A Day in Rydal, Lake District

With friends over from Holland, this weekend we needed to find a good spot that both showed a glimpse of the beauty of the Lakes, as well as providing easy paths for the three little walkers we had with us. Rydal proved to be the perfect choice… and if you fancy a day here, let me suggest a good itinerary.

Spend the morning discovering Rydal Hall

Brochure: https://rydalhall.org/cms/resources/rydal-hall-2019.pdf

We had read about Rydal Hall from the rather brilliant Family Walks and Pubs in the Lake District blog and decided we should give it a go! We parked in the gardens, you are able to leave your car all day for £5 with a permit from the Main Hall. The grounds aren’t huge, but that suited us fine, and we followed the little route suggested on the brochure. We loved reading the little informative signs dotted about to learn about the trees, and there were plenty of things of interest to keep our young children entertained, including waterfalls and sculptures. In the centre, behind the cafe, are toilets and a baby change.

Enjoy lunch in beautiful surroundings

There are a few options for lunch; the cafe at Rydal Hall is pleasant but doesn’t have the best options for children. You could enjoy a picnic, there are plenty of picnic benches in the grounds or you could head down to the Lakeside and find a spot.

The Old School Room tea shop is also a short walk away and is in stunning surroundings too!

Walk up to Rydal Caves

Another fantastic suggestion on the Family Walks and Pubs in the Lake District blog. We used to walk around here frequently pre-children, so it was great to spot a walk in the area that was suitable for our three year old. We crossed the road from Rydal and across the little footbridge to take the path that joined the White Moss footpath. It’s not suitable for pushchairs, but a relatively short distance.

Remember when you get to them, that the first cave isn’t the main one. Keep going round the corner and climb to see the huge mouth of the cave. Entry is by stepping stones, or scrambling over the stones at the side of the cave- which was our choice with me and the baby carrier and our little one. We were massively lucky to find a choir in the cave itself, and enjoyed the music for a little bit. Just up from the cave was a great viewpoint over Rydal Water, and we took obligatory family photos before heading down.

Finish the day with a wander around Grasmere or Ambleside.

Grasmere is much smaller than Ambleside but has gift shops and cafes to mooch around, whereas Ambleside is much larger with more choice. There is a wide range of cuisines and many leisure activities to choose from.

If you’re in the Lakes for a few days you might wish to visit Grizedale, a fantastic forest with lots to enjoy. There are so many walks to enjoy around the area, if you have difficulty getting your child motivated, read this blog post for tips to keep them going!

RHS Harlow Carr, Harrogate

What a treat to get some sunshine for our visit to Harlow Carr today. These beautiful gardens were able to show off their spectacular Autumn colours, and we could enjoy them at our total leisure! Jess was entertained throughout with an Autumn I Spy activity, so was on great form… meaning we all had a great day.

Website: https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/harlow-carr

Parking: It was a busy day, but there was plenty of parking in the three free car parks. Alternatively, you can walk through the woods from Valley Gardens in Harrogate; map here 👉https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/pdf/harlow-carr/harlow-carr-map-of-walks.pdf

Pushchairs: There are surfaced paths around the gardens.

Facilities: Good facilities, although be warned to two Betty’s tea shops had long queues.

Things to see

The gardens are predictably gorgeous, with lots of different areas to explore. The kitchen garden is a great place to start, and it’s lots of fun guessing what everything is (to be fair me and hubby struggled at times!)

Another highlight is the woodland walk, not least because of the beautiful colours at this time of year. This part is not marked as wheelchair accessible on the map, but was fine for our pushchair. After the recent rain there was also plenty of opportunities to jump in the mud!

Around the lake and the Lakeside gardens are just stunning. Until 10th November, Harlow Carr are hosting Seventy Days of Sculpture, and the lakeside provides a focal point for some of the fantastic pieces on display.

The Streamside walk is lovely to take in and wonderfully calming!

Activities for children

On entry we picked up an Autumn I Spy leaflet which was fantastic for Jess, keeping her entertained the whole way round the gardens. We didn’t have a pen to tick off the things she saw, so we just used mud rubbed in the boxes (which was an activity in itself)!

The play areas are small, but enough to keep little ones entertained, with obstacles to climb, balance and swing on.

Dotted around the gardens there is plenty to keep interest and to look at!

If like us, you enjoy a good picnic, there are picnic benches around the two play areas, and covered benches at the Teaching Garden. I’d definitely recommend taking something with you if you go at a weekend. We had stuff for Jess, but had planned on enjoying Betty’s… but the queues looked pretty long and with James screaming we couldn’t face waiting!

So overall, a lovely day! Whilst entry isn’t cheap, if you plan on returning, annual membership works out a decent price, and with changing activities and events throughout the seasons, it would be a good investment.

Grosmont to Goathland Rail Trail

We absolutely LOVE this walk, and I’m so pleased Jess is big enough to walk it now so we could do it as a family. The route is under four miles, and you can create even more excitement with a one-way trip on the Pickering-Whitby train line to get to the start.

Route: A well signposted route between Grosmont and Goathland (3.6 miles).

Pushchairs: All pushchair friendly, especially after Esk Valley, where the path is wide and flat following the original rail line. Leaving Grosmont the path is steeper and narrower, but it’s short lived and much easier after that!

Facilities: Both Grosmont and Goathland stations have toilets, there are pubs in both villages, and you pass a pub at Beck Hole on the way.

Parking: There are a couple of car parks in Goathland (£3 all day), both are cash only.

Does every pre-schooler go through a stage of train obsession? Jess doesn’t play with toy trains but wants to see them, go on them, talk about them. So this is the perfect walk for her; not only do you get to go on one, but you can watch them chug past and listen to the horns as you go!!

We boarded a Diesel in Goathland to make our way to Grosmont; if you want a steam engine make sure you check which trains they are beforehand! It was fun to see, Jess loved waving out the window and the traditional tickets getting stamped. It was also I think the first time I was able to do the old stick your hand out the window to open the door thing. Loved it.

Once we were in Grosmont we headed to the Station Tavern for a spot of lunch. The food was great with a good children’s menu. We timed it brilliantly, leaving the pub in time to see the steam engine at Grosmont station. We started the walk with the aim to get to a good point to watch the train go past (and do some more waving). Leaving the village you climb a little hill (great viewpoint but we were rushing to glimpse the train so no picture) and rejoin the train lines next to old carriages.

Here the path is adjacent to the track, so if you time it right you can get right up close as a train passes!

The walk meanders through woodland and along fields, and over a stream where you can play Pooh sticks.

We were getting thirsty, so took at short detour to the fab little Beck Hole pub. Children aren’t allowed in the main bar, but are welcome outside and in the second little area. Also there is a sweet shop, so we stocked up on Gummy bears to help us with the last part of the walk.

Following the rest of the route is fairly uphill, but with the power of the sweets we powered through and arrived back at the carpark. If you haven’t been to Goathland before, definitely have a look around… you may well recognise it as the setting of the TV show Heartbeat!

It’s a great walk, we all enjoyed it and I’m not sure why we waited until an overnight stay in the area to do it, I definitely think it warrants a day trip!

 

 

Wentworth Castle Gardens (NT)

This has been popping up on my news feed since it re-opened and I’ve been dying to see it! Absolutely did not disappoint. There really is a bit of everything; beautiful gardens, fantastic views, a sun monument, a castle to explore, and of course all the great facilities that you’d usually expect from a National Trust property.

Website: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wentworth-castle-gardens

Facilities: Everything you’d expect! Toilets, cafe and play area. Lots of benches dotted about.

Pushchairs: The gardens are fine for a pushchair, although I’d imagine parts would get muddy on wet days. The whole property is on a hill, so it might be difficult for scooters etc for little ones.

Dogs: Are definitely welcome!

Technically, this is our second visit. The first was a bit of a disaster….We decided to take Jess’s new bike which she decided she didn’t want after about two minutes. They’re pretttttty heavy now she’s bigger! So Steve started carrying it. James started having a meltdown. The heavens opened. We all got soaked. Jess fell over cutting both knees and screaming until she was having a meltdown too…. and we abandoned the day in favour of a (well needed) drink at the amazing Strafford Arms down the road.

This time round the sun was beaming down on us when we arrived which is always a good omen. First stop was obviously the play area; not only because Jess LOVES them, but because it’s the first thing you come to! Being a Monday it was nice and quiet so Jess had the place to herself. Absolutely fantastic space, with a toddler area as well as a fort and zip wire! There are a couple of picnic benches there too if you want to set up for a while.

With the weather so perfect, we skipped the cafe in favour of a picnic. I mean why wouldn’t you with these fabulous views!

We were told at the entrance the walk to the castle would be half an hour to 45 minutes, and I was a little worried because Jess was sooooo impatient to see it (are we nearly there yet? IS an actual thing). She kept telling me she was the Queen and wanted to see her home. But I need not have worried, there’s absolutely LOADS to see on the walk up. Firstly passing the temple (with a big hill to roll down- after the downpours over the last few days we skipped this), and then up to the gardens.

The Victorian flower garden is gorgeous and FULL of colour, and there are two sets of stairs to (almost- not sure what to call them) viewing platforms that give more great views.

I’d seen a sign for the sun monument, and naively thought it would be some sort of glorified sundial but nope… that really is a proper monument there!!!

And then the castle itself. Simply glorious. Now I’m not really a person with a problem with heights; skydiving, bungee jumping, climbing peaks, never been a problem. But I HONESTLY NEARLY CRIED with Jess when we climbed the spiral steps to the top of the tower. Having James strapped to my front probably didn’t help, but I nearly stopped circulation on her arm as we walked backdown I was squeezing so tight!! But Jess had lots of fun, and I enjoyed it more with her running around (at ground level!!!!) and exploring the other remains.

On the walk back we saw more of the gardens, they’re honestly beautiful and THE TREES!!! Oooooooh!! I do think the weather helped but it’s just gorgeous.

Jess was getting tired and James was getting cranky (he had his third set of jabs earlier which might have explained it) so after another turn on the play area we decided to head home.

I’m looking forward to returning and trying the walk around the Parkland, I imagine there are even more spectacular views!!

If you do make it over there, let me know how you get on… I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Rachel xxxx

Brimham Rocks, Summerbridge (NT)

This is probably one of the most iconic places to visit in Yorkshire. It’s the dream playground for adventurous kids, and, let’s face it, us adults too! If you haven’t been (errrrrr why not?!), in a nutshell this National Trust site is a collection of rocks which are millions of years old, sculpted into weird and wonderful shapes… with fantastic views over this amazing county. Pictures (especially mine!!) simply do not do it justice.

Website: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/brimham-rocks

Parking: Pay and display car park, free for NT members. Entry to the site itself is free.

Pushchairs: Whilst you can take pushchairs on the main paths, the main appeal of this place is to explore. I’d recommend a carrier for non-walkers.

Facilities: a ten minute walk from the car park is the visitor centre, toilets and refreshments. There’s an indoor area for picnics in bad weather, and lots of picnic benches outside, but no proper cafe.

We visited Brimham after doing a short walk in the area, and I was a little unsure on how much there would be for Jess (3) to do… memories pre-children consisted of heady heights and steep drops, but there really is something for everyone; and you can do as little or as much as you like.

Nothing here seems off limits, literally anything goes so you can scramble and explore to your hearts content. In this world of health and safety it’s massively refreshing to be able to test your boundaries, although we had to keep a close eye on Jess and there is always the scope for idiot behaviour (the horrendously sad episode of last year case and point).

There are plenty of photo opportunities, and for even more entertainment watch the hoards of selfie takers with their multiple pictures of various expressions in EXACTLY the same pose. I realise this might be an ironic observation, given the fact I’ve included a number of pictures in this blog but HONESTLY….

A previous visit with friends!

The views are spectacular, and at the visitor centre there’s a great picture that not only shows you the names of various rock formations, but also points out key locations on the distance such as York Minster!

To make sure you see everything check out the property map, but you may be like us and just go where your feet take you!

We love a good trig point!! The one at this site is just behind the visitor centre.

Whilst we let Jess pretty much dictate our visit by pointing to which rocks she wanted to climb (and us saying no to 90%!), the National Trust website suggests some good ideas for a more structured visit;

  • A Spot the Rocks trail, taking you on a guided walk of the key formations
  • Picking up an explorer backpack from the visitor centre which teaches children about wildlife and geology on the site
  • Geocaching; there is a series of seven easy to find which are perfect for children.
  • Child friendly events– look at the What’s On page to discover Storytelling and Nature Explorer dates.

So to summarise; if you haven’t been, or it’s been a while, make it a priority. I definitely had left it too long (although not sure if my heart could take Jess climbing at a younger age). It’s much better in dry weather when the rocks aren’t slippy and you can enjoy your lunch taking in the views. If you’re planning a full day there perhaps check out one of the activities they have for children. Enjoy!!

Ponderosa, Heckmondwike

This was one of the best surprises I’ve had in a long time. For a small zoo, there is loads to keep you entertained, and it’s got great facilities. It’s been miserable weather today and I almost caved to Jess’s pleas of soft play this morning, but I held strong and it was the best decision ever… even better there was a soft play there which we had to ourselves so Jess got her wish too!!

Website: http://ponderosa-centre.co.uk

Facilities: Excellent; lots of toilets and hand wash stations. Play areas indoor and out. Coffee shop and restaurant. Even a welly wash.

Pushchairs: Excellent for access, all entrances are level. So perfect for pushchairs. We only came across one set of steps all day, with ramp alternative!

The animals

It’s a small zoo, but it’s got great variety.

Indoors there’s a reptile house and small mammals. On a weekday there were two encounters. Despite Jess being happy in the past to stroke snakes, spiders, you name it, today she had the fear of stroking a tortoise shell 😂. So no pictures, sorry. Interesting fact- they can feel the touch on their shell!! Mind. Blown.

Outdoors we struggled to spot some of the animals, I think the wet weather was forcing them inside, but those that we did were interesting and well kept. Jess liked seeing the ‘kitty’ aka the serval, and couldn’t understand why she couldn’t stroke it!

The Play Areas

On a dry day I think there would be enough here to keep you entertained for a full day. There are two fab play areas as well as a giant ‘beach’ that would be perfect for picnics. The play barn is an indoor soft play area, which I thought was great,but signs are up saying it’ll be closed from November so I’m excited to see what it’ll have in its place!

Food and Drink

There are picnic benches around all the outdoor play areas, as well as a covered area near the outdoor handling area, so plenty of space for you to bring your own. There is also a coffee shop on site (offering disposable cups for you so I could take my drink into the play barn) which sells a great variety of ice creams. The Lakeside restaurant is happily situated, see pics below, and although we didn’t go in looked to have a decent menu.

I think one of the best things about this place is that despite it being a really quiet day, everything was open and available. It’s one of my biggest frustrations when you head somewhere and half the facilities are closed off.

So try it, I’d really recommend a visit. I can’t wait to see what’s coming to replace the play barn and I’m looking forward to returning on a drier day to take full advantage of the play areas!

Sundown Adventureland, Retford

We had THE BEST day at this amazing theme park for the under 10s! We’d been last year, and had a great day but left feeling the park was a little tired in places and needed some tlc. Since then there’s been some updates and improvements.

Given it was a sunny Sunday in July, it was great the park was busy but queues remained small and fast moving.

The park consists of a number of areas with themed rides and play areas. There are also small towns, with lots to explore and buttons to press! With a couple of indoor soft play areas there is lots to do in all weather 👍👍

At three, Jess was able to go on all but one of the attractions, and I was able to take James (7 weeks) on most things too.

The rides were definitely the highlight for Jess, her favourite was the water ride which was a pirate themed raft ride which squirted you as you went past! She liked driving the tractors on that ride; great that with four seats our whole little family could get on. Tip: the tractor ride has been the one with the longest queue on both visits so get there early.

My personal favourites were the flying pigs and ostrich ride!

The play areas are fab; we loved the fort with all the slides and Captain Sandy’s Play Cove which is based on a huge sandpit.

There are picnic areas all over, but there are plenty of food places too (if a little pricey). There’s a great ice cream shop!

If you have small children I honestly can’t recommend this place enough! We spent the full day here and still didn’t cover everything. I think the ticket prices are great value compared to other days out, particularly if you pay in advance!

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Chester Zoo

On Monday we visited Chester Zoo; it made sense to break up our return journey from Wales and we’ve never taken Jess before. It was a lovely day for it, but even if the weather hadn’t been as good there’s lots of shelter around, making this a great day out all year round.

It’s an impressive start; the elephants are the first thing you come to and so Jess was on side from the moment that we arrived.

There are plenty of ‘big’ animals about; lions and tigers, chimps and orangutans, rhinos and giraffes. But plenty of smaller animals too- particularly inside the huge buildings like the Tropical Realm. And best of all there’s LOADS of information; loads of stats and interesting stats to read. We were having such a good time I took barely any photos!

When we’d been previously we’d never made it to the ‘Islands’ area, but this time we did, and enjoyed the boat trip. James wasn’t allowed on (children have to be able to walk unaided) so I went on with Jess who gave a running commentary to the whole boat 😂

There are picnic benches everywhere if you plan on taking food with you, but also lots of choices to buy things dotted about. We just had burgers from the food court, but MASSIVELY regretted our choice when we saw the street food kitchen in the islands area. The food isn’t priced too badly, but drinks ramp it up, and we were surprised that water bottles could only be filled at certain food areas; the smaller snack vans sent you elsewhere. On such a hot day we would have liked more options for warmer fountains etc.

Other things we didn’t do but want to, are a trip on the monorail and a go on the treetop challenge (both have a supplementary cost), as well as visit the free nature reserve that you can get to from the car park.

It’s a big site, and so there’s lots of walking. Jess was shattered by the end! You can hire buggies (single and double) at the entrance if you need it.

Overall a really good day out with LOADS to see; which you’d expect from the admission price. It’s definitely worth it, but do go prepared- think about the amount of walking, take more drinks and snacks than you would do usually and perhaps plan your route and must-see animals before you go. If you want to see any of the animal talks they’re on the website so you can plan this into your day too.

The Alnwick Garden, Northumberland

These gardens are just GORGEOUS. On a sunny day, grab a picnic and head there to enjoy the stunning surroundings. Even better, if you picked up a copy of Gardner’s World back in May you can get in on the 2 for 1 offer.

On entering the ticketed area you see the superb cascading fountains. They are spectacular, and provide lots of entertainment watching people getting caught out and soaked! In front of the fountains are mini diggers that our three year old enjoyed using to collect water and dump it over my feet!

The grassy area soon filled up with picnic rugs and deck chairs as families set up for the day. There are some provided, but got snapped up quickly so I think you need to get in fast! The cafe does do really good food, but expect to pay high prices… no doubt partly the reason for the number of picnickers!

Before we arrived we downloaded the free app; A Giant Adventure. This was fantastic – you can see the giant asleep in the Lake outside, and then follow the trail inside. The app uses augmented reality and is really good fun. Jess LOVED it, although it completely baffled her 😂😂

Inside the garden we all loved the different fountains and water features, lots of fun. Lots of children were playing in them in the scorching weather, although there were signs around warning against this. A few surprise water spurts soaked some over eager parents… great laughs.

The gardens are perfect to explore and wander around. Covered walkways take you up the side of the cascade fountains to a gorgeous flower garden, brimming with colour!

There are further surprises dotted about the gardens that kept Jess engaged!

We didn’t enter the Poison Garden on this visit, but it does seem a firm favourite for many, with tours every 20 minutes.

At the gardens you can also play golf and go on a woodland walk.

Overall it’s a really good day out, particularly when you can take advantage of the weather. If you’re visiting the area its somewhere you should try to fit into your itinerary- particularly if it’s a sunny day! If you’re not staying in the area, its right next to Alnwick Castle so you could combine the two to make the most of a day trip.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield

To a certain extent I consider this place my old stomping ground; back when I was a Leeds Uni student I switched electives in Law for Dance (the natural choice) and so regularly travelled to the Bretton Hall campus for classes. It still brings back happy memories when I see the old buildings 😍 We came here on an EXTREMELY wet Monday, Steve’s last day of his paternity leave. Jess may have been less than impressed with our rainy walk, but we were still impressed with the beautiful grounds and variety of sculptures.

Whilst there’s not your usual family attractions here (namely no play area), there are activities that children can engage in; the website is a good starting point. It has a number of resources that can be used.

The essentials

  • Location: https://ysp.org.uk/visit/getting-here
  • Parking: It’s pricey; over 2 hours is £12. BUT with no entrance fee it still means a relatively cheap family day out.
  • Facilities: Plenty of benches if you want packed lunches. A few cafes with good toilets and change facilities.
  • Accessibility: Mixed. There are definitely flat paths suitable for buggies, but not all of them are, so choose the route of your visit carefully. If it’s your first visit it might be worth checking at the visitor centre so you don’t get stuck. Parts of the grounds are also closed off for renovations which also doesn’t help.

This place is gorgeous, and is a great place to take children exploring! Here’s some pictures from our visit, we’ll have to head back in the sunshine when Jess is a bit happier to be outdoors!

There were some smiles!!

Jess was less than impressed with the rain!