North West adventures: 10 things to do with the kids
The North West of England comprises the 5 large counties of Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire & Merseyside. I have picked two of our families’ favourite things in each county.
This is a beautiful National Trust property set in 1,000 acres of the most beautiful deer park. You can witness life in the mansion, visit the spectacular gardens, or take the kids to meet the animals at the working farm. There is a brilliant adventure playground just near the car park, which you can use just for the cost of parking. Or you can explore the gardens, which often have activities for kids. 2016 has been all about Roald Dahl’s Tremendous Adventures and the gardens were home to Danny the Champion of the World and his obstacle course.
This family favourite has just seen a huge renovation project. There is a large outdoor play area with climbing frames, mini trampolines and caves to hide in along with a central large tree that plays music and, bizarrely, releases snow. This is a real hit with the kids. The play area is surrounded by a large indoor honeycomb canyon that has rivers and sand to play in, a more standard soft play frame, go-karts, diggers and mini golf, all of which attract an additional fee. It can be a fantastic way to spend a morning or afternoon, even in the rain.
Speke Hall has developed lots of activities for children and in addition to the maze and the playground -- which have been there for some time -- they have created a Giant of Hale trail, referencing a local legend. It incorporates large vegetables you can play with and oversized chairs to sit on. The trail handily leads to a rope swing and den-building area towards the back of the site. We visit at least 4-5 times a year as they often have special events on.
4. Albert Dock, Merseyside
This collection of museums, restaurants, shops and cafes really make the most of their location. The collective vibe of the place is fun and easy to navigate. You can easily spend a day here wandering from museum to museum. The addition of the new Mattel Play adventure playground also provides an alternative play for younger kids. The free Tate Museum, Beatles Museum and Museum of Liverpool are all within walking distance.
Farmer Teds Farm is quite clearly a farm but it is also so much more. It has been extended in recent years to make more indoor areas, perfect for visitors who want more options in inclement weather, the norm in Lancashire. There are tractors to play on and scheduled meet-and-greets throughout the day with chicks, guinea pigs and rabbits. There’s even a ferret racing show, for those looking for something a little different!
Blackpool is a tourist hotspot with plenty to offer the kids. One of my favourite places to visit is the Strictly Come Dancing Ballroom. Technically this is just the ballroom in Blackpool Tower, which has been there since 1894 but for my kids (and yours too I imagine) it is the glamorous ballroom from the television show. My other must-see haunt is Blackpool Pier. Whichever Blackpool Pier you choose, you can people watch, play on the amusements and generally relive your childhood watching your kids enjoy the same simple pleasures.
Lowther Castle is described as ‘a sight of dramatic beauty and splendour’ -- a statement with which I wholeheartedly agree. The castle sits within 130 acres of hidden gardens, enchanting woodland and breathtaking views. There is a huge new playground, which has been constructed at the far end of the gardens called The Lost Castle and kids can easily spend a couple of hours if not more there. It‘s worth buying the ‘kids trail’ map too - we love exploring all the winding paths, rope swings and hidden treasures.
Ideally you get to this National Trust property in the Lakes by boat. There is only a small car park so make the most of the experience and get the regular boat across from Ambleside. The Castle itself is full of kids’ dressing-up clothes and large vinyl covered foam ‘bricks’for castle-building; it really is perfect for a wet day in the Lakes! If you are lucky enough to go on a sunny day, there is plenty to do outdoors too, including swinging from a rope, building a den and following trails. My kids also love the craft room.
Chill Factore is the UK’s longest indoor real snow ski slope measuring 180 meters. Ski and snowboard lessons for all abilities and snow activities take place here, and in 2015 they launched a new playground, perfect for under 5s. There is an expansive boot room where you can hire snow boots, skis and snow jackets so don’t worry if you don’t have your own. Kids absolutely love the excitement of playing in the ‘real’ snow or speeding down the slopes. Just one tip: It is actually freezing, so with the younger ones make sure they have hats and gloves or you will have to leave earlier than you’d like to!
Welcome to this huge museum set across five buildings with friendly and helpful staff. If the kids are tiny, they can simply stare in awe at the size of the planes, trains and other stuff the museum holds. If kids are a little bigger, they can start to understand how these items have changed over the years, and they can start to take part in experiments in the hands-on area. Careful though: It’s effectively just a roof in parts of the museum, so in winter wrap up warm. There are also outside exhibits.