Kids' stuff: 20 great UK days out

There's no excuse to get bored this summer with so many family events taking place across the country. Sophie Lam discovers there's something for everyone


1 Twilight in the tree tops

1 Twilight in the tree tops

Take a twilight journey across a forest canopy, to the edge of a precipice, over a rickety bridge and into a bat-filled cave where the only way out is via a disused mineshaft ... Of course, this isn't for real, it's a simulated activity called the Tree Tops Adventure Walk, which opened yesterday at Conkers in Derbyshire. The attraction is open to all ages.

Conkers, Moira, Derbyshire (01283 216633; www.visitconkers.com). Open daily, 10am-6pm. Admission adults £5.95, children aged three to 15 years £3.95, family ticket (two adults and two children) £17.50.

2 Art attack

Get interactive at Tate Britain this summer. Tate has come up with a programme of family activities at both London galleries, including Artspace at Tate Britain - which offers free hands-on activities such as sculpture, dressing-up and creative games in a family room.

Tate Britain, Millbank, London (020-7887 8008; www.tate.org.uk). Open daily, 10am-5.40pm and until 10pm on Fridays. Artspace takes place on Saturdays and Sundays, 1pm-5pm.

3 Avon calling

With more than 20 activities and performances each day, the Bristol Children's Festival will keep families entertained until energy levels are depleted. There will be a workshop in circus skills, children's theatre, story-telling, puppets and arts and crafts workshops.

Bristol Children's Festival, The Downs, Stoke Road, Bristol (0117-922 3808; www.childrensworldcharity.org). Open 23-26 July, 11am-5pm. Admission: adults and over-13s £5, children aged five to 12 years £7, toddlers £2.

4 Castles made of sand

It's summer (believe it or not) and time to dust off those buckets and spades for the Masters of Sand Championship. The competition is divided into four categories, including one for families, with a maximum group size of four. Constructions can be as elementary or as elaborate (see the Jungle Book sculpture, right) as desired. There will be entertainment until late afternoon.

Great Yarmouth Central Beach, Norfolk ( www.teletextholidays.co.uk), 24 July, from 9am, award ceremony at 2.45pm. Free, but booking is essential.

5 Watch the birdie

Marvel at the thousands of seabirds on the cliffs of Rathlin Island, off Northern Ireland's Antrim coast. Rathlin Cliffs RSPB Nature Reserve is holding an open weekend when birdwatchers can spot puffins and guillemots, before they migrate in mid-August. Other activities include badge-making and face-painting.

Rathlin Island RSPB Nature Reserve, Rathlin Island, Ballycastle, County Antrim (028-9049 1547; www.rspb.org.uk), 31 July-3 August, 10am-5pm. Admission free.

6 Down on the farm

Get a taste of rural life at Hazel Brow Farm's Family Fun Day. Activities include making butter and organic smoothies, riding ponies, feeding the sheep and meeting the resident puppies, kittens and chicks. You'll also be invited to tuck into the barbecue at 5pm, dining on local and home-produced meats.

Hazel Brow Farm, Low Row, Richmond, North Yorkshire (01748 886224; www.hazelbrow.co.uk), 24 July from 11am until evening. Admission free.

7 Plastic fantastic

Still looking good at 40, Sindy's milestone birthday is being marked by the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood with a special exhibition. Trace the doll's history (above), from her Beatles-inspired pop single in the 1960s, to her recent re-launch as a Pop Idol, complete with Union Jack Mini Cooper. The Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green, London E2 (020-8980 2415; www.museumofchildhood.org.uk). Open daily until February 2005, except Fridays, 10am-5.50pm. Admission free.

8 Treasure hunt

Head for Tower Beach this summer and go hunting for artefacts in the sands with the expert help of archaeologists and environmentalists during the Fun on the Foreshore event at the Tower of London. The Royal Armouries will also be putting on displays, while ecologists will be talking about the Thames's fauna.

HM Tower of London, London EC3 (020-7709 0765; www.hrp.org.uk), 24-25 July, 10.30am-4.30pm. Admission free.

9 Return of the mummy

The Beasts of the Nile exhibition in Bolton explores the relationship between ancient Egyptians and animals. Mummies and other antiquities are featured in the displays, some of which come from the British Museum, and there is a special display of Egyptian fish in the aquarium.

Bolton Museum, Art Gallery and Aquarium, Le Mans Crescent, Bolton (01204 332211; www.boltonmuseums.org.uk). Open Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm, until 4 September. Admission free.

10 Pirates ahoy!

Budding pirates are beckoned to Greenwich in London this summer to listen to stories about legendary characters, such as Blackbeard, Calico Jack and Anne Bonny, recounted by costumed actors (above). On 25 July and 29 August from 11am-4pm there will be a family Sunday with Tintin and pirate-themed events, activities and workshops.

The National Maritime Museum, Romney Road, Greenwich, London (020-8312 6565; www.nmm.ac.uk). Dates throughout August, at various times. Admission is free.

11 Musical youth

Music and dance is the theme of the Aberdeen International Youth Festival. The National Youth Orchestra of Scotland provides the overture to events at the Music Hall on 4 August with a programme including music by Elgar. Other concerts will feature a world music night and workshops on a variety of subjects include learning to play the steel drum.

Venues across Aberdeen (01224 494400; www.aiyf.org), 4 to 14 August. Prices vary according to date and venue.

12 Please sir, may I have some more?

Take a tour of the Apprentice House, home to the Victorian child labourers of the Quarry Bank Mill with a costumed guide. Visitors can learn about the garden's fruit and vegetable garden and get cooking in the kitchen, rounding off with tea in the parlour. Tours leave roughly every half an hour and take around an hour.

The Apprentice House, Quarry Bank Mill, Styal, Cheshire (01625 527468; www.quarrybankmill.org.uk), 27-30 July, 10am-4pm. Admission: adults £7.30, children aged five to 18 years £4.50, family ticket (two adults and up to three children) £18.

13 Little luvvies

Kids Week 2004 gives children aged five-16 the opportunity to experience the glamour and drama of London's theatreland for free, with drama workshops and activities in the capital's theatres and at the Theatre Museum. There's even an opportunity to tread the boards, as well as backstage tours.

Across theatreland and at the Theatre Museum, West End, London (0870-444 6066; www.kidsweek.co.uk), 20 August-3 September, times vary. Bookings, which are essential, are taken from the end of July and limited to one event per child.

14 Hooray for Noddy

Take a seat in Noddy's famous red and yellow car when he and his friends pull up at the Hop Farm this summer. Children can have their faces painted, learn circus skills, listen to stories and go on treasure trails around the park as well as pay a visit to the Shire Horse stables and farm.

The Hop Farm Country Farm, Paddock Wood, Kent (01622 872068; www.thehopfarm.co.uk), 30 July to 1 August from 10am-5pm. Admission: adults £8.50, children aged four to 15 years £7.50, family ticket (two adults and two children) £27. Booking is advised.

15 Turn over a new leaf

The programme for this year's Edinburgh Book Festival reads like a Who's Who of popular contemporary literature, with guests from around the world including Irvine Welsh and Toni Morrison. The highlight for families may well be a reading from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J K Rowling. And there will be various free activities and events too.

Venues across Edinburgh (0131-624 5050; www.edbookfest.co.uk), from 14 to 30 August. Tickets for the Harry Potter reading will be allocated by ballot, which closes on Tuesday 20 July. Forms are available from www.bloomsbury.com/harrypotter/news. Ticket prices for other events vary.

16 Get your skates on

Adults and children of all ages and abilities are welcome at the annual Eastbourne Skate Festival. From roller discos to lessons, there will be something for everyone. Performing bands, sports demonstrations and a barbecue will also be laid on for visitors.

Eastern seafront, Eastbourne, East Sussex (01323 415442; www.skate2004.co.uk), 24-25 July, 9am-11pm Saturday, 9am-7pm Sunday. Admission free.

17 Hands-on history

Step into a bygone era and try your hand at making traditional bread (left) at Blists Hill Victorian Town in Shropshire. Learn how to make felt and bricks, too, as well as learning the art of candle-dipping during this hands-on weekend.

Blists Hill Victorian Town, Legges Way, Madeley, Shropshire (01952 601010; www.ironbridge.org.uk), 21-22 August from 10am-5pm. Admission: adults £8.50, children £5.30.

18 Not to be sniffed at

Get too much information at Poo: A Natural History of the Unmentionable. This exhibition invites the super-curious to discover what human and animal poo is composed of and what we can learn from it, as well as other lesser-known facts that you may or may not wish you'd discovered! There's even an interactive odour room for the bold.

The Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum, Tring, Hertfordshire (020-7942 6171; www.nhm.ac.uk). Open 3 August to 28 November; Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm, Sunday 2pm-5pm. Admission free.

19 Welcome to wonderland

What better location for a production of the enchanting Alice in Wonderland than the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall? The play takes place under the stars on Flora's Green, within the garden's pleasure grounds. Take your seat on a rug or haystack and don't forget to bring along a picnic.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Pentewan, St Austell, Cornwall (01726 685532; www.heligan.com). Performance: 28 August at 6.30pm. Admission: adults £10, children aged five to 16 years £7, family ticket (two adults and two children) £30.

20 Animal Olympics

Forget Athens - get down to Alfriston in East Sussex for the Zoolympics Challenge Day. Children under 13 years are invited to take part in one of the five events that will test their skills against the animals. Hang like a monkey, balance like a flamingo or run like a cheetah, and you could win yourself a prize. All weary contestants will be rewarded with a barbecue meal.

Drusillas Park, Alfriston, East Sussex (01323 874100; www.drusillas.co.uk), 8 August, 10am-5pm. Admission: adults £9.99, children two to 12 years £9.49.

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