Steam Trains, Wrecks and Peter Pan’s Garden: 10 Great UK Family Outings for Midterm and Autumn | UK public holidays
Ride the Flying Scotsman, Dorset
The famous engine turns 100 next February, and to kick off the celebrations marking its centenary, the locomotive will criss-cross the Swanage Heritage Railway during the mid-term.
The public will be able to book tickets to ride behind the Flying Scotsman in a rare Pullman observation car, which operated with the Flying Scotsman in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with breakfast, afternoon tea or champagne. Young train enthusiasts might prefer the chance to stand on the platform while the locomotive is on static display at Swanage Station on October 20-21 (and October 27-November 6).
Tour from £10, return from £39, free for children under 5 not occupying a seat, swanagerailway.co.uk
Playing in Peter Pan’s Garden, Dumfries
During his school days, author JM Barrie often played in the garden of Moat Brae, an elegant townhouse in Dumfries. These visits, he later claimed, founded “the genesis of that nefarious work” Peter Pan. Saved from demolition in 2009, the building was purchased and restored by the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust, opening as a tourist attraction and the National Center for Children’s Literature and Storytelling in 2019. Information is revealed in a playful way and young visitors can chase illuminated pixie dust around an attic bedroom, or play their own parts with costumes, before going wild in a pirate-themed adventure play area.
Adult £8, Child £6, Family (2+3) £20, moatbrae.org
Celebrate the ‘real’ Halloween, Hampshire
Halloween is a highlight of fall for most kids, but few know it has its roots in Samhain. Celebrated on the same dates, this fire-focused Celtic festival marked the beginning of the darker half of the year and feasts were held to welcome spirits, fairies and mortal souls. Halfway through, Hampshire’s living history museum, Butser Ancient Farm, offers a Samhain-themed children’s trail around its ancient buildings and free craft activities. On certain dates it is also possible to encounter a band of Vikings or join a Roman legion.
Adult £10.50, Child £6.50, Family (2+2) £27.50, butserancientfarm.co.uk
Wildlife viewing near Cardigan
This dappled green corner of Wales is even more spectacular in autumn, when the woods and waterside paths around it turn bronze, yellow and gold. About a mile from Cardigan, connected by a riverside footpath, the center overlooks the Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve. Rutting red deer, kingfishers and otters are some of the autumn wildlife highlights, but the center is also home to an adventure playground and a funky little cafe that serves homemade cakes and bowls of chickpea and spinach curry.
This half-session, children can also sign up for clay modeling workshops, mini-beast hunts, family walks in nature or a Halloween quiz trail around the reserve.
Free admission, events £3-£4 per child, welshwildlife.org
Visit “the grandfather of skyscrapers”, Shrewsbury
Erected in 1797 but reopened last month after a major restoration, Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings’ Grade I listed main building was the world’s first cast iron framed multi-storey building. It’s often dubbed the skyscraper’s grandparent, and its place in industrial history is imaginatively told through an interactive, family-friendly exhibit. There is a free half-term children’s activity program and a vegan cafe on site.
Make a day of it, then head to Harlescott, a 10-minute drive north, for a kids’ session (from £15 pp) on the inside walls of the excellent rock climbing hut.
Adult £7.50, Child £5 but free halfway, Family (2+3) £23, shrewsburyflaxmillmaltings.org.uk
“The World’s First Children’s Country Home”, Derbyshire
Opened on Saturday, just in time for half term, this pioneering project sees Sudbury Hall and the National Trust’s Museum of Childhood transformed into the world’s first country house for children.
The entire visitor experience at this South Derbyshire stately home has been designed with and for children. Young visitors will be encouraged to dance in the living room and stretch out in the long gallery to spot grasshoppers, unicorns, boars and dragons in the plaster ceiling, while mid-term craft activities include making of leaf lanterns.
Free entry for members, or from £11 adult, £5.50 child, £27.50 family (2+3), booking essential, nationaltrust.org.uk
Tales of Shipwrecks and Treasures, Cornwall
From the only intact barrel of coins ever recovered from a shipwreck to the necklace worn by Kate Winslet in the movie Titanic, there’s plenty to discover at this new museum on Cornwall’s south coast.
The exhibits cover a thrilling mix of science, history and adventure. A particular highlight is the Shackleton Experience, which takes visitors through icy tunnels beneath the museum to get an immersive sense of life as the first polar explorer.
From October 22 to 30, visitors can discover the exhibitions by lantern light along a special Halloween route.
Adult £12.50, over 5s £8, shipwreckcharlestown.co.uk
Discover Ancient Egypt, Norwich
Egyptomania is set to be a hot topic this fall, with the imminent – and much delayed – opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum at Giza on the outskirts of Cairo.
Closer to home, the Sainsbury Centre’s new Visions of Ancient Egypt exhibition explores how legendary figures such as Tutankhamun and Cleopatra have influenced the cultural imagination over the past few centuries.
Children can borrow art materials to create their own version of the exhibits or sign up for themed creative workshops throughout the fall (donations requested). To let off steam afterwards, pick up a pocket map of the Sculpture Park (free entry) and head out.
Free for members, otherwise £14 adult, £7 child, saitsburycentre.ac.uk
Food for Thought, Suffolk
There was some surprise in April when the Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket was renamed the Food Museum. But when you browse through the 40,000 items in its collection, the change makes sense: from wartime recipe cards to carts of corn that were traditionally plowed into the ground in hopes of a good harvest, most exhibits are related to food in one way or another.
Housed in a working farm with sheep, pigs, horses and chickens, the museum also hosts workshops and exhibitions. Midterm highlights include the chance to try squeezing apples in juice and an orchard-themed stop-motion animation workshop.
Adult £12, Child £8, Family £35 (2+3) £35, valid for 12 months; supplement for workshops and events, foodmuseum.org.uk
Dolphin Watching, Aberdeen
Torry Battery, overlooking Aberdeen Harbour, is one of the best places in Europe to watch bottlenose dolphins, with a resident population that can be spotted all year round. To help visitors find and interpret local wildlife, the new off-grid Greyhope Bay Center is a community facility that hosts beach cleanups, rock pooling sessions, and zero-waste craft workshops.
Take a walk around the remains of the 19th-century battery itself (built in 1860 as a training ground and barracks), then stop at the center cafe to watch the dolphins through the floor-to-ceiling windows above. a mascarpone, pear and honey cruffin or porridge with blackberries and bananas.
Free general admission, pre-bookable workshops around £5 adults and £3 children, greyhopebay.com