Summer holiday events: 28 fantastic days out to keep the kids entertained

From coasteering in Cornwall to sword-swinging in Suffolk, cake-baking in Ceredigion to sea-urchin stroking in Scotland, Sarah Baxter has ideas to keep children happily busy over the summer holidays
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The Independent Travel


Discover Canoeing, Low Wray Campsite, Cumbria

Let the little'uns channel their inner Davy Crockett in the Lake District. Qualified instructors will teach kids (4+) to paddle across Windermere in comfy, easy-to-use open canoes.

Until 30 August, 2pm-5pm; £25; 01539 432 733,

Vitality SportFest, Wormsley Estate, Buckinghamshire

A sporting extravaganza with real star power. Greg Rusedski, Daley Thompson, Beth Tweddle and more will lead coaching sessions; there's music and games, too – and feasts from Jamie Oliver.

7am Saturday to 3pm Sunday, 1-2 August; adults and 5+ £150, 3-4s £39, under-3s free, includes camping, two meals, coaching and activities;

One Touch Football, Grantham, Lincolnshire

With Norwich City FC freshly promoted to the Premier League, who better to learn from? One Touch Football, overseen by one of the team's coaches, is running footie days for boys and girls, aged 4-14.

4-6 & 26-28 August, 10am-3pm; from £12 for first day (from £10 per day thereafter);

Summer Surf Camp, Harlyn Surf School, near Padstow, Cornwall

Over five days, watch the kids – aged five to teens – become board masters at Harlyn's Summer Camps, which include surf lessons, bodysurfing, lifesaving skills and beach games, too.

Until 31 August, Mon to Fri; £145 (five two-hour sessions over consecutive days);



Just So Festival, Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire

Winner of the Green Parent Family Festival Award, Just So is a wonderland of theatre, craft, dance, music and magic. Don't miss songs and storytelling in the Spellbound Forest or the closing Wild Rumpus.

21-23 August; adults £110, children £50, under-3s free, includes camping (day tickets available);

Top Hat Stage School, St Albans, Hertfordshire

Top Hat has pedigree: its mini-performers star in West End shows such as Matilda. Wannabe starlets can learn drama skills from the pros, finishing with a full performance of Aladdin at the week's end. Ta-dah!

10-14 & 17-20 August; 6-17yrs £150, 4-5yrs £100;

Holiday Workshops, Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich, Norfolk

Via theatre games and exercises, professional tutors at Maddermarket's Theatre School workshop will help stage students of all ages discover characters and tell stories.

10-14 August (12+), 17-21 August (7-11s), 10am-2pm; £70;

Family Outdoor Theatre: Robin Hood the Musical, Attingham Park, Shropshire

Fancy dress and picnics are encouraged for Cambridge Touring Theatre's outlaw tale. Come early for a pre-play workshop, where kids can join in thespian games.

8 August, 6.30pm-8.30pm (pre-performance workshop 5pm); adults £13, children £8, workshop £4; 01743 708 123,


Taste of Adventure, Allen Banks and Staward Gorge, Northumberland

How brave are your brood? This adventure takes the intrepid deep underground for two hours of crawling through Tyne Bottom Mine; then they must negotiate Allen Banks woodland before abseiling down rugged Raven Crag.

Today & 1 August, 9.30am-3.30pm; £30; 0844 249 1895,

Woodland Sleepover, Scarborough, Yorkshire

Yorkshire Bushcraft runs a range of wilderness courses. Most fun is the Woodland Sleepover: learn to carve wood, cook on a campfire and sleep in a shelter you've built yourself.

1-2 & 15-16 August; adults £80, children (8+) £45;

Coasteering, Bass Point, Lizard, Cornwall

Coasteering is the art of negotiating the shore by any means: climbing, clambering, scrambling, swimming and leaping. Cornwall's Lizard is a cracking place to learn, with instructors providing kit, tuition and wildlife facts.

29 July, 9am-1pm; £45; 01326 558 424,

Open Day, Heigham Holmes, Norfolk

A rare treat: this secretive, 500-acre nature reserve on an island in the Norfolk Broads opens only one day a year. Enter via a swing bridge and join the fun. Activities include kite-flying, bug-hunting, pond-dipping and nature trails.

2 August, 11am-4pm; free; 01263 740 241,


Foyles Summer of Fun, London and Bristol

From Mad Hatter's Tea Parties to Where's Wally hunts, there's lots of literary liveliness at Foyles' bookshops. Highlights? Make a Shaun the Sheep with an Aardman expert (29 July) and sign up for Thunderbirds Training Day (19 August).

25 July to 30 August; various prices (Shaun £8, Thunderbirds £5);

The Art of Lauren Child, Mottisfont, Hampshire

See 50 original Lauren Child artworks – of Clarice Bean, Ruby Redfort and more, then head off on an adventure with Charlie and Lola around the house and gardens.

Until 6 September, 11am-5pm; free exhibition (Mottisfont admission applies: adults £14, children £6.50); 01794 340 757,

Alice in Wonderland Garden Trail, RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Essex

Hyde Hall celebrates the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll's Alice with a Wonderland trail. Meet the Cheshire Cat, find the Mock Turtle and take part in a caucus race – which has no rules at all!

Thursday to 31 August, 10am-6pm; free (garden admission applies: adults £8.95, children £4.50);

Oliver Twist Weekend, Blists Hill, near Ironbridge, Shropshire

Live like Dickens for the day at the atmospheric Victorian village. Costumed characters will act out Oliver Twist scenes, and you can play street games with the Artful Dodger.

29-31 August; village admission: adults £16.60, children £13.50);


Swinton Park Cookery School, Yorkshire

Housed in a converted stable wing, Swinton's Cookery School offers several kids' classes: "Mini Chefs" teaches under-9s the basics; "Confident Cooks" caters to 10- to 14-year-olds; day-long courses help teens perfect their kitchen skills.

24-28 August; from £50;

Seashore Forage and Feast, Poltesco, Cornwall

Clamber over rocks and dig in the sand to find a feast of edible wild plants, then cook up the haul on a fire by the sea.

29 August, 10.30am-2.30pm; adults £10, children £5; 01326 291 174,

Vile Victorian Bake Off, Elizabethan House Museum, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

Learn about the Victorians' ickiest dishes, discover Queen Victoria's favourite lunch and bake a proper Victorian sponge (without a soggy bottom).

4 August, 11am-4pm; free (museum admission applies: adults £4.50, children £3.40); 01493 855 746,

Welsh Cake Trail & Buttermaking, Llanerchaeron, Ceredigion

Help the cook comb the gardens of this 18th-century gentry estate for the ingredients needed to make traditional Welsh cakes. The reward? Fresh-baked cakes, and a visit to the dairy for a slather of butter.

25 July, 1, 8, 15 & 29 August, 12pm-3pm; free (Llanerchaeron admission applies: adults £7.60, children £3.80); 01545 573 024,


Chester Zoo Islands, Cheshire

Islands at Chester Zoo recreates the tropical environments of six South-east Asian islands, making them yours to explore. Along the way you’ll discover some of the world’s most amazing and endangered animals.

Open from now; adults from £20, children from £16.36;

Touch Tank Days, Scottish Seabird Centre, North Berwick, East Lothian

See sea urchins, crabs, mussels and more marine beings up close in a touch tank; design a creature in the cartoon lab; and join the Alien Or Not workshop to learn more about invasive species.

13 August; exhibition free (Discovery Centre admission applies: adults £8.95, children £4.95);

Bat & Moth Camp Out, RSPB Lakenheath Fen, Suffolk

Celebrate nocturnal nature on an RSPB Big Wild Sleepout on the fens. Bring a torch for moth-trapping, insect-investigating and bat-detecting walks. Camp in the wilds, waking to the dawn chorus – and a bacon sandwich.

7-8 August; one/two nights, adults £25/£40, children £12.50/£20;

Keeper for a Day, Birdland, Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire

No two days are the same at Birdland: helping behind the scenes could involve catching birds for ringing, working in the hatchery, building an aviary or preparing penguin food.

Until 30 September, 10am- 5pm; £85 (over-14s only);


Blitzed Brits, IWM North, Manchester

This new exhibition marks the 75th anniversary of the Blitz. Hear real stories, take cover in an air-raid shelter and milk a cow like an evacuee. During the holidays, join in with object-handling and craft activities, too.

Until 10 April 2016; free;

Anglo Saxon Combat, Sutton Hoo, Suffolk

Let out the last of that holiday energy with an ancient battle: the re-enactment group Ealdfaeder will be teaching the rules of combat, from swinging swords to shooting arrows and planning an enemy raid.

29-31 August; free (Sutton Hoo admission applies: adults £7.90, children £3.95); 01394 389 714,

Children's Festival of History, Lincoln Castle, Lincolnshire

Get hands-on with history at Lincoln Castle (also home to a new Magna Carta visitor centre). Join the Roman Army, make a pottery Tudor rose, discover a Victorian camera obscura and meet birds of prey and owls up close.  There’ll also be personal appearances from CBeebies’ Mike the Knight at intervals throughout each day.

22-23 August; adults £12, children £7.20;

Grand Medieval Mêlée, Cardiff Castle, Wales

Hop back 1,000 years at this historic hoopla. Watch resplendent knights do honourable battle, listen to age-old stories, feast on medieval meals and have a go at weaving, weapon skills and ancient games.

15-16 August; adults £6, children £4;