The Independent Parent: We're staying in London with our children and want some ideas for trips out of town. Any suggestions?

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The Independent Travel

Q. We're visiting London next month with our nine and 11-year old children and would love to spend two or three days outside the city, either on daytrips or overnight breaks. It would be lovely to find a castle in the countryside. I presume renting a car would be necessary.

Q. We're visiting London next month with our nine and 11-year old children and would love to spend two or three days outside the city, either on daytrips or overnight breaks. It would be lovely to find a castle in the countryside. I presume renting a car would be necessary.

Elizabeth Armington, via e-mail

A. If your budget is not too restrictive, book into Thornbury Castle (01454 281182; www.vonessenhotels.com) near Bristol, where Henry VIII used to stay. A room sleeping the four of you costs from £295 per night with breakfast, and most rooms include four-poster beds, tapestries and open fires.

Children will love the excitement and intrigue of exploring all the nooks and crannies, or roaming the extensive yew-hedged gardens and courtyard. The castle is also ideally situated for exploring the West Country: Stonehenge, Glastonbury Abbey and Bath are nearby.

Close to Bath, but also a possible day trip from London is Longleat (01985 844400; www.longleat.co.uk). Home to the 7th Marquess of Bath, Longleat is a magnificent example of Elizabethan architecture and features a safari park, mazes, amusement rides and 900 acres of parkland designed by "Capability" Brown. A "passport" to all 12 attractions costs £16 for adults and £13 for children (aged three to 14) but individual tickets are also available.

For fun and accessibility, Brighton is well worth considering. Information on attractions in the city can be obtained from the Visitor Information line on 0906 7112255 (calls cost 50p per minute) or at www.visitbrighton.com. Even a day trip will be worthwhile - so long as you take a train, rather than drive along the dreadful A23. Trains from London, which take around an hour, leave frequently from Victoria, London Bridge, Blackfriars and King's Cross stations. A day return from any of the last three costs £12.50 per adult and £6.25 per child (aged five-15). You may find it worth buying a Family Railcard, price £20, to save on adult and child fares. National Rail Enquiries: 0845 748 4950; www.nationalrail.co.uk.

Finally, I'd recommend a trip to the spectacular Leeds Castle (01622 765400; www.leeds-castle.com) near Maidstone in Kent, around an hour and a half from London. Dating from 857, it combines acres of beautifully tended gardens with the more child-orientated delights of a hedge-maze, underground grotto and exotic aviary.

A family ticket for four will cost £39 and the castle opens daily from 10am-5pm. You can catch a bus from London Victoria Coach Station. A special day-trip leaves at 9am (and leaves the castle at 3.05pm) for a combined admission/ travel price of £16 per adult, £11 per child, (£18.50 and £13 at weekends. If you are still keen to rent a car, Car Rentals (0845 225 0845; www.carrentals.co.uk), helps you find the best deal from a number of firms.

Send your family travel questions to The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS or email crusoe@independent.co.uk

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