February half term is fast approaching and Britain is bursting with brilliant ideas for family days out. From stately homes with sprawling grounds to immersive museums and nature reserves, and even a couple of theme parks, there’s no shortage of options to fill your calendar with, wherever you are located. Opt for adventure with zip wires in Cornwall and trips down an old mine in Midlands, try a scavenger hunt in one of the country’s best museums or simply head out on a historical walk.
If you’ve not had time to plan any day trips and are searching for inspiration, look no further. Here are 50 of the UK’s best days out.
1. Alton Towers, Staffordshire
Among the stomach-churning highlights at Alton Towers are Nemesis, Air and Oblivion (a vertical drop of more than 180ft). One of the newer rides in the park is Wicker Man, the UK’s first new wooden coaster built in over 20 years, and last year saw the arrival of a new ride for little ones, Gangsta Granny, based on the book by David Walliams.
Contact: 0871 222 3330; altontowers.com
2. Chatsworth House, Derbyshire
Privately owned stately home Chatsworth House has grounds containing a maze, sculptures, ancient woodland, water garden and 1,000-acre park. Also a working farmyard, adventure playground – and an art collection housed in sumptuous rooms. The North Sketch Gallery contains a contemporary art installation by Jacob van der Beugel, portraying the DNA of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.
Contact: 01246 565300; chatsworth.org
3. Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire
One of the most evocative sites in the region, Kenilworth Castle was built over several centuries, between Norman and Tudor times. The Elizabethan Garden was re-opened in 2009, having been built for Elizabeth I by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and then lost for 400 years. Its design is based on a contemporary letter written by Robert Langham in 1575. Castle audio tours are specially geared to children.
Contact: 01926 852078; english-heritage.org.uk
4. Black Country Living Museum, West Midlands
A 26-acre, open-air site onto which more than 40 buildings have been moved from various parts of the area. Exhibits include a pub and chapel, as well as a Twenties cinema and Thirties fish and chip shop. Trolley buses and trams link the site, and you can take a 35-minute tour into a drift mine to experience the life of an 1850s miner.
Contact: 0121 557 9643; bclm.co.uk
5. Ironbridge, Shropshire
The birthplace of the Industrial Revolution now houses 10 museums alongside the famous iron bridge over the River Severn. Of these the most popular with children are Enginuity, a science and technology centre full of hands-on activities and interactive exhibits, and Blists Hill, a lively reconstructed Victorian town with old-style shops (taking old-style money) and fairground.
Contact: 01952 433424; ironbridge.org.uk
6. Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
The 1760s landscaped parkland contains formal and pleasure gardens which are beautiful to wander through, plus miniature train, maze, butterfly house and a playground. Visitors can see the permanent Churchill exhibition, and follow in the wartime Prime Minister’s steps with the “Walk in Churchill’s Footsteps Trail” around the grounds.
Contact: 0800 849 6500; blenheimpalace.com
7. Bekonscot Model Village & Railway, Buckinghamshire
This Thirties creation, the world’s oldest and original model village, started as a hobby and developed into more than an acre of meticulously made houses, farms, fields and lakes, connected by a model railway that wends its way through well-kept gardens. Profits go to charity.
Contact: 01494 672919; bekonscot.co.uk
8. National Media Museum, West Yorkshire
Interactive galleries are located on seven floors of this museum in Bradford which explores the world of photography, cinema and television. Family events take place every weekend and throughout the school holidays, including drop-in sessions and guided tours.
Contact: 0844 856 3797; nationalmediamuseum.org.uk
9. Honister Slate Mine, Cumbria
One of the Lake District’s last working slate mines where visitors will find the “Infinity Bridge” – a gorge traverse at 1,200ft up – and mountain activities, along with stunning views, on the Via Ferrata; there’s a choice of the Classic or – newer and more nerve-wracking – “Xtreme” route.
Contact: 01768 777230; honister.com
10. Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Lancashire
Top rides include the Avalanche, Big Dipper, Grand National and The Big One (Europe’s tallest roller coaster at 235 feet). The ‘Flying Machines’ were built in 1904 but still pull in crowds.
Contact: 0870 444 5566; blackpoolpleasurebeach.com
11. Beamish Museum, County Durham
A 300-acre area containing reconstructed houses, shops and heritage buildings contrasting life in north-east England in 1825 with the post-industrial period nearly a century later. One highlight is the colliery village with pit cottages. A hop-on, hop-off tram dating from 1913 takes visitors around and demonstrators also bring their skills and crafts alive.
Contact: 0191 370 4000; beamish.org.uk
12. National Railway Museum, North Yorkshire and County Durham
One of the best free museums in the country, across two sites, in York and at Shildon. Highlights include a Japanese bullet train, a Chinese locomotive, Queen Victoria’s railway carriage and Mallard, once the fastest steam trains in the world. There is also a model railway, outdoor play area and train-ride simulator. The Shildon site has a Stirling Single from 1870 and family train rides.
Contact: 08448 153139; nrm.org.uk
13. Alnwick Castle, Northumberland
A 14th-century crenellated castle, best known as one of the locations for the Harry Potter films. Events and activities included in the admission price include “Broomstick training” workshops, medieval dressing up sessions, and tours of the state rooms and grounds.
Contact: 01665 511100; alnwickcastle.com
14. Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland
The best Roman forts and museums along the 150-mile wall are between Brampton and Hexham. Highlights include finds at Vindolanda (shoes, party invitations and jewellery), Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum (full scale reconstructed bath house) and the Roman Army Museum.
15. Chester Zoo, Cheshire
More than 11,000 animals housed in 110 acres of gardens. The Islands are fairly new, recreating the habitats of six south-east Asian islands.
Contact: 01244 380280; chesterzoo.org
16. Pleasure Beach, Norfolk
Traditional seaside fun next to the resort’s sandy beach, where highlights include a Twenties wooden roller coaster and fairground horse carousel dating from 1901. Also dodgems, a swinging pirate ship, and 70ft sky-drop.
Contact: 01493 844585; pleasure-beach.co.uk
17. Whipsnade Zoo, Bedfordshire
One of Europe’s largest wildlife parks, with more than 2,500 animals. Attractions include Lemur Island, Cheetah Rock and an indoor gym (chimpnasium) for acrobatic chimpanzees. One of the zoo’s newest additions is Zhina, a baby rhino.
Contact: 0344 225 1826; zsl.org
18. Imperial War Museum, Duxford, Cambridgeshire
Five hangars show historic aircraft including a Battle of Britain Exhibition and a Land Warfare Hall with giant tanks and military trucks. Flights over the surrounding countryside in an original vintage aircraft can now be pre-arranged. The museum’s 1940 Operations Room is currently closed for redevelopment but will be reopening in Summer 2020.
Contact: 01223 835000; iwm.org.uk
19. Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure, Norfolk
Follow a wooded trail to find life-size dinosaurs, with Tyrannosaurus rex and vast Brontosaurus, and audio equipment used to create prehistoric grunts and roars. There’s also adventure play areas and a farmyard.
20. Sutton Hoo, Suffolk
An Anglo-Saxon burial ground in 91 hectares of grounds overlooking the Deben estuary with woodland walks and plenty of activities for families, including an adventure playground, tracker packs, dressing-up and activity trails.
Contact: 01394 389700; nationaltrust.org.uk
21. Anglesey Abbey, Gardens and Lode Mill, Cambridgeshire
There is plenty of room to let off steam in the spacious gardens containing a wildlife discovery area with two-storey tree house and a 150-year old, working mill. Families can explore the woodland trails and pick up an activity pack for exploring house and grounds on entry. House highlights include a collection of clocks and silverware. A recently renovated “domestic wing” allows access to the kitchen, butler’s pantry, brushing room and servants’ hall.
Contact: 01223 810080; nationaltrust.org.uk
22. Snettisham Park, Norfolk
Friendly 320-acre farm-turned-family-attraction where children can feed orphan lambs and collect eggs. A large adventure playground, deer safari, walking trails and ride-on tractors provide all-day fun.
Contact: 01485 542425; snettishampark.co.uk
23. The British Museum, London
The scavenger hunts at the British Museum are a wonderful way to get children to really examine the art in front of them. The animal masks in the African galleries are particularly popular with young children; youngsters keen on counting will enjoy comparing Buddhas in the Indian galleries. The museum regularly runs craft projects at half-term.
24. Warner Bros. Studio Tour, London
A great day out for all Harry Potter fans of all ages. Allow around three hours for this tour, which gives you an opportunity to browse at your own pace through the vast hangars where the films were made. Highlights include the Great Hall, Hagrid’s hut, the Gryffindor common room, the original Hogwarts Express steam engine and a recreation of Platform 9 ¾. Wander along Diagon Alley, learn the secrets behind the special effects and find out what butterbeer tastes like (buy a glass to share – it’s an acquired taste).
25. Legoland, Berkshire
Thousands of small plastic bricks used to create “Miniland”, with London landmarks such as the Millennium Bridge, Canary Wharf and Tower Bridge. Also Lego-themed rides and adventure films within the 150-acre park.
Contact: 00871 2222 001; legoland.co.uk
26. Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Hampshire
Ships include HMS Victory, HMS Warrior 1860 and the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s warship, for which a £27 million museum opened in 2013. Single-attraction tickets are available, but best value is the annual admission, which covers all of the exhibits. Recent changes have been made to the HMS Warrior and visitors can now have conversations with historic figures, try their hand at sword-fighting and create secret signal flag messages.
Contact: 023 9283 9766; historicdockyard.co.uk
27. Osborne House, Isle of Wight
Swiss Cottage, the small two-storey wooden play chalet in the gardens of Queen Victoria’s seaside palace, was reopened in 2018 with hands-on displays portraying the life of a royal Victorian child, while the grounds contain a trail and play area. A short walk from the house is the Queen’s private beach with her 1840s bathing machine, deck chairs and great ice cream.
Contact: 01983 200022; english-heritage.org.uk
28. Weald & Downland Open Air Museum, West Sussex
About 50 historic buildings, including barns, a Victorian school, timber-framed farmhouse, market hall and water mill, all rescued from demolition and reconstructed on a grassy site. Authentically dressed staff add further atmosphere by demonstrating traditional crafts in situ.
Contact: 01243 811363; wealddown.co.uk
29. Hampton Court, Surrey
There is masses to see here, including the Great Hall, Tudor kitchens, William III’s state apartments and the gardens with maze and 240-year-old grape vine. Don’t miss the Cumberland Art Gallery with paintings by Rembrandt and Caravaggio, or the Georgian chocolate kitchens.
Contact: 0844 482 7777; hrp.org.uk
The South West
30. Slimbridge Wetland Centre, Gloucestershire
Children can get soaking wet in Welly Boot Land, where they’re encouraged to build dams, jump in puddles and mess around with water. Also 4×4 safaris, toad demonstrations and canoe safaris at this bird conservation trust founded by Sir Peter Scott in 1946.
Contact: 01453 891900; wwt.org.uk
31. Stonehenge, Wiltshire
This ancient prehistoric monument is enhanced with audio-visual displays, hands-on exhibits and a café. Reconstructed huts show how life would have been for Neolithic children.
Contact: 0870 333 1181; english-heritage.org.uk
32. Longleat Safari Park, Wiltshire
Tour the game reserve to see giraffes, zebras, rhinoceros, camels, lions, tigers and wolves. The day ticket also covers the 16th-century house, miniature railway and Adventure Castle playground for younger children. Stingray Bay and Penguin Island are are among the attractions.
Contact: 01985 844400; longleat.co.uk
33. Eden Project, Cornwall
Children and adults love the walk-through “biomes”, one with a rainforest ecosystem, the other with Mediterranean trees and plants. There is a rainforest canopy walkway with a nest platform, a zip wire, gardens and a great range of educational (and fun) play areas.
Contact: 01726 811911; edenproject.com
34. Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall
Restored after years of neglect, this 100-acre area contains glasshouses, walled gardens, pleasure grounds, a “jungle” of ferns with boardwalks, and peaceful woodland.
Contact: 01726 845100; heligan.com
35. Battle Abbey, East Sussex
Audio guides bring the blood and gore of this 1066 battle ground alive and you can see the spot where King Harold died. An introductory film tells the story in the visitor centre.
Contact: 01424 775705; english-heritage.org.uk
36. Paignton Zoo, Devon
Opened in the Twenties by an eccentric millionaire, the zoo covers an 80-acre area containing a crocodile swamp and six habitats, including savannah, forest and wetland, plus botanic gardens. Daily events include animal talks, bird shows and feeding times.
Contact: 0844 474 2222; paigntonzoo.org.uk
37. National Marine Aquarium, Devon
A journey through displays exploring life in estuaries, shallow seas and a deep reef, including sharks, sea horses, turtles and colourful exotic fish. The Atlantic Reef is the centrepiece of the aquarium where you can see bass, whiting and pollack through vast picture windows. The daily programme of events include shark discussions, a rockpool ramble and various dive shows.
Contact: 0844 893 7938; national-aquarium.co.uk
38. Wookey Hole Caves, Somerset
Designed for families with younger children to explore themed areas such as Dinosaur Valley, Monster Mill and Fairy Garden. You can also join a 35-minute tour of the prehistoric caves. A circus show includes unicycling, tight-rope walking, and juggling.
Contact: 01749 672243; wookey.co.uk
39. The Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre, Stirling
Opened to mark the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn in 2014, this centre recreates the sights and sounds of medieval battle using 3D technology. Visitors can watch or participate in the Battle Game, an interactive test of strategy, and Battle Show, a demonstration of how the battle was won.
Contact: 01786 812 664; nts.org.uk
40. Crathes Castle and Gardens, Aberdeenshire
An atmospheric 16th-century castle in superb gardens with fountain and rose gardens, yew hedges and colourful borders. Expect an adventure playground, Go Ape tree top course, family trails, children’s quizzes and picnic areas.
Contact: 0844 493 2166; nts.org.uk
41. Culloden Battlefield, Highlands
The site of a bloody clash between Jacobites and Hanoverians in 1746, where more than 1,200 died in less than an hour of fighting. A hi-tech visitor centre uses film, models and hand-held electronic guides to convey the stories surrounding the event: the animated battle table uses vivid narration to bring the drama of this brutal conflict to life.
Contact: 0844 493 2159; nts.org.uk
42. Culzean Country Park, Ayrshire
An 18th-century castle on a rocky promontory by the Firth of Clyde, with Robert Adam interiors and castle armoury. Waymarked paths run through woodland and a deer park. Young Naturalist Club events, with nature themed games, trails and crafts, run during school holidays.
Contact: 0844 493 2149; nts.org.uk
43. Inverewe Gardens, Wester Ross
Overlooking Loch Ewe, exotic species at Inverewe include Tasmanian eucalyptus and Chinese Himalayan blue poppies plus wildlife such as red deer, pine martens and otters. Free guided walks are available on weekdays.
Contact: 0844 493 2225; nts.org.uk
44. Anglesey Sea Zoo, Isle of Anglesey
Highlights at Anglesey Sea Zoo include the Shark Pool, Big Fish Forest and Shipwreck using huge tanks stocked with marine life found in the waters around the local coastline. Also an “Octojump” bouncy castle, adventure playground and radio-controlled boats.
Contact: 01248 430411; angleseyseazoo.co.uk
45. Big Pit Mining Museum, Torfaen
You really get a feel of what life was like underground on a guided tour of the mine, which starts with a 300ft descent by pit cage down the mineshaft, equipped with helmets and cap lamps. Or you can opt to take a virtual tour of a modern coal mine. The original winding engine house, blacksmith’s forge and fan house are open to visitors.
Contact: 0300 111 2 333; museumwales.ac.uk
46. Llancaiach Fawr Manor, Caerphilly
A Tudor house restored to its mid-17th century condition, with resident Puritan family, the Pritchards. Characters are bought to life by actors, and set in the context of the English Civil War. Children’s activity days are planned throughout August.
Contact: 01443 412248; your.caerphilly.gov.uk
47. Bodnant Garden, Conwy
Explore eighty acres of terraces, informal lawns, river valley and wild gardens with plants from all over the world at Bodnant Garden. Enjoy family trails with puzzles, activity sheets and questions, plus the newly opened Yew Dell, which has rare Bodnant hybrid rhododendrons.
Contact: 01492 650460; nationaltrust.org.uk
48. Oakwood Theme Park, Pembrokeshire
This theme park includes Megafobia, Speed and Bounce (reaching speeds of 70kph), a ride supposed to turn you into a “human bullet”. Under-8s accompanied by adults can go to Circus Land, and enjoy the Clown Coaster, Kids Carousel, Kids Train, and Pedal Go-Karts.
Contact: 01834 815170; oakwoodthemepark.co.uk
49. National Slate Museum, Gwynedd
The National Slate museum has an atmospheric location set next to Dinorwig quarry in Elidir mountain. Original Victorian workshops include foundries and forges, which are now used for slate-splitting demonstrations. There are also reconstructions of four quarrymen’s cottages and the Chief Engineer’s House.
Contact: 0300 111 2 333; museumwales.ac.uk
50. Mount Stewart House, County Down
Set in a scenic spot on the shores of Strangford Lough, this neo-classical house re-opened in April 2015 after a three-year restoration project. Outside are spectacular gardens with Mediterranean-style planting and woodland areas. There are wildlife tracker packs, swans on the lake and red squirrel trails to encourage children to explore the grounds.
Contact: 028 4278 8387; nationaltrust.org.uk