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The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...


Summer ferry sailings, Tyne and Wear

Ferry company DFDS Seaways is adding affordable day cruises along the north-east coast of England to its schedule. On three-hour mini cruises from the Port of Tyne, families will pass Tynemouth, St Mary's lighthouse, Whitley Bay and Blyth, learn about the wildlife, hear live music and tuck into a buffet lunch.

10 and 17 August; £30 adults, £15 children; dfds.co.uk

Swinton Park, Yorkshire

This 17th-century country house near Masham in North Yorkshire, with its walled gardens, lakes and woodland, is now a luxury hotel, but you don't need to be a guest to take part in its summer activities, including cookery and riding. At the Wednesday falconry club, kids can spend an hour with hawks, owls, eagles and falcons.

6, 13, 20, 27 August; £15 children; swintonpark.com

Burghley House, Lincolnshire

In the gardens of this 16th-century country house near Stamford, designed by Capability Brown, an open-air cinema has double-bill showings of family films that include Despicable Me 2 and Stardust. After dark, grown-ups get favourites such as Breakfast at Tiffany's. The barbecue will be fired up for all the screenings.

30 July to 3 August; £10 until 29 July, £12 on the day; burghley.co.uk


Bear Grylls Survival Academy, various locations

The TV tough guy launched his Survival Academy for adults two years ago. Now, in collaboration with Fit for Sport, there are adventure days for children aged eight to 13 throughout the school holidays and across London and the Home Counties. A chance to gain basic survival skills and spend more time outdoors.

Until 29 August; £80 children; beargryllssurvivalacademy.com

Queen Elizabeth Park, East London

The site of the London Olympics is ready for its first summer as a fully fledged public park, and visitors to Anish Kapoor's ArcelorMittal Orbit can join workshops led by artist Natalie Ryde. Kids will cut out, sketch, paint and build, reflecting the London skyline or creating their own ArcelorMittal Orbit.

Thursday to 31 August; £15 adults, £7 children, £40 family; arcelormittalorbit.com

Visitors to Anish Kapoor's ArcelorMittal Orbit in London's Queen Elizabeth Park can join workshops led by artist Natalie Ryde

Sand Sculpture Festival, Brighton

Four thousand tons of sand have been imported so that sculptors gathering near the marina can model the leaning tower of Pisa and the pyramids of Giza. There will be demonstrations, workshops – and a sand pit.

Until 28 September; £4.50 adults, £3 children, under-3s free, £12 family; brightonsandsculpture.co.uk

Wormsley Estate, Buckinghamshire

Former Wimbledon champ Pat Cash, ex-England rugby captain Martin Johnson and former England cricket captain Andrew Strauss are among the top-name athletes hosting a two-day family festival in the Chiltern Hills. Included in the ticket price are camping, two family meals by Jamie Oliver, coaching from the experts and live music.

2 to 3 August; £299 first adult and child, £99 extra adults and children 5 and over, £49 extra child aged 3 to 4; sport-fest.co.uk

The Slaughters, Cotswolds

In the heart of the Gloucestershire village of Lower Slaughter, a family barbecue comes with giant chess, sumo wrestling, a bouncy castle, face-painting, limbo and meals on the riverside terrace.

16 August; admission free; theslaughtersinn.co.uk

An artist puts the finishing touches to a Beyonce sand sculpture at last year's festival in Brighton


RSPB Minsmere, Suffolk

Take the kids to the site of BBC2's Springwatch to spot the reserve's bitterns, sand martins, marsh harriers and adders. Choose from weekday nature walks (Tuesday to 5 August), guided weekend trails (until 30 August) and woodland wonders (1-29 August).

Daily, dawn to dusk; £8 adults, £4 children 5 and over, one child goes free with each adult; rspb.org.uk

Holkham Hall, Norfolk

Touring theatre companies at the splendid 18th-century estate stage The Jungle Book, Hugless Douglas, Alice in Wonderland and Romeo and Juliet. Take a rug, a low chair and a picnic – though there is a café too.

5 to 27 August; £13 adults, £10 children, £40 family; holkham.co.uk

Imperial War Museum Duxford, Cambridgeshire

The former RAF airfield has Spitfires, Merlins and war-time motors. To mark the centenary of the start of the First World War, costumed guides talk about the countries involved and explain military life via interactive maps, a replica trench, uniforms and a periscope view of No Man's Land.

Saturday to 3 September; £17.50 adults, free under-16s; iwm.org.uk

The Imperial War Museum has Spitfires, Merlins and war-time motors

Summer Squall, Kent

This three-day family arts festival off Harbour Parade, Ramsgate, has craft and food markets, art workshops and shows involving children. Thanet Open Studios coincides with the festival; artists, potters and sculptors open their homes and work spaces to visitors.

23 to 25 August; admission free; ramsgatearts.org

Lee Valley, Essex

The site of a white-water slalom centre since it opened as the first Olympic venue in 2010, during school holidays it hosts hour- long Go Canoeing sessions for kids, with staff guidance. Combine it with an afternoon in the 1,000-acre River Lee Country Park.

Wednesday to 13 August; £5 children; visitleevalley.org.uk


Eden Project, Cornwall

Travel back 65 million years and search for great beasts in the Lost World, step into the Crater of the Tyrant King, fossick for fossils and escape the fierce Tyrannosaurus Rex. An exhibition explains why prehistoric beasts were wiped out.

Monday to 2 September; from £19.50 adults, £9.50 children, £52 family (online and car-free bookers pay least); edenproject.com

Bournemouth, Dorset

After a day on the beach, head to the city's Friday Family Fiestas in the Lower Gardens for an evening of circus workshops, face-painting and stilt-walking, with fireworks at 10pm over Bournemouth Pier.

Friday to 22 August; free; bournemouth.gov.uk

Exmoor National Park, Somerset

At the Wild Night Out for families on the Somerset side of the park in Simonsbath, there's food, storytelling, campfires and close encounters with nocturnal animals from 8pm. Pack a torch, warm clothes and good footwear. The next day, explore the wetlands at the Bogtastic festival.

16-17 August; free; exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk

Torbay, Devon

Paignton town and seafront has shows and workshops, many free of charge, ending with Family Fun Day and fireworks on 23 August.

18 to 23 August; prices vary, mostly free; childrensweek.co.uk


Commonwealth Games, Scotland

Scotland will be en fête as the 2014 Commonwealth Games get under way in Glasgow. But even without a Games ticket, you can get involved via the Festival 2014 cultural programme. Visit Parnie Street for Scotch Hoppers, when the road will be turned into a play area, with special games by performance artists Stillmotion. Or, see Starcatchers' Yellow Valley, an immersive adaptation for two- to four-year- olds of the Kenyan children's book Who's Calling, at venues across Scotland.

Wednesday to 3 August; prices vary; stillmotion.co.uk, starcatchers.org.uk; details: bit.ly/2014Glasgow

Events at the World Alternative Games in Llanwrtyd Wells include bog-snorkelling


Belfast Hills, Northern Ireland

The Belfast Hills enfold the capital, beckoning city dwellers towards fresh air and fine views. This summer, the area also hosts a heritage festival, with Celtic jewellery-making, bus tours, woodland wanders, butterfly hunts, music on the Belfast Barge and a Game of Thrones walk.

28 July to 3 August; prices vary; belfasthills.org


World Alternative Games

In the Powys town of Llanwrtyd Wells in mid-Wales, events devised to contrast with the London Olympics include worm-charming, chariot-racing, wife-carrying, bog-snorkelling, ditch-jumping and toe-wrestling. Camp from £5 a night.

8-25 August; admission free; worldalternativegames.co.uk