Discover fantastic places for family fun in Gloucestershire

By Sue Kelso Ryan

Gloucestershire is one the most varied and interesting counties in the UK. From visiting historic houses to exploring ancient castles, and discovering the county’s Roman past, you will never be short of things to do there. If you’re travelling with kids, there are a number of adventure activities and animal sanctuaries that will give them a healthy dose of fresh air and wholesome fun. Here are some of our top tips for fantastic days out.

Botanical collections

Take a bracing walk with the family, among the national collection of trees at the Westonbirt Arboretum. This Forestry Commission site is accessible and dogs are allowed, too. Most beautiful in spring and with gorgeous autumn colours, there are family events, trails, such as the Gruffalo Wood, Shaun the Sheep and Lu-La’s Glow Trail, and a tree-top walkway; in fact, something to see throughout the year. Make sure you look for similar events in the Forest of Dean, too.

Historic docks

There are always vessels to be seen in Gloucester’s historic docks, from narrow boats and barges to sailing vessels. You might be lucky enough to spot visiting tall ships, often for filming of movies or dramas. Meanwhile, why not pay the National Waterways Museum a visit? The Gloucester Museums Pass gives access to this and also the Soldiers of Gloucester Museum (telling the story of the regiment), the Gloucester Life Museum and the Museum of Gloucester.

Gloucester docks

Wander around a remarkably complete example of a Victorian port

The Forest of Dean

Down in the Forest of Dean, something stirs. It could either be a Gruffalo at the Dean Heritage Centre in Soudley or the almost silent wingbeat of a raptor at The International Centre for Birds of Prey in Newent. Hawks, owls, kites and falcons will fly to land on your fist and you can learn about conservation and breeding of these wonderful creatures.

Also in the Forest of Dean is Taurus Crafts, a vibrant visitor centre where you can see arts and crafts, discover your own creativity, meet artisan makers, shop for distinctive gifts, attend special events or simply relax and unwind in the cafe, all while supporting Camphill Village Trust, a charity supporting people with learning and other disabilities to lead a life of opportunity.

Tree-top adventures and animal magic

Keep those energetic youngsters busy on the high ropes tree-top adventure and Segways at Go Ape in the Forest of Dean, or exploring the mystical ancient iron workings at Puzzlewood, setting for Star Wars, Dr Who, and Lord of the Rings.

Animal lovers of all ages will learn about conservation at the Cotswold Farm Park, where they can interact with and feed the animals and also at Slimbridge Wildlife and Wetland Trust, which is particularly impressive during winter bird migrations but fascinating all year round.

Magnificent castle

Sudeley Castle is privately owned and open to visitors from March to December. Visitors come for its 1,000 years of history and associations with Tudor royalty – Henry VIII’s sixth and surviving wife, Katherine Parr, is buried here. The gardens are beautifully tended and it’s fascinating to get a glimpse of what it is like to live in a castle, among antiques, art and artefacts of great historical importance. Special events include the winter Spectacle of Light, Secret Sudeley Spies, the Knight’s School and Easter and autumn trails. There’s also an award-winning children’s adventure play area with wooden castle to defend from intruders. Sudeley is one of the venues visited by Giffords Circus and outdoor cinema and theatre also features.

Historic houses

Among the county’s precious National Trust gems are the historic houses and gardens at Hidcote Manor and Snowshill. They make for fascinating days out; Hidcote where plant collector Lawrence Johnston created beautifully-landscaped gardens and ‘outdoor rooms’, and Snowshill for the eclectic collection of treasures assembled by its former owner, Charles Wade.

See Puzzlewood from up in the trees

Read more

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Image credits: ©Barbara Evripidou; International Centre for Birds of Prey;;; Stuart Key/Cotswold Farm Park; Video: Puzzlewood/YouTube

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