20 UK breaks that will help your child get ahead at school - just in time for half-term

Rosie Murray-West
Make your break an educational one - Imgorthand

Taking a break with an educational twist can help to ignite your children’s enthusiasm for a subject, or allow you all to indulge a passion together.

Whether you want to bring the history they are studying to life, or to help them to think of mathematics in a different way, a short break in the UK is a great way to share in their learning and create memories for many years to come.  Here are 20 of the very best educational trips you can take, whether your children are already preparing for their GCSEs or still working on their phonics.

For literature lovers

1. Haworth Parsonage and Top Withens, Yorkshire

The austere home of the ill-fated Bronte sisters and their feckless brother Branwell will inspire even the most reluctant of teen readers to dive into Jane Eyre, while younger children will be inspired by the fantasy worlds created by the young Brontes.

Take the steep climb to Top Withens, the ruined farmhouse said to be the inspiration for Wuthering Heights and placate transport fiends with a trip on the Keighley and Worth steam railway, featured in the film of The Railway Children.

Suitable for: Children seven and up.

Take the steep climb to Top Withens Credit: istock

Details: A family ticket to Haworth Parsonage is £22 for two adults and up to four children, and this allows entry for a year. The Keighley & Worth steam railway costs £18 for a Day Rover ticket for adults (one-day unlimited travel), and £9 for children.

Where to Stay: The Kings Head at Kettlewell welcomes children and has doubles available from £90 per night (read the review).

2. Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

Walk the streets that inspired Shakespeare, talk with experts at his birthplace and enjoy a Tudor-style Latin lesson at the Bard’s old school. Each of the five Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust properties offers a trail for children, while actors will bring your child’s GCSE set Shakespeare text to life for you on demand.

Take older children to see the RSC perform in the evening, or enjoy the MAD museum - full of mechanical toys with buttons to press - if younger ones tire of the iambic pentameter.

Suitable for: Ages 9-18

One of the five Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust properties Credit: Getty

Details: Book online for a year-long family ticket to all five Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust properties at £59.50. Joint tickets to Shakespeare’s Schoolroom tickets and the MAD museum cost 35.50 for a family of four.

Where to stay: The Howard Arms is a luxury B&B offering z-beds for children. Quadruple occupancy of the Garden Room costs £210 a night.

3. Dahl and Rowling in the Chilterns

Before JK Rowling, there was Roald Dahl. Take a magical break to the Chilterns and experience them both in one weekend, starting at the Roald Dahl Story Centre in Great Missenden. When you’ve found the mouse in the gobstopper jar and seen the great man’s writing hut, spend the second day touring the Harry Potter studio in Watford, half an hour’s drive away, finishing off with a refreshing glass of Butterbeer.

Suitable for: Age seven and up

Details: Roald Dahl museum - family ticket for two adults and up to three children, £22.60. Warner Brothers The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour - £140 for a family of four.

Take a magical break to the Chilterns Credit: Getty

Where to Stay: Hartwell House Hotel & Spa, in Amersham, welcomes children over the age of six. Suites cost from £294 a night online (read the review).

4. Beatrix Potter Country

Fans of the Peter Rabbit Cbeebies series will be entranced by a visit to the Lake District, where Beatrix Potter World brings Mrs Tiggywinkle, Jemima Puddleduck and Squirrel Nutkin to life.

Visit Hill Top, Potter’s former home, to peep into her childhood dolls house and spot furnishings from the Tale of Two Bad Mice, and download the Beatrix Potter trail from the National Trust website to find more places that inspired her.

Suitable for: Preschoolers to age 8

Details: Family ticket to World of Beatrix Potter £22. Hill Top ticket £29.50 (free to National Trust members).

Where to Stay: the Lakeside Hotel and Spa on Lake Windermere offers family rooms for £240 a night for two adults and up to three children.

For budding historians

5. Portsmouth Historic Docks

Help your children understand the history of our island nation with a naval-themed trip to Portsmouth. From Nelson’s HMS Victory and Henry VIII’s Mary Rose to the submarine museum and an interactive assault course at Action Stations, children of all ages can get to grips with the changing nature of the British navy, and how seafaring has shaped Britain through the ages.

Suitable for: Preschool to Age 14

Details: Family Full Navy Ticket (covers most attractions in the Historic Dockyard for a year) for £64 online for two adults and up to three children. Mary Rose (charged separately) family ticket (two adults and up to three children) £38 when booked online.

Explore Nelson’s HMS Victory Credit: istock

Where to stay: Portsmouth Village Hotel has double rooms from £95 a night.

6. Roman Bath

No primary school curriculum is complete without a module on the Romans, while older children studying Classics will see the relevance of the subject if they understand how British language and culture was transformed by the Roman invasion.

A trip to Roman Bath allows children over 6 to taste the supposedly healing waters that led to the city’s transformation, first in to Aquae Sulis, and then into the fashionable spa town immortalised by Jane Austen. Visit the Fashion Museum too, and for older Classicists, the Thermae Spa, with its rooftop pool, is great for an evening dip for over 16s.

Suitable for: Primary school children studying Roman Britain, and older students of Latin and Classical Civilisation.

Details: saver ticket allows you to visit the Roman Baths, Fashion Museum and Victoria Art Gallery for £69 per family.

Where to Stay: Combe Grove Hotel has some family rooms and a pool. Rooms from £90 a night.

7. The Titanic Quarter and CS Lewis Park, Belfast 

Few children can fail to be captivated by the tragic tale of Titanic, used in many schools as a KS3 history topic.  The interactive Titanic Experience at Belfast’s Harland & Wolff shipyard allows you to experience life as a passenger before the ship sank, as well as the history of the ship’s building, sinking and the wreck discovery. Book Afternoon Tea on Sunday afternoon to experience a meal by the reconstructed Titanic Grand Staircase, before wandering through CS Lewis park, filled with sculptures from Belfast-born Lewis’ Narnia books.

Suitable for: Age 11 and above

Details:  Titanic Experience tickets are available for £45 for a family. Sunday afternoon tea is £27.50 for adults and £12.50 for children.

The interactive Titanic Experience at Belfast’s Harland & Wolff shipyard Credit: istock

Where to stay: La Mon Hotel and Country Club is seven miles outside Belfast and family friendly, with adjoining rooms and a children’s club. One night for four in adjoining rooms from £140.  

 8. Iron Bridge, Blists Hill

The World Heritage Site at Ironbridge is a must for anyone exploring the Industrial Revolution and the Victorians, which is covered in the primary curriculum and again at secondary.

Younger children will love the reconstructed Victorian town at Blists Hill, where they can pay costumed shopkeepers with Victorian money, while there’s also a hands-on science centre; Enginuity.

Suitable for: All ages

Details: Annual one year pass tickets are £66.50 for a family of four when bought online.

Get into the Victorian vibe at Blists Hill Credit: istock

Where to stay: The Best Western Valley Hotel in the Ironbridge Gorge has twins and doubles at £80 each.

Maths and engineering

9. Bletchley Park & the Museum of Computing

Inspire your children to love the beauty of numbers with a trip to Bletchley Park, home of the Second World War codebreakers, as well as to the National Museum of Computing next door.

Bletchley offers frequent codebreaking events, while the National Museum of Computing allows you to see some of the world’s oldest and largest computers, including Colossus from the Second World War and the Bombe machine, which broke the Enigma code.

Suitable for: Families with children of eight and above

Details: Bletchley Park tickets are available for £48.25 for families of four, or children under 12 free and adults £18.50. The National Museum of Computing costs £7.50 per person or £5.00 for concessions.

Inspire your children to love the beauty of numbers with a trip to Bletchley Park Credit: Getty

Where to stay: Woughton House, just outside Milton Keynes, offers twin rooms from £57 a night.

10. Goodwood Racecourse

The mathematics of probability gets real at Goodwood, where racegoers and bookies alike must work out the odds of their horse winning before placing their bets.

Family race days offer other attractions such as balloon modellers and a fairground, for when the odds aren’t in your favour.

Suitable for: Ages 8 and up.

Details: Family Race Day at Goodwood on June 9 costs £36 for four including ice creams and a race card.

Place your bets Credit: Getty

Where to stay: The Goodwood Hotel offers interconnecting family rooms from £180 each.

11. The Air Defence Radar Museum, Neatishead, Norfolk

Build their mathematical brains with a visit to the Air Defence Radar Museum, the site of the longest continually operating radar installation in the world. Run by enthusiastic volunteers who can help children to understand how radar bleeps built three-dimensional scans; they will get an insight into the technology used in the Cold War as well.

Suitable for: Teens

Details: Family tickets cost £25

Where to Stay: The 3 Princes in Norwich offers a room for two adults and two childen for £225.

 12. The Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies, Falkirk, Scotland

The world’s only rotating boat lift transports boats between the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals. Discover how this behemoth turns, and take a trip round the wheel yourselves. Afterwards, visit the 30 metre high Kelpies sculptures at the new Helix visitor centre (thehelix.co.uk).

Details: Wheel trips unavailable until March 22; from £39.

Discover how this behemoth turns Credit: istock

Where to stay: Edinburgh City Apartments offer two bedroom apartments from £235 a night.

Science trips

13. Charmouth and Lyme Regis, Jurassic Coast

Follow in the footsteps of Mary Anning with a break to the Jurassic Coast. Book a fossil walk for help finding your own ammonites and fossilised sea worms, and then visit Seaton Jurassic for a steampunk-styled exploration of the real Jurassic Park.

Suitable for: Dinosaur lovers of all ages

Details:  Fossil Hunting Walks cost £8 for adults and £4 for children.  Tickets for Seaton Jurassic cost £22 for a family.

Where to stay:Dorset House Lyme Regis offers family rooms in the Lighthouse Suite from £155, with each child £30 extra.

14. Science and the Media on a Manchester Break

George Stephenson’s Rocket returns to Manchester this April, so there’s no better time to take a trip to the city’s Science & Industry museum, with free entry and frequent family-friendly exhibitions, including the current show on Electricity, The Spark of Life.

After MOSI, book the CBBC interactive tour at Media City in Salford, where your children can present the weather and find out how their favourite programmes are made.

Suitable for: Primary and Secondary depending on exhibitions

Details:Manchester Science and Industry Museum is free. The CBBC interactive tour costs £35.50 for a family

The real Stephenson’s Rocket returns to Manchester this April Credit: Getty

Where to stay: Manchester’s City Suites offers apartments for a family of four for around £250 a night.

15. Machynlleth CAT and Electric Mountain

Get the children thinking about sustainability and energy use. At the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) at Machynlleth, you can ride a water-balanced cliff railway and explore the science behind composting and solar and wind energy, as well as view or take part in sustainable building initiatives.

Afterwards take a trip to the Electric Mountain at Dinorwig, where water is pumped to the top of Elidir Mountain using surplus electricity at off-peak times, being released in a torrent to make peaktime electricity. The visitor centre is closed for refurbishment but tours inside the mountain begin again in April.

Suitable for: KS2 and above

Details: Centre for Alternative Technology entry free. Electric Mountain costs £8.50 for adults and £4.35 per child.

Where to stay:Dorset House Lyme Regis offers family rooms in the Lighthouse Suite from £155, with each child £30 extra.

14. Science and the Media on a Manchester Break

George Stephenson’s Rocket returns to Manchester this April, so there’s no better time to take a trip to the city’s Science & Industry museum, with free entry and frequent family-friendly exhibitions, including the current show on Electricity, The Spark of Life.

After MOSI, book the CBBC interactive tour at Media City in Salford, where your children can present the weather and find out how their favourite programmes are made.

Suitable for: Primary and Secondary depending on exhibitions

Details:Manchester Science and Industry Museum is free. The CBBC interactive tour costs £35.50 for a family

Where to stay: Stay on site for around £80, or choose something more comfortable at The Bear, Crickhowell, from £130 a night plus £25 for each extra child.

16. A science-themed Edinburgh trip

Edinburgh offers many opportunities for a science-based break. Visit the free National Museum of Scotland for the Energise Gallery, where children can generate energy on a giant hamster wheel.

Explore the geology of our planet at Dynamic Earth, including a simulation of the Big Bang. Allow the children to run off their energy in the Botanic Gardens, where there are trails to follow.

Suitable for: Ages 5-12

Details: Dynamic Earth costs £14 for adults and £8.80 for children. National Museum of Scotland is free.

Allow the children to run off their energy in the Botanic Gardens Credit: Getty

Where to Stay: Pilrigg House Apartments in Edinburgh, offers week long stays from £700, or try Edinburgh City Apartments offer two bedroom apartments from £235 a night.

Art and design

17. Yorkshire Sculpture Park 

Yorkshire’s free sculpture park is a great place for children to discover art on a grand scale. With 500 acres outside to explore as well as indoor exhibitions, there’s plenty to capture their imaginations, while the park offers frequent family workshops, indoors and out.

Suitable for: Ages 4 and up

Details: The Sculpture Park is free to enter

The Jaume Plense sculpture in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park Credit: Getty

Where to Stay: The Bells serviced apartments in Leeds offer two bedroom apartments from £500 for two nights.

18.  Dundee V&A 

 The newest addition to the V&A family is an impressive destination with family design workshops, while budding artists can get further inspiration from the sweeping views of the Firth of Forth from Broughty Castle. Afterwards, visit the RRS Discovery to follow in the footsteps of Captain Scott, or craft as a family at Dundee Contemporary Arts.

Suitable for: Design-focused teens or arty primary school aged children.

Details: The V&A Dundee is free to enter, and Dundee Contemporary arts has frequent workshops.  Scott’s ship is at Discovery Point - adults £11.25 and children £6.25.

The newest addition to the V&A family Credit: Getty

Where to Stay: Hotel Indigo Dundee has double rooms from £68 per night.

19. Red House and Eltham Palace

Give older Art & Design students a feel for two very different styles by combining trips to the Red House and Eltham Palace, both to the south of London. Discover the world of the Pre-Raphaelites at William Morris’s Red House home, before immersing yourself in the glamour of Art Deco at Eltham Palace.

Suitable For: Ages 9 and up

Details: Red House, owned by the National Trust, costs £21 for a family, or is free for National Trust Members. Eltham Palace costs £39 per family, or is free for English Heritage Members.

Where to Stay: De Vere Devenport House Hotel in Greenwich will allow you to combine these with Greenwich Park and the Naval Museum. The hotel costs from £135 per night for a double room.

20. A tour of the London Galleries

A whistle-stop tour of London's art galleries will give children a feel for the spread of art history. Take in the Tate Modern and the Tate Britain - and enjoy a boat trip between them, and ensure you leave time for the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery as well. The royal portraits on the top floor of the portrait gallery will captivate younger children, as they spot their favourite heroes and villains from Horrible Histories.

Suitable for: Ages five and up

Details: Both Tate Modern and Tate Britain are free, and a Family Roamer Boat Ticket costs from £39.50 (cheaper rates available if you hold a travelcard). The National Portrait Gallery and National Gallery are also free.

<br> Where to stay: The Park Plaza County Hall puts you right near Tate Modern and offers a family getaway from £208 a night including breakfast for all, kids movies and goody bags.