You’re not going to run out of exciting things to do and places to go in Dorset, but when...
Wiltshire is an excellent choice of location for a family holiday. Although very rural in nature and giving you that fantastic ‘getting away from it all’ feeling, you’re never too far away from loads of family-friendly activities on offer, come rain or shine.Salisbury and Swindon in particular have more than enough to recommend them for children and adults alike but don’t overlook other corners of the county where you’ll find some amazing places to visit and activities to try out.Read on for a selection of things to do to boost your trip to this charming county.
Get up close and personal with wildlife from the safety of your car as you make your way through one of the country’s premier safari parks. Watch out for the cheeky macaques which can be bypassed if you fear for your car. The main square is packed with things to do whether you want simply to admire the animals, jump on the train or get lost in one of the mazes. And if you’ve still got some energy after all that, there’s the stunning Elizabethan house and gardens (designed by Capability Brown) to explore. Check website for opening times. An awesome day out.
Prepared to be amazed by the incredible objects on display in this fabulous house, including Queen Victoria’s wedding chair and Napoleon’s death mask no less! The gardens are a delight, full of colour and with sensational views and walks. Kids will especially love the excitement offered by the massive adventure playground and there’s also Tractor Ted’s Little Farm where they can have a close encounter with the animals or ride on a digger. Eat there or take a picnic to complete your day. Open from 28 March to 4 November.
What could be more adorable than a host of baby animals and there’s a whole gang of them to meet at this friendly, well-run farm. Plenty of farmyard favourites are on show alongside more exotic llamas and alpacas. You can feed the animals, give some of them a cuddle and even take a goat for a walk! Loads of room for the kids to let off steam as well as free trailer rides and a small play area. Bring your wellies if the weather’s not playing ball. Best to check opening hours before you go.
Take a walk around the ancient stones forming the largest surviving stone circle in the world (it’s so big there’s a village within its boundary) and then pop into the small but informative museum alongside. It’s actually two galleries – one in a barn, one in a stable – and houses some of the fascinating artefacts recovered from this deeply atmospheric World Heritage site. Approachable staff are on hand to help both kids and adults understand more about the significance of the site and all the treasures associated with it. Open all year round.
A temple to Victorian ostentation, these gardens are an absolute treasure having been the first in the country to open to the public in the late 19th century. You’ll experience a magical ambience here, enhanced by lots of hidden pathways, ponds, unique buildings and even a friendly peacock. Children will love trying to locate all the secret doors on the ‘fairy door’ trail – ask at the Coffee Grove Café. Open from Easter weekend.
This mysterious hill was probably constructed around the same time as Egypt’s pyramids making it well over 4,000 years old. Fascinating in itself but no-one actually knows why it was built – perhaps you can make a guess? Well worth a quick stop to stretch your legs and admire the scale of it. Although you can’t climb the hill, you can walk (or run) around the bottom of it and perhaps enjoy a picnic in the prehistoric setting.
Fancy a bit of exploring around the ancient Cathedral city of Salisbury? Then this is a really fun and interactive way in which to do it. Taking the form of a ‘whodunit’ you have to use the clues provided to solve the murder mystery. While you’re playing detective you’ll learn more about the magnificent buildings in the heart of the city and get some exercise to boot. Download or request the booklet by post before your trip if possible.
Lovely, peaceful nature reserve with plentiful, well-maintained walks and a large lake to roam around. There’s a real diversity of wildlife for you to discover as the reserve provides them with a range of protected habitats enabling them to thrive. Super for a summer day out – bring along a picnic, some outdoor games and track down a spot all to yourselves. You can also bring your bikes and of course, your dogs. Free parking too.
Families with a love of four wheels (and two) will be captivated by this small, perfectly formed museum. The permanent collection is mostly from the 1920s onwards with unusual cars and rare motorcycles as well as bigger vehicles such as a 1951 fire engine. Special loans are often added to keep up the interest. Staff are happy for you to have a good look around and take photos – you might be allowed to sit inside the vehicles if you ask nicely. A reconstituted 1930s garage gives you a real taste of what it would have been like back then.
You cannot fail to be impressed by the sheer size and scale of this majestic Gothic Cathedral. A place of worship for 750 years you’ll appreciate the very special atmosphere and awe-inspiring decor once you step inside. See the world’s oldest mechanical working clock as well as the one of the best preserved original versions of the 13th century Magna Carta. If you’ve a head for heights, take a Tower Tour and see the Cathedral, and the city, from way up high. You may even get to see the Peregrine Falcons as seen on 2017’s ‘Springwatch’!
A highly-rated, enjoyable and imaginative activity for families with older children, you’ll have 60 minutes to prove your innocence, find the missing evidence and break out from the locked room. Teamwork is the key to success and you’ll need to work together closely to solve all the puzzles and clues you’re confronted with – a great workout for your brain! Book ahead online or by phoning the venue.
Learn more about the local area whilst having a whole heap of fun with this interactive treasure hunt. Simply download the booklet (or order via post) and you’re ready to go. Starting point is the Market Place and you’ll need to hunt down clues hidden on anything from statues to local landmarks to help you locate the ‘treasure’. Allow around two hours to complete the trail and don’t be afraid to use the mobile phone text service for clues if you get stuck!
Similar to the Devizes trail above (although this time there’s a mystery to solve), it should take you around one and a half hours to complete and starts at Burrough Fields in the town.
Bring out your inner ape and swing through the trees at this brilliant high-ropes course. There’s the lower level ‘Adventurer’ course for kids aged four upwards while for older children there’s the thrilling ‘X-plorer’ course. You’ll find over 50 activities on both and there’s a choice of easy or difficult routes if you feel too challenged. Before you start, you’ll have a safety briefing and be kitted out with the relevant gear. A picnic area provides a good viewing site and dogs are welcome too.
Park up at Blunsdon station and take a four-mile trip on this restored railway, hauled by either a steam or diesel locomotive. Special events throughout the year include Treasure Hunts, an Easter Egg Express and Santa Specials for the kids. Weekends and Bank Holidays only (additional Wednesdays during the school summer holidays) and kids travel for a quid on certain dates. An experience not to be missed!
Swindon’s railway works were once at the heart of the town and now you can hear the stories behind the people who worked there in this captivating museum. Boasting many original features, including some of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s ground-breaking works complex, you’ll be taken on a journey through a typical workshop with many interactive displays and exhibits along the way, evoking the sights, sounds and smells of the time. You’ll also learn more about the progression of the rail network as a whole. Plenty of pristine locomotives on display demonstrating the end result of all the toil and labour involved. Totally absorbing.
Despite being a ruin, this really is a gem of a medieval castle which will intrigue the whole family. The audio tour gives you a sense of what it might have been like to be caught up in the English Civil War here. If you’re feeling fit, climb up the spiral stairs to the turrets for a really magnificent view. Plenty of room for playing and exploring in the grounds giving a real sense of freedom – see if you can spot the 18th century grotto made from the castle’s stones.
With an amazing range of animals for visitors to engage with, this charming nature centre has a lot to offer for a day out – and at a very reasonable price. You’ll discover everything from owls to miniature ponies here, many of them waiting to be fed (food can be purchased on entry). The magical ‘Fairy Wood’ will allow children’s imagination to run wild. Several play areas and a café on site for light snacks, hot and cold drinks.
History, beauty and entertainment all wrapped up in single package is what’s on offer at this excellent park, just to the west of Swindon. Take a stroll through the splendid Georgian Grade I house where you can find out about its occupants, both upstairs and downstairs, over the past 500 years. Close by you’ll come across St Mary’s Church with its unique treasures while outside is the beautifully restored, Georgian walled garden. Once you’ve seen all of that, look for the perfect spot for a picnic in the extensive parkland, get out your ball games and settle down for an hour or two. There’s also a fantastic children’s playground, café and tearoom. Great for dog walks too.
If you love aircraft then this wide-ranging collection allows you to get up close and personal with fast jets from RAF history as well as other planes and vehicles. Adults and children alike are positively encouraged to sit in one (or all) of the cockpits to get a pilot’s eye view while enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff will keep you informed all the way round the numerous exhibits. All very hands-on and tremendous fun!
See for yourselves what life is like on a working farm by visiting this community project, close to Salisbury. Sustainability is the key with the focus on the preservation of techniques, putting wildlife and the natural surroundings first. Take a walk around the farm and encounter all the animals including sheep, pigs, cattle, hens and even two donkeys. There are four trails which cross the farmland – simply download them before you go. You’ll also find a shop selling the farm’s produce plus loads of events all year round.
This British Rare Breeds farm offers the chance to come face to face with farm animals you don’t often get to see anywhere else. From the ‘Sheep Shelter’ to the ‘Chicken Coop’ you’ll have lots of opportunities to give the animals a cuddle and feed them. Tractor rides, pony grooming and animal handling are just a few of the activities you can take part in during your time here. There’s also a brilliant playbarn as well as an outdoor adventure playground and tree trail – perfect for burning off some excess energy. And if you need a bite to eat there’s the Ewe Tree Café on hand. We think you’ll find the hardest part of the day will be leaving at the end of it.
Family-friendly fun just outside Swindon providing lots of things to do even if the weather isn’t on your side. Not only are there farm animals in every direction you look, there’s also a section where you can handle rabbits, guinea pigs and baby chicks. You’ll find walks, activity sheets, den building and stamp trails for when the sun’s shining or alternatively, an indoor play area, pedal tractors and craft activities for when it’s not. Bring a picnic or visit the Woolly Sheep Café for a selection of light lunches, sandwiches and cakes.
Get bouncing at this super indoor trampoline park in Swindon. It’s particularly good for families with older children although there are sessions for toddlers too. Freestyle bouncing areas with plenty of trampolines giving a variety of challenges. There are also performance walls and foam pits for the more adventurous, keen to hone their acrobatic skills. Just make sure you turn up 30 minutes before your session starts to complete the admin, allowing you to make the most of your time.
One of the most iconic sites in the UK, no stay in Wiltshire would be complete without a trip to see these mysterious, prehistoric stones. Park up and go on foot (or take a shuttle bus) to get a closer view although be advised that it’s not possible to walk amongst them. Some of the stones are so heavy it’s hard to imagine how they got here, some from as far as Wales. A new visitor centre and exhibition now enhances your visit further and there are reconstructions of Neolithic homes to help you understand what it was like at the time when the stones were raised. There’s also a café and shop on site. Make sure you pre-book before you go.