Has­sle-free hol­i­days

Bril­liant UK breaks for Oc­to­ber half-term

The Guardian - Travel - - Front Page -

Young fun Beaulieu Mo­tor Mu­seum, New For­est

The fly­ing Ford Anglia from Harry Pot­ter and the Cham­ber of Se­crets, Mr Bean’s lime green mini, For­mula One cars and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang are among over 250 ve­hi­cles on show at the Beaulieu Mo­tor Mu­seum (adult £19.50, child £9.50, fam­ily £49, on­line prices, beaulieu.co.uk) this au­tumn. There is also a Top Gear ex­hi­bi­tion with all the bashed-up cars from the show over the years. Young rac­ers can speed around the Dip­stick’s Driv­ing Cir­cuit or try Krazee Kart­ing; smaller chil­dren will love the mo­tor-themed play area. Away from the cars is Palace House, the Mon­tagu fam­ily home since 1538. In the school hol­i­days, visi­tors can watch Lord Mon­tagu’s cook pre­par­ing dishes for the fam­ily in a re­stored Vic­to­rian kitchen. Hal­loween-themed ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude face paint­ing, spooky trails and scary sto­ry­telling. Stay at the Penny Farthing Ho­tel in Lyn­d­hurst (pen­ny­far­thingho­tel.co.uk), which has a fam­ily room for four for £156 B&B.

Aero­space Bris­tol

Aero­space Bris­tol (adult £15, child £8, fam­ily £24.50-£39, aerospace­bris­tol.org) opens on 17 Oc­to­ber and cel­e­brates the south-west’s cen­tral role in aero­space en­gi­neer­ing over the last cen­tury. Its key ex­hibit is an ac­tual Con­corde Al­pha Fox­trot, which was de­signed and tested in Bris­tol and the last Con­corde to be built and flown. Along with planes, he­li­copters, satel­lites, mis­siles and other his­tor­i­cal avi­a­tion arte­facts, the cen­tre will of­fer in­ter­ac­tive ex­hibits such as a flight sim­u­la­tor and wing, where kids can learn about the science of flight by con­trol­ling what each of the flaps do. If you take the gift aid mem­ber­ship op­tion you get free en­try for the rest of the year. Stay at the YHA Bris­tol (yha.org.uk) on the quay­side and within walk­ing dis­tance of At-Bris­tol science cen­tre, the Blue Reef Aquar­ium and M-Shed which ex­plores the city’s cul­tural, so­cial and in­dus­trial his­tory. Pri­vate fam­ily rooms from £49 (sleeps three) or £69 (four), ex­clud­ing break­fast.

SnowDome, Stafford­shire

There is plenty of real snow on the 170-me­tre-long slope at the SnowDome in Tam­worth (snowdome. co.uk), and two sep­a­rate teach­ing ar­eas, so it’s a great place for kids to learn to ski or snow­board – or brush up on their skills be­fore a win­ter hol­i­day. But as all chil­dren love snow, it’s also a great place to bring them just to play. The SnowDome of­fers tub­ing, to­bog­gan­ing, and iceskat­ing for all ages, and there is also a ded­i­cated snow­play area, with snow slides and a climb­ing frame, a log cabin and lots of space for snow­ball fights. In the hol­i­days there are ski­ing and snow­board­ing day camps for ju­niors, in­clud­ing four hours of coach­ing, lunch and one other snow-based ac­tiv­ity (£45); and there are also free ski taster ses­sions on 21 or 22 Oc­to­ber on of­fer (book­ing es­sen­tial). Ski­ing and snow­board­ing ses­sions cost £31 for adults and £26 for ju­niors, tub­ing is £7.57, to­bog­gan­ing £8.75, iceskat­ing £8.95. Stay at Dray­ton Manor theme park’s on-site ho­tel (dray­ton­manor.co.uk), just 2½ miles away from the Snowdome. A fam­ily room (with sofa bed for the chil­dren) costs £120 B&B or £174 B&B in­clud­ing four tick­ets to the theme park.

Howletts Wild An­i­mal Park, near Can­ter­bury, Kent

From Su­ma­tran tigers to western low­land go­ril­las, Ja­van gib­bons to Euro­pean grey wolves, Howletts (adult £17.23, child £14.50, fam­ily of four £62.95, as­pinall­foun­da­tion.org) can re­sem­ble the pages of a child’s favourite sto­ry­book. The densely forested site is home to over 400 an­i­mals across 50 species, in­clud­ing the UK’s largest ele­phant herd. But as the site is over 100 acres in size, each an­i­mal’s sec­tion seems rel­a­tively spa­cious; they’re not bunched in, es­pe­cially when com­pared with a city zoo. There is, of course, a gift shop at the exit but, over­all, the park feels low on gim­micks, gar­ish games and corporate sell. Howletts runs free ed­u­ca­tional an­i­mal talks, has a good record in breed­ing en­dan­gered species, and it’s proud of its re­cent rewil­d­ing pro­gramme. Hal­loween ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude prize trails, crafts, pump­kin carv­ing, face paint­ing and fancy dress. Stay in Can­ter­bury, five miles from Howletts, where a sec­ond day could be spent vis­it­ing the Ro­man

mu­seum (adult £8, chil­dren free, can­ter­bury­mu­se­ums.co.uk) and scar­ing the kids on the Ghost Tour (adult £10, child £8.50, over 9s only, can­ter­buryghost­tour.com). The Cas­tle House Ho­tel (castle­house­ho­tel.co.uk), in the his­toric city and in­cor­po­rat­ing part of the Nor­man city walls, has a fam­ily room for four from £140 B&B.

Isle of Fright, Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight em­braces its rep­u­ta­tion among para­nor­mal ex­perts as a sup­pos­edly haunted is­land this Hal­loween by or­gan­is­ing a se­ries of scary events. At Carisbrooke Cas­tle (adult £9.40, child £5.60, fam­ily of five £24.40, english-her­itage.org. uk), visi­tors can wan­der through the spooky grounds on a Vic­to­rian ghost hunt. The Isle of Wight Steam Rail­way is run­ning a Wizard Week (from £11.50 adult, £6 child, £29 fam­ily of four, iw­steam­rail­way.co.uk), with magic shows, friendly witches per­form­ing spells and en­chant­ing wood­land walks and train rides. As part of the is­land’s Spec­tac­u­lar Oc­to­ber pro­gramme (visi­tisle­ofwight.co.uk/in­spi­ra­tion/ au­tumn), Black­gang Chine theme park (black­gang­chine.com, four-per­son ticket £74) will open in the evenings, and fea­ture il­lu­mi­na­tions (21 Oct-4 Nov). Robin Hill Coun­try Park will stage a Di­wali-in­spired elec­tric woods event called Fes­ti­val of Light (robin­hill.com, four-per­son ticket £58). Stay at Kids Love Yurts (sleep six, from £180 for two nights, kid­sloveyurts. co.uk). Those who’d rather have bricks and mor­tar will find Net­tle­combe Farm (net­tle­combe­farm.co.uk) is a bril­liant choice, with play area and daily feed­ing of res­i­dent an­i­mals. Cot­tages sleep four to eight, from £815 a week or £440 for 2 nights dur­ing half-term.

St Fa­gans Na­tional Mu­seum of His­tory, Cardiff

The re­mit of St Fa­gans (free en­try, mu­seum.wales/stfa­gans) is to tell the sto­ries of or­di­nary life in Wales over the past 200,000 years. The ope­nair mu­seum does this through its 40 orig­i­nal build­ings from dif­fer­ent his­tor­i­cal pe­ri­ods, which have been re-erected here. They in­clude a farm­stead, a bake­house, a school, a post of­fice and a tan­nery. Dot­ted around the site are work­shops where crafts­men demon­strate tra­di­tional skills to bring the his­tory alive. Fam­i­lies can fol­low an ac­tiv­ity trail and get the chance to grind grain, spot farm an­i­mals and use weigh­ing scales at the gen­eral store. For Hal­loween, St Fa­gans is run­ning lan­tern night walks with ghost sto­ries, tales of Welsh su­per­sti­tion and a Wicker Man burn­ing (29-31 Oc­to­ber, book on 029-2023 0130, adult £15 adults, child £8. Stay in an airbnb town­house in leafy Pont­canna, to the west of the city cen­tre (from £100 a night for a fam­ily of four, tinyurl.com/yd65un7r).

The Kelpies at Helix Park, Falkirk

Kids are sure to be awestruck when con­fronted with the Kelpies (park en­try free, the­he­lix.co.uk), which at 30 me­tres high are the world’s largest equine sculp­tures. They were de­signed by Glaswe­gian artist Andy Scott in homage to the real life work­ing horses that were cen­tral to the re­gion’s her­itage. Guided walk­ing tours (adult £7.50, child free) ex­plain the en­gi­neer­ing feats in­volved in cre­at­ing them and al­low a glimpse in­side. Visi­tors also learn about the horse-pow­ered in­dus­trial his­tory of the re­gion. Helix Park, on the edge of Falkirk and less than 30 min­utes on the train from both Glas­gow and Ed­in­burgh, has a vast net­work of paths for walk­ing and cy­cling, amid wood­lands, wet­lands and wild­flower mead­ows, and younger chil­dren will love its Ad­ven­ture Zone play park. Stay at Ci­ty­roomz Ed­in­burgh (from £89 for four, ci­ty­roomz.com). For a Glas­gow stay, see page seven.

The Mu­seum of Lon­don

On 27 Oc­to­ber, the Mu­seum of Lon­don (free en­try, mu­se­u­moflon­don.org. uk) is of­fer­ing chil­dren aged 7-11 the chance to at­tend a Hal­loween sleep­over (£60pp). They can don their scari­est cos­tume and trick-or-treat their way around the gal­leries af­ter dark, visit an eerie Vic­to­rian Street to solve a crime and hear ter­ri­fy­ing tales from Vic­to­rian Lon­don, in­clud­ing Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, be­fore bed­ding down for the night. Af­ter break­fast the next morn­ing, they can set­tle down to watch Dis­ney’s Hal­loween clas­sic Ho­cus Po­cus. Per­ma­nent fam­ily favourites at the mu­seum, close to the Bar­bican in the City, in­clude a recre­ated Saxon home, a gallery that ex­plores how chil­dren’s play­time has evolved through time and a Lon­don 2012 show­case in­clud­ing the ac­tual Olympic caul­dron. Stay at the YHA Saint Paul’s (from £95 a night for a fam­ily room sleeping four, yha.org.uk).

Royal Ar­mouries, Leeds

The Royal Ar­mouries in Leeds (free en­try, roy­alar­mouries.org) has the largest col­lec­tion of arms and ar­mour in the UK out­side the Tower of Lon­don. Chil­dren can fire their imag­i­na­tion and see his­tory come alive by look­ing at the cos­tumes of early me­dieval knights, swords based on those used in the Lord of the Rings films and the pomp and pageantry of Henry VIII’s court. They can also learn about trench war­fare and the life of a mod­ern-day sol­dier. For bal­ance, there is a peace gallery dis­play, en­ti­tled Farewell to Arms. Blood. Guts and Ghosts is a Hal­loween se­ries that in­cludes a ghost hun­ters’ tour, a surgery per­for­mance (where grue­some op­er­a­tions are re-en­acted to ex­plain his­tor­i­cal med­i­cal tech­niques), and Aw­ful An­i­ma­tion (where chil­dren can de­sign or draw their own a hor­ror story us­ing flip books, thau­ma­t­rope, or stop mo­tion). Stay at Ibis Styles Leeds City Cen­tre Arena (from £82.70 for a fam­ily of four, ibis.com).

Golden Hind, Devon

Step back in time and on to Sir Francis Drake’s Tu­dor galleon the Golden Hind (adult £7, child £5, fam­ily of four £18, gold­en­hind.co.uk), which has been the star fea­ture of pic­turesque Brix­ham har­bour for over 50 years. This full-sized five-deck replica tells the story of one of the most iconic ships from Bri­tish his­tory. On the orig­i­nal ship, Drake be­came the first En­glish­man to cir­cum­nav­i­gate the globe, 437 years ago, in an epic ex­pe­di­tion of plunder and dis­cov­ery. It took him three years, he trav­elled over 36,000 miles and only 56 of his orig­i­nal crew of 70 sur­vived the bru­tal con­di­tions on board. The tour takes in the cap­tain’s cab­ins, how the crew and pris­on­ers slept below decks, plus can­nons and other weapons and all the ropes sailors used to have to haul. Stay at the Quay­side Ho­tel (from £125 B&B for a fam­ily of four, quayside­ho­tel.co.uk).

Space race … new Aero­space Bris­tol will open just in time for half-term

A go­rilla at Howletts Wild An­i­mal Park, Kent

Boys toys … the Top Gear at­trac­tion at Beaulieu Mo­tor Mu­seum in the New For­est (see page five)

Hal­loween at St Fa­gans Na­tional Mu­seum of His­tory, Cardiff (below); and the enor­mous Kelpies sculp­ture at Helix Park, Falkirk

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