park and lunch at one of the nearby pubs – the Pendle Inn or Barley Mow – or on the picnic area next to a stream.
Jamie Clark

Peak paddling, Staffordshire

Early morning scene at Rudyard lake
Peaceful Rudyard Lake – probably not how it appears on the August bank holiday! Photograph: Steve Gill/Alamy

A great day can be had at the little-known Rudyard Lake not far from the south-west edge of the Peak District near Leek in Staffordshire. It has activities including walks, a steam train, fishing, a boat trip and for a small fee you can also take your own vessel (boat/canoe/paddleboard etc) to launch. Nearby are the fabulous Roaches, a rocky ridge over 500 metres high, which reward you with outstanding views after a short but steep climb. There is a cafe at the bottom which to our delight does an excellent brunch and caters well for gluten-free diets.

Family cycling, Cornwall

Lanhydrock Woods cycling.
Cycling in Lanhydrock’s woods is a great way of burning off energy before visiting the house – and cafe. Photograph: James Osmond/Alamy

Inspired by the recent Olympic cycling, this bank holiday we may take our nine-year-old to the cycle trails at Lanhydrock, near Bodmin in Cornwall. Owned and looked after impeccably by the National Trust the trails are suitable for the full range of skills from toddlers on balance bikes all the way through to those wanting to get some air! They also hire bikes if you don’t have your own. Following on from the adrenalin-fueled morning we may then take a stroll down through the grounds, a mooch around the house, and then finally to the cafe for some tea and cake.
Adult £16, child £8, family £40. Adult bike £18, child £13.50, bike with attachment £27. Book cycles at lanhydrockcyclehire@nationaltrust.org.uk
Layla Astley


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Moomin in the marshes, north-east London

Moomin Trail, Walthamstow Wetlands.
Walthamstow wetlands may seem an unlikely host for a Moomin. Photograph: Matthew Chattle/REX/Shutterstock

Learn about Hattifatteners and Fillyjonks at Walthamstow Wetlands, where various Moomin characters can be spotted on a well-marked Moomin Trail around Reservoir Number 1, until 23 September. The accompanying exhibition, The Woman who Fell in Love with an Island, about the life of Moomin author Tove Jansson, will be of interest to adults but is compact, and children will be fascinated by rogue pigeons who fly in when the balcony door opens. Entrance is free, with a suggested £3 donation for a trail map, which has space for drawings of insects, footprints, birds and flowers found on the trail.
Roy Messenger

Magic in the woods, Hertfordshire

Well Wood, Heartwood Forest.
Heartwood Forest has three routes from 1.5 miles. Photograph: Colin Varndell/Alamy

In Heartwood Forest, a few miles north of St Albans, are three wonderful waymarked routes: Wildlife Wander (2.5 miles), Magical Meander (1.5 miles) and Heartwood Hike
 (2.7 miles). You enter the Magical Meander via a mysterious decorated archway. The trail will take you searching for a menagerie of wooden creatures – hidden nature notes are slotted into the posts they stand on. Along the way, there is a post with a spyhole to spot what sits in the tree beyond. There is a den-building area, bonnets of bluebells in the spring, butterflies flit through the wildflower meadows on the periphery in summer, and at dusk, you may glimpse the ghostly shape of a barn owl. Look closely, and you may even discover the fairies that live at the base of a tree.
Vanessa Wright

Family fun with the Boleyns, Kent

Hever Castle, Kent
Hever can be heaving on bank holiday weekends but there’s a lot of fun to be had. Photograph: Ian G Dagnall/Alamy

Bank holidays for my family wouldn’t be right without a trip to spectacular Hever Castle, built in the 13th century but best known as the seat of the Boleyn family in Tudor times. There’s so much more here, though, than history and the striking building: it’s a location for many films and dramas, including Jude Law’s The Third Day. The adventure playground has two parts, one for under-sevens and one for over-sevens. My children spend hours there every time we go. Another family favourite is the brilliant water maze, in which reaching the centre could well involve getting soaked a few times. There are also sumptuous gardens, falconry, jousting and local ice-cream to sample.
Admission from £15.85 (gardens only) £19.20 (castle and gardens)/£9.95 and £43.60 for a family
Charlotte Ashdown

Wetlands and Welsh cakes, Cardiff Bay

Aerial view of the landmarks of Cardiff Bay
Cardiff Bay isn’t short of activities for a superb day trip. Photograph: Wales/Alamy

There are so many places to explore, shop, eat and enjoy on an August bank holiday in Cardiff Bay. Take a boat trip from Mermaid Quay around the bay (£8/£4 with Aquabus) where you can get off at the barrage for a walk and pick up another boat later, view the wetland nature reserve and the white water rafting centre. There’s always something interesting going on at the Wales Millennium Centre, such as free concerts. It’s also a great place for just watching sailing boats while enjoying an ice-cream. Another great place to visit in the bay is Techniquest (£10.90/£9.05, family £38.18) with its super dinosaur show running over the bank holiday and hands-on fun science experiences. Stop by the Fabulous Welsh Cake shop on Mermaid Quay for a delicious Welsh treat. After that, walk off the calories walk with a stroll at the wonderful eight-hectare wetland reserve, which is adjacent to Mermaid Quay.

Going underground, Yorkshire Dales

Figure of green man, the Forbidden Corner.
The Forbidden Corner is a ‘flight of imagination’. Photograph: John Morrison/Alamy

Losing yourself in the tunnels, chambers and follies of Forbidden Corner on the Tupgill Park estate near Leyburn is an ideal bank holiday escape. Fantasy, folk tales and nursery rhymes have all entwined to build this flight of imagination. It engages children but never feels childish or patronising. Adults are drawn into adventures and relive childhood memories. Everyone comes away surprised. The location is beautiful, nearly two hectares (four acres) of luscious garden in the Yorkshire Dales. Timed admission means it never feels too busy. Once inside spend as much time as you like. No one will complain if your smallest wants to squeeze through the secret tunnel 10 times.
Adult £13.50, child £11.50, family £48
Debbie Rolls

Let off steam, North Yorkshire

There is nothing quite like the Ryedale Society of Model Engineers, which runs the miniature railway in Gilling East, in the Howardian Hills area of outstanding natural beauty. Their friendly members, all volunteers, will make you feel welcome at their free Main Line Rally over the August bank holiday weekend. People of all ages will enjoy watching the locomotives running to a timetable just like on a real main line, and little ones can also enjoy a lovely park just next to the line with amazing views of the countryside. Bring a picnic (tea, ice-creams etc can be bought on site) – and your whistle – and step back into a world of steam engines. And if further exposure to vintage trains is required you can scale-up and ride the North York Moors railway from Pickering, a 30-minute drive away.
Maria Rainer


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