Category Archives: Days Out

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 –

Days Out: Dartington Crystal Visitor Centre and Tour

On our recent holiday to North Devon, we spent a rainy morning at the Dartington Crystal Visitor Centre and we also did the factory tour. My son had been learning about how glass was made at school, so seeing it happen before his very eyes was high on his list of things he wanted to do on holiday.

We set the satnav for the Dartington Crystal factory in Torrington and arrived early in the day. Glass production starts very early in the morning, so early that the glass blowers break for their lunch mid morning, which closes down the factory tour. Nevertheless there’s plenty to do at Dartington Crystal besides the factory tour.

Days Out: Dartington Crystal Visitor Centre and Tour

We arrived to find a large car park with plenty of parking. We walked around the building to the visitor centre and paid for our tickets. You can buy them online before your visit and save a few pounds if you want. I paid £9 per adult ticket (£7 in advance) and children under 16 go free.

We were warned the factory workers would be breaking for lunch in half an hour, so we began the factory tour. You can linger as long as you want in the factory, it’s very informative with the whole process from the glass making process to blowing and finishing the glass all explained in simple terms.

Days Out: Dartington Crystal Visitor Centre and Tour

It’s very warm in the factory and all the glass workers wear shorts and t-shirts. Each has his own job to do; a small part of the process and it’s really interesting (and almost relaxing) to watch. They take a molten lump of glass out of the furnace and slowly transform it into something beautiful.

The tour took us around half an hour, mostly because the boy was getting too hot and wanted to get outside. I could have stayed for longer watching these skilled craftsmen at work.

The factory tour ends with you back in the visitors centre. There we decided we wanted to try our hands at some glass painting, which cost us just £6. We also spent some time reading about the history of the Dartington Crystal factory and watching a film. There are lots of things of interest if you want to know more about glass making.

Days Out: Dartington Crystal Visitor Centre and Tour

Once we’d enjoyed all that the visitor centre had to offer, there is a large outlet where you can find some lovely glassware to take home. There are a few other outlet stores to explore too. I did end up spending an absolute fortune on really gorgeous things. I have no regrets.

Days Out: Dartington Crystal Visitor Centre and Tour

If you are planning on visiting, you can save a few pounds by booking your tickets in advance online. You can also book in for creative sessions; like glass hand casting for kids (which was fully booked when we visited which was a shame). You can also try your hand at glass blowing or jewellery making. There are lots to see and do if you plan ahead and book the things you’d like to try, otherwise you might be disappointed.

I really liked that children go free. I feel my son learned quite a few things about glass making and blowing that he didn’t know before. It’s always good to see how things actually work rather than just reading about it and imagining the process. He really enjoyed the glass painting, we both did. There were a few other activities for creative kids too. I’d say it’s well worth a visit if you’re in the area. This was my second visit and I’d happily go back again.

For more information about visiting Dartington Crystal Visitor Centre visit their website.

We paid for our visit in full.

Days Out: Launceston Castle, North Cornwall

We are frequent visitors to Cornwall and we’ve visited Launceston many times over the years, but we’ve never visited Launceston Castle. The boy has been learning about castles at school, so whilst we were in the area we decided to pay a visit to the castle and learn a bit more about life there.

Days Out: Launceston Castle, North Cornwall

Launceston Castle is in the north Cornish town of Launceston. You can’t miss it, it’s right on the top of a hill and really dominates the surrounding landscape. It is believed there has been a castle on the site for around 1000 years. Launceston Castle was built after the Norman conquest but was redeveloped by Richard, Earl of Cornwall in the 13th century and was originally his administrative headquarters.

Launceston Castle is a motte and bailey style castle. The castle has a fairly unusual design. It has unusual keep consisting of a 13th century round tower which is set within an earlier circular shell-keep. The top of the tower is reached by an internal stone staircase and once you are up there you’ll find breathtaking views of the town and the countryside beyond.

Days Out: Launceston Castle, North Cornwall

Although Launceston Castle doesn’t have any on-site parking, you can park in nearby car parks. You access the castle through the 13th century southern gatehouse which leads you up to the bailey where the ruins of the great hall, kitchen and hall can be seen.

Days Out: Launceston Castle, North Cornwall

Making Marvellous Memories at Just So Festival 2018

At the start of the summer, my Facebook timeline was full of memes about how we only get 18 summers with our children and how we need to make the most of them. This is summer number 8 for us, and the annual highlight of our “making the most of our time together” is always the Just So Festival. It’s three days away together, entirely unplugged; learning, exploring, enjoying and just loving everything the festival has to offer.

The Just So Festival 2018 has had a tiny shake up. All the old favourites were there, but just enough things had changed to keep it fresh for the families like us who come year after year.

Making Marvellous Memories at Just So Festival 2018

Back in July we went to the Timber Festival, run by the people behind Just So, but aimed at a slightly older crowd with more of an ecological bent. There were some really fabulous things at Timber which thankfully made their way to Just So too. Things like The Lost Words, The Moth Hotel, Hammer and Chisel and the Coppice Maze.

A couple of the areas had been jigged about, the (fabulous) Flamingo Lounge was up near the Village Green and seemed more popular than ever. Hurrah for the Pirate King was a surprising but wonderful opera-ballet-pirate mash up with added unicorn. Modern Warrior was a great opportunity for everyone to get involved in a spot of martial arts style dance and The Silent Disco was a particular highlight (do not miss this if it’s on next year).

Making Marvellous Memories at Just So Festival 2018

Down by the lake, there was a re-named area called Roll up! Roll up! which had more of a circus theme. There were circus skills workshops running throughout, trapeze artists, a custard catwalk, the amazing Band at the End of the World and the incredible Bullzini Family running high-wire workshops and putting on a spectacular performance.

Making Marvellous Memories at Just So Festival 2018

I really enjoyed the Idlewood area this year, the Woodland Library had moved in and there were lots of colourful hammocks lashed to the trees where you could recline and relax with a good book. There were also theatre performances, Tai Chi and a chance to meet the Fairy Queen.

Making Marvellous Memories at Just So Festival 2018

The highlight for me, was as always the Spellbound Forest. Tucked away in the woods, perched on a log around the campfire, listening to ancient stories told by Ian Douglas, watching Mr Foppletwig and Professor Pumpernickel variously perform amazing magic tricks and scientific experiments and campfire songs with Ian Mackintosh. It’s so comfortable around that campfire, it often feels like hard work to tear yourself away and explore what else is going on.

Making Marvellous Memories at Just So Festival 2018

And there is so much going on. There are three packed Just So days and it’s almost impossible to get round to everything you want to see and do. I always end up having Just So regrets about things I have missed. Things people tell you about after they’ve happened. You make a mental note of it for next year and hope for the best.

Just So is such a remarkably safe space for families. It’s safe in a way that you can send a pair of 8 year olds off into the woods to do a Barefoot Walk for 10 minutes and know that they will come back filthy, with damp socks and full of the spirit of independence. It’s safe in the way that you know that everything they see and do will enrich them in some way. It is safe, because it just is.

Making Marvellous Memories at Just So Festival 2018

We sang, we danced, we ate, we laughed, I might have had a little cry of loveliness too. We had late nights, early mornings. We were filthy, we were covered in sand, custard and feathers, but we were happy and we were free. Just So is three wonderful, magical days a year which we remember incredibly fondly and look forward to above and beyond anything else.

See you round the campfire next year?

To grab your tickets for next year’s Just So Festival, visit www.justsofestival.org.uk.

Days Out: The Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, Cornwall

We’re currently holidaying in Cornwall, and keen to make the most of our Merlin Annual Passes, this week we had a drive down to Gweek to visit the Cornish Seal Sanctuary which this year is celebrating 60 years of seal rescue, rehabilitation and release.

The Cornish Seal Sanctuary is part of the SEA LIFE group of attractions and set in the picturesque Helford Estuary, by the village of Gweek, in Cornwall. It’s probably the most southerly Merlin attraction in the UK; but well worth remembering to pack your passes for if you have them.

Days Out: The Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, Cornwall

One of the most exciting reasons to visit the Cornish Seal Sanctuary was that I’d spotted on their website that it was dog friendly. It’s harder than you’d think to find attractions which are genuinely dog friendly, so were delighted to get through the door and see so many happy dogs on days out with their families.

The sanctuary is located on the fairly steep side of the Helford Estuary. There is a safari bus to take people from the top to the bottom of the steep hill, but it isn’t by their own admission the most accessible of attractions; though they’ve tried their best and help is always at hand if you need it. Me, being unsteady on my feet took the safari bus option with my son, whilst my husband walked the dog down to the bottom. He beat us there and back both times, but the bus is brilliant for little legs, or unsteady adult ones.

Days Out: The Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, Cornwall

The Cornish Seal Sanctuary is the first port of call for local seals who have been injured or who are ill. Each year around 50 seals are taken in by the sanctuary and given the care they need to get better. Most go on to be released back into the sea, but some have life changing injuries or conditions which can be best managed at the sanctuary.

At the sanctuary you can find common seals, grey seals, penguins, otters, sea lions as well as ponies, sheep and goats. There is also a rockpool area to explore and a wildlife walk through the woods. There’s a lot of learning to be had, from conservation work, to things we can do at home to help the plant. We found this very interesting and a great talking point.

Days Out: The Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, Cornwall

The self-led tour begins at the seal rescue hospital. We skipped the hospital as there were no seals in there, which is a good thing and carried to the bottom of the hill where there are a number of different pools; the common seals were in a new-ish looking pool next to the nursery pool which held the youngest pups in the sanctuary.

There were various talks and experiences throughout the day. The feeding sessions seemed to be the most popular; watching the resident seals in the convalescent pool get fed their fishy lunch whilst we were given a talk about the seals and what had happened to bring them to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary was especially interesting. The feeding of the penguins was also great fun.

The woodland walk was a really great addition. There’s a 500 metre walk to Otter Creek, but along the way there are lots of signs with facts and activities on. It’s also great for dogs (on leads) to stretch their legs in the cool shade of the woods.

Days Out: The Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, Cornwall

There are both permanent and temporary residents in the seal sanctuary, so the number of animals to visit can vary. However it is really well done, there is always a programme of events and a permanent selection of seals, penguins, sea lions and otters to see and learn about. The wildlife walk was great, very informative and a great place for kids to run off a bit of steam.

We were also really impressed with the cafes on site. They were not wildly expensive and we enjoyed a good lunch, though you can take a picnic if you’d prefer.

We had a really enjoyable and informative visit to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary. It’s a genuinely dog friendly family attraction in Cornwall which we all really enjoyed visiting.

Find out more about The Cornish Sea Sanctuary by visiting their website.

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