Category Archives: Days Out

Days Out: Taking a tour of Ordsall Hall, Salford

Last week I took some time out, met up with some friends and took a tour of Ordsall Hall in Salford. I’d been once before, during the summer to one of their outdoor theatre events. I’d had a very quick look around, but I knew I had to go back and have a proper look. I was not disappointed.

Days Out: Taking a tour of Ordsall Hall, Salford

Ordsall Hall is a Grade 1 listed Tudor manor house which was first recorded in 1177. Since then, it has been home to Medieval and Tudor nobility, butchers, farmers, and Earl, an artist, priests, mill workers, cows and even several ghosts! It has an incredibly rich history and as a result is a fascinating family museum. There are rooms laid out as they would have been many hundreds of years ago, a cafe and some absolutely stunning organic gardens.

When you first enter the grounds, you’re greeted with the sight of the stunning Tudor manor house. There are quatrefoils (the white motif which looks like four circles overlapping) covering much of the exterior and lots of ancient carvings in the woodwork. The detail carries on inside.

Days Out: Taking a tour of Ordsall Hall, Salford

From the reception area, you walk into the impressive Great Hall, which is a glorious space. The walls are covered with original wooden paneling, the windows include a stunning oriel window which dates from around 1600. There are also two huge but relatively modern windows which were installed in 1897 by the then owner, Earl Edgerton of Tatton.

From the Great Hall, you can explore the Star Chamber, a bedroom with an intricately carved four poster bed and a ceiling covered in brass stars. The bed itself was the wedding bed of Sir John Radclyffe.  The room is quite lovely and thanks to the guides, we learned that the marks on the fireplace were where previous inhabitants had sharpened their swords.

Days Out: Taking a tour of Ordsall Hall, Salford

Upstairs we were led into the Solar Room which would have been where the lady of the house slept and spent her day. As the name suggests, the room is really light and bright. There’s another four poster bed and a wardrobe full of period costume, which visitors are encouraged to try on. This room is very hands on and children especially are encouraged to explore.

Upstairs from the Solar Room what is known as the Coat of Arms Room; this is because there is a huge stone coat of arms above the fireplace. The room was originally where the wet nurse would have slept. Again, it’s a lovely light room which they’ve decorated with wallpaper recreated from a scrap they found when they were renovating the hall. Every room is heaving with history.

Along the corridor from the Solar Room is the Italian Plaster Room. This is not open to the public, but it had a glass door so you can look inside. The room is named for it’s ornate Italian plaster ceiling which dates from around 1380. The impressive geometric plaster ceiling is the work of Venetian artists and it’s incredibly beautiful.

From there we made our way to the kitchens which were constructed in around 1600. The kitchens feature recreations of the cooking implements and the food they would have prepared and eaten. This was an especially interesting part of the building because I’m interested in the history of food.

Days Out: Taking a tour of Ordsall Hall, Salford

Climbing the staircase near the kitchens, you make your way to the attic where the servants would have slept. There’s a noticeable change in the temperature and quality of the original construction. There are two large-ish attic spaces, each with a small fireplace in. They most likely slept dormitory style and would have had very little personal space or privacy.

There are a number of permanent and temporary exhibitions on at Ordsall Hall. It’s well worth visiting the The Frederic Shields Gallery upstairs which has a number of interactive exhibits about the hall, its history and the surrounding area.

Outside there are formal gardens which looked neat and tidy in February, but back in the summer they were lush and very beautiful. There’s a small orchard; a WW1 garden and a lovely lush lawn which is where their outdoor theatre shows are performed.

Ordsall Hall have a full progamme of events for all ages, and regularly run guided tours of the house (£3.50 per person). You can explore by yourself, but going on the guided tour gives you so much more information and insight than you would normally. I found out so much more from the tour guides than I ever would have by just mooching around by myself.

I’m a massive fan of small hidden gems like Ordsall Hall. It’s surrounded by modern houses. If you’ve never visited before, the sight of this Tudor manor house in the middle of a fairly normal looking housing estate in Salford takes your breath away.

It’s also incredibly easy to get to on public transport. I got the tram to Exchange Quay and it’s less than five minutes walk from there. The hall and the grounds are free to visit, and it’s a real treasure. They do rely on donations, so I made sure to put some money in the donations box.

I am wowed by Ordsall Hall. I’m going back over half term with my son to take part in some activities and give him the tour. He’s already excited about the prospect of encountering one of the resident ghosts!

For more information about Ordsall Hall, visit their website.

Days Out: Taking a tour of Ordsall Hall, Salford

Disclosure: Ordsall Hall is free to visit. I have not been compensated for this post; I’ve only written about it because it’s an incredible place to visit. I’m a big history lover. If you love history, you need to visit. It’s free.

What’s On at the 2019 JORVIK Viking Festival

Thanks to my love of the TV series, The Last Kingdom, and my son learning all about Vikings at school, we’ve been reading a lot about life as a Viking. One way for us to learn more about Viking life is for us to visit York for the day and take in some of the JORVIK Viking Festival. The JORVIK Viking Festival happens every February, around half term and it’s a full on festival of all things Viking.

I’ve been wanting to go for a few years, but this year we are going for the day and I honestly can’t wait and neither can my 8 year old.

What's On at the 2019 JORVIK Viking Festival

What’s On at the 2019 JORVIK Viking Festival

This year the JORVIK Viking Festival will be taking place on 20 – 27 February 2019. It’s a family friendly festival and the largest event of its kind in Europe. There are historic encampments, talks, tours, combat displays and much more, all during half term week. So what’s on at the JORVIK Viking Festival?

Have-a-go sword (10am – 4pm daily, Spark:York – £5 per child)

The sword was one of the most important weapons for any Viking warrior, and training in its use started young! Skilled teachers will take children (aged 5 – 12) through basic training in fun battle workshops. Pre-booking is recommended.

Poo Day! (10am – 4pm, 20 and 27 February, DIG – included in entry)

Guaranteed to be germ-free, participants in Poo Day discover how important human waste is to understanding diet and health. Visitors will even have the chance to make their own replica poo fossil!

Little Diggers (10am, daily except Saturday, DIG – £5 per child)

Perfect for the youngest budding archaeologists in the family (ages 3 – 7), each day the Little Diggers team will help them explore treasures from the past, from Viking hoards to food and clothing.

Family walking tour (1pm, daily except Saturday, starts from JORVIK Viking Centre – £5 adult, £4 concession, £15 family)

With 4500 years of history to work with, this family friendly tour is packed with fascinating facts about York’s colourful past; led by one of JORVIK’s own Viking guides! Expect to hear about everyone from Roman Emperor Constantine and Eric Bloodaxe; to Robin Hood and King Arthur in this hour-long wander around the streets.

Viking Encampment (10am – 4pm daily, Parliament Street – free)

The Vikings were a people who liked to travel and they have set up a camp in Parliament Street for the week of the JORVIK Viking Festival. Meet traders and crafts people and get the chance to handle replica artifacts and weaponry in this interactive Norse experience at the heart of the city.

Birds of Prey at Barley Hall (10am – 5pm, 22 February, Barley Hall – included in entry)

Birds of prey featured heavily in Norse sagas and Viking mythology; get up close with these stunning creatures at Barley Hall. Meet a variety of ravens, owls and falcons in the medieval Great Hall, and learn about their significance to the Vikings in the accompanying exhibition. Visitors will also enjoy Seers and Shamans: Magic in the Viking Age, a special extension of Barley Hall’s Magic and Mystery exhibition.

What's On at the 2019 JORVIK Viking Festival

Strongest Viking Competition (11am, 23 February, St Sampson’s Square – free)

Pick your champion and cheer them on in these trials of strength and endurance to find JORVIK’s strongest Viking! This annual competition pits warrior against warrior in a series of challenges that will leave muscles aching for days!

March to Coppergate (1.30pm, 23 February, starts from York Minster – free)

Watch a fearsome Viking army of over 200 warriors dressed in their finest combat gear parade through the streets of York. Watch them form a formidable column of combatants, making their way from York Minster to Coppergate, and on to the Eye of York. 

Annual Best Beard Competition (3.00pm, 23 February, St Sampson’s Square – free)

Natural-grown, woolly, cardboard – young and old; male and female beards of every description are welcome to compete in this annual celebration of fabulous facial follicles! There are prizes and trophies for the best entries – voted by the audience – with participants registering on the day.

Battle Spectacular at Folkvangr Fields (6.45pm, 23 February, Eye of York – £15 adult, £11 concession, £44.50 family)

The biggest event during the annual JORVIK Viking Festival is the Battle Spectacular; featuring drama, music, combat and concluding with a stunning firework finale! Wrap up warm and take your place around the Eye of York, in the shadow of Clifford’s Tower. It’s an unforgettable evening where the forgotten sagas of the most extraordinary women in the Viking world are brought to life by a cast of over 100 warriors.

The full programme of events for this years JORVIK Viking Festival is available at  www.jorvikvikingfestival.co.uk

10 family friendly things to do in Cheshire #ExploringCheshire

Living in South Manchester, we are lucky to have the whole of Cheshire virtually on our doorstep. It’s a beautiful, lush green county, with bags of history, acres of natural beauty and more interesting things to do than you could shake a stick at.

When it comes to days out with the family, Cheshire has a diverse range of options and something to suit everyone. I’ve pulled together a list of 10 family friendly days out and things to do in Cheshire which are ideal if you’re visiting for the day, or if you live there and want to explore the county a bit more.

Days Out: Lymm Historic Transport Day

10 family friendly things to do in Cheshire

Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo is a world famous attraction; famed for its commitment to conservation, the zoo has a large and diverse collection of animals. It’s also got a monorail and each December hosts The Lanterns, a wonderful night time walk where the zoo dazzles with wonderful light displays.

Delamere Forest

Delamere Forest is managed by the Forestry Commission, there are recreational trails, a visitors centre and a cafe. There’s a nearby train station too. Plus there’s a Go Ape there for the more adventurous members of your family.

Ness Botanic Gardens, Neston

Owned by the University of Liverpool, Ness Botanic Gardens is home to a fantastic horticultural collection which includes show gardens, a Victorian-style potager and an Alpine house and cafe.

Jodrell Bank Discover Centre, Macclesfield

Jodrell Bank is owned and run by the University of Manchester and it is the home of the Lovell Telescope, the third largest steerable radio telescope in the world. It’s open to the public and has a visitors centre, exhibits and gardens to explore, as well as the chance to have a look at the Lovell Telescope up close.

10 family friendly things to do in Cheshire Jodrell Bank

Blue Planet Aquarium, Ellesmere Port

The Blue Planet Aquarium is a marine and freshwater aquarium located by the Cheshire Oaks retail and leisure complex in Ellesmere Port. It’s a fabulous day out, lots of fun and an interesting under-sea adventure for everyone.

Roman Tours, Chester

Take a fascinating walking tour of the ancient city of Chester with an authentic Roman soldier as your guide. Learn all about Roman history in this informative, educational and interactive experience for all ages.

The Ice Cream Farm, Tattenhall

On warmer days, a trip to The Ice Cream Farm in Tattenhall makes a refreshing change, with over 40 flavours of ice-cream to try out, children’s play areas, farm animals and quad bikes, there’s no better place to chill out in the summer.

Just So Festival, Congleton

Now in its 10th year, the award-winning Just So Festival is the most wonderful family festival; with weird and wonderful things around every corner, lots to stimulate young minds (and not so young minds). Just So is the highlight of our summer, go for the day, or camp in the grounds of the wonderful Rode Hall. It’s the perfect way to unplug yourselves and let go for a weekend.

Lymm Historic Transport Day

Each summer, the ancient Cheshire town of Lymm is host to the Lymm Festival. Alongside the main festival, the Lymm Historic Transport Day is a real highlight for transport enthusiasts across Cheshire. With steam engines, vintage vehicles, diggers, bikes and even batmobiles; Lymm Historic Transport Day is a real treat, the Spitfire fly-over last year was a real highlight!

Days Out: Lymm Historic Transport Day

Dunham Massey

Cheshire is spoilt for National Trust properties, one of my favourites is Dunham Massey. It’s got long flat footpaths which are great for walking, scooting or cycling on; plus a magnificent hall, beautiful gardens and a deer park. It’s got a fairly new visitors centre and cafes galore. Wrap up for a winter walk, or slap on the sun-cream in the summer. Year round, it’s a great place to visit!

Laurus Homes have created a useful infographic which explores new Cheshire developments, the great things about living in Cheshire and the history of the Cheshire property industry. If you want to take a look, you can click here and download it for yourself.

There’s so much to do in Cheshire; we have friends and family over the border, so we visit often and it’s definitely on our list of places to move to when we retire.  If you’re going on a family friendly day out in Cheshire, where are you planning? I’d love to hear your suggestions, pop them in the comments box below!

10 family friendly things to do in Cheshire #ExploringCheshire

This is a collaborative post.

20 family friendly walks around Manchester

At this time of year, there’s something really nice about wrapping the family up and going for a winter walk. Being stuck in the house all day is a recipe for boredom and I know if I don’t get my lot out at least once over the weekend, chaos will ensue. Finding family friendly walks isn’t always easy, but where is good to go and easy to get to from Manchester?

Having a dog means we are out a few times a day in the park or down by the river anyway, but packing a flask and some treats, clambering in the car and setting off to explore somewhere a little bit further afield can be a fun but budget day out. If you’ve got buggies to contend with too, finding good paths to push a pram along can make all the difference on a country walk.

20 family friendly walks around Manchester

With the help of some other Manchester based bloggers, I’ve gathered a list of good family walks in and around Manchester, each with a little write up or review, so you know just what to expect when you’re planning your walk. Some of them are in and around National Trust properties, so if you’ve got a membership card, it’s worth checking and taking it with you.

20 family friendly walks around Manchester

Abney Hall – a lovely little walk, pond dipping optional. Cafe and free parking.

Alderley Edge – magical walks, huge views across Cheshire and beyond and a little bit of folklore and magic too!

Boggart Hole Clough – is a large woodland and urban country park in Blackley, Manchester

Clayton Vale –  is a natural wildlife habitat and a Local Nature Reserve.

Clifton Country Park – is a local nature reserve in the Irwell Valley at Clifton. Home to a fairytale trail!

Delamere Forest – managed by the Forestry Commission, there are recreational trails, a visitors centre and a cafe. There’s a nearby train station too.

Dovestones Reservoir – is on the very edge of the Peak District National Park and it a gorgeous place to walk with the family.

Dunham Massey – deer park, house and gardens. Lovely flat paths and lots to explore (National Trust).

Etherow Country Park – boating late, flat paths, cafe and good family walks to be had.

Fletcher Moss Park, Didsbury – woodland walks, a botanical garden, a nature reserve, a great cafe and walks by the river. What more do you need?

Jumbles Country Park – reservoir, wooded walking paths, a cafe and year-round fishing.

Lyme Park – (National Trust) deer park, hall, mill and a brilliant playground, miles of walks and a cafe!

Lyme Park 20 family friendly walks around Manchester

Macclesfield Forest – lovely woodland walks with views to match!

Rode Hall – snowdrop walks, bluebell walks and a regular farmers market, plus the best cafe ever!

Sandstone Trail, Cheshire – one of the most popular long distance walks in the North West.

Speke Hall – (National Trust) a Tudor manor house with a maze, woodland walk and gardens to explore.

Tandle Hill Country Park – is a large country park with woodland areas, sweepings views and a countryside centre.

Teggs Nose Country Park – explore the meadow, moor and woodland areas around the 380m high hill, ideal for walking and cycling.

Werneth Low Country Park – panoramic views are offered from this grassy hilltop, which also features a country park.

Yarrow Valley Country Park – 700 acre parkland with a lake, waterfall, adventure playground, cafe and a visitors centre.

I’ve made a map with every single walk I’ve mentioned above in it, so you can find everything easily. Just click on the map and away you go!

Don’t forget your flask and waterproofs, this is Manchester after all. Where are you going on your next walking adventure?

20 family friendly walks around Manchester

Days Out: Visiting The World of Beatrix Potter

Late last year we visited the Lake District for a short break. It’s an incredibly beautiful place to visit and a few days in the lakes really is good for the soul. While we were there we visited a few attractions, went on a steam train and spent an afternoon at The World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness-on-Windermere.

The World of Beatrix Potter is tucked away just off one of the main roads through Bowness. There’s no parking on site, but plenty of parking around Bowness. The attraction is often very busy, so if you’re able to go early in the day, that might be better. There is a queuing system and people are admitted in batches.

The World of Beatrix Potter

In groups you’re ushered through to a room where you’re shown a 5 minute film introducing you to Beatrix Potter and her stories and illustrations. The doors from the film room open to the main exhibition where the sights and sounds of Beatrix Potter’s much loved characters are brought to life.

The main exhibition takes you on a journey through scenes from her books, some of the scenes are slightly interactive with the smells and sounds you’d expect if they were real. The scenes are really well done and the character are exactly as they were drawn.

The World of Beatrix Potter

The main exhibition includes; Jemima Puddle-duck’s woodland glade; Mr Tod’s underground home; The Tale of Pigling Bland; Mrs Tittlemouse; Squirrel Nutkin; The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit; Mrs Tiggy-Winkle’s Kitchen; The Tale of Two bad Mice; Miss Moppet; Johnny Town-Mouse and Samuel Whiskers; The Pie and the Patty-Pan; Tom Kitten; The Flopsy Bunnies; The Tailor of Gloucester; Benjamin Bunny; The Tale of Ginger and Pickles; The Tale of Peter Rabbit; Mr McGregor’s Greenhouse and Mr. Jeremy Fisher on his lily-pad boat.

About half way around the main exhibition, there’s the chance to step outside and explore The Peter Rabbit Garden. For me this was a real highlight, despite the fact it was out of season and not especially lush. I think in the spring and summer the garden would look fantastic.

The Peter Rabbit Garden is a small show garden filled with all kinds of things from Beatrix Potter’s world; from the lettuces that Benjamin Bunny, Lily Bob-Tail and Peter Rabbit would eat; to the gooseberry bush where Peter got caught in a net as he tried to escape Mr. McGregor. There’s a beautiful bronze sculpture in the centre which shows the three children releasing the figure of Jemima Puddle-duck. It’s a tiny space which is absolutely crammed with little hidden gems and beautiful plants. It’s a treat for any garden enthusiast.

The World of Beatrix Potter

The World of Beatrix Potter also includes a Virtual Walk which enables you to explore the Lake District without leaving the spot. There’s also a Beatrix Potter timeline and more information about her life. There’s a really good shop for gifts and a tearoom which we didn’t get the chance to visit.

When we visited it was really, really busy and felt busier because there wasn’t much space inside the exhibition. There were an awful lot of pushchairs in the narrow space and you felt a little pushed along by the flow. I’m not sure the exhibition which opening in 1991 was designed to accommodate pushchairs and prams in any numbers, which is a shame. There is a buggy park in the foyer, but sometimes it’s not practical to park up and go without your pushchair.

Despite the crush, we really loved The World of Beatrix Potter. I’ve been reading her books since I was a child and reading them with my son has been a real joy. It’s somewhere everyone should visit at least once on their lives.

If you’re visiting the Lake District, The World of Beatrix Potter is an iconic place to visit. For more information about opening times, admission prices and what’s on, visit the website.

We paid for our visit in full.

The World of Beatrix Potter

The Ultimate Review Round up of Merlin Attractions in the UK

If you’ve got a Merlin Annual Pass, you might have some favourite places to visit with it. A lot of passholders tend to visit the same two or three attractions, but it’s good to branch out a bit if you get the chance. This year we have been Merlin Annual Pass Ambassadors and we’ve made a conscious effort to get out and about a bit more, using our passes on holidays and weekends away to get the most out of them.

The Ultimate Review Round up of Merlin Attractions in the UK

There are (I think) 32 UK attractions you can gain entry to with a Merlin Annual Pass. Whilst we’ve not managed to visit them all, we’ve had a lot of fun trying. Below is a list of all the (current) Merlin Attractions in the UK along with links to a write up of a visit there, either by myself or another blogger. It’s a cracking to do list if you’ve got a Merlin Annual Pass. How many have you visited?

The Ultimate Review Round up of Merlin Attractions in the UK

Alton Towers Resort
Bear Grylls Adventure – the newest and most adventurous attraction!
Blackpool Tower – Our review back in 2016.
Blackpool Tower Circus – We loved this, definitely worth seeing if you’re visiting.
Blackpool Tower Dungeon
Chessington World of Adventures Resort
Edinburgh Dungeon
JURASSIC Skyline – We visited on a cloudy day, but loved it all the same.
LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Birmingham – The newest LEGOLAND is a treat!
LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Manchester – Our own favourite LEGOLAND!
LEGOLAND Windsor 
London Dungeon
London Eye
Madame Tussauds Blackpool – See all your favourite famous faces!
Madame Tussauds London
National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham – Worth a visit to the National Centre.
SEA LIFE Blackpool – Plus Behind the Scenes Tour!
SEA LIFE Bray
SEA LIFE Brighton
SEA LIFE Great Yarmouth
SEA LIFE Loch Lomond
SEA LIFE London
SEA LIFE Manchester – Lots to see and do under the sea!
SEA LIFE Sanctuary Hunstanton
SEA LIFE Scarborough
Seal Sanctuary Gweek – This is a real treat for Seal fans!
Shrek’s Adventure!
Thorpe Park Resort
Warwick Castle – Seriously good fun for castle enthusiasts!
Warwick Castle Dungeon
Weymouth SEA LIFE Adventure Park – A very different SEA LIFE experience.
York Dungeon

What’s your favourite Merlin Attraction?

The Ultimate Review Round up of Merlin Attractions in the UK

Days Out: The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway

Getting out of the city and out into the countryside for the weekend is an all too 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.