Near To London…
BEST FOR ADVENTURES: Osterley Park & House, West London
This impressive neo-classical mansion was built in the 1570s. Osterley's interior is one of the most complete examples by star architect Robert Adam still in existence, and is full of delicate decorations, friezes and furniture designed specifically for each setting. Outside there’s a summer of alfresco theatre planned, with shows from Shakespeare to David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny on the calendar. Elsewhere, kids can have fun building a den or watching birds and we recommend visiting the Garden Kiosk to pick up an activity list so your children can choose their own adventure. Whether you have youngsters or not, the 350-acre estate offers several different bike routes, so you can enjoy views of the house via the original vistas. Don’t forget to take a pit-stop in The Stables Café too.
Jersey Road, Isleworth, TW7 4RB
BEST FOR ADULTS: Shaw’s Corner, Hertfordshire
This country house was the home of playwright George Bernard Shaw for 44 years and when he died in November 1950, he left behind a building filled with the relics of a long and fascinating life. From the bust of Shaw sculpted by renowned artist Rodin to his 1926 Nobel Prize for Literature, the collection at Shaw's Corner is full of treasures. If you want to stretch your legs, set off on the circular walk through the Hertfordshire countryside, which starts in the pretty village of Wheathampstead and follows in the footsteps of the playwright before stopping off at Shaw's Corner.
Ayot St Lawrence, Welwyn, Hertfordshire, AL6 9BX
BEST FOR WOODLAND WALKS: Whipsnade Tree Cathedral, Bedfordshire
Whipsnade Tree Cathedral was the vision of Edmund Blyth, who served in the infantry in WWI and suffered the loss of close friends Arthur Bailey and John Bennett. Edmund wanted to create a lasting legacy for his comrades-in-arms and so began the idea of a unique First World War commemoration – a tree cathedral. Situated on the edge of Whipsnade Village green, this natural piece of architecture is composed of different varieties of trees and shrubs laid out to the plan of a cathedral, with a nave, transepts, chancel, cloisters and chapels. It’s a peaceful place and really is one of Bedfordshire's hidden gems.
Whipsnade, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, LU6 ELQ
BEST FOR FRESH AIR: Box Hill, Surrey
Box Hill offers open green space on the North Downs for walks, wildlife and panoramic views of the countryside. This a great place for a family picnic as there is plenty of room to play games or fly a kite – and you can always top up your hamper with some delicious treats from the Box Hill Café. Also in Surrey is Frensham Little Pond. With its café, pond and extensive heathland, it’s a lovely quiet place to explore in the summer. To avoid the weekend rush, come on a warm summer's evening, pick your vantage point, open up your picnic blanket and watch the sun set over the lake.
Zig Zag Road, Tadworth, KT20 7LB
BEST FOR PARKLANDS: Knole, Kent
Knole has been welcoming visitors to see its curiosities for almost six centuries. The largest of all National Trust’s properties, there's a popular myth that Knole is a calendar house: with 365 rooms, 52 staircases, 12 entrances and seven courtyards. The vast expanse of Knole's parkland lends itself to a host of outdoor activities and workshops, especially over the summer holidays. With 1,000 acres to explore, there's something to suit all kinds of visitors and wildlife-watchers, and the venue is popular with dog walkers, cyclists and runners alike. Most impressive of all has to be the deer herd, which rivals that of Richmond Park.
Sevenoaks, Kent, TN15 0RP
BEST FOR VIEWS: Rayleigh Mount, Essex
Once the site of a medieval castle, Rayleigh Mount is now a green oasis for wildlife. The mount is the remains of a Norman motte and bailey castle built on a natural ridge, which still offers amazing views today. Keep an eye out for regular open-air performances at the venue, where visitors are encouraged to bring their own picnics. Every Saturday until the end of September there is a history walk round Rayleigh – starting at Rayleigh Windmill at 3pm, visitors can enjoy a secret look at the history of the town from Saxon times to the present day.
Rayleigh, Essex, SS6 7EW
BEST FOR TEENS: Stowe, Buckinghamshire
Stowe House is a Grade I-listed country house in Stowe – and is the home of prestigious Stowe School. Centuries old, Stowe was built up gradually over a period of nearly 30 years with the skills of world-renowned gardeners, such as Capability Brown, and notable architects. Throughout the decades, lakes were created by hand, mature trees were planted and countless temples and monuments were built. This summer, the team has crafted a new offering just for teens, who can adventure through the gardens on the ‘Secrets of Stowe’ challenge, which incorporates mind games and escape rooms. If you have little ones, parents can grab a free family explorer guide or drop in for a ‘Wild Wednesday’ session.
New Inn Farm, Buckingham, MK18 5EQ
And Further Afield…
BEST FOR ROCK-POOLING: Saltburn, North Yorkshire
With its eight miles of golden sands, rock pools, huge cliffs and a promenade full of cafes, Saltburn is a great choice for spending a day by the seaside. At low tide a series of rock pools are accessible, and intrepid adventurers will be able to find a wealth of wildlife including crabs, periwinkles, starfish and sea anemones. If you fancy a walk, start in the Victorian seaside town of Saltburn-by-the-Sea and make your way across to Warsall Hill. This circular stroll offers plenty of opportunities to view wild flowers, sea birds and clues to the coast’s industrial past.
Old Saltburn, North Yorkshire, TS12 1HF
BEST FOR ANCIENT HISTORY: Avebury, Wiltshire
Recognised as a World Heritage Site for its outstanding Neolithic and Bronze Age landscape, Avebury is a place where visitors can connect with history and take time to imagine what life might have been like thousands of years ago. The stone circles and henge monument are particularly unusual, not just because it is the largest stone circle in the world but also for the fact that it is the only one with a village built within it. At Avebury visitors are free to wander among the stones and bear witness to the enormous task of building the henge bank and ditch by hand. Keep an eye out for the ice cream trike, which sells Marshfield tubs most days in the summer.
Marlborough, Wiltshire, SN8 1RF
BEST FOR FLOWERS: Mottistone Gardens, Isle of Wight
A trip to Mottistone Estate on the Isle of Wight is a great way to get outdoors. There are long trails to walk that will take you from cliffs by the sea to high on the downs, countryside to explore on horseback and even orienteering. Throughout the summer, the gardens at Mottistone come into their own. From the scent of roses in the garden in June, to the eye-catching colours of the various plants and flowers that fill the borders by August, a visit in any month reveals something new. We like the look of the secluded tea gardens, where guests can indulge in something sweet or a light lunch.
Mottistone, Newport, PO30 4ED
BEST FOR FOSSIL-HUNTING: Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire
On the Yorkshire coast, rocks from the Jurassic period are exposed for all to see in a series of spectacular cliffs and bays. Nature lovers can spend hours exploring rock pools on the shore or book in to join a ranger on a rock pool rummage at Robin Hood’s Bay, with several dates over the holidays to choose from. Here, you’ll find all sorts of fascinating creatures that live between the tides. The Old Coastguard Station at Robin Hood’s Bay is open daily with plenty to keep the whole family occupied including a hands-on display about life on the coast, a rock pool tank and regular exhibitions by local artists.
Robin Hood's Bay, Whitby, Yorkshire, YO22 4SJ
BEST FOR BEACHES: Woolacombe, North Devon
Woolacombe offers a spectacular coastline of cliff, coves, beaches, dunes and headlands. Here, visitors can make a sand castle, take a gentle stroll along the beach, or try their hand at surfing, paragliding, riding or more. With the green slope of Woolacombe Down, the beach and the extensive sand dune system at your disposal you can set your own pace for fun. Activity packs can be borrowed by families from nearby village Croyde, in the Baggy Point car park hut between Easter and October. Filled with binoculars and other gadgets, plus lots of easy activities, it's an interactive element that can transform a simple walk into a short adventure.
Woolacombe Rise, Woolacombe, EX34 7AS
BEST FOR SURFING: Stackpole Estate, Pembrokeshire
Wild, rugged and windswept, Stackpole’s coast is the jewel of Pembrokeshire and with award-winning sandy beaches, tranquil wooded valleys, wildlife-rich lily ponds, walking trails and watersports, there’s lots to see and do. Boasting picture-postcard looks, Barafundle Bay is only accessible on foot and has the air of an undiscovered gem. Nearby Broadhaven South is a great family-friendly beach, close to its adjacent car park, while Freshwater West has become synonymous with surfing. Its dramatic and rugged landscape makes it one of the best beaches to visit all year round. It’s a little further from Stackpole but well worth jumping in the car to get to.
Pembroke, Pembrokeshire, SA71 4HH
BEST FOR FAMILY FUN: Cragside, Northumberland
Cragside is a Victorian house that was light-years ahead of its time as it was the first home to use hydroelectricity. From den building in the woodlands to getting lost in the labyrinth, there's plenty of family adventures to be had at this Northumberland spot. Kids will love the adventure play area, which features a zipline, slide, climbing frame and more. It's a perfect picnic spot too, located right by Nelly's Moss lakes, where you can spot otters, dragonflies, duck and geese. Later on, parents can refuel hungry explorers in the tea room and help to source perfect pocket-money souvenirs in the shop.
Morpeth, Northumberland, NE65 7PX
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