Q. As usual, we've left it too late to book anywhere for Easter, so we're hoping to string together a series of day trips around the country for Gavin, aged 11, and Laura, eight. We're based near Bristol but are prepared to travel for a couple of hours if it's a worthwhile trip. What would you advise?
H Ford, Portishead
A. Day trips, as you suggest, are the perfect solution and there are plenty to choose from in the south-west. National Trust properties are gearing up for the new season with a swathe of family-oriented arts and crafts activities as well as egg hunts. Thousands of chocolate eggs are currently winging their way to properties up and down the country. Full details can be found at www.nationaltrust.org.uk.
One to consider is Avebury Manor (01672 539250) near Marlborough, just over an hour's drive from Bristol. The 16th-century manor house with beautiful Edwardian gardens is celebrating Easter with themed activities, including face painting and arts and crafts during Easter Week and Easter egg trails over the weekend. Children are invited to complete trails around the gardens, with the reward of Easter goodies at the end. The gardens are open daily from 11am-4pm throughout the Easter holiday, and cost £2.10 for children under 16, £4.10 for adults and £10.50 for a family ticket (two adults and two children) plus a £2 car parking fee. A £1.50 material cost, on top of normal admission prices, may apply to certain craft activities.
Bristol is playing host to a series of celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel this Easter. His work on the railway line that linked London to Bristol established him as one of the world's leading engineers, and his contributions will be honoured at events across the region. (Read The Independent Traveller next Saturday, 1 April, for more about seeing his achievements.)
The British Empire and Commonwealth Museum (0117 925 4980; www.empiremuseum.co.uk) inside Brunel's magnificent 1840 Temple Meads railway station is contributing to the festivities by staging a traditional Victorian Fair. From 1-17 April, visitors can stroll through side stalls and sweet sellers, try Victorian amusements like crazy mirrors and coconut shies and meet characters and showmen from the 19th century. Brunel's panelled drawing room will open for performances and cosy games by the fireplace. Daily shows include plate-spinning, ball-juggling showman Juan from the Bristol troupe Circomedia, and Punch and Judy will be making a guest appearance on Easter Sunday. Entrance to the fair is included with normal museum admission: adults £6.95, children aged five-15 £3.95, and £16 for a family ticket. The museum opens daily from 10am-5pm.
While in Bristol, pop in to the city's Industrial Museum (0117 925 1470) and take a steam train ride along the dockside to the Maritime Heritage Centre. The train runs every 15 minutes from 12-5pm and costs £1 for adults, children free. Alternatively, you could venture further afield to the Didcot Railway Centre (01235 817200; www.didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk) near Oxford. Book a Didcot "steam day" in advance and you can enjoy a guided tour, go behind the scenes and ride up front with a driver. The cost is £105 per person, and every extra family member costs £25, including lunch. A year-long membership to the Great Western Society is included. Normal admission prices for a family of two adults and two children is £21 on steam days, £12 on non-steam days and £29 on special event days like Brunel's 200th anniversary on 9 April, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.
Alternatively, you could brave the spring weather on a walk. A new book out on 1 April, 24 Family Walks in and around Bristol (Redcliffe Press, £8.50, order online at www.childrensbristol.co.uk), lists some of the best walks for families. All are within easy reach of Bristol and vary in length.
Around two hours away, the expansive Dartmoor National Park (01822 890 414; www.discoverdartmoor.com) pulls in thousands of visitors each year. The native ponies offer an alternative way of exploring it, and Bold Try Stables in Chulmleigh (01769 580 366) has half- and full-day treks for all levels. Beginners are advised to take a one-hour lesson at the stables prior to venturing out onto the moor, and a whole day starts from around £35 per person. Mixed-ability treks are available so the whole family can stick together. There are numerous stables in Dartmoor offering trekking, but policies vary over the minimum ages for children.
Finally, you could head over the border into Wales for more equestrian pursuits. The Welsh Festival of the Horse is set to take place at the Margam Park in Swansea on Easter Sunday and bank holiday Monday. Attractions will include a craft fair, equestrian stands and professional performances. For more detail contact the Welsh Equine Council on 029-2075 3890 or 01269 822515, or visit www.wec.org.uk.
If you find yourself with some spare time, extend your trip and delay your return with a visit to the superb beaches of Swansea Bay. The sand extends for about five miles from the Maritime Quarter of Swansea to the village of Mumbles, offering opportunities from coastal strolls to in-line skating on the promenade.
Send your family travel queries to Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org