30 Outdoor meet-ups within 2 hours
Are you ready to (gasp) leave your local area? From Aqua Parks and city skylines to llama treks, theme parks and boating lakes, here are the 30 best outdoors things to do within 2 hours of Glos and Worcs.
Leaving the counties has never seemed so glamorous! We love our local area but —sweet lord, are we itching to get away from it.
Enter the Covid-safe daytrip: an outdoor excursion within two hours of home, essential for saving those last scraps of sanity. (Quite honestly, at this point, we’d be delighted just to sit in a field with a thermos flask if the view was just slightly different, but we can do better).
Here’s a list of all the best things to do within two hours of you.
Woburn Safari Park
It’s seems rather unlikely that one would stumble upon an all-singing all-dancing safari park just outside historic, elegant Woburn, but here it is. This Bedfordshire wonder, reopening on 12 April, offers both the Road and Foot Safaris (we know which one we’d prefer) and is a brilliant day out with the nippers in tow.
Canoe Trail, Bedford
Ever done a canoe trip with the kids? Take it from someone who has – it’s wet, tiring and one of the best days out ever! This family-fun business offers canoe, kayak, and SUP hire on the calm (thankfully) River Great Ouse. Take your pick from a relaxed and fairly dry canoe trip to soaking-wet fun on a paddle board.
Tornado Springs at Paultons Park, New Forest
Paulton’s Park has a brand new ‘world’ – and after a long-lockdown, families will be so ready for it. Opening on 12 April, Tornado Springs is a rootin’ tootin’ adventure ‘world’ set in the American heyday of the 1950s. Big and little kids will love catching up while trying out new rides and experiences like the spinning coaster, gyro swing ride and (a bit more our speed), a classic locomotive.
The Vyne, near Basingstoke
Plenty of places to enjoy a picnic and natter at this gorgeous, National Trust mansion in North West Hampshire. A favourite retreat for Henry VIII and his Tudor entourage, walk in Royal footsteps through ancient woodland, wetlands and gardens. Don’t miss spring blossom on heritage fruit trees in the orchard and beautiful spring daffodils in the walled and summerhouse gardens. Blooming lovely.
Visit Sherborne’s two castles
Make like a knight among the ruins of the 12th-century Old Sherborne Castle, once leased by Sir Walter Raleigh (of tobacco and potato fame) and now owned by English Heritage. Open from Mon 29 March. Raleigh later built himself a new pad next door: the 16th-century Sherborne Castle (above) which has gorgeous Grade I listed landscape gardens designed by Capability Brown. Open from Thurs 1 April.
High rope trekking near Charmouth
Try high rope trekking with 11 different stage elements and three zip wires at The Tunnel Treetops. Set in 15 acres of woodland just outside the seaside village of Charmouth, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the course is suitable from 6 years upwards.
Go Boat, Kingston
Fancy a boating adventure? Head to the River Thames at Kingston where you can be the captain of your own GoBoat. No boating experience is needed as they’ll teach you everything you need to know before you set sail. It’s a great way to see London and Surrey from a whole different viewpoint whether you head downriver towards Teddington Lock or along the Thames River to Hampton Court Palace. Each boat takes up to eight beings, including children and dogs! Prices for one boat are £79 for the first hour; £119 for 2 hours; £159 for 3 hours.
Godstone Farm, Godstone
Godstone Farm has the most a-mah-zing outdoor play area – think zipwires, giant sandpits, slides and tunnels – and it’s worth paying the entry fee for this alone. The farm reopens on Mon 29 March for morning and afternoon outdoor play sessions, which must be pre-booked online. Pack a picnic and let the kids go wild – and if you’re lucky you’ll spot a lamb frolicking in one of the nearby fields. The Topshop is also open for hot and cold drinks, pizza, ice cream and snacks. The farm trail and gift shop reopen on 12 April. Tickets are £6 per person and include an ice-cream for the kiddos and a tea or coffee for adults.
Llama trekking, Merry Harriers, Hambledon
Fancy a day out trekking with llamas? The Merry Harriers pub in Hambledon, near Godalming, has a herd of 12 lovely llamas and they offer trekking days out into the pretty Surrey Hills. There are a routes to suit all levels of fitness, with most treks averaging around three miles. They’ll cater to almost any occasion – options include The English Picnic, Winter Morning and Summer Evening Treks with the llamas carrying the picnic hampers and guiding you along the stunning local trails of The Greensand Way. The pub also has rooms, as well as luxury shepherds huts, so you could make a weekend of it. Treks start at £55.20 for an adult and £27.60 for a child (8-15 years) for trek only.
You have to hand it to Legoland for continuing to come up with ways to sell the Lego dream to under-10s in ever-inventive new ways. This year’s newest attraction is Mythica – a brand new world in a parallel universe, including three new rides, where LEGO creatures come to life. It doesn’t open until 29 May, so you’ll have to make do with Ninjago World, DUPLO Dino Coaster , Haunted House Monster Pasty, Lego Miniland, which took three years to complete and all the other favourites. Opens 12 April.
Thames Lido, Reading
Many reasons to head to Reading right now, Banksy’s latest artwork on the wall of Reading Prison, bit of shopping and stroll around the Abbey Ruins, before heading off to the super-cool Thames Lido. If you fancy pootle up and down the outdoor pool, it opens to members from 29 Mar and non-members from 12 Apr with outdoor dining. The whole restaurant will reopen from 17 May.
Swinley Forest, Bracknell
Fresh air, forest bathing and fun all neatly packaged up at Swinley Forest in Bracknell. Enjoy a sedate walk through the stunning woods, or crank up the adventure with an adrenaline-fuelled Segway tour, hire bikes and run the mountain bike trails or tackle the Go Ape course – a fun-filled hour exploring the canopy, trailblazing and tackling obstacles, finishing on the zip wire. Opens 29 March.
Highclere Castle, Newbury
The biggest star of Downton Abbey? No, Carson it’s not you or the Earl of Grantham’s labradors (they come a close second though) – Highclere Castle takes the crown. The house remain closed, but you can mooch around the Capability Brown gardens before settling down on your picnic blanket for a champagne afternoon tea on 12 and 19 April. You’ll have to wait until summer to enjoy the full Highclere experience. From £84 for two.
Cliveden National Trust
There’s a mahoosive 376 acres to explore – and there’s always something to see here whatever the season. Stroll through the formal gardens, stomp through the woodland and, if you’re super-keen, hike down to the river. Just brace yourself for the uphill climb. During the Easter holidays, the annual egg hunt will be back and we highly recommend getting on the water and booking a boat trip (open from 12 Apr). Advance booking is essential.
The spectacular three-mile long, 400 foot deep Cheddar Gorge started forming a million years ago as melting glacial waters eroded the limestone. Today, wild white goats cling to the sides of the steep cliffs but there’s a less precipitous, four-mile National Trust route for you to follow here.
Cycling around the Avalon Marshes, near Glastonbury
On yer bike to explore the otherworldly Avalon Marshes– wetlands, wildlife, vast skies and infinite horizons – on the Somerset Levels and moors. Super flat and criss-crossed with cycle routes down quiet lanes, droves and cycle paths, getting around using pedal power is a doddle.
SUP in the city of Bath
Every kind of paddle boarding – sit down, stand up, on a giant paddle board, with your dog (not compulsory) – with outdoor experts Original Wild on the river Avon in the centre of the World Heritage City of Bath. Why not do a spot of sightseeing as you go? From Sat 17 April.
Dunster Castle, near Minehead
As seen on George Clarke’s Channel 4 series National Trust Unlocked, Dunster Castle, perched high on a wooded hill, went from a Norman motte and bailey castle to 19th-century country house in 900 years. Expect terraced gardens with Mediterranean and subtropical plants, a historic working watermill and panoramic views over the Bristol Channel and Somerset countryside. Bring a picnic.
Let’s Get Lost, Leicester
Flow and weave your way along the River Soar while exploring your natural surroundings on a kayak. Embrace the great outdoors, disconnect from social media and reconnect with friends and family on a Paddle to the Pub tour or a popular Twilight Paddle and watch the sun slip beyond the horizon.
Tropical Birdland, Desford
Enjoy close encounters of the feathered kind over at this outdoor bird sanctuary. Spread across 6.5 acres, you can walk through aviaries and a woodland trail before visiting The Parrot Path where you can really get up close and personal with the birds and even feed them. If you’ve got kids in tow with energy to still burn off, there’s also a huge play area.
Uncover the story of Stonehenge in the extraordinary atmosphere of this World Heritage Site. It’s the best known prehistoric monument in Europe, no less! A fabulous day out for all. For something really special, book a VIP treat and go inside the stones with Stone Circle Experience: an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime gig.
Bowood House, Calne
Discovery waits around every corner at the gorgeous Bowood estate, with 100 acres of beautifully landscaped ‘Capability’ Brown Parkland and, especially for Mudlets, an adrenaline-fuelled Adventure Playground featuring a life size pirate ship plus a soft play area for the younger children. Day Visitors are now able to visit Bowood House & Gardens by purchasing a ticket online in advance. Access will be controlled using a timed, wristband system – wristbands will be allocated at admissions on arrival, giving each family the chance to access the Adventure Playground for two hours during the course of their visit.
Willen Lake, Milton Keynes
Hardy souls might consider the spring sunshine an invitation to don a wetsuit (or not, if you’re totally bonkers) and hit the water… it’s all yours, ladies. Open water swimming, the runaway sporty success story of the pandemic, is on at Willen Lake (a lesser-known hotspot) with sessions running on Saturday and Sunday mornings and Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury
Ah, the National Trust, where children under-5 go free and frazzled parents weep quietly in gratitude. Buckinghamshire’s jewel in the crown, the stunning Rothschild Waddesdon Manor, is welcoming visitors into the garden and grounds and from Easter Weekends will officially be opening for the year. For the little people there’s an amazing outdoor playpark, open 10am to 5pm (entry is included with tickets).
Stonor Park, Henley
Exhausted and happy kids, you say? I spy an easy bedtime coming right up. There’s a new adventure playground at Stonor Park and not only is it as magical as Hogwarts but it comes with very necessary coffee for the spectators (in the form of the cafe at the visitor’s centre). Wholesome fun for the kids and lunch sorted – it’s a win-win. Tumblestone Hollow is on the edge of Stonor’s woodland and is inspired by the stone circle found in the estate grounds. The wooden playground, designed for 4 to 12-year-olds, has high level walkways, climbing nets, look-out decks and bridges, all connected to a gnarled central tower.
Oxford Botanic Gardens
Are you overly familiar with every blade of grass in your local park? Of course you are. So here’s where to head for a change of scene. Oxford Botanic Gardens has been open to locals all lockdown and provides a very verdant afternoon out for those utterly bored of their own backyard.
If travelling under your own steam sounds like too much distraction from the important business of catching up, you could hire an electric boat. Wallingford’s Pure Boating is taking bookings from 3 April with boats for up to 11 people that you can drive down to Benson Lock or towards Moulsford. What better way to arrive at the Beetle and Wedge, two hours downstream, than on the water (though you’ll have to wait until they reopen their pods and terrace from 12 April if you’re hoping for riverside dining and a drink). Boats cost from £55 for an hour.
Warwick Castle is raising its portcullis and welcoming guests back outdoors from April 12 with the launch of the much-anticipated Zog and the Quest for the Golden Star interactive trail. There’s plenty more to keep kids entertained, from the Horrible Histories® Maze to roaming castle characters and birds of prey. You’ll also be able to explore the 64 acres of beautiful grounds, including the Peacock Garden and enjoy some spectacular countryside views by climbing The Conqueror’s Fortress, the highest point on the estate. And if Boris says it’s OK a single family can also book a ‘knight away’ (sorry!) in a medieval-themed Lodge within the castle grounds.
Charlecote Park, National Trust
Spring has sprung! Charlecote Park may be renowned for its beautiful herd of fallow deer but it’s also proud to have one of the largest flocks of rare-breed pedigree Jacob sheep in the country today – and one of the few in-house lambing teams within the National Trust. You’ll see the lambs from this rare breed pedigree herd with their characteristic chocolate-blotch fleeces in the parkland of this Victorian home from early April. It was here that the very first managed flock were introduced into England 200 years ago by George Lucy from his European travels. You can download an easy 40-minute to 1 hr spring parkland walk here. Timed visits need to be booked in advance. Book here
Hatton Adventure World, shopping village, and drive-in cinema & diner, Warwick
From 12 April, lots of small indies at this rural shopping village and family-friendly farm park attraction will re-open, joining Alfresco Garden Boutique & Farm Shop, Warwickshire Cycles, Granite Transformations and Alfie’s Café which have remained open. Hatton Adventure World will have its own Spring Arrivals Marquee, outdoor funfair rides, shows and spring nature walks. Plus you can book blockbusters at the drive-in cinema from 13 April including The Greatest Showman and Harry Potter. The site is linked to Hatton Locks and Hatton Arms by a delightful 1.5mile circular country walk across the private Hatton Estate and along the Grand Union Canal.
And want to explore your own counties? We couldn’t not include our fabulous shires now could we … here are four suggestions to get in your sat nav pronto.
Cotswold Country Park and Beach, Cirencester
Head to the largest inland paddling beach in the UK for some ‘Costa del Cotswolds’ fun. This brilliant, action-packed Country Park has a large, sandy lagoon for swimming and paddling, or hire one of the giant swan pedalos, row or electric boats for some laughter on the lake. There’s an inflatable aqua adventure park you can book ahead for, mini golf and – new for 2021 – are the VIP BBQs. From £30 you can book a private area and BBQ overlooking the lake and beach for the whole day – with a free bottle of Prosecco on arrival!
Cotswold Farm Park, Guiting Power near Cheltenham
There are all levels of farmyard cuteness going on at Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park and it’s a fabulously entertaining day out. Reopening on 12 April, head for the Animal Barn where you can sit and watch lambs being born, plus see piglets, donkey foals, calves, and herds of rare breeds. Kids can interact with the animals too, including the gorgeous native Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs, then take them (your kids, not the pigs) to burn off all their energy at the Adventure Playground, Farm Safari, Tractor School or Giant Jumping Pillows.
West Midlands Safari & Leisure Park, Bewdley
This fantastic day out is a family favourite, with more than 165 species of animal to see, a drive-through safari and a mini theme park to explore. Reopening fully from 12 April, entrance to the park buys you so much fun, from Boj’s Giggle Park, the Sea Lion Show, Penguin Cove, the Aquarium, Meerkat Mayhem, Hippo Lake and much more. Watch daily feeds and animal encounters with the residents, then wear the kiddos out on the 20 adrenaline rides.
E-Bike Adventure, Broadway Tower, Broadway
Take the family e-biking around one of the most iconic landmarks in Worcs. Head to Broadway Tower where you’ll get breathtaking views for miles around as you pedal en famille around lovely Cotswolds trails. Due to reopen on 12 April (make sure to check ahead), the electric bikes can be hired from Tower Barn from 10am to 4pm daily, so no having to tussle with a bike rack before you set off! Book your slot online and when you’re all pedalled out, explore the Tower itself, the Nuclear Bunker, gift shop and grab some picnic snacks from the pop-up Shepherd’s Hut or Morris & Brown cafe.