A walk around Lindow Common, Wilmslow

We quite often visit Wilmslow in Cheshire and go out for a meal or look around the shops, but one of my most favourite things to do when I’m in Wilmslow is to take a walk around Lindow Common.

Lindow Common is on the outer fringes of Wilmslow, off Racecourse Road, and it’s a site of special scientific interest. It’s also home to Black Lake, which is probably the main attraction for me. Come rain or shine, if we are in the area, we will take a turn around the lake, sometimes if it’s cold, wet and miserable, it’s a very speedy walk. Sometimes, like over the weekend when the sun was shining, it was very much worth a lingering visit.

Lindow Common

This pocket-sized nature reserve is popular with dog walkers and nature lovers alike. Hundreds of years ago it was the village common, where locals would graze their animals, but the trees have rather taken over these days. The common is classed as lowland heath, so there’s a management programme in place where they’re selectively removing some of the birch trees to allow the native heathers to grow.

If you’re driving, there’s a small free car park opposite Hickory’s where you can park if you need to. It’s about a ten minute walk from the town centre, so it feels pretty accessible to me.

Lindow Common

There are information displays throughout Lindow Common, highlighting some of the rare or interesting plants, amphibians, birds and insects you might encounter on your visit. There are any number of things to spy on your walk around this man-made lake, but keep your eyes peeled for water voles, dragonflies, damselflies and a number of aquatic species. Beyond the water, the habitats provide cover for early migrating bird species including the chiffchaff, willow warbler and blackcap.

We don’t always walk through the heath areas, but over the weekend we took a short path through the wooded pathways. We walked through the heather filled heath and back to the familiar territory of Black Lake. The footpaths around the lake are generally well maintained and easy to walk on, and probably fine for wheelchairs and buggies, though parts can get a bit churned up after a prolonged period of wet weather.


In all the years we’ve been visiting Lindow Common, I’m pretty sure the weather this weekend was about the most perfect it’s been. There was not a cloud in the sky and the water shimmered and sparkled in the light. We spotted a number of birds including a rather handsome heron, some baby coots, moorhens, regular ducks and we heard that someone spotted a grebe on the other side of the lake. There was clearly a lot going on.

For those who like to linger, there are plenty of benches around the common where you can stop and enjoy the surroundings and possibly fuss a passing dog. It’s quite a small nature reserve, so there are no refreshment stalls or cafes within the reserve. If you want a drink or snack, you’ll need to bring your own, or pop across to a local café or restaurant. There are bins available, but you’re encouraged to take your litter back home with you if you can.

Lindow Common

Black Lake has a sturdy wire fence around it, presumably to protect the wildlife from excitable dogs wanting a swim, so it would be a disappointing visit if I took my water loving spaniel. The lack of swimming opportunities for dogs does mean that the lake is very peaceful and a real haven for birds and wildlife.

Growing up in South Manchester in the 1980s, we heard all about the discovery of The Lindow Man, in 1984. Pete Marsh, as he was known as was discovered in a peat marsh close to Lindow Common. It is thought he could date back to the Iron Age or though to Roman Britain. Pete Marsh is now being cared for by the British Museum, though I did see him once many years ago when he was exhibited at The Manchester Museum. He may yet return north in the future, and if he does it’s worth visiting this fascinating chap, wherever he ends up.

Lindow Common

Visiting info:

Lindow Common SSSI, Racecourse Road, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5NQ

A walk around Lindow Common, Wilmslow

At least 44 fabulous things to do in Stockport

Growing up in South Manchester, I spent a lot of time in Stockport. I suppose it was easier for my family to drive and park there to go shopping and such like. I’ve always felt at home there. It’s a small town, with a compact shopping centre and the more I visit and explore in my adulthood, the more I love it.

In more recent years, I’ve been excited by the food and drink scene, spending time up near the famous Victorian market, enjoying the hospitality of many of the bars and restaurants in the area. I could cheerfully list a whole heap of places where I’ve wined and dined well in recent years, but with half term approaching, I thought I’d put together a list of fine things to do in Stockport. As ever, if I’ve missed something important, please do comment below and I’ll add it in.

Things to do in Stockport

If you’re new to Stockport and fancy a bit of family fun on a dry day, one thing we did a couple of years ago was download a Treasure Trail map, which is a really excellent way of getting to know somewhere. We did it with a couple of other families, and despite visiting Stockport regularly for over 40 years, I discovered so much I’ve never seen before. So that’s well worth looking at.

Additionally, Stockport has its own heritage trail, which if you’re a fan of historical buildings and such like, it’s also worth looking at. Keep an eye out for the plaques on the buildings around Stockport, and I believe you can pick up a trail map at the Stockport Visitors Centre.

Things to do in Stockport

Here is my big list of things to do in Stockport. Some indoor fun and outdoor things to explore, some in the town centre and some a little further out. There’s lots to see, do and explore in Stockport!

Things to do in Stockport

Things to do in Stockport

Museums & Galleries

Bramall Hall and Gardens
Chadkirk Chapel Museum
Old Rectory House
Old Town Dungeon & Court House
Robinsons Brewery Visitors Centre
Staircase House Museum
Stockport Air Raid Shelters
Stockport Art Gallery
The Stockport Museum
Stockport Town Hall
Strawberry Studios
The Avro Heritage Museum
The Hat Museum – currently closed, but reopening in March 2024!
The Underbanks & Underbank Hall
Visit Crowther Street, which LS Lowry once painted

Days Out: Visiting Stockport Air Raid Shelters

The Great Outdoors

Abney Hall Country Park
Alexandra Park
Brabyns Park
Cale Green Park
Dragon Miniature Railway
Etherow Country Park
Marple Locks
Reddish Vale Country Park
Reddish Vale Farm
Stockport Viaduct – the UK’s largest brick build structure
The Garden House (farm)
The Roman Lakes, Marple
Vernon Park
Woodbank Memorial Park

Winter in Abney Hall. PLUS Save Abney Cafe!

Indoor fun

Awesome Walls Climbing Centre
Brooklyn Pottery
Jump Heaven trampoline centre
Kids Go Karting
Merseyway Shopping Centre
Ropes Race Climbing Centre
Savoy Cinema, Heaton Moor
Stockport Garrick Theatre
Stockport Victorian Market Hall
The Light Cinema
The Produce Hall
The Stockport Plaza – theatre and period style cafe
Tramp2Lean trampoline centre
X-GENVR – virtual reality experience

Things to do in Stockport

Other fun things…

Stockport Foodie Friday – once a month head up to the Victorian Market to enjoy an evening of good food, good music and good fun!

Days Out: Luminate Cheshire at Walton Hall Gardens

Every year, we meet up with family and spend an evening, wrapped up against the cold, enjoying one of the Christmas light trails in the North West. This year, because we’d heard good things, we visited Luminate Cheshire at Walton Hall Gardens near Warrington.

We arrived on the first very cold evening of the winter, there was a sprinkling of snow on the ground and we were all well bundled up against the cold. Entry is timed, and the trail takes around 90 minutes to walk around. Although the car park is small, there was a brisk turnaround and we managed to find a couple of spaces and parking is free.

Luminate Cheshire at Walton Hall Gardens

The Walton Hall Gardens Christmas light trail – Luminate Cheshire is approximately 1.4km long. The trail isn’t entirely flat, it is pretty even and was suitable for buggy pushers and people who aren’t always so great on their feet, like me. There are stewards around every corner, so if you get stuck, you’re never far from help if you need it. It feels very accessible and there is matting down at potentially muddy points. It’s always best to wrap up warm for these things and wear sensible boots of shoes.

You begin the trail at the riding stables, which was a lovely start. There were some refreshment stalls and a couple of little Christmassy shops to look around. Since it was very cold, we decided to fortify ourselves with some mulled wine to drink on our walk, which was the very best idea.

Luminate Cheshire at Walton Hall Gardens

Luminate Cheshire at Walton Hall Gardens

This beautiful illuminated trail has new and exciting displays around every corner. I’ve been to a fair few Christmas light trails over the years. I thought I’d seen everything, but Luminate managed to have so many surprising and lovely elements, we loved it. From the enchanted fairy garden, with little cages with a dancing Tinkerbell inside. To the drum pavilion where you and your family can drum away and watch a giant rabbit on a big screen mirror your musical rhythms.

We stopped approximately half way for a toasted marshmallow break. We all huddled around the fire pits, toasting giant marshmallows and gobbling them down greedily. Beyond the fire pits was a “Make a Wish” wall, where you were invited to write your wish on a tag and hang it up. I hope at least some of those wishes come true!

Luminate Cheshire at Walton Hall Gardens

My lad really liked the searchlights which you can control with a joystick. I had a go too and enjoyed making the light dance in the sky. There were several Instagramable light tunnels to walk through, and there was a glitterball forest which we all loved. The talking tree which told terrible jokes and the field of rainbow lights. The Hall was the backdrop to a breath-taking Christmas projection and it just felt like there were so many wow moments and amazing displays to enjoy.

Luminate Cheshire at Walton Hall Gardens

Our group ranged from some giddy 4 year olds, to some equally giddy retirees. Every one of us was dazzled by the displays and impressed with how innovative and interesting some of them were. We really loved it and although there’s no Father Christmas, there is an awful lot to impress and astonish. We were lucky with the weather, though whilst cold, it was clear and bright, with my son pointing out constellations in the night sky!

Luminate Cheshire at Walton Hall Gardens

There is limited availability, and early booking is advised. Admission tickets cost: Adult £19.50, Child £14.50 (age 3-16). Family £62 (2 adults and 2 children). Parking is free. You can book via the Luminate Cheshire website.

Luminate Cheshire at Walton Gardens will run nightly from Thursday 24th November 2022 until Friday 24th December 2022. Tickets must be pre-booked online in advance.

Walton Hall Luminate

If you enjoyed this, you might like to read our round up of Christmas Light Trails in the North West.

Note: We paid for our tickets in full.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey 2022

We were invited guests of Christmas at Dunham Massey. All images and opinions are our own.

Spending an evening enjoying a Christmas light trail is something of a tradition now in our family. There’s something lovely about wrapping up warm and going for a walk in the dark, marvelling at the lights together. We went to the first Christmas at Dunham Massey event six years ago, and it’s been one of our favourite trails ever since. We decided it was time to make a return, so this week, we did indeed bundle ourselves up, and headed to Dunham Massey near Altrincham to take in the sights and the lovely festive lights.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey 2022

First off, if you’re planning to go, make sure you’ve pre-booked parking, as it saves a lot of faff and bother if you do. Admission is timed, but they’re not super-strict about you being there on the dot, which was great news because we got caught in the rush hour traffic. The trail begins gently from the car park, with two enormous illuminated stags marking the entrance to the social area, with traditional fairground rides and food (try the Greek gyros, they’re lovely). Once your tickets are scanned, you’re free to explore the trail.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey 2022

On the night we went, it was raining quite heavily, so despite wearing good stout boots, I was a bit worried the trail might have been slippery in parts. I needn’t have worried, as rubber matting had already been put down in the worst areas and as long as you’re wearing walking boots or wellies, you should be ok.

The start of the trail takes you through a full on sensory experience. There’s a pavilion of lights dangling down, with ambient music playing as you walk through. It’s the kind of thing I could have enjoyed for hours, and my son loved weaving in and out of the lights. Beyond the pavilion, the house itself was illuminated and “DUNHAM MASSEY” is picked out in lights. It was an awesome sight.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey 2022

The trail takes you in and around the garden. I won’t spoil the whole trail by describing it all in minute detail, but there are some serious highlights. We thought the first Christmas at Dunham Massey light trail was impressive, but they’ve really, really turned the volume up on the awesomeness.

There were many breath-taking sights, including the Gladioli Tunnel where arches of multicoloured flowers bathe visitors in a myriad of different lights. There’s the incredible Laser Garden and Light a Wish – a garden which sees the heads of fluffy dandelions floating in the night sky. There’s the stunning Fire Garden, the Singing Tree and the Christmas Cathedral, which is as Instagram friendly as it gets. When you exit the gardens to the front of the house, Father Christmas is there to greet you. He’s a fine old Santa, really traditional looking and he’s happy to chat to the little ones too.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey 2022

Just when you think it’s all over, and it’s time to head home, you walk through the courtyard, turn to go back to the car park and the lake is lit up with giant colour changing waterlilies which shimmer on the water. Just beyond, there’s a dancing fountain, beautifully timed to the Frozen hit, Let it Go. We watched it for several minutes, it was a grand finale to a very grand festive light trail.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey 2022

Christmas at Dunham Massey is full of seasonal surprises and shimmering reflections that cast light on beautiful silhouettes of majestic trees, all choreographed to a soundtrack of festive favourites. It’s a real sensory treat, and despite the rain, we all felt completely festive after about ten minutes. This was helped by the mulled wine stall, which warmed us up a treat. The food and drink available on site are great. While we drank hot mulled wine, the boy toasted a fancy marshmallow, which was a highlight for him.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey 2022

We have been to quite a few Christmas light trails over the years, each different and marvellous in its own way, but this years’ Christmas at Dunham Massey is spectacular, even in the rain. The lights and music have been beautifully curated and around each corner is a new visual treat. There’s a new something to be wowed by at each turn, and all in all, it’s a superb way to kick off the festivities this year!

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey 2022

Five facts you didn’t know about this year’s trail:

  • This is the sixth Christmas at Dunham Massey trail
  • There are 1,200 laser beams in the multi-coloured Laser Garden
  • It takes the crew 19 days to put up installations and prepare the trail
  • The site is run on a combination of hydrogenated vegetable oil and grid power
  • The Instagram-friendly Christmas Cathedral is almost 30 metres long

Dunham Massey 2022

Christmas at Dunham Massey – The after-dark illuminated trail through festive gardens is on from 18 November 2022 – 2 January 2023. Tickets are still available. Book your preferred date and time at christmasatdunhammassey.seetickets.com.

Limited availability, therefore early booking is advised. Advanced Admission Tickets From: Adult £22.50, Child £14.50 (Age 3-16). Family £50-£72 (1 or 2 adults + 2 children). Parking £8 or free for NT Members. Must be booked in advance.

18 Christmas light trails in and around the North West

Going to see the Christmas lights each December is now something of a family tradition. Bundling ourselves up against the cold; marvelling at the lights and treating ourselves to hot mulled wine and roasted chestnuts from a food stall is something we’ve really enjoyed in previous years; and we are looking forward to a Christmas light trails again this year.

I’ve heard on the grapevine that tickets are selling fast to many of the more popular trails. I’ve gathered together a list of some of the Christmas light displays in and around Manchester, Cheshire and the North West this Christmas. Some might be a little drive away, such as Alton Towers, or Sheffield, but I’ve included them anyway.

Christmas Light trails in and around the North West

Christmas Light trails in and around the North West (and a bit beyond)

Alton Towers – Enjoy a whole host of fantastical family rides and attractions, show-stopping live entertainment and enchanting Christmas Market. You can even extend the festivities with a truly magical Santa Sleepover! Plus, marvel at the award-winning illuminated trail, Lightopia, returning for 2022 – a seasonal spectacle not to be missed!

BeWILDerwood, Cheshire – Explore brand new areas of BeWILDerwood as you follow The Sparkly Light Trail through the woods. Discover silly snowmen, curious Christmas crackers, a giant Christmas pudding and lots, lots more as you venture through the festivities.

Bolesworth, Cheshire – Bolesworth’s grounds near Chester will again be transformed into a festive wonderland, festooned in seasonal sparkle and yuletide cheer for a month of unforgettable winter magic. Their enchanted Christmas Lights Trail returns for 2022 featuring an all-new route, a spectacular light show incorporating Bolesworth Castle itself and a unique water display on their beautiful lake.

Christmas Light trails in and around the North West

Chester Zoo, The Lanterns – This event has been running for several years now, and it is such a magical evening out visiting the zoo after dark and meeting magical creatures on you travels. Read our review here.

Delamere Forest, Cheshire – Christmas at Delamere Forest is an after-dark illuminated trail with over a million lights and seasonal sounds bringing bundles of festive cheer to the forest. Enjoy a magical time together with your family and friends as you discover glittering tunnels of light and trees drenched in jewel-like colour. Pause at mesmerising flames in the fire garden for a moment of reflection. Wander beneath larger-than-life illuminations and don’t forget to glimpse Father Christmas along the way.

Dunham Massey, Cheshire – This is another family favourite; the gardens are lit up in splendid style at this must-see Christmas event. Read our review here.

Enchanted Winter Walk at Quarry Bank Mill, Cheshire – Experience their first ever Enchanted Winter Walk. Wrap up warm and enjoy the magic of Quarry Bank at twilight.

Harry Potter Forbidden Forest Experience – This light trail is available year round, but what a festive treat for a Harry Potter fan! A night-time woodland trail experience filled with magical creatures and wizarding wonders from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films. Explore after dark the sounds, lights, and special effects that bring the magic of the Wizarding World to life. Guests will also be able to enjoy a wide range of delicious food and drinks at the village!

Knowsley Safari Park – Enjoy the safari park after dark at their fabulous Christmas time event, your path will be lit with magical lights guiding you through their enchanted trail. Get into the Christmas spirit with a range of festive food; magical music, amazing illuminated animals and some extra special treats!

Christmas Light trails in and around the North West

Lightopia, Heaton Park – This is another popular and award winning Christmas light trail in North Manchester’s Heaton Park. Embark on a magical journey through the fantasy themed light trail through the parklands. Showcasing bright immersive installations, colourful lasers, and water shows, this is a festive wonderland for all ages.

Magical Woodland, Blakemere, Cheshire – A truly magical start to the Christmas celebrations for all the family. An enchanting event which is open during the evenings in December. This takes place in 15 acres of woodland and incorporates cutting edge lighting and sound to bring a touch of wonder and magic to this stunning location.

Matlock Bath Illuminations, Derbyshire – The 2022 Matlock Bath Illuminations will run every Saturday and Sunday during the 2022 season, which now starts on Saturday 17 September. There will be fireworks finales every Saturday in October.

RHS Bridgewater, Salford – Glow returns to RHS Garden Bridgewater with a new trail full of festive colour and sparkle. New for 2022, weave your way through yew domes festooned with fairy lights. Explore a magical family discovery trail inspired by local folklore and take a selfie with giant, colour-changing stars. Read our review of last year here.

Days Out: Glow at RHS Bridgewater, Salford

Sheffield Cathedral – Sheffield Cathedral will once again be transformed by its Christmas lights spectacular, celebrating the wonder and joy of the festive season. This year’s light show brings us to heart of the Christmas story, to ‘The Manger’ and the tiny baby nestling in the hay who would change the world.

Stockeld Park, North Yorkshire – Experience one of the country’s largest and most creative Christmas light trails set in the grounds of the historic Stockeld Park Estate.

Trentham Gardens, Staffordshire – Returning for 2022, the Christmas at Trentham illuminated trail is designed to sprinkle a little Christmas magic, accentuate the flora and fauna and see the stunning historic landscape in a world of light and colour.

Christmas Light trails in and around the North West

Walton Hall Gardens, Warrington – A spectacular, illuminated trail, full of wonder and intrigue, to delight and enthral your senses. As darkness descends, enjoy an enchanting journey, as they weave a captivating light trail through the grounds of Walton Gardens. Immerse yourself in our mesmerising trail, with breath-taking lighting elements and fabulous light play, all set to ambient music. Read our review here.

Winter Illuminations at Yorkshire Wildlife Park – Their annual Winter Illuminations feature over 2,400 metres of illuminated trails filled with giant awe inspiring hand-crafted lanterns.  Explore the illuminated lands of Fairytale Kingdom, Animal Adventures, Under the Sea and much more. This magical night-time adventure sees our walk-through Wildlife Park come alive with an enchanting spectacle of light. This year promises an experience bigger, better and more electrifying than ever before!

If you’re planning on visiting one of the Christmas light trails in the North West, then I suggest you book early. These events just get more popular every year, and with good reason! They really are a wonderful way to get into the festive spirit.

18 Christmas light trails in and around the North West

A family stay at The Park Royal Hotel, Cheshire

AD/Complimentary stay. The Park Royal Hotel in Cheshire is a 4 star hotel and spa. It’s set in 2.5 acres of grounds at the edge of Stretton village, a short drive away from a whole host of family attractions. Over the Easter holidays we took the chance to have a night away as a family, to chill out and have a bit of fun together.

We had just returned from a self catering break; but as the person responsible for most of the catering, packing and organising, by the time we got back I needed a little break to get over the first one. The answer was a night at The Park Royal Hotel. Hotel stays are almost always a massive treat; having someone else cook dinner, do the washing up, make the beds and lay on a really good breakfast in the morning is just blissful.

A family stay at The Park Royal Hotel, Cheshire

We arrived mid-afternoon and as we checked, in the boy was given a treasure trail sheet to do while we were there. There are clues hidden throughout the hotel, find them all and you get a prize. It’s a small but brilliant thing and my son loved exploring.

We spotted two of the clues on our way to our family room –  a lovely comfortable room with everything we needed and really comfortable beds. The room had free WiFi, tea and coffee making facilities, cable TV and 24-hour room service.

A family stay at The Park Royal Hotel, Cheshire

We had a quick coffee in the room, but didn’t stay long as the pool has family swim times and we were all very keen to dive in. The Park Royal Hotel has a modern health club and spa with a high-tech gym. There is a 22-metre indoor swimming pool, with a sauna, steam room and hot tub. They also have a number of spa and beauty treatments available to book. 

My son was desperate to get in the pool and show off his swimming skills. There are family swim times every day, which is great if you’re staying with kids; or if you’re not and you want to avoid children you know when not to go for a swim.

A family stay at The Park Royal Hotel, Cheshire

The pool is great. It’s big and there’s plenty of room for everyone. My husband and I both wanted to spend some quality time using the sauna and steam room, so we took it in turns to swim with the boy. We both loved the herbal steam room which was incredibly relaxing. We all had a brilliant couple of hours by the pool, so brilliant that we decided to go back in again the next day before we checked out.

After our swim we went back to our room to get ready for dinner. The Park Royal Hotel has a formal restaurant and a casual bar and grill; we had plans to go for dinner and then meet friends who live nearby for drinks afterwards.

A family stay at The Park Royal Hotel, Cheshire

We had a delicious meal, I was really pleased that the restaurant had a children’s menu which had a good range of meals to choose from. The boy picked his favourite – fish and chips, which was a really good sized portion which he said was dee-licious. You could tell by his almost empty plate that it was good!

We  both had starters; I had curried vegetable soup which really hit the spot and my husband chose the ham hock terrine, both were beautifully presented and delicious. For our main courses, I chose the veggie butternut squash tart with a side of triple cooked chips; he had the braised beef which fell apart as soon as you touched it.

After a seriously good meal, we retired to the bar to meet our friends. The bar was pretty busy as there was football on, but as soon as the game finished the bar emptied pretty quickly. In an act of impeccable timing we managed to finish the kids treasure trail; so we went to reception and he was given his prize – a really good activity pack and some chocolate. This kept him happy and occupied while we chatted with friends, but he’d had a long and busy day, so I took him back to our room to go to sleep.

A family stay at The Park Royal Hotel, Cheshire

When we got back to our room there was a plate of milk and cookies waiting for him. What a treat! It was so lovely to have a little something for him to nibble on once he’d got his PJs on. We got tucked up in bed and we all had a really long and restful sleep.

Morning came all too soon, but we were ready for breakfast. Despite my husbands determination to just have a light breakfast of fruit and yoghurt, the boy’s breakfast of sausages, eggs and bacon tempted him over to the dark side. I love a good hotel breakfast, there’s something for everyone, whatever they’re in the mood for. From the full English, to continental style pasties, fruit and yoghurt or cheese and salami. Breakfast was a real highlight for me.

A family stay at The Park Royal Hotel, Cheshire

Sadly our time at The Park Royal Hotel was coming to an end. We did have just enough time to pack our bags and grab a quick hour in the pool before we had to check out.

We’d had a fantastic stay. We all left feeling really chilled out. I felt so pampered because I’d had 24 hours of someone else doing the work. We’d all benefited from a good nights sleep and it was a really family friendly place to stay. The staff were all friendly and helpful and they were really engaging and chatty with the boy.

The Park Royal Hotel is a great base to explore Cheshire. It is just 11 miles from Tatton Park and about 15 miles from Chester Zoo. It’s near the Blue Planet Aquarium, Cheshire Oaks, Applejacks Farm and many, many more family attractions. It’s a great choice for families; close enough to all the fun things to do, but not in a noisy city centre where it’s hard to park.

We loved the little touches; like the milk and cookies at bedtime and the treasure trail. His most favourite things were his big breakfast and swimming in the pool. They might also have been my favourite things too. We were sad to leave, but really happy we’d taken some time out as a family to just hang out and have fun together. I wonder where we will end up next?

The Park Royal Hotel is a 4 star hotel and spa in Stretton near Warrington. It’s a great choice for families and you can find out more about the hotel by visiting their website.

Disclosure: We were given dinner, bed and breakfast in exchange for this blog post. All images and opinions are our own.

10 family friendly things to do in Cheshire

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!

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

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 –

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: Lymm Historic Transport Day

Over the weekend we went to the Lymm Historic Transport Day. The Lymm Historic Transport Day has been an annual fixture in the Cheshire town for a number of years and attracts thousands of people.

Days Out: Lymm Historic Transport Day

We arrived in Lymm just before noon, we had missed the drive-in parade of vehicles, which was a shame. We parked in one of the park and ride fields and a vintage bus picked us up and dropped us off near the main event field. As we walked up the lane to the field we were tempted into the LEGO Expo in Scout HQ. It was a large room full of wonderful LEGO creations which had taken months to build. The boy was in his element, it was excellent.

Weighed down with several bags of LEGO, we headed to the Lymm Historic Transport Day main event field. There was so much to see and do, you could happily have spent the day exploring everything there was to offer. Row upon row of classic vehicles of all kinds; cockpits, cars from movies (Ghostbusters, Jurassic World, Lightening McQueen from Cars and the Batmobile were all there). There was a vintage ambulance and fire engine, modern-day fire bikes and all kinds of bicycles and mopeds.

Days Out: Lymm Historic Transport Day

There was live entertainment in the form of 40s and 50s music; plus an Extreme Mountain Bike Show, the Return of the Lymm Dinosaur, model car racing and the chance to explore all of those classic cars and other vehicles.

Once we’d done a tour of all the vehicles, we grabbed a bite to eat from one of the food stalls and sat in the shade for a while. The Lymm Historic Transport Day had organised a Spitfire fly-past, so it was eyes to the sky waiting for this iconic plane to fly over. We were not disappointed, it flew over twice and we were all in complete awe.

Days Out: Lymm Historic Transport Day

It was a gloriously sunny day, so we put on more sun-cream and headed off to have a go on the little narrow gauge steam railway. We do love steam trains, so this was well worth queuing up for.

The boys then joined the queue to have a go at driving a digger whilst I had a look around some of the stalls. I got back to the boys just in time to watch the small boy take his turn at driving the digger and trying to find the rubber duck. He did really well and this was probably the highlight of his day.

Days Out: Lymm Historic Transport Day

We celebrated his digger driving success by having some ice cream in the shade (it was a very sunny day). I wanted to go and see the canal boats and some of the other vehicles scattered about the village, so we left the main event field to explore Lymm. We were glad we did, it’s such a pretty village and we found a yard of full of large steam-powered traction engines which were very interesting.

The small boy loved the canal boats and declared that he wanted to go on a canal boat trip, so I’d better add that to our list of things to do. There was the Historic Sail Past at 4.30pm; a flotilla of canal boats and barges bringing the Lymm Historic Transport Day to a close.

We were starting to flag; the sunshine was getting the better of us, so we bought a bag of chips from the chip shop in Lymm village, sat on a shady bench and watched the world go by for a few minutes before catching the Park and Ride bus back to our car.

Days Out: Lymm Historic Transport Day

The Lymm Historic Transport Day was a brilliant day out. Tickets Are £5 per adult, £3 per child or £12 for a family of four. It was terrific value, there was definitely a full days worth of things to see and do. It’s so well organised, I couldn’t fault a single thing about the day. Lots to see and do for all of the family, we will definitely be back next year!

Lymm Historic Transport Day is separate to, but happens at the same time as the Lymm Festival. This year, highlights of the Lymm Festival include Tim Brooke-Taylor, John Suchet, the Family Garden Party, Open Gardens event, Martin Edwards (crime writer) and much more. You can find more details on the Lymm Festival website.

For more information about Lymm Historic Transport Day, visit their website.