All-weather half-term activities in the UK
This half term, there are plenty of excuses to get the kids to down game consoles, leave the sofa behind and discover new surroundings - whatever the weather. Here is a selection of all-weather activities around the UK, courtesy of the National Trust.
Sutton Hoo, Suffolk
Discover page one of English history at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, where over 70 years ago excavation uncovered the incredible ship-burial of an Anglo-Saxon warrior king, including weapons and priceless royal treasure. Explore the award-winning exhibition, featuring the full-size reconstruction of King Raedwald’s burial chamber, including stunning replica treasures. You can always dress up as an Anglo-Saxon for the day too!
Sun: Have fun in the children’s play area or explore the woodland and enjoy the estuary views.
Rain: Watch the Sutton Hoo film and be transported to a world of Anglo-Saxon kings, craftsmen and poets.
Quarry Bank Mill and Styal Estate, Cheshire
Experience how our ancestors lived and discover the compelling story of the Industrial Revolution at Quarry Bank Mill. Hear the clattering of machinery and hiss of steam engines as costumed guides bring the 18th-century cotton mill alive. Take a guided tour through the apprentice house and experience life as a child working in the mill, dressing up in pauper clothing and writing on slates.
Sun: Bring a picnic and enjoy relaxing on the Mill meadow whilst the children explore the new natural play area.
Rain: Get dressed up in old clothing and learn about steam power near the most powerful water wheel in Europe.
Gibside, Tyne and Wear
The former home of the Queen Mother’s family, the Bowes-Lyons, this estate has some quirky buildings to explore, including the Column of Liberty (taller than Nelson’s) and a Palladian chapel. Created by one of the richest men in Georgian England, Gibside’s 18th-century ‘forest’ garden is one of the few places left to see red squirrels and red kites, and there are also kingfishers and hundreds of scampering rabbits to spot. What’s more, there are woods to explore and open spaces to run around or play a game in. It’s also a great place for a welly walk or to make mud pies!
Sun: Go wildlife spotting or have a go on the low ropes climbing challenge.
Rain: There’s plenty of indoor fun with the milkable cow and the Gibside Hall playhouse.
Dinefwr Park and Castle, Carmarthenshire
Dinefwr has been a magical land of power and influence for more than 2,000 years and has an iconic place in the history of Wales. Explore two forts – evidence of a dominant Roman presence – and imagine how the powerful Lord Rhys held court at Dinefwr and influenced decisions in Wales. Friendly volunteers will guide little fingers through hands-on activities at Newton House to give an atmospheric experience, and don’t miss the thrilling views from the very top of the castle.
Sun: See the shy, fallow deer munching away under the trees or get close to the rare and historic White Park cattle. Experience Dinefwr’s magic on waymarked walks through the park or let off steam in the children’s play area.
Rain: Help with servants’ tasks in the brushing room and listen to servants chatting about their daily work. Find the beautiful ceiling in the house or take a hidden history tour.
Corfe Castle, Dorset
Rebuild this 1000 year old ruin using the imagination or enjoy it as a giant playground for children of all ages. Enid Blyton fans will recognise it as the inspiration for ‘Kirren Castle’ in the Famous Five books, and those with more gruesome interests will enjoy the tales of treachery, treason and murder in the spooky ruins and grisly dungeons.
Sun: Keep a look out for the resident ravens and peregrine falcons in and around the castle, and count the murder holes in the gatehouse – soldiers would fling stones, boiling oil and other nasties through them at their enemies below.
Rain: From rotten rascals to fabulous feasts, the whole family can enjoy the castle quest indoors. Look out for shields to find the facts and claim a special badge.
Arlington Court, Devon
Visit this complete family estate; the perfect place to explore, picnic or play. The house contains treasures for all tastes, from model ships to shells, all collected by the Chichester family. Discover the romance of travel from a bygone age in the Carriage Museum, which has a vehicle for every occasion from the cradle to the grave.
Sun: Meet the animals that make the estate their home on our sheep trail – race around the grounds to find the missing ones!
Rain: Discover monsters under the microscope! The conservation scene investigation lab is open to discover the disgusting world of tiny terrors.
Bodiam Castle, East Sussex
For those who have imagined living in a private castle, a trip to Bodiam should be at the top of the list for a family day out. This 14th-century castle, complete with a moat, spiral staircases and battlements, is one of the most famous castles in Britain and is just waiting to be explored. Play knights and princesses or climb the spiral staircases leading to the turrets and battlements and imagine life as a sentry guard, watching out for enemy soldiers on the approach.
Sun: Explore the courtyard and battlements or take a stroll through the grounds.
Rain: Explore the trails around the castle ruins and discover the hidden history of the site and take shelter in the story of Bodiam room.
Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire
In the garden, discover 30 acres of mown lawn – just right for perfect handstands. Be sure to romp all the way to the wildlife discovery area, home to lots of beautiful butterflies and moths. Wander through the wild wood where trees take on the shapes of magical, mystical creatures from a story book, or gather twigs to create a secret den.
Sun: Recreate the poses of the statues, with over 200 to choose from in the formal and landscape gardens. Don’t forget to take a camera to save the memories.
Rain: Head to the wildlife discovery area, where dens and structures are just waiting to be climbed into and explored. Seek out a cosy hide to huddle up in and spot wildlife.
Castle Ward, County Down
Here’s a house that can’t make up its mind – one façade is Classical and the other side is Gothic. The remaining corn mill and saw mill give an amazing insight into how the house worked, and miles of woodland walks allow a full survey of the estate. Perfect for young naturalists; play with the touch table and handle fossils, shells and even skeletons and put them all under the microscope, or visit the farmyard.
Sun: Attempt the ‘mega slide’ in the adventure playground.
Rain: Experience the new interactive play area in the barn or explore the pastimes centre and laundry room in the stableyard.
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, North Yorkshire
Set in 800 acres of beautiful countryside, this World Heritage Site has plenty of space to blow off steam in. Spot the difference between the three breeds of wild deer as you explore the medieval deer park. Discover the statues, follies and breathtaking views in the Georgian water garden, or hide out amongst the ruined abbey. Visit the only surviving Cistercian corn mill, and grind your own corn, or take a breather and enjoy the view at the Victorian tea-room.
Sun: Climb, swing and jump in the children’s play area.
Rain: Play hide and seek in the Abbey ruins, or search for the hermit’s grotto in the water garden.
Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire
Freedom for families is the order of the day at Clumber; enjoy a gentle stroll followed by a relaxing picnic by the lake, or play games then hire a bike to explore further afield. There’s plenty of space to explore, and the woods, rolling countryside and lake are home to an amazing array of wildlife. Hang out on the climbing forest in the play park, or pick up a family tracker pack and see what you can find.
Sun: Get on your bike – enjoy a family bike ride and choose from over 20 miles of cycle routes through spectacular scenery.
Rain: Go wild at our new Discovery Centre, and learn about the park’s animal inhabitants.