Free Family Days Out
Published on: 23/12/23
As the New Year dawns, elements can conspire to scupper family days out: the “seasonal” weather, return to work and school, a post-Christmas lack of funds and get-up-and-go. Mustering the energy to get off the sofa and thinking where can you go that won’t break the bank?
Have no fear; at Let’s Go Out we understand the seasonal pressures, but we also know that getting out in the fresh air as a family, on a bright winter day, can lift the spirits (and stop bickering) like no other. So, we’ve come up with a sack full of free family destinations guaranteed to put a 2024-enthusing skip in everyone’s step.
Bradgate Park & Swithland Wood, Newton Linford, LeicestershireLearn more
Just seven miles from the centre of Leicester, and 10 minutes’ drive from the M1, Bradgate Park is an inspiring gateway to outdoor exploration for the whole family. First enclosed as a deer park around 800 years ago, it now provides 830 acres of publicly accessible countryside. Offering some of the finest landscape and views in the region, hike up to dramatic rocky hilltops outcrops and discover gnarled old oak trees, many of which are well over 500 years old. If tackling the hills feels a step too far, the lower park is easily accessible, with a tarmac carriage-way suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs.
Find out about the area’s fascinating history, industry and characters in the free entry visitor centre, or relax in the tearoom. Parking also gives you access to neighbouring Swithland Wood, historic site of timber and slate quarrying industries, gifted to the public in 1931. With miles of way-marked tracks, trails and paths, it’s an invigorating winter destination for families, walkers, dogs, horse riders and cyclists.
Richmond Park, LondonLearn more
London’s largest Site of Special Scientific Interest and a National Nature Reserve, there’s nowhere better to discover 2,500 acres of countryside just a stone’s throw from central London. Even in the winter, its ancient woods, rolling hills and wide-open grasslands are bursting with life, and easier to spot. Try your hand at landscape photography among dramatic bare-branched trees, hunt for colourful fungi at the bottom of tree trunks and in the leaf litter, spot magnificent herds of red and fallow deer, and practice your native nature identification, from chirping birds to chattering squirrels.
Follow the Tamsin Trail: a scenic route of just over 7 miles around the perimeter of the park. If you’re into history, there’s plenty of it here, including ancient trees that Charles I would have ridden past in 1625! Discover the Isabella Plantation woodland gardens, and race up King Henry’s Mound to admire distant views to St Paul’s Cathedral. Warm up and refuel at Pembroke Lodge tea rooms, set in a historic Georgian mansion, with picturesque gardens with sweeping views over the Thames Valley.
Calderglen Country Park & Zoo, East Kilbride, ScotlandLearn more
Packed with family attractions, naturally stunning Calderglen Country Park extends over 5km along a scenic wooded glen beloved by nature lovers and weekend ramblers alike. Starting from the information point at the top of the main drive, there are over eight miles of nature trails through the woods and along the banks of the River Calder, taking in its many attractive waterfalls and important geological features. The tropical conservatory and ornamental garden’s displays of plants from around the world will delight any gardener.
Visit the friendly Courtyard Café for a wide range of tempting hot and cold snacks and daily specials, or if you’ve picked a sunny day, try out the large picnic and barbecue site. There’s a dedicated play area for younger children, whilst older ones can enjoy hours of fun in the more demanding adventure play area. If that’s not enough monkeying about, swing over to the onsite zoo (which you will have to buy tickets for, but we couldn’t resist!), for owls, coatis, marmosets, wallabies, meerkats and more!
Margam Country Park, Port Talbort, WalesLearn more
Set in 1000 acres of glorious parkland, lakes, and medieval vistas, Margam Country Park offers natural beauty, history, wildlife and a wide range of fun activities and facilities to make it one of the best family days out in Wales. Thanks to miles of great trails and acres of meadows and woodland just ripe for exploring, enjoy a variety of activities including walking, orienteering, cycling, climbing, coarse fishing and mountain biking. A peaceful haven for wildlife; keep your eyes open for foxes, badgers, hares, grey squirrels, voles and shrews. A wide range of waterfowl inhabit the lakes, whilst the patient observer may see kingfishers besides the streams.
The park is also home to the famous historic fallow deer herd, dating back to Norman times, and now joined by majestic and endangered Pere David deer. Not all natural wonders; the park’s towering semi-ruined 19th century gothic Tudor mansion will definitely take your breath away, with spectacular features including the vast staircase hall and octagonal tower. Then restore your faculties in the welcome café!