Days out with an educational bent are brilliant for children to find inspiration in a restored building, an ancient costume or a virtual scene from the past. Over the next two weeks we are making a swift tour of a section of the National Curriculum: the Key Stage Two History Programme, which has six study units for seven-to-11-year-olds, each matched with ideas for family outings.
Unit 1: Romans, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings in Britain
Pupils must study one of these, and most schools opt for the Romans, who left a wealth of forts, amphitheatres, weapons, and roads to get us to them.
Romans: Get an insight into their domestic life at Rockbourne Roman Villa near Fordingbridge in Hampshire (01725 518541), which has mosaics, a coin hoard, leather shoes and even human skeletons. Meanwhile Chedworth Roman Villa at Yarnworth, Cheltenham (01242 890256) has its own water shrine, bath-houses and mosaics.
And there's no deeper cleansing experience than the steamy waters that bubble up from the Sacred Spring in Bath at 46 C. The Roman Baths Museum (01225 477785) displays votive offerings, the gilt bronze head of the goddess Sulis Minerva and 2,000-year-old curses cast into the waters by Romans with revenge on their minds.
For military organisation see Caerleon Roman Fortress (01222 500200), once home of 5,500 elite Roman infantry. The soldiers' giant leisure complex had heated changing rooms, a swimming pool and a gymnasium, plus a 6,000-seater auditorium for gladiatorial events.
And then there's Hadrian's Wall. Where should you start? Senhouse Roman Museum on the Cumbrian coast (01900 816168), once the headquarters of Hadrian's coastal defence system, is home to a large collection of altar- stones and some stunning sculpture. Look out for the famous Serpent Stone. Heading east, Northumberland's Housesteads Roman Fort at Haydon Bridge (01434 344363) features the only known Roman hospital in Britain, and a 24-seater latrine with flush tank. Nearby, Corbridge near Hexham (01434 632349) has the famous Corbridge Lion.
For a more intimate view of Roman life, the Verulamium Museum at St Albans (01727 819339) has re-created rooms, hands-on discovery areas and computer databases. Once a month, legionaries describe the lifestyle and tactics of the Roman Imperial Army.
Anglo-Saxons: There are plenty of Saxon churches around, but for a glimpse into the secular way of life, Bede's World in Jarrow (0191-489 2106) depicts work and play in the early Middle Ages - with Anglo-Saxon cooking demonstrations. Outside, an Anglo-Saxon farm features rare breeds and authentic crops.
West Stow Country Park (01284 728718) in Suffolk contains a pagan Anglo- Saxon village, based on a settlement dating from AD420-650, with reconstructed oak buildings.
Vikings: No study is complete without a trip to the Jorvik Viking Centre in York (01904 643211), which has tools, clothing and other clues to a forgotten way of life. Travel in a "time car" back to Norman Britain, hear Old Norse as it was spoken, experience the dark, smoky homes and the smells of fish and pigs in the market place.
Unit 4: ancient Greece
All junior-age children are expected to learn about the ancient Greeks. Unfortunately, the best trappings of this distant civilisation are housed in the giant tourist park known as Athens.
In Britain, you could begin at the British Museum (0171 636 1555), home to the much-disputed Elgin Marbles. An extensive collection begins with the Greek Bronze Age, including marble figurines dating from 3000 BC, and carved pillars from elaborate tombs, from 1300 BC. Greek myths and legends are depicted in statues, pottery and jewellery.
Also open without appointment is the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, a large room in the classics department of Reading University (01734 318420). It has painted pottery and other artefacts.
Unit 6: a past non-European society
Options include ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, the Maya, Benin, the Aztecs.
The ancient Egyptians have Tutankhamun to thank for most of their 20th- century publicity. The boy king's tomb, mummy and golden mask have been replicated in Dorchester, Dorset (01305 269571), where visitors can stroll as if through the pyramid itself.
For the rest, it's back to the British Museum, where the new Mexican gallery explores 4,000 years of "Mesoamerican" tribes and peoples. The Aztecs and Mayas are well represented, with examples of ritual dress, idols, fertility symbols and creation myths.
Next week: Life in Tudor Times; Victorian Britain; and Britain since 1930.Reuse content