Britain’s top ten historical attractions for family days out


Parents struggling to keep children entertained during the holidays have been given a life-line – with this guide to Britain’s top ten historical attractions.

The guide to the country’s best destinations was compiled by Britain’s Finest after parents said they wanted to take their children to places that were fun and educational.

It includes days out at Glastonbury Abbey, The Tower Of London and Althorp House in Nothampton – the childhood home of the late Diana Princess of Wales.

Angela Southall, Marketing Manager at Britain’s Finest, said: ”Whilst holidays are a time of relaxation it’s still important to keep children educated as well as entertained. Holidays offer an opportunity for schoolchildren to apply their classroom learning into real life situations.

”Theme parks and visiting a zoo are fun; however, visiting the places in our country where history was made supports what children are learning at school.

”Kids can mimic Rapunzel as she meets her prince in one of our country’s finest castles, re-enact the scenes from the Tower of London or just pretend to live life as a Roman in a Roman Villa. There are plenty of suggestions for children to learn as they play whilst parents get to enjoy Great British history too.”

Tintagel Castle

Perched high on the cliff face at the top of hundred or so steps are the majestic 13th century castle ruins. Tintagel Castle is more about myth and legend than hard facts so the kids can get lost in the wonder of the magic here.

King Arthur is said to have been conceived within the walls of the Castle whilst the legend dictates that mysterious Merlin lived in the cave at the foot of the cliff. Spectacular views across to Lundy Island from the ancient walls make the climb to the top worth it and offers the perfect setting to relay tales of the knights and dragons of Arthurian legend and regale the kids with them as the Cornish breeze cools your aching feet.

Glastonbury Abbey

These stunning ruins are situated in a truly idyllic Somerset setting, enlivened by a team of living history guides who will regale you and the kids with tales of life in the monastery.

Listen to stories about its early Saxon beginnings, elaborate Norman extension building and how monks there are said to have exhumed the bodies of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere in order to raise money from visiting pilgrims so that they could rebuild the abbey after a catastrophic fire in 1184.

These bones were later reburied in the Abbey Church in a black marble tomb. And if all that wasn’t enough, there are plenty of events at the site too, including wonderful medieval food fairs.

Althorp House, Northampton

This attraction is most famous for being the childhood home of the late Diana Princess of Wales.

Althorp in Northamptonshire is a fascinating, lovely country house. If you’ve an interest in the mother of Prince William and Prince Harry, you’ll be intrigued by the rural idyll in which she lived out her  young life before becoming the focus of global media attention.

This glorious classic British country house, a family home for 19 generations, offers visitors lots to discover. Wander the house’s halls to study masterpieces by the likes of Gainsborough, Reynolds and Rubens (to name just a few) then go and explore the gardens and lake. Afterwards, stroll through the Tuscan porticos of the gorgeous honey-hued stable block where an exhibition looks at the Spencer family through the ages.

Tower of London

One thing this country’s good at is gore and history, a combination that will certainly keep little ones excited and imaginative.

The Tower of London is one of the most historically gruesome of them all. The 11th century Tower of London is the site where 22 executions have taken place, the last being the demise of German spy Josef Jacobs, who was shot by firing squad in 1941.

Many a prisoner was left to languish within its walls, awaiting trial at the nearby courts in Westminster.

Here you’ll find some rueful graffiti dating back centuries etched into the walls. The history of the surrounding Tower Hill is just as bloody – scaffolding erected there to host executions would regularly collapse under the weight of onlookers. One incident killed 20 people in one go.

Chartwell, Mapleton Road, Westerham

The mystery of Sir Winston Churchill comes alive here. Tell your children all about the larger than life hero of our times. The former PM lived a rural life in his country home Chartwell near Edenbridge in Kent and, thanks to the National Trust, visitors can walk through the wonderfully preserved rooms (period décor circa 1920s and 1930s) and have a nose at the photographs, books and pictures that have been left just as the great man had them – there is even a box of cigars on the table.

Memorabilia and recordings send a chill down your spine and afterwards you get to see the softer side of the man, when you pop into his studio where he used to paint. Make sure you tag onto a guided tour as the staff are excellent and very knowledgeable.

The Royal Yacht Britannia, Ocean Terminal, Edinburgh

It’s sailed more than a million miles and it ferried the Royal Family about for 40 years. The Royal Yacht Britannia is a floating museum to the quirks and whims of Liz and Co and makes for an extremely fun day out in Leith, Edinburgh. Make sure you pick up an audio headset before setting off to explore the five decks.

Children and adults will learn little gems of information such as how the cleaners had to toil in silence before 8am if they were polishing the deck anywhere near the Queen’s bedroom. Talking of which, her Majesty’s sleeping quarters are similarly fascinating in their 1950s simplicity. We bet the late Princess Diana chose a more plush room when she embarked on her honeymoon with Charles back in 1981.

Royal Pavilion, Brighton

The much-loved Royal Pavilion sits in the heart of Brighton looking like a mini Taj Mahal. The flighty, fun-loving and deeply Bacchanalian playboy the Prince Regent, later King George IV, instructed John Nash to build this seaside palace of fun so he could escape the formality of court back in London and party hard with his friends. This kicked off the city’s reputation as slightly licentious.

Inside you’ll discover what life was like for the royal, with the giant kitchens busy preparing for a huge dinner, the Chinoiserie-themed banqueting hall table laid out in all its splendour and the prince’s bedroom tidily on display complete with oversized bed to accommodate his continually expanding girth.

Buckler’s Hard Village, Maritime Museum, Beaulieu

Down by the river in the little rural New Forest hamlet of Buckler’s Hard sits a maritime museum that details how this unassuming little spot was once a hive of shipbuilding industry. The village would  churn out three vessels that fought at Trafalgar with Lord Nelson.

The outdoor living history exhibition shows youngsters how life would have been for those involved in the shipbuilding industry – the shipwright’s cottage highlights the difference between the well-to-do life of the shipwright and the rather more frugal existence of an unskilled labourer.

You can also take a boat trip down the Beaulieu River and stop off for lunch in the Captain’s Cabin Tea Room.

The Shakespeare Houses, Henley Street, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Pick a fine, sunny day when the English countryside is at its best and tae the family to Stratford Upon Avon where you can immerse yourself in all thing Shakespearean.

Shakespeare’s Houses, as they are known, include his birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Nash’s House and New Place, Mary Arden’s Farm and Hall’s Croft are dotted about either in Stratford or nearby.

Check out where the man himself played as a child then wander the picturesque mile from the town centre to Anne’s thatched cottage and stunning gardens in the pretty hamlet of Shottery.

Discover the sights, smells and sounds of a real Tudor farm at Mary Arden’s place in Wilmcote all whilst retelling the story of his work.

Don’t miss Hall’s Croft, where the Bard’s daughter lived with her doctor husband, his many herbal remedies still flourishing in the garden.

Crofton Roman Villa, Crofton Road, Orpington

Those Romans knew how to live the life, didn’t they? Underfloor heating, wine on tap and very nice bathing facilities. Well, if you want to find out more about this straight-road obsessed bunch, head off to Croft Roman Villa in Orpington, Kent.

Romans went about their business here from 140 to 400 AD and the house was the centre of a 500 acre farming estate. Once containing 20 rooms, there are now 10 to potter around in. Bag a guided tour to get the most of this historic treasure and don’t worry about the kids’ interest flagging – there are Roman games to play, mosaic making, dressing up and excavating. The touch table has real Roman finds to discover and there are special two-hour activity workshops for £3.


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