Much of our family time is defined by day trips and we’re always looking for new family-friendly things to do. We’ve loved being outside and exploring new places since before we became parents, and doing these things with our children was always in the plan. Fostering a love of the outdoors is something which we value highly. There is a quote that goes something along the lines of ‘to expect our children to respect and fight for our earth, we must first make them fall in love with it’. I am likely butchering this, but I think you can get the gist. Also, nature has proven benefits to our wellbeing. Have you ever heard of forest bathing? It’s origins are Japanese (they call it Shinrin-Yoku) and studies have proven that it reduces blood pressure, lowers stress hormone levels, improves concentration and memory. So if being outdoors doesn’t strike you as something to do for fun’s sake, you can give it a try for all of the positive health benefits. Here is a roundup of our favourite, family-friendly spots in the South West, UK. This list isn’t exhaustive and if you know of anything else that’s a must-do please drop me a comment.
*This isn’t a sponsored post, but I wanted to talk a little bit about annual passes. Andy and I have many times remarked how great an investment our National Trust membership is – at £10.80/month for a family pass it continues to pay for itself many times over. As a family of five – with two very young children – it’s oftentimes hard to get out early or to stay someplace for an entire day. Feeling like we can go out for a few hours without having to consider the value of admission prices means that we more often make the effort for shorter visits. We also have annual passes to Longleat. These are (significantly) more expensive than a National Trust pass but, again, we find that they are great value for money. We spend A LOT of time there. They also do a local’s discount so its worth checking if you qualify before you purchase passes.
Ok, here (in no particular order) are our favourite family-friendly, outdoorsy things to do in the South West, UK:
Tyntesfield (above). This spot is good for everyone. It’s buggy and toddler friendly, and it has plenty to keep older kids entertained too. There are plenty of places to buy snacks, meals, or coffee and lots of bathrooms. They do great events, so it’s worth checking their website. The only caution that I would advise is that there is a fair bit of walking, but there is an access bus which can transport people over the steepest part of the walk (it’s very doable with kids, but it might be challenging for the elderly or someone with a physical disability). This is where we do our Easter egg hunt every year!
Stourhead (above). This is probably my favourite place in the whole world. I go here and instantly feel calm and centred. It offers all of the amenities that National Trust properties typically do, and it has something for everyone. Dogs are welcome on leads, and it is buggy friendly. It’s great for older kids, as there are lots of trees to climb and caves to explore. If you have toddlers and are hoping for a relaxing day out I would advise a small parent:child ratio due to the lake access.
Barrington Court (above). This is a recent discovery but we’ve already been here quite a few times. It’s best in the spring and summer because the gardens are absolutely gorgeous. It’s buggy and toddler friendly and is easy walking. We usually pack a picnic when visiting and sit in the field adjacent to the cows – the kids love it!
Lacock (above). This is another one of my favourites. The National Trust property is beautiful and really interesting, and so is the surrounding village. It’s like stepping back in time. It’s buggy, toddler and kid friendly. The house and grounds are central to Lacock Village so there is a very short walk to pubs, cafes and a big and very well-done playground. This is another NT property that does events and activities really well, particularly during half-term and the school holidays. Some of Harry Potter was filmed here, so older kids might be excited to see if they can spot where.
Montacute (above). There is something for everyone here. Top features include The National Portrait Gallery’s permanent exhibition in the long gallery and the horse-shaped tire swings in the grounds. Kid, toddler and buggy friendly, and good for walkers and dogs. There is also plenty of places for a picnic.
Claverton Down and the Bath Skyline walk (above). Buggy, toddler and kid friendly, with a great, natural play area and a fairy trail. It’s also great for walkers, runners and dogs. No bathrooms or refreshments, just the beautiful outdoors. Parking is on a main road, it’s doable but not ideal for small children. There are nature activities during half-term and school holidays so it’s worth taking a look.
Leigh Woods (above). This is a very recent discovery and we love it! These woods are great for a family adventure and there are lots of trails which are perfect for bikes and scooters (both for adults and kids). It’s flat, so buggy friendly, but it can get quite muddy. I’d highly suggest wellies, puddle suits and cash for the coffee truck.
Heaven’s Gate and Shearwater Lake (above). This beautiful, natural and diverse woodland is good for walkers, dogs and families. In my experience, it’s not ideal for buggies but it’s doable. We usually bring ours but sometimes we park it and wander away from it a bit as we explore (not far, always within sight and do it at your own risk!). From the Heaven’s Gate carpark you can also walk to Shearwater Lake. The trail for Shearwater Lake is on the same side of the road as the carpark, while you have to cross the road to get to Heaven’s Gate. You can also drive to the main entrance of Shearwater Lake via the postcode below. There is a nice cafe there (with an ice cream stand in the summer months!) with toilets and a lake for fishing (it’s a very popular lake with hobby fishers). There is also a paved (mostly car-free) path which is great for biking or scooting, and forts for the kids to play in and add on to. Very buggy friendly, but there is no barrier between the lake and paths so not a particularly relaxing situation with a curious toddler. Again, a small parent:child ratio is helpful with young kids. The postcode for Heaven’s Gate is BA12 7PU and BA12 8AE for Shearwater Lake.
If you go to any of these place I’d love to hear about your experiences! Know of another must-do South West destination? Leave a comment below.