15 fab meet-ups within 2 hours of home
We’ve worn out the local beauty spots and it feels like Groundhog Day. Time to venture beyond the 'hood with these top day trips.
Cliveden National Trust, Taplow
There’s a mahoosive 376 acres to explore – and there’s always something to see here whatever the season. Stroll through the formal gardens, stomp through the woodland and, if you’re super-keen, hike down to the river (above). Just brace yourself for the uphill climb. During the Easter holidays, the annual egg hunt will be back and we highly recommend getting on the water and booking a boat trip (open from 12 Apr). Advance booking is essential.
You have to hand it to Legoland for continuing to come up with ways to sell the Lego dream to under-10s in ever-inventive new ways. This year’s newest attraction is Mythica – a brand new world in a parallel universe. There’s three new rides where LEGO creatures come to life – think dragons, unicorns and a flying lion… It doesn’t open until 29 May, so in the meantime, you’ll have to make do with Ninjago World, DUPLO Dino Coaster, Haunted House Monster Pasty, Lego Miniland (which took three years to complete) and all the other favourites. Opens 12 April.
Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury
Ah, the National Trust, where children under-5 go free and frazzled parents weep quietly in gratitude. Buckinghamshire’s jewel in the crown, the stunning Rothschild Waddesdon Manor, is welcoming visitors into the garden and grounds. From Easter weekend, it will officially open for the year. For the little people there’s an amazing outdoor playpark, open 10am to 5pm (entry is included with tickets).
Sea kayaking along the Dorset coast, Studland
Grab a kayak and weave in and out of sea stacks, into caves and under arches along the Dorset coast, including Old Harry Rocks near Swanage. A bucket-list outdoor meetup if ever we saw one. Fore Adventures organise sea kayaking, kayak foraging (for edible seaweeds, shrimps and crabs) and kayak fishing from their base on the Studland shore.
Highclere Castle, near Newbury
The biggest star of Downton Abbey? No, Carson it’s not you or the Earl of Grantham’s Labradors (they come a close second though) – Highclere Castletakes the crown. Still local in Hampshire but close to the Berks border, the house remains closed, but you can mooch around the Capability Brown gardens before settling down on your picnic blanket for a champagne afternoon tea on 12 and 19 April. You’ll have to wait until summer to enjoy the full Highclere experience. From £84 for two.
Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Petersfield
Meet at Queen Elizabeth Country Park near Petersfield for fresh air, family trails, woodland play equipment and brilliant cycle and walking routes. If you fancy a challenge, the 271m Butser Hill is the highest point in the beautiful South Downs National Park. Hungry? Pick up a coffee and homemade cake to-go from the Beechwood Kitchen café. Delish.
Stonor Park, Henley
Exhausted and happy kids, you say? I spy an easy bedtime coming right up. There’s a new adventure playground at Stonor Park and not only is it as magical as Hogwarts but it comes with very necessary coffee for the spectators (in the form of the cafe at the visitor’s centre). Wholesome fun for the kids and lunch sorted – it’s a win-win. Tumblestone Hollow is on the edge of Stonor’s woodland and is inspired by the stone circle found in the estate grounds. The wooden playground, designed for 4 to 12-year-olds, has high level walkways, climbing nets, look-out decks and bridges, all connected to a gnarled central tower.
Pure boating, Wallingford
If travelling under your own steam sounds like too much distraction from the important business of catching up with friends, you could hire an electric boat. Wallingford’s Pure Boating is taking bookings from 3 April with boats for up to 11 people. Drive them down to Benson Lock or on towards Moulsford. What better way to arrive at the Beetle and Wedge, two hours downstream, than on the water (though you’ll have to wait until they reopen their pods and terrace from 12 April if you’re hoping for riverside dining and a drink). Boats cost from £55 for an hour.
Champers and Classics day out, Purley
Could there be a better combination? Iconic car, luxury picnic with champagne in the boot and the beautiful Surrey Hills to explore. We think not! RNG Classics and Lord Roberts on the Green have joined forces to launch Champers and Classics, cool self-drive days out. Collect your choice of classic car – a quintessentially British Mini Cooper, Rolls Royce or iconic Jaguar E-Type, or perhaps a Ferrari 308 – from Lord Roberts in Purley. Then, after a 20-minute car familiarisation session, head off on the open road into Surrey. It’s brilliant for a special occasion… or just because we need a treat after months of lockdown! A day in a classic car starts at £99.
Llama trekking, Merry Harriers, Hambledon near Godalming
Fancy a day out trekking with llamas? The Merry Harriers pub in Hambledon, near Godalming, has a herd of 12 lovely llamas and they offer trekking days out into the pretty Surrey Hills. There are a routes to suit all levels of fitness, with most treks averaging around three miles. They’ll cater to almost any occasion – options include The English Picnic, Winter Morning and Summer Evening Treks with the llamas carrying the picnic hampers and guiding you along the stunning local trails of The Greensand Way. The pub also has luxury shepherds huts, so you could make a weekend of it. Treks start at £55.20 for an adult and £27.60 for a child (8-15 years) for trek only.
SUP in the city of Bath
Try every kind of paddle boarding – sit down, stand up, on a giant paddle board, with your dog (not compulsory) – from Sat 17 Apr with outdoor experts Original Wild. Enjoy the beautiful World Heritage City of Bath from a new perspective as you head along the river Avon. Don’t fancy taking to the water? Do your sightseeing on foot and take a friend on a self-guided tour of some of Bath’s magnificent must-see buildings and landmarks, culminating in a picnic in the gorgeous, 57-acre Royal Victoria Park.
The South Downs
Glorious views, wide open spaces, the coast just below you and what feels like the world at your feet. The South Downs are the perfect place for a picnic, to blow the cobwebs away, or just to escape the stresses of everyday life. Bring a flask and a picnic and head up from any one of the innumerate footpaths or bridleways. If you’re going by car, Devil’s Dyke or Ditchling Beacon in Brighton, Cissbury Ring in Worthing, Chanctonbury Ring near Steyning and Whiteways at the top of Bury Hill near Arundel all have parking.
The hub that is Brighton beach is a big lure. Walk, cycle, skate, scoot or run for miles along the famous front or head to Undercliff Walk (closed between the marina and Saltdean due to erosion). Expect the bustle of stalls, activities, vendors, foodie haunts, cool bars and entertainment to reopen as we remerge from lockdown. From 26 April, you’ll also be able to check out the city’s first permanent food hall on the seafront.
Uncover the story of Stonehenge in the extraordinary atmosphere of this World Heritage Site. It’s the best known prehistoric monument in Europe, no less! A fabulous day out for all. For something really special, book a VIP treat and go inside the stones with Stone Circle Experience: an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime gig.
Bowood House, Calne
Discovery waits around every corner at the gorgeous Bowood estate, with 100 acres of beautifully landscaped ‘Capability’ Brown Parkland, including a breathtaking waterfall (above). Especially for Mudlets, there’s an adrenaline-fuelled Adventure Playground featuring a life size pirate ship plus a soft play area for the younger children. The Treehouse Cafe will be open for takeaway food and drinks, with no shortage of spots for an Easter picnic.