What young child wouldn’t love learning about Roman centurions, battles with rowdy barbarians and what life was like at a time when a menu could include actual dormice? Hadrian’s Wall stretches nearly 80 miles from the west coast to the east, and the westerly sections are among the best. Visit Birdoswald Roman Fort, the best place to see the longest continuous stretch of wall that remains standing today, and allow the kids to take part in the regular demonstrations of how to be a Roman soldier.
Gilsland, Brampton CA8 7DD www.english-heritage.org.uk
Walby Farm Park
Get down on the farm at Walby where you’ll not only find some of the rarest breeds of animals (including woolly alpacas), but an entire play barn including a ball pool, a 24-foot Demon Drop slide, and an outdoorsy play area including JCB diggers, a tractor tower, and go karts. Once the kids have worn themselves out, they’ll probably be starving, so head to Curly Tails Café for some homemade food before the journey home.
Walby, Carlisle CA6 4QL www.walbyfarmpark.co.uk
Half a mile off the Furness peninsula lies Piel Island, a 50-acre enclave accessible only by sea. It makes for a brilliant day out: kids love ferries, so cross the water from Roa island (which runs regularly between April and September) and let them marvel at the sights and sounds, then roam the island. If you’re looking for lunch, head to The Ship Inn, which serves freshly-caught fish, fresh game and meat. If you’re feeling adventurous, stay the night: The Ship Inn has rooms, or you can pitch a tent!
Piel Island www.pielisland.co.uk
Aira Force Waterfall
People have been coming to Aira Force to admire the power of nature for more than 300 years now, and it’s easy to see why: the 65 foot plunge the water takes over the falls is an awe-inspiring sight, whatever your age. As well as the stunning force of the water tumbling down, this spot’s right near Ullswater, home to plenty of hiking trails where you can watch for wildlife.
near Watermillock, Penrith CA11 0JS www.nationaltrust.org.uk
Lake District Wildlife Park
This 25-acre wildlife park in the heart of the Lake District is a habitat for the many animals – more than 100 different species in all – to roam freely. From anaconda to zebra, ring tailed lemurs and meerkats, there are more animals here than were in Noah’s ark. Bring a notebook and let the kids count up their sightings, seeing if they can reach the magic 100 figure.
Lake District National Park, Bassenthwaite, Keswick CA12 4RD www.lakedistrictwildlifepark.co.uk
South Tynedale Railway
Choo choo choose to head to England’s highest narrow-gauge railway in Alston, home of the South Tynedale Railway. You might think that the train’s the only attraction here, but it’s a fantastic, family-friendly outdoorsy destination, with wild deer, birds of prey, and a small but welcoming population of red squirrels. Step off the train at the stations and wander down the path that tracks the Tyne, counting the different creatures you encounter.
Station Road, Alston CA9 3JB www.south-tynedale-railway.org.uk
You and your kids can be the king of the swingers, the jungle VIP at this Windermere attraction that puts you in amongst the treetops. There are 35 different challenges within the treetop trek, all of which are designed to both entertain and test people’s balance and dexterity. No word of a lie: it’s the height of adventure. The issue might be stopping your children climbing every other tree they come across afterwards.
Ecclerigg, Windermere LA23 1LJ www.treetoptrek.co.uk
This section of the Lake District National Park scrubs up well: it was the location for many scenes in the new Swallows and Amazons film. The serenity of the site is what separates it from similar areas in Cumbria: you can ramble around a two-mile circular walk that drops in on Belted Galloway cattle and Herdwick sheep. Pack a picnic: you’ll want to spend the day here.
near Coniston www.nationaltrust.org.uk