10 Ideas for Days Out with English Heritage
Tired of dragging vacant kids around museums that only speak of the past? Want to engage them in the story and drama behind their heritage? English Heritage properties might be about history but many of them reach out to the modern family. In this post, brought to you in conjunction with English Heritage, we look at some attractions that go out of their way to engage…
Great days out with English Heritage Membership
How do you interest kids in historical properties while preserving the integrity of the buildings? With a little imagination and the use of art and technology, that’s how. English Heritage has been getting ahead of the game in this. This summer the organisation staged 150 events across the country encouraging people to re-enact history for themselves. But the fun doesn’t stop with the end of the school holidays. Families looking for affordable days out can buy English Heritage membership that gives them access to 400 properties across England including admission for up to six children. With annual adult membership at just £49 for a year (£86 for joint adults), you could have a great day out at a different property every day of the year and still have some left over to visit next year.
Many of these properties offer unique, interactive experiences and this autumn there are a range of treats in store for curious families. We’ve been having a look to see what’s going on and are pleased to bring you our top ten suggestions for autumn days out at English Heritage sites.
1 Meeting the Wild Man at Belsay Hall, Northumberland
Fancy meeting a 600 year old hairy naked beast and his equally attractive wife? Who wouldn’t? The Wild Man of Belsay may have been around for 600 years but it’s new technology that is bringing him to life. To complement statues, painted windows and graphic panels illustrating the Wildman’s habitat and his historic connection with the Middleton family, there’s a new app to grab your kids’ imagination. The Wild Man Game, downloadable via iTunes uses location beacons hidden around the rooms to create an interactive game played through visitors’ mobile phones. Creep through the corridors of Belsay Hall and see if you can find the scary hairy and his Mary before he finds you!
2 Playacting magic at Tintagel Castle, Cornwall
Tintagel Castle is riddled with legends surrounding King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. And you and your family can bring one of those legends to life by performing it yourselves. Staff at the castle have written a lighthearted play and will be happy to furnish you with the script. High in this castle on the North Cornwall coast, you can be part of The Sword And The Stone story. But no fighting over who plays Merlin!
3 Being neolythic at Stonehenge, Wiltshire
Stonehenge is back! Not that it ever went away. But the attraction has reinvented itself for a new generation. It now has a brand new visitor centre, free family audio tour, visitor shuttle and new exhibitions. Five Neolithic, explorable houses also offer interested families the chance to ‘re-connect the ancient stones with the people that lived and worked in the surrounding landscape.’
4 Viewing a portrait of Hadrian’s Wall
Here’s your chance to see and learn about the people integral to the preservation of Hadrian’s Wall in a series of art installations. Eleven portraits, lent by the National Portrait Gallery in London, are being displayed on location at sites and museums along the wall until 9th November. This celebration of art and history was brought about by partnership between organisations like Vindolanda Trust, Tullie House Museum and English Heritage. The exhibition ‘Wall Face: portraits of people who revealed Hadrian’s Wall’ is displaying pictures of the pioneering archaeologists and antiquarians along with their life story and achievements at eleven sites and museums along the 150 mile Roman frontier zone. Information leaflets, a mobile app and talks also help bring the people and history to life.
5 Wreck diving at Lundy, Bristol Channel
Any qualified divers in the family? If so they can explore the wreck of a C19th paddle steamer with a gun running past. The Iona II sank in 1864 close to the eastern shore of Lundy Island. It has now been developed as an English Heritage underwater tourist attraction. The Lundy wreck is the fifth in a series of dive trails of protected wrecks in the UK. In Autumn it’s likely to be warm enough to spend a little time in the UK water, so if you have a dive certificate and some flippers why not dive down and learn first hand about the wrecked ship and its historical role in the American Civil War.
6 Exploring the world of Belle at Kenwood House, London
The movie Belle was released this summer and is now available to buy and rent on Amazon. It explores the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle who grew up at Kenwood House. Belle was the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral raised by her aristocratic great uncle in a time when slavery was common. As a family you could watch the movie together and then go and explore the real life stimulus for the film and imagine life in the days Of Belle. There’s also a family zone in the Orangery, explorer backpacks and Mac’s trail- for children between 5 and 11 years old.
7 Rummaging through history at Wrest Park
Do you find objects help you get a feel for a period? Or are you a fan of historic bric a brac? Then you’ll love this Aladdin’s cave with a twist of history. Visitors to Wrest Park in Bedfordshire can tour a warehouse containing 153,00 artifacts rescued from historical sites. Yes 153,000! You can take a bookable guided tour on the first Monday of every month at this English Heritage archeological collections store. 2,000 years of history in a collection of fascinating objects. What’s not to like about this family day out?
8 Dressing up for a ride at Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire
Bolsover Castle is a fairy tale experience that will grab the imaginations of the little ones without too much trouble. But to help bring it to life even more you can grab some dressing up clothes and imagine yourself in the company of William Cavendish in the 17th century. The dressing up facilities are part of the Riding House stables interactive exhibition. You can also see the model and film of the Little Castle, or take a free, family friendly audio tour.
9 Scanning Roman ruin bar codes at Wroxeter
Does a games console reach the parts of your kids that books and exhibits just can’t? Wroxeter Roman City (near Shrewsbury) is offering prebooked groups a unique education experience using PSP’s. The Portable Sony Playstations help kids explore the Roman Ruins and Town House by scanning special bar codes around the sites. These bar codes show them a video of costumed characters explaining more about the location. Sound good? It’s only available to schools at the moment so you’ll have to hold fire on your PSP family day out but I can see it taking off. For the moment, a site museum and audio tour helps families get to know what was once the fourth largest city in Roman Britain.
10 Being spooked by Halloween at Pendennis Castle
Crafts and ghost hunting as well as spooky tours tailored to adults and to children bring history to life, or should that be death, at Cornwall’s Pendennis Castle this October. Are you brave enough? If you have time, you might also want to visit a special exhibition marking the anniversary of the First World War; Fortress Famouth and the First World War.
Disclosure Note: This post is brought to you in partnership with English Heritage. The ideas, research and opinions are all our own. Thanks to English Heritage and James Wright for the use of images.