From Vikings to spiders...some cheap, cheerful half-term ideas

Days Out

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The Independent Travel

It's day two of half term.

They're already complaining of boredom, staring wide-eyed at the television, or perhaps just chewing crayons in the corner. Outside the weather is Siberian; the bank balance is still in the post-Christmas red zone. So what to do for the next seven days?

Happily, there are events and attractions up and down the country that offer family fun – and some that are free.

Properties under the English Heritage banner (0870 333 1181; are alive with walks, trails and fairytales that come at no cost for members or a nominal fee for families. They span from a "Viking Trail" at Clifford's Tower in York (10am-4pm daily; £10.10 for four) to Audley End house and gardens in Essex, where resident cook, Mrs Crocombe, will be giving Victorian cookery classes (Weds-Sun; 11am-4pm; £22.60 for four). In Staffordshire, the Monkey Forest (01782 659 845; reopened yesterday. Children can meet 140 barbary macaques living freely in the woodland that surrounds the 11th-century Trentham Estate. Tickets cost £14.50 for adults; £11.50 for children.

Cornwall's Eden Project (01726 811911; has a Chocolate Festival with lolly-making workshops and the chance to learn about growing cocoa included in the normal admission price (adults, £11; children, £5).

In Norfolk, there are canopy walkways, boat rides and woodland dens over at the BeWILDerwood Adventure Park (01692 633033; bewilderwood., all themed around the series of children's books by Tom Blofeld (£12.50 adults; £10.50 children).

The traditional emergence of snowdrops was smothered somewhat by last week's snow. However, the Scottish Snowdrop Festival sees 50 gardens showing early signs of spring open until March, including the Cambo Estate (01333 450054; in Fife, which has illuminated walks through the woodland every night this week (£30 for four).

In the capital, the London Aquarium (0871 663 1678; sealifelondonaquarium. com) opens the new Shark Reef attraction today, with a shoal of 20 menacing residents. Normal tickets (£19.80 for adults; £14.40 for children) are reduced to £14.85 and £10.80 respectively for visits after 3pm.

Meanwhile, over at the Victoria and Albert Museum (020-7942 2000;, there's an "Imagination Station" running, based on its current textiles exhibition, Golden Spider Silk, where children can craft arachnids and weave webs during the free drop-in sessions (daily, 10.30am–5pm).

For more ideas of days out and events this week, see the Visit Britain website (