Pictured: inquisitive seal at Lundy
School’s out for summer and we say there’s no better place to be than the West Country. So we’re bringing you our top 10 family days out – for sunny times and rainy ones…(well you know how it is)
Top 10 Sunny Days Out
Hard to put into words how spectacularly beautiful this island, off the coast of North Devon is and with phenomenal birdspotting, the chance to see basking sharks, grey seals, rock pooling and climbing, we think it makes for the perfect family day out. We especially recommend the snorkelling safaris along the Devil's Kitchen (see below).
The Quantock Hills, Somerset
The 400 million year old Quantocks must be seen to be believed - the scenery from this most beautiful spot in Somerset stretches over Jurassic coastline, woodland and heart-stopping heathland. Brilliant for mountain biking, riding, walking or simply spotting wildlife - expect red deer, wild ponies, wood peckers and warblers, buzzards and nightjars. Every Wednesday during the summer holidays the National Trust runs events for kids including pond dipping, den building, fire lighting and butterfly catching.
Can there be a nicer way to spend a sunny day than punting along the River Avon? You pick up your punt at Bathampton Weir and can make your way to Bath's beautiful Pulteney Bridge, then back again. Picnic on the banks of the river and afterwards surely a pint at The Bathampton Mill?
Escott Park Devon
You’ll easily fill an entire day in beautiful Escott Park with birds of prey, otters, red squirrels, a complex, guarantees you’ll get lost maze, a seahorse centre (aquatic tanks full of these amazing creatures), woodland walks with forest playgrounds, a thrilling drop slide. Perfect spot for a picnic and tons to entertain. Also home to Camp Wild, summer camp for 8-12 year olds where your kids sleep in yurts by night and fossil hunt, stream dip, hike and learn bushcraft skills by day. What’s not to like?
Cycle along a disused railway track that links Bodmin, Wadebridge and Padstow along 11 miles of flat and easily negotiable tarmac pathway. The scenery is spectacular and you can hire bikes for all ages including pull-alongs or seats for toddlers. Easy cycling with a rewarding visit to Rick Stein's fish and chips in Padstow at the end of it? Don't forget to check into Camel Valley Wines either for the very best British champagne.
Guided Fossil Walks, Lyme Regis, Dorset
Brandon Lennon, a fossil collector for more than 25 years, will take you scrambling across Lyme Bay in search of the perfect fossil. With his beady eyes and informative banter, fossil collecting takes on a new dimension - you'll be hooked.
The Minack Theatre, Cornwall
We don't think there's a better spot to watch open air theatre (for both children and adults throughout the summer) than this amphitheatre carved out of rocks with stellar views over the West Cornish coast. Spend a day building castles on beautiful Porthcurno beach then walk up for a matinee at the Minack. And afterwards perhaps an early supper at The Old Coastguard in Mousehole, where the food just got seriously good.
Burgh Island, Devon
A sea tractor ride to beautiful Burgh Island is a pretty high octane adventure and Bigbury on Sea, (where you catch the tractor) is a perfect family beach with safe swimming and plenty of rock pooling action. There's a stunning Art Deco hotel on Burgh which was the inspiration for 2 Agatha Christie novels and The Pilchard Inn is the perfect pitstop for pints and seafood.
Paultons Park and Peppa Pig World, Nr Southampton, Hants
As theme parks go, family owned Paultons Park on the edge of the New Forest is about as bearable as they come. Probably one for slightly younger (under 13) children, it's also home to Peppa Pig World (PPW) - yes you read that right, there is a Peppa Pig World, and it's a total crowd pleaser. We say go early (gates open at 10am) and head straight for the most popular rides - the Cobra, Magma and Edge for the older ones and PPW for the under 5's. And take a picnic - away from the high octane stuff there are some beautiful grounds to catch your breath in.
Bowood House and Gardens, Calne, Wiltshire
You can't really beat a good adventure playground and this beautiful estate has one of the best in the country, with a huge pirate ship, rigging to climb and a terrifying drop slide to enthrall your adrenaline junkies. The house is stunning too and the grounds, designed by "Capability" Brown make the perfect backdrop for a high-end picnic (though bog standard sarnies will do).
Top 10 Rainy Days
Undercover Rock, St Werburghs Church, Bristol
A huge 12 m high climbing wall built within the 15th century church of St Werburghs, with pillars, fins, overhangs and arches, this adrenaline busting adventure is a surefire antidote to the worst weather.
Don't make the mistake of thinking this is one for the kids while you swelter in the cafe with a cup of tea. It's a thrilling, high-octane, teenage kicks ride that will jettison you right out of parenthood for an hour or so. Start with the white water ride on donuts and move swiftly through the Screamer (an aptly named vertical drop), the Space Bowl and the Zambesi Drop. There's a pool for toddlers and a cafe for the faint of heart.
Museums are all well and good so long as the educational bit comes sugar coated and with a healthy dose of horror or lots of buttons to push and experiments to explode. Kids never want to leave @bristol where they can make their own TV show or cartoon and coat themselves head to toe in a giant bubble. A genius place.
The same goes for In Tech, a miniature science museum which majors on the fun element. It's huge barn of a place full of experiments and a great big planetarium to zone out in when things get too much. Lie back and take in the stars....zzzz
Wookey Hole Caves, Somerset
Yes it's tourist central but you won't be disappointed by these ancient caves with their secret river. The legend of the Witch of Wookey Hole will thrill young ghouls (at Halloween, a commercial witch takes up residence). Spectacular light show in the cathedral caves and an Olympic circus running through the summer holidays.
The Fashion Museum, Bath
Small but perfectly formed this museum in the beautiful Assembly Rooms in Bath has everything from Kate Moss's Top Shop collection to embroidered shirts dating from 1600. You can't quite believe how tiny they were back in the day - adult Elizabethan dresses which your 10 year old would struggle to get into. All the big names are here from Ossie Clark to Valentino. The highlight, without question, is the dressing up bit where your children can don a corset or crinoline and try on a whole rack of Victorian outfits with matching hats. Best of all there's killer sushi next door at Yen Sushi.
East Somerset Railway, Somerset
A 280 year old steam train that chugs through the Mendip Hills and some of the prettiest countryside in Somerset and there's even a Thomas the Tank engine train at times. It doesn't run every day so you'll need to check first. Watch the Railway Children, then head out for more of the same.
Be warned the crowds tend to pour into Eden on a rainy day but it's a huge site and there's always masses going on - storytelling, site specific theatre, live music, chocolate making - and that's before you've even got to the space age biomes which is the whole point of the place. These magnificent giant greenhouses explain the relationship between man and plants but always in a fun, slightly irreverent way that your children will respond to. You'll find the world's biggest rainforest with tropical jungles and waterfalls and a traditional longhouse. There's a landtrain to ride, a zipwire, a treetop lookout and lots of giant sculptures. All it needs now is an eco-rollercoaster...
Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle, Cornwall
Deep down aren't we all slightly fixated on the idea of witches being burnt at stake and the dark art of witchcraft? Brilliant museum which has being enthralling adults and children alike for 50 years. Tons of spooky artefacts including a creepy looking 'poppet' a miniature doll with real hair used to dispel an unwanted pregnancy, bone prickers and a nasty piece of equipment known as a scold's bride, used to extract confessions from women. You'll be glad it rained.
Bovington Tank Museum, Dorset
Admittedly it's a testerone-edged trip, this one, but girls have been known to enjoy it too. Six great rooms stuffed full of tanks that have all seen action in 20th century wars. During the summer holidays the tanks roll into action with thundering engines and lifelike explosions. And on the August bank holiday the museum will invaded by an army of evil daleks whizzing around screeching 'exterminate'. Why wouldn't you?