Stoke your­self up for some real ad­ven­ture

Takes his fam­ily to Stafford­shire to ex­pe­ri­ence some of the best at­trac­tions in the UK...

Macclesfield Express - - TRAVEL -

IF the in­dus­trial his­tory of pot­tery is not re­ally your thing, you’d be for­given for glaz­ing over at the prospect of a week­end in Stoke.

But throw down those pre­con­cep­tions and the Stafford­shire Pot­ter­ies can be the per­fect des­ti­na­tion for a fun-filled fam­ily trip.

Less than an hour’s drive away from Manch­ester (al­low­ing for the M6 road­works), Stoke is at the heart of some of the best at­trac­tions in the coun­try for fam­i­lies with young kids.

Al­ton Tow­ers, Mon­key For­est and Tren­tham Gar­dens Es­tate are all within cast­ing dis­tance of the Pot­ter­ies.

We booked our­selves into a fam­ily room in a city cen­tre ho­tel and started our spin around Stoke’s tourist trail. Al­ton Tow­ers For decades, Al­ton Tow­ers has been Bri­tain’s num­ber one theme park and with the ad­di­tion of CBee­bies Land in 2014 the at­trac­tion now caters for kids of all ages.

The hor­ror-themed TH13TEEN ride is dizzy­ingly good. The creepy sound­track pump­ing out of the speak­ers started off sound­ing eerily at­mo­spheric but was be­gin­ning to grate slightly by the time we got to the front of the line.

How­ever, the in­ge­nious twist in the tail-end of the ride caught us com­pletely by sur­prise and gave a huge adren­a­line rush.

Galac­tica is an­other one of the Al­ton Tow­ers ‘Big Six’ rides which more than lives up to its billing.

Away from the screams of the main rides, CBee­bies Land of­fers a change of pace but re­tains the high stan­dards.

Our three-year-old was en­thralled and de­lighted by the jour­ney along the wa­ter­ways of the In The Night Gar­den boat ride and look­ing down from the Get Set Go Tree­top Ad­ven­ture. Mon­key For­est For our sec­ond day in Stoke, we vis­ited Mon­key For­est in Tren­tham, about 15 min­utes’ drive from the city cen­tre ho­tel. Here, vis­i­tors step through a gate and en­ter an­other world.

More than 140 Bar­bary macaques live freely within the 60-acre wood­land, swing­ing from the trees and am­bling around on the grass.

To the de­light of the kids, hu­man vis­i­tors are also wel­comed in and al­lowed to walk freely among the mon­keys, which are of­ten just a few feet away gaz­ing cu­ri­ously back at their guests.

Mon­key For­est ri­vals any zoo or sa­fari park we have vis­ited for the sheer thrill of be­ing so close to mon­keys liv­ing as they would in the wild. Tren­tham Gar­dens Es­tate It’s just a five-minute drive from the car park at Mon­key For­est plus a stroll through a ‘shop­ping vil­lage’ of re­tail and food out­lets to reach the en­trance of the Tren­tham Gar­dens Es­tate. Tren­tham Hall was once one of the grand­est coun­try houses in Eng­land with gar­dens orig­i­nally de­signed by Ca­pa­bil­ity Brown and spread­ing over 300 acres.

The hall is now derelict but the 19th cen­tury gar­dens have been brought back to life in re­cent years as part of a £120m restora­tion project and at­tract three mil­lion vis­i­tors a year.

Fac­ing the large lake is the Ital­ian gar­den with its for­mal geo­met­ric path­ways and del­i­cate out-of-bound flower beds, all un­de­ni­ably im­pres­sive but less than ideal for vis­i­tors try­ing to keep three young chil­dren in check.

How­ever, keep go­ing round the lake and just be­yond the rose bushes is a large ad­ven­ture play­ground set among the trees and close to a cafe with toi­let and pic­nic area.

There’s also a tod­dlers’ sec­tion newly opened in 2017 with sand­pits and nau­ti­cal-themed climb­ing frames.

Even at the busiest times, there is plenty of space for the kids to take turns on the slides and swings while their par­ents re­lax in the shade with a cof­fee. Where to stay Find­ing a ho­tel room big enough for a fam­ily-of­five is not al­ways easy but there was just about enough space for our tribe at the Best Western Plus Stoke-on-Trent Moat House. Chil­dren un­der 12 stay and eat for free at the ho­tel when ac­com­pa­nied by an adult and we were well fed stay­ing in the ho­tel restau­rant for our break­fast and din­ner.

The four star ho­tel was built just over 25 years ago right next door to his­toric Etruria Hall and is a sprawl­ing com­plex with spa, swim­ming pool and con­fer­ence cen­tre.

A glass walk­way con­nects the ho­tel to the grand struc­ture of Etruria Hall, which was the home of Stoke’s most fa­mous pot­ter Josiah Wedge­wood, founder of the Wedge­wood com­pany.

Josiah built his pot­tery works here in 1769, nam­ing it af­ter the vase-paint­ing Etr­uscan civ­i­liza­tion of an­cient Italy and this sub­urb of Stoke is still known as Etruria.

We didn’t come to pot­ter around relics, but any vis­i­tors wish­ing to fur­ther fire their in­ter­est will find plenty of in­dus­trial mu­se­ums on Stoke’s Ceram­ics Trail.

The new ad­ven­ture play­ground at Tren­tham Es­tate. Right, the Th13teen ride at Al­ton Tow­ers

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