Brilliant UK breaks for October half-term
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 (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.
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