Category Archives: Days Out

Days Out: The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway

Getting out of the city and out into the countryside for the weekend is an all to rare thing. But this year we’ve managed two jaunts to the Lake District; the first to Keswick for a spot of glamping and the second to Coniston. During our visit to Coniston, we took some time to explore the southern lakes a little more. My son is a steam train enthusiast, so we visited the The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway and we loved it so much, we went back again the next day!

As a child I spent an awful lot of time in the southern Lake District. My Nan had a caravan there and my Uncle liked to fish; so we would spend lots of our school holidays going on day trips and long walks. I remember my time there very fondly, especially our annual visits to The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway, so it was great to share that with my son.

Days Out: The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway

On arrival at Haverthwaite Station, it felt like nothing at all had changed in 30 years. Of course it had, whilst original features abound, there are the kind of modern conveniences that people expect; like clean modern toilets, a nice cafe and a gift shop.

Most visitors arrive and park at Haverthwaite Station which is near Ulverston and really easy to find. The steam trains run regularly, but if you find you’ve just missed one and you’ve got to wait for the next one, the cafe is very decent and you can always have a mooch around the gift shop. The station itself is really pretty to explore and there’s a play area for little ones too.

Days Out: The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway

On the day we visited, Haverthwaite Station was playing host to The Owl Sanctuary. There were a selection of owls and a few handlers talking to the visitors about them. My son was lucky enough to hold a tiny one. He adores owls, so he was in his element.

Days Out: The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway

Soon our steam train rolled into the station and it was all aboard for our journey to Lakeside at Windermere. We clambered aboard ‘Repulse’ and got comfortable in the original carriages. The journey itself isn’t an especially long one and takes around 20 minutes; but it takes you through beautiful countryside, pauses in Newby Bridge, then through some woodland and eventually to the edge of Lake Windermere.

Most people get off here and either go on to explore the aquarium, or go on to get the steam boat across Windermere. We stayed on the train and returned to Haverthwaite Station.

Days Out: The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway

Periodically, The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway have special events and special days. The day after our first visit was one of these special days. As it was sort of on our way home, we returned to do the whole thing all over again, but with a few child friendly activities, dressing up and sing songs. This was the icing on the cake for my son and our two visits to the railway have really cemented his love for it. I know that come spring, we’ll be back.

I have very fond memories of going on The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway when I was a child, and now my son does too. It really is a brilliant attraction, made better by having things to see and do at either end. It really was the highlight of a very brilliant weekend in the lakes.

For more information about The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway, visit their website.

Note: we paid for our tickets in full, I’ve just written about it because we loved it!

Review: The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

With the nights drawing in and Christmas just around the corner, we’ve been filling our diary with lots of festive fun. Top of the list was The Lanterns at Chester Zoo; an evening of magic and sparkle, full of lights and with something special around every corner. I’m not even exaggerating.

Regular readers will know that we are massive fans of the Just So Festival which is organised by Wild Rumpus. Wild Rumpus have sprinkled their magic all over Chester Zoo and The Lanterns and it’s a real multi-sensory experience.

Review: The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

Tickets are timed entry, so there’s an even flow of people throughout; it’s busy but not uncomfortably so. As you make your way to the entrance there are people flying huge neon butterflies and giant snails scooting about the place to entertain the kids and give you a little hint of what is to come.

Review: The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

Once through the gate you step into the Garden of Delight and you’re immediately transported into an illuminated magical world full of giant flowers and colourful lights. Make sure you make your way to the people who are giving out lanterns; the children get a little bucket lantern with an LED tealight and each family gets a larger lantern to carry too. It’s a lovely sight, looking ahead to see the makings of a lantern parade ahead of you.

Review: The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

Marvel at the giant giraffes, lions, elephants and tigers of the Moonlit Meadow. Meet the friendly ostrich and emu in Cloud Cuckoo Land, there’s so much to wonder at. I loved watching my son’s face as we walked around, he was in awe. Go through the Northern Lights where you can say hi to Father Christmas and meet some illuminated reindeer, you’ll soon find the food market where you can have something to eat and drink to set you on your way.

Review: The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

It was at the market we bumped into some friends and we carried on our journey together. The Enchanted Woodland was just that; with people operating flying barn owls, squirrels and deer, the trees were all lit up and it took my breath away. Around the corner you’ll find a snowy wonderland; with snow machines pumping out snow-showers, much to the absolute delight of everyone there. I confess we hung around that area for quite a while because it was just so lovely.

Review: The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

The Wonderland area was a space dedicated to Alice in Wonderland, complete with a giant rabbit and the Cheshire Cat. One of my favourite areas was Rainforest Glow, which just took my breath away. There were giant rainforest flowers hanging from the ceiling, glowing in the lights, plus illuminated rainforest sloths and grubs.

Review: The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

The Ice Kingdom was a great way to finish off the journey. The kids were queuing up to feed the lantern penguins fish and each were given special glasses to look at the lights through which turned all the lights into twinkling rainbows. We were sad to leave. I want to live in The Lanterns.

I really don’t want give too much away about the whole experience, but around each corner you’ll find something really special. It’s festive without being too overtly Christmassy. You will see Father Christmas and some of his elves in passing, but it’s really more about the lights, lanterns and illuminated sights. It’s a real sensory treat from start to finish. We were in awe from start to finish and I’m really ready to fill my own home with sparkle.

In terms of accessibility, the whole trail is on footpaths. There are no steps or stairs and if you’re pushing a wheelchair or a buggy, you should be fine. There aren’t a great many places to sit down, apart from near the food market, so you might want to consider that. It took us around 2 hours to walk around.

There are timed admissions between 4pm-7.45pm and it closes at 9pm. Children’s tickets are from £10-£15 and adult tickets from £12-£17.50.

For more information or to book your tickets visit the Chester Zoo website.

Review: The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

We were invited guests of Wild Rumpus and Chester Zoo. All images and opinions are our own.

Days Out: Autumn at Warwick Castle

We’ve had our Merlin Annual Passes for a few years now and we’ve visited a lot of attractions during that time, but for a while, high on our to visit list has been Warwick Castle. It took a bit of planning to get there, but last month we made the journey down the M6 and finally crossed Warwick Castle off our list. We had such a brilliant day that we’re already planning a return visit!

Warwick Castle is about a half hour drive from Birmingham and is really easy to get to, with plenty of parking. We visited on a not too busy day; but the walk from the car park to the castle took a good 20 minutes; so be prepared for a good walk.

Days Out: Autumn at Warwick Castle

We showed our Merlin Annual Passes and we were handed a map and started planning our day. Our first stop was the Horrible Histories Maze which we loved. The maze leads you through a trail through history where you can find out more about different times in history – Horrible Histories style. It was very well done and a nice way for the kids to run off a bit of steam exploring the maze.

Days Out: Autumn at Warwick Castle

Throughout the year Warwick Castle have an array of different shows and activities going on. Depending on when you visit, different things will be available. We visited out of season, so we managed to catch the Bowman Show. This was a highly skilled archer doing his thing and the Birds of Prey Show which was absolutely fantastic.

The Birds of Prey Show showcased a number of beautiful and powerful birds including; Vultures, a Condor, Owls and Eagles which swooped over the watching crowds and onto the Castle ramparts. The show is absolutely not something you should go to if you’re scared of birds as they swoop down low over the crowds, sometimes brushing the spectators with their wings. We thought it was incredible and worth the admission price alone.

Days Out: Autumn at Warwick Castle

The castle itself could take a full day to explore if you were keen. The boy loves castles but is considerably less keen on steep spiral staircases and enclosed places. There are warning signs before you enter the ramparts. It’s a one way system and once you’re in it, you just have to stick with it. The first chance of escape is at the bottom of Guy’s Tower, but to get out you first have to climb to the top of the tower and back down again. I believe we climbed about 500 steps before we made our escape. This meant that we didn’t manage to explore the whole of the castle ramparts, as the boy had had enough.

The view from the top of the tower is absolutely breathtaking. You can see for miles and miles around. It’s 39 metres tall and although I’m pretty good with heights, I did feel a bit giddy when I looked over the edge.  We made our way down the stone steps of the tower and explored the other areas of the castle.

Days Out: Autumn at Warwick Castle

There’s plenty to do. We explored the Great Hall and the inside of the castle. There are lots of exhibits inside including armour and it’s all decorated like the castle would have been a few hundred years ago. The boy loved this, and as it was raining outside we didn’t rush around it. We gave the dungeons a miss, we might go if we’re feeling braver next time.

We spent a lot of time exploring the Kingmaker area. No, it’s not dedicated to the 90’s indie band; it’s all about Richard Neville, the Kingmaker and you walk through his preparations for war and experience the sights, sounds and smells of medieval England. It’s very well done, really interesting and gave us a real insight into castle life.

Days Out: Autumn at Warwick Castle

The gardens are pretty spectacular too. It was raining so we didn’t explore much; but the area around the Conservatory Cafe is especially beautiful, with peacocks roaming around the fountain and lots of manicured lawns and lovely flowerbeds.

We were genuinely sad to leave at the end of the day. I think we all agreed that it’s the kind of place we could and should visit again and spend two days exploring properly. There are lots of themed events and special days on for the rest of the year. We have plans to return in the spring so we can see the trebuchet in action and maybe see some jousting. We’ll definitely watch the Birds of Prey show again and again and try our hand at some archery.

Days Out: Autumn at Warwick Castle

If you love castles, Warwick Castle is an absolute must. It’s packed full of history, presented in an interesting and entertaining format and there’s something for everyone. There is a lot of walking and not a great many places to sit down. The walk to the car park and back really adds an extra 40/45 minutes onto your walking time, so do factor that in if you visit.

We loved the history, we loved the castle, the maze, the birds of prey. It’s the kind of place you need a good day to explore. We’ll be back!

Find out more about Warwick Castle by visiting their website.

Days Out: Autumn at Warwick Castle

Disclosure: We are Merlin Annual Pass Ambassadors this year. All images and opinions are our own.

Days Out: National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham

We are huge fans of SEA LIFE Centres. We are regular visitors to our local one in Manchester and we’ve wanted to visit National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham for several years now. In September we had a whole weekend in Birmingham, so we couldn’t resist a paying a visit to the biggest and possibly best of the SEA LIFE Centres.

National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham is often quite busy, the advice is to book ahead, but we arrived as they opened and we didn’t have any problems getting in. We showed our Merlin Annual Passes and we were waved through.

Days Out: National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham

The National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham begins with a visit to the Penguin Ice Adventure. Penguins are always great fun and they did not disappoint. The area had lots of Gentoo Penguins, swimming and woddling about. They’re super-cute and very popular. They’re also the last thing you see when you leave, so you get double the penguin fun.

Days Out: National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham

From the penguins you go up the windy walkway, through all kinds of different zones, passing tanks containing all kinds of creatures. The Tropical Lagoon was very popular and we just managed to coincide with feeding time, which was pretty interesting to watch.

The boy loved the every popular Clownfish Kingdom, which is a must for all Finding Nemo fans. The Octopus Hideout was a bit of a treat, whenever we’ve seen octopus before, they’ve always been tucked away in a corner. The octopus at National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham was really active during our visit and we got to see him walking all over the tank and swimming around.

Days Out: National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham

As well as the octopus, we always love to spend some time admiring the jellyfish and the seahorses. Jellyfish are among my favourite sea creatures and they’ve just unveiled a new jellyfish exhibit. You can see the life-cycle of the jellyfish and see several different kinds of jellyfish. Jellyfish are absolutely beautiful and it’s well worth stopping by and admiring them for a few minutes.

Also new to the National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham is the 4D cinema. There was a small queue for this, but we didn’t have to wait long. We were each handed a pair of 3D glasses and we took our seats for the 4D experience. The film was a cartoon based on the adventures of a group of sea creatures, it was aimed at children and my 7 year old was completely engrossed throughout. He especially enjoyed being sprayed with water and the bubbles which blew at us. You don’t get soaked, it’s actually quite refreshing.

Days Out: National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham

The Ocean Tunnel is always a treat and the one at National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham is exceptionally good. You get an almost 360° view of the tank and the creatures in it. There are lots to look at, turtles, sharks, rays and of course, lots and lots of fish.

The National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham is huge. You need at least a couple of hours to look at it all. I’d love to go back by myself and take my time over everything, my boys tend to want to rush through things which is a bit of a shame. It’s very well done with lots of different zones to visit and enjoy. The Amazon section was especially interesting, I didn’t know fresh water rays existed until our visit!

Days Out: National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham

It’s a great place to visit and worth setting aside some time for if you’re visiting Birmingham!

Find out more about National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham by visiting their website.

Disclosure: We are Merlin Annual Pass Ambassadors this year. All images and opinions are our own.

Days Out: LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Birmingham

Over the summer, with much fanfare, LEGOLAND opened the new LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Birmingham. We had a weekend away in Birmingham in September and a visit to LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Birmingham was very high on our list of things to do.

Days Out: LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Birmingham

LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Birmingham is quite similar to the one in Manchester. We visit the Manchester centre quite often, so it all felt quite similar there. We loved the Birmingham Miniland – which includes models of some of the more iconic buildings and places to visit in and around Birmingham. We’d been to Warwick Castle the previous day, so their model of the castle was an absolute treat!

Days Out: LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Birmingham

The new LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Birmingham has all of the things we’ve come to expect from a Discovery Centre. The Kingdom Quest ride is something we enjoy doing; but there’s often a queue and if you just want to get straight into the LEGO action it’s easy to skip.

The 4D Cinema (which we didn’t go in, because the boy just wanted to play with the LEGO) looked good. The queues were pretty minimal for that and I always think it’s a good excuse to sit down for 15 minutes and enjoy a mini-LEGO movie.

Days Out: LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Birmingham

Also at LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Birmingham there’s the Duplo Farm, LEGO City Builder and LEGO Racers Build and Test. These are all areas where you can just dive in and build whatever you want with the millions of bricks which are there. These are obviously very popular and my son loves (really loves) the chance to sit and build with unlimited bricks for as long as he wants. It is a LEGO fans dream really.

If you’re looking for a more formal building experience, the Creative Workshop was brilliant. They run regular sessions throughout the day. Everyone is given a kit and instructions to build something (on the day we visited it was a LEGO BBQ). It’s well worth setting aside a bit of time to do one of the workshops, for me the workshop was probably my highlight.

Days Out: LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Birmingham

My son is not a fan of rides; so we gave the Merlin’s Apprentice Ride a miss in favour of half an hour of LEGO City Soft Play. The soft play is always popular. It’s well thought out, with lots of fun LEGO details and it’s soft play; so all kids like it and ultimately refuse to leave until you promise to buy them a biscuit/LEGO from the shop/a puppy.

LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Birmingham is well worth visiting if you’re in the area. It’s not massive, but there’s enough to entertain you for a few hours. We loved Miniland, the Creative Workshop, all the LEGO building areas and the soft play.

Tickets are from £15 per person, but deals and discounts are available online. For more information about Legoland Discovery Centre Birmingham and Merlin Annual Passes, visit their website. Our Merlin Annual Pass gives us entry to all Merlin Attractions and it worth getting if you’re a regular visitor.

Disclosure: We are Merlin Annual Pass Ambassadors this year. All images and opinions are our own.

Days Out: 5 Things to do in Keswick

Last month we spent a weekend glamping in Keswick. It was utterly beautiful and we had a very lovely and very busy weekend. The weather was fine and I think we spent our time well, seeing some of the sights and appreciating the beautiful Lake District landscape. If you’re planning a visit to Keswick or the Lake District, here’s our round-up of five things to do in Keswick.

Keswick Launch Boat Trip around Derwentwater

A trip to the Lake District isn’t complete without a boat trip. Be it hiring a rowing boat and doing it yourself, or climbing aboard one of the beautiful steamers, it’s a great way to explore the lakes. We went on a trip around Derwentwater in one of the beautiful Keswick Launch boats. You can hop on and off the boat at various points around the lake, which makes it great for exploring the area.

Days Out: 5 Things to do in Keswick

Derwentwater is excessively beautiful. On the day we took our boat trip, the sun was shining but the sky was full of dramatic clouds. It’s well worth taking some time out for a boat trip.

An adult round trip day pass £10.75; Children (5-15 years) £5.65; Children under 5 go free; special group rates for over 10 persons.

Days Out: 5 Things to do in Keswick

The Derwent Pencil Museum, Keswick

The Derwent Pencil Museum is located in Keswick town centre and is much more interesting than you might think. There’s the World’s Largest Pencil, a large collection of novelty pencil sharpeners; The Queen’s diamond Jubilee pencil and some amazing miniature pencil sculptures.

Days Out: The Derwent Pencil Museum, Keswick

There are also some audio-visual exhibits and the fascinating story of how the Derwent Pencil Factory developed the technology to hide tiny maps and a compass inside a pencil for our agents to use in WW2. Plus a lovely area where you can sit and draw for as long as you want.

The Derwent Pencil Museum has a good shop, a great cafe and it’s a cracking way to spend an afternoon in Keswick. You can read our full review here.

Castlerigg Stone Circle

High above the town sits Castlerigg Stone Circle, which overlooks the Thirlmere Valley with the mountains of High Seat and Helvellyn as a backdrop. The stone circle is thought to have been constructed around 3000 BC, and is potentially one of the earliest stone circles in the country.

Days Out: 5 Things to do in Keswick

It’s worth the short drive up to Castlerigg for the panoramic views alone, but I loved the atmosphere up there. It felt like a very special place, which it is. It’s free to visit, there are a couple of information boards and usually an ice cream van. What more do you need?

Keswick Market

If you’re visiting Keswick on a weekend, it would be almost rude not to visit the market. Keswick Market takes place every Saturday and has everything you could want; from fruit and veg, meat, scotch eggs, pasties, toys, crafts, pet beds, jam and chutney,  and brilliant bakers. We filled our boots (well, our car boot) with lovely things, made a start on our Christmas shopping and just spent a couple of hours browsing, buying and generally enjoying the lovely market.

Days Out: 5 Things to do in Keswick

The Lakes Distillery

The Lakes Distillery is located a short drive out of Keswick. I really wanted to do the tour, but we arrived too late, so we had a meal in their fabulous on-site bistro instead. It’s worth going for the food alone, but the distillery tour looked really interesting.

They have a few different tours as well as tastings, plus a meet the alpacas tour, which my 7 year old would have really enjoyed. We will just have to go back again and do all the cool things we missed out on. We did manage a quick look at the public areas and bought some nice things to take home from the shop.

To find out more about the Lakes Distillery, visit their website.

Days Out: 5 Things to do in Keswick

Have you visited Keswick recently? Have I missed anything? Where would you visit if you were in the area?

Days Out: 5 Things to do in Keswick

Days Out: Bear Grylls Adventure, Birmingham

Last weekend we went to Birmingham for an adventure or two. On our to do list was a visit to the brand new Bear Grylls Adventure centre which is at Birmingham NEC. My husband is no stranger to adventure and extreme sports, so as a special treat I’d booked him in to experience the Base Camp and to go snorkeling with sharks.

We drove from Birmingham and parked a 15 minute walk away in the designated car park. There might be closer parking, but if not, take a coat, the walk around the lake to the centre is very blowy. The Bear Grylls Adventure centre is easy to find and you can see if from quite far away as you approach. We got ourselves booked in; husband had the Base Camp + Snorkeling ticket and the boy and I had spectator tickets, he was too young to take part and someone needed to take care of him.

Days Out: Bear Grylls Adventure, Birmingham

My husband (who henceforth will be referred to as Matt, because that is his name) signed a waiver. He then went through to the lockers and joined his group. People go through the Bear Grylls Adventure in groups, so this would be a really great thing to do with a group of friends or through work maybe.

He was soon ushered off to complete the first Base Camp activity. There are four Base Camp activities which your group works their way through; Survival Maze, Escape Room, Assault Course and Target Archery. Included in the Base Camp package are digital photos, so you get a little book all about your adventure, which is a nice touch. Tickets to do the Base Camp only are £20.

Days Out: Bear Grylls Adventure, Birmingham

There are other “Hero” activities which you can add on. There are High Ropes, Climbing Wall, Snorkeling, iFly (indoor skydiving) and Scuba Diving. We went for the Snorkeling, which including the Base Camp cost £45 per ticket.

Matt went through all the Base Camp activities; this should have taken a little under two hours, but there was a problem with a group ahead of them and they ran out of time so didn’t get the chance to try the archery. The groups were led around Base Camp by a pair of guides. The guides helped everyone through, so if you struggle, there is someone there to help. Matt especially liked the Assault Course, he’s done similar things like that before and he’s a keen runner so it was really up his street.

Days Out: Bear Grylls Adventure, Birmingham

After he’d finished the Base Camp portion of the afternoon he met up with the Snorkeling group. There they were given instructions and a safety talk, he changed into a wet suit and he was plunged into a cage in the shark tank.

From our point of view, the angle and positioning of the cage made it really hard to see him. In fact from the outside you wouldn’t know there was anyone in the cage and he couldn’t see us either. The shark tank contains 14 black tipped reef sharks, stingrays and a whole shoal of colourful fish. It’s very beautiful to look at and is rightly the visual centrepiece of the Bear Grylls Adventure centre.

Days Out: Bear Grylls Adventure, Birmingham

Although he really enjoyed the snorkeling activity, he’s since said that he would have preferred to do the scuba dive. We watched a group scuba dive in the tank and it was much more interactive. But the snorkeling is probably about the right level if you’re a beginner or a bit nervous.

The inside of Bear Grylls Adventure is really well done; the floor looks like a rutted, muddy track and there are expedition trucks, crashed planes and replica crocodiles to admire. There’s also a Bear Grylls figure clinging to a rock which you can go and pose near for photographs.

From a spectators perspective, there’s not a great deal to do to fill the hours. There’s a cafe area and you can hang around in the main area waiting for your friend or in my case, husband to briefly appear before moving onto the next challenge. We did get a bit bored after a while, so if you’re just going to support someone, take a book.

Days Out: Bear Grylls Adventure, Birmingham

The Bear Grylls Adventure centre is very well put together. The activities are well organised and everything feels safe. I think the prices for the activities are very reasonable; it would be a great way to spend an afternoon bonding with friends or work mates.

If like us you have a Merlin Annual pass, then you get 25% off the cost of your adventure. I do recommend that before booking you read the FAQ section on their website and have a good think about what “Hero” activities you would like to do.

Husband left with a big smile on his face. He didn’t quite know what to expect when we arrived; but he’d scrambled through a survival maze, eaten dried insects, escaped the escape room, scrambled over the assault course and snorkeled with sharks. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon in Birmingham!

Find out more about the Bear Grylls Adventure Centre in Birmingham by visiting their website

Disclosure: We are Merlin Annual Pass Ambassadors this year. All images and opinions are our own.

Days Out: The Derwent Pencil Museum, Keswick

When I was a girl my Nan had a caravan in the Lake District, we used to go and stay there a lot. It was a great place to spend time and my Nan and Uncle used to make sure we had lots to entertain us. We went on lots of day trips and really explored the area. One memorable trip was to the Derwent Pencil Museum in Keswick. For some reason it has really stuck with me and when we visited Keswick last week, I had to take my son for a return visit.

The Derwent Pencil Museum is located in Keswick town centre. There’s lots of parking on site and it’s easily accessible by public transport. The Derwent Pencil Museum itself is located in the shadow of the former pencil factory which has now relocated to nearby Workington in Cumbria.

Days Out: The Derwent Pencil Museum, Keswick

When I told the boys I wanted to visit a pencil museum, they both looked at me like I was mad. But by the time we left, they’d both fallen for the quirky charms of this interesting attraction.

When you enter The Derwent Pencil Museum, you are directed through a replica graphite mine which has some model miners working in it. This display shows what conditions underground would be like. There are also samples of the graphite that was mined in the area.

Days Out: The Derwent Pencil Museum, Keswick

The cave space opens up into a light, airy room filled with pencil based exhibits. There’s the World’s Largest Pencil, a large collection of novelty pencil sharpeners; The Queen’s diamond Jubilee pencil and some amazing miniature pencil sculptures. There are also some audio-visual exhibits and the fascinating story of how the Derwent Pencil Factory developed the technology to hide tiny maps and a compass inside a pencil for our agents to use in WW2.

Once we’d had a good look around, we retired to what I will call the Drawing Room, though I’ve no idea what it’s really called. There’s a space at the back of the Pencil Museum where you can sit and draw. I think it’s mostly meant for children, but I sat drawing all kinds of things with my son for a good half hour and we could have probably stayed there longer if we wanted.

There are step-by-step drawing books, good drawing paper and as you would imagine, the best selection of pencils you could wish to put together. We sat companionably drawing jellyfish, dinosaurs, otters, all kinds of wonderful creatures and he loved it. We loved it.

Days Out: The Derwent Pencil Museum, Keswick

There’s a good shop and a cafe we didn’t have time to try out. But it was just as good as I remembered it; when I asked him what he liked afterwards he said the cave, the giant pencil and doing all the drawing. If that’s not a good way to spend a few hours, I don’t know what it.

Admission is £4.95 per adult and £3.95 per child. They also run a number of adult and children’s art sessions throughout the year. For more information about visiting The Derwent Pencil Museum, visit their website.

The Derwent Pencil Museum is at Southey Works, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 5NG.

Days Out: The Derwent Pencil Museum, Keswick

We paid for our visit to The Derwent Pencil Museum in full.

Days Out: Exploring the Lakes Alive Festival

We spent last weekend glamping near Keswick in the Lake District. On our way home to Manchester, we stopped in Kendal so we could spend an afternoon at the Lakes Alive Festival. We were very glad we stopped because it finished off our weekend with a flourish and we were only sad we didn’t get there earlier!

Lakes Alive is a free festival of contemporary arts and making. Three days of unique art in the unique landscape of Kendal.

We went primarily to go and see our favourite storyteller, Ian Douglas. We’ve followed him to three festivals this year and each time he has been a delight to listen to. Ian had pitched his storytelling canopy in Abbot Hall Park, which was filled with stalls, street food trucks and a huge marquee with a lively series of events booked in it.

Days Out: Exploring the Lakes Alive Festival

During the afternoon we watched Cloud, a pair of contemporary dancers drifting through space like weightless clouds which was quite beautiful to watch. People walking by almost always stopped and were captivated by the dreamy dance.

Days Out: Exploring the Lakes Alive Festival

The Fellowship Chorus and the Virtual Reality Choir were in residence, belting out a series of singalong classics you couldn’t help but join in with.

Marching through Abbots Hall Park and beyond were Walking Watling Street – a celebration to remember the 50,000 women who marched from Carlisle to London in 1913 to fight to win the vote for women. There was a great crowd of women dressed as Suffragettes and members of the public were all invited to join the march, and march they did. It was a wonderful sight!

Days Out: Exploring the Lakes Alive Festival

Throughout the Lakes Alive Festival there were a number of weird and wonderful things just popping up. Once of them was Peddlers Pack – four fantastical cycle-powered contraptions. Peddlers Pack was a colourful and a little bit crazy group of people peddling their imaginary wares.

Days Out: Exploring the Lakes Alive Festival

I’m not sure what my son thought of the Peddlers Pack, but he stood back for quite some time taking it all in. If there’s one thing an arts festival does for children, it gives them permission to explore the outer reaches of their own experiences and brings life and colour to their own imaginations.

There were some things I was sad to miss (but better luck next year). It’s amazing that this is a free arts festival; there are so many weird, wonderful and downright creative things happening. I’d not heard about it until a week or so before and I was very glad we stopped by for the afternoon. Lakes Alive is something I’ll be looking out for again next year. Hopefully we’ll be able to spend more time exploring what’s on offer.

For more information about the Lakes Alive Festival, visit their website.

Days Out: Exploring the Lakes Alive Festival

My husband would like me to give a special mention to the man barbecuing sausages on a converted steam train.

Saying goodbye to Brookside Miniature Railway

Over the past six years or so we’ve been making regular visits to Brookside Miniature Railway with our son. Several months ago we read their announcement on Facebook that after 38 years of service they would be closing.

Brookside Miniature Railway was located at Brookside Garden Centre in Poynton and it seems the new owners of the garden centre gave the railway notice to quit. The last day trains ran on the line was Sunday 2nd September 2018. We visited for one last time to ride the rails and say goodbye to this wonderful little railway.

Saying goodbye to Brookside Miniature Railway

Brookside Miniature Railway opened in 1980 and was a great place to visit if we wanted to do something fun, which needed next to no planning and could be done pretty cheaply. You could buy a ten ride ticket for £12 and the whole family could have a few rides for not much money.

The great thing about Brookside Miniature Railway was that the route was pretty interesting. It went through lots of tunnels, over bridges, alongside streams, around a vintage fun fair and through the grounds of the garden centre itself. There was always something new to look at, and each season through up new and interesting things to admire. The Santa Specials were also legendary, though we never managed to book on one – they really were that popular!

Saying goodbye to Brookside Miniature Railway

We did have my son’s fourth birthday party there, which was probably my favourite of all his birthday parties. Everyone had two rides of the train, party games and table heaving with party food. The kids loved it almost as much as the parents.

We were very lucky on the last day that we arrived later on in the afternoon. There were queues to get on the platform and queues to get on the trains. We had two last rides on the last two remaining trains. Ben and I stopped to watch the very last ride and wave them off; then we were given the chance to ride half way around the track on the Union Pacific Locomotive. We climbed aboard for its final journey to the shed for the night, before it finds a home at another miniature railway.

We got off and my son sobbed “I’m going to miss this place” and he’s not wrong. We’re going to miss it too. It’s been a regular part of our family fun times together. I bet thousands and thousands of people have enjoyed spending time on the greatest little railway in Cheshire these last 38 years.

Saying goodbye to Brookside Miniature Railway

Goodbye Brookside Miniature Railway, we’re missing you already! Thanks for all the wonderful memories.

Watch this video of one of the last trains to run at Brookside Miniature Railway –