Ten great family adventures in Britain’s countryside

Jun 17, 2016

Walk on the wild side at Longleat Safari & Adventure Park, Wiltshire, west England

Did you know that Longleat, just 80 minutes by train from London, was the first safari park outside Africa? One of Britain’s top animal attractions for more than 40 years, this country estate is home to more than 100 species – from monkeys to meerkats, lions to lorikeets and wildebeest to warthogs. Take a Jungle Cruise past the Gorilla Colony, witness the fastest animal on land in the drive-through Cheetah Kingdom, and feed the giraffes in the African Village. Visitors can also brush up on British history at Longleat House (www.longleat.co.uk).

Feed the red kites at Bwlch Nant yr Arian Forest Visitor Centre, Ceredigion, west Wales

Help conserve the national bird of Wales, the red kite, by joining a daily feeding session at the Bwlch Nant yr Arian Forest Visitor Centre in Ceredigion. Three hours by train from Birmingham, this expanse of woodland also features gentle walking trails. Kite-feeding sessions are free (www.forestry.gov.uk/bwlchnantyrarian). Nearby, the National Showcaves Centre for Wales offers great value, with entry to ten attractions with one ticket (www.showcaves.co.uk).

Step back in time at Housesteads Roman Fort, Northumberland, north-east England

Situated in one of Britain’s most historic locations – Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site – Housesteads Roman Fort is just over two hours’ drive from Edinburgh. In this dramatic hilltop setting with panoramic views, visitors can explore the remains of the centurions’ barracks – including the oldest toilets in Britain. The recently reopened museum houses a collection of Roman artefacts and uses 3-D models, film and illustrations to bring the past to life (www.english-heritage.org.uk).

Test your agility at iSurvive, Cheshire, north-west England

Kids and adults alike will love the scramble nets, rope swings, tunnels and climbing frames on the Confidence Course at iSurvive in the Chester Lakes, a one-hour drive from Manchester. Take the fresh-air fitness challenge: jump ditches and overcome obstacles on this one-kilometre route through the woods. Suitable for children from seven years old (www.i-survive.co.uk).

Explore Sherwood Forest on two wheels, Nottinghamshire, central England

Three hours from London by train is Sherwood Forest Country Park, the largest area of woodland in the east Midlands. Hire bikes at the visitor centre and choose from the two family routes through this historic forest park, once the domain of the mythical Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Its 3,300 acres are also home to Robin Hood’s hideout and adventure playgrounds (www.sherwoodpinescycles.co.uk, www.forestry.gov.uk).

Hug a hedgehog in Powys, Wales

Good Day Out organises a range of fun, educational activities that raise money for local causes such as wildlife sanctuaries and rescue centres. Spend a morning at Howey Hedgehog Sanctuary, a 90-minute drive from Cardiff, where you will clean, feed, bathe – and even exercise – orphaned hoglets (hedgehog babies). Hedgehog Helper Mornings take place on dates throughout spring (www.gooddayout.co.uk).

Design your own tourist trail, Belfast, Northern Ireland

What better way to travel than at your own pace? Pick up a Bunk Camper in Belfast, pack in the family and set off to explore the rugged coastline of Northern Ireland. Stop where you choose and wake up to stunning views. Bunk Campers come fully equipped with gas hobs, sinks, dining area, cooking utensils, beds, heating and electricity and showers/toilets in some vehicles (www.bunkcampers.com).

Discover the dinosaur capital of Britain, the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England

A short ferry ride from Portsmouth, just 90 minutes from London by train, will bring you to the Isle of Wight, the best place in Europe to follow in the footsteps of the dinosaurs that once ruled the Earth. Named by London’s eminent Natural History Museum as Britain’s ‘Dinosaur Capital’, this island offers opportunities for visitors to try hunting for fossils along its sandy beaches themselves, or to join an organised tour led by an expert who will identify any discoveries (www.islandbreaks.co.uk/attractions/dinosaurs).

Experience unspoilt natural beauty, Argyll Forest Park, western Scotland

Book a short break with Forest Holidays in Argyll, just 45 minutes’ drive from Glasgow, and you’ll be on the doorstep of 720 square miles of lochs, mountains and forests. In the heart of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, its new timber and glass cabins (most with outdoor hot tubs) offer breathtaking views of Loch Long and the Arrochar Alps. Family-friendly activities include mountain biking, archery, canoeing, rock climbing, gorge walking and Forest Ranger-led walks (www.forestholidays.co.uk).

Take to the treetops in the rainforest canopy, Cornwall, south-west England

In our most southerly county, four hours by train from London, is one of Britain’s top attractions. The Eden Project’s two huge adjoining domes house thousands of plant species. The world’s largest rainforest in captivity features steamy jungles and waterfalls and a fully accessible Rainforest Aerial Walkway, with amazing views across the Rainforest Biome (www.edenproject.com).