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Top 10 October Half Term Ideas

by Dinah Hatch

Top 10 October Half Term Ideas

Oh no. It seems like we have only just completed the exhausting keep-the-kids-busy-athon that is the summer holidays and now it’s almost time for October half term! Fortunately, we live in a country brimming with fun stuff to do for children so here are our top ten favourite activities to make the hols speed by...


Showing below are all 9 records in "Top 10 October Half Term Ideas"

Ullswater Steamers (Attraction / Activity)

The Pier House, Glenridding

Ullswater Steamers, The Pier House, Glenridding, Cumbria

I took my two children on an Ullswater Steamer when they were barely old enough to say “hang on, we thought the Lake District’s tourist industry was more focused on the grey pound” and they adored it. We snaked along its dog leg turns through utterly stunning scenery, our contemplative silence only broken to remark that we believed Paul McCartney owned a house in the distance and what a shame he had taken up with that younger model. Gloriously looming Helvellyn dominates the head of the lake and whether you’re caught in classic Cumbrian mist or lucky enough to get a sunny spell, the views are world-class from these lovely heritage steamers. The route connects to some of the most famous and loveliest hikes in the Lakes. Take afternoon tea in spectacular Glenridding, go bird watching in Jenkins Field or hire a bike along the way.

Stay: Lake Lodges (self-catering) Esthwaite View, Hawkshead, Cumbria

Leeds Castle (Attraction / Activity)

Leeds Castle Foundation, Leeds Castle, Maidstone

Leeds Castle, Leeds Castle Foundation, Maidstone, Kent

We love a good castle in our family but goodness me, there are good castles and bad castles. We’ve had the misfortune to visit one or two where we were thrown out of the tea room for laughing too loudly (I am not making this up), spent good money only to find there was almost nothing to do once inside or just found the explanation so dull we had to make up our own more amusing versions for the kids. Leeds, however, does entertainment in spades. This Norman stronghold and home to six medieval queens is fascinating inside (don’t miss the Gatehouse exhibition for a full historic run down) and loads of fun outside. We love the Knights Realm and Squires’ playgrounds, the seasonal falconry displays and the brilliant eating options (particularly the Lady Baillie afternoon teas!)

Stay: Chilston Park Hotel, Sandway, Lenham, Maidstone

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard (Attraction / Activity)

Visitor Centre, Victory Gate, H M Naval Base, Portsmouth

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Visitor Centre, Portsmouth, Hampshire

History comes alive for children at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. They may well have learnt about Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory at school, but this is where they get to see the evidence first hand that sailors washed in their own wee and officers slept in beds that doubled as coffins (so much more cost effective). Next you can introduce the kids to the awesome Mary Rose museum which tells the tale of the ship’s history, from its 1510 creation through its sinking in 1545, its discovery in 1971, resurrection in 1982 and final stages of conservation. Awesome stuff and brilliantly curated. There’s loads more here too – well worth a whole day out.

Stay: Chilston Park Hotel, Sandway, Lenham, Maidstone

Edinburgh Zoo (Attraction / Activity)

Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Zoo, Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh

Escape the tourist crowds in Edinburgh and take a little trip out of the centre to the zoo, where more than 1000 animals await your visit. This unexpectedly huge green space just a few miles from Princes Street is a gorgeous day out, featuring giraffes, lions, tigers, chimps, crocodiles, gorillas and rhinos as well as more unusual creatures such as Blue Frogs, whose poisonous skin Colombian tribes use to make arrowheads. Do not miss the King Penguins with whom every person who ever visited the zoo falls in love instantly. The group includes king penguin Nils Olav who is an actual colonel-in-chief of the Norwegian Army. Yes, that’s what we said. Go figure. Don’t worry about its hillside location – a little train takes the strain.

Stay: Hotel du Vin, 11 Bistro Place, Edinburgh

Santa Pod Raceway (Attraction / Activity)

Airfield Road, Podington, Wellingborough

Santa Pod Raceway, Airfield Road, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire

If you’ve children with a need for speed, Santa Pod raceway is pretty much nirvana. It’s hidden away in the little village of Podington on the Beds/Bucks border and is stuffed with men in greasy overalls talking about big ends, young dudes talking about their fastest lap time and kids in mufflers screaming with joy as engines whizz past them at the speed of light. You don’t have to have a clue how it all works, just enjoy the insane races (there’s everything from motorcross to monster trucks), the hotdogs and the thrill of the race! Look out for training events and festivals, too, where you get to have a go driving yourself. Irresistable.

Stay: Barton Hall Hotel, Barton Rd, Kettering

West Somerset Railway (Attraction / Activity)

The Railway Station, Warren Road, Minehead

West Somerset Railway, The Railway Station, Minehead, Somerset

Take in the brooding autumnal beauty of the Quantock Hills and Exmoor Coast before winter sets in on the gorgeous West Somerset Railway. The era of steam is inextricably linked with a time when life seemed a little more meandering and this day out is the perfect antidote to the stresses of modern life. Leave the tablets and phones behind and enjoy 20 miles of nostalgia – there are loads of restored stations along the route. Many have signal-boxes, engine sheds, museums, displays, steam engines and other rolling stock to admire. While you’re there, take in the ancient harbour town of Watchet, Washford with Cleeve Abbey and Torre Cider Farm and medieval Dunster with its famous Castle.

Stay: The Castle at Taunton, Castle Green, Taunton

Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, London

It doesn’t matter how many times I go to Hampton Court Palace, I never get bored. Henry VIII lived there, for goodness sake! There can’t be a child alive in Britain who doesn’t like dressing up like a Tudor courtier (yes, they have all the clothes there) and marching about the Great Hall (the last and greatest example of a medieval hall) talking about beheadings and feasts. Try the most famous and most visited maze in the world, experience mythical beasts, towers and battlements in the Magic Garden, explore the Tudor kitchens set up as if in their heyday of royal feasting and find out about what Henry was like as a lad in the Young Henry VIII exhibition. Unmissable, educational and loads of fun.

The Petersham Hotel, Richmond, Surrey

Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, Carrochan, Balloch, Glasgow City

Often cited as one of the most beautiful places to be as autumn settles, the dazzling colours and dramatic sunsets in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park are a sight to behold. Just north of Glasgow and 720 miles square, the park is a kaleidoscope of russet reds, golds, yellows and browns which flash through the oak woodlands and pine forests as you stroll along in your woollies and wellies. Take a trip onto the water at Loch Katrine on the SS Walter Scott, departing from Trossachs Pier to Stronachlachar on a daily basis, to take in the area in all its glory. You can also hire bikes and cycle around the loch if the weather’s fine – utter bliss.

The Winnock Hotel, The Square, Dryman, Loch Lomond

Brighton Museum & Art Gallery (Museum / Art Gallery)

Royal Pavilion Gardens, Brighton

Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Royal Pavilion Gardens, Brighton, East Sussex

Everyone loves a trip down to London-by-the-Sea and with many of its attractions so close together, it’s a brilliant place to bring the kids. After a turn on the pebbles with some fish and chips and a go on the rides at the end of Palace Pier, steer the little ones northwards a few paces and take them around the glorious Taj Mahal-like Royal Pavilion, John Nash’s 19th century masterpiece. With separate audio guides for kids, the tours are excellent (the children love seeing the roly poly Prince Regent’s little bed, close to the ground so he can mount it). The kitchens and entertaining rooms make for fascinating viewing and the story of this dissolute king’s life is compellingly told.

Stay: The Old Ship Hotel, Kings Road, Brighton


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