The UK’s 40 best days out (perfect for half term)

uk england scotland wales northern ireland best days out family kids activities uk 2024 may half term school holidays
Get set to fill your half-term diary with some great family-friendly adventures - Heligan/VisitBritain

May half term is here, and the UK is bursting with brilliant ideas for family days out – whatever the weather might have in store.

From stately homes with sprawling grounds to immersive museums and nature reserves, and even a couple of theme parks, there’s no shortage of options to fill your calendar up with, wherever you are located. Opt for adventure with zip wires in Cornwall and trips down an old mine in the Midlands, try explorer trail in one of the country’s best museums or simply head out on a historical walk around a heritage site. Note that half-term dates differ around the country, but for most schools it’s the week beginning May 27.

If you’ve not had time to plan any day trips and are searching for inspiration, look no further. Here are 40 of the UK’s best days out.

Find days out in your region

The Midlands

1. Black Country Living Museum, West Midlands

A 26-acre, open-air site onto which more than 40 buildings have been moved from various parts of the area. Exhibits include a pub and chapel, as well as a Twenties cinema, Thirties fish and chip shop and pop-up experiences especially for the half-term crowds. Trolley buses and trams link the site, and you can take a 35-minute tour into a drift mine to experience the life of an 1850s miner.

Contact: 0121 557 9643;

2. Ironbridge, Shropshire

The birthplace of the Industrial Revolution now houses 10 museums alongside the famous iron bridge over the River Severn. Of these the most popular with children are Enginuity, a science and technology centre full of hands-on activities and interactive exhibits, and Blists Hill, a lively reconstructed Victorian town with old-style shops (taking old-style money) and fairground.

Contact: 01952 433424;

Family day out school holidays half term
The famous iron bridge over the River Severn - Getty

3. Bekonscot Model Village & Railway, Buckinghamshire

This Thirties creation, the world’s oldest and original model village, started as a hobby and developed into more than an acre of meticulously made houses, farms, fields and lakes, connected by a model railway that wends its way through well-kept gardens. Profits go to charity.

Contact: 01494 672919;

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Northern England

4. IWM North

One of the five museums under the Imperial War Museums umbrella, IWM North offers a collection of permanent and temporary displays near the Millennium Bridge, just west of Manchester’s city centre. Family-focussed themes include Chocolate and Rationing or D-Day Disguise and Deception, with the opportunity to meet and talk with war veterans.

Contact: 020 7091 3067;

5. Honister Slate Mine, Cumbria

One of the Lake District’s last working slate mines where visitors will find the “Infinity Bridge” – a gorge traversed at 1,200ft up – and mountain activities, along with stunning views, on the Via Ferrata; there’s a choice of the “Classic” or – newer and more nerve-wracking – “Xtreme” route.

Contact: 01768 777230; Plan the perfect trip to the Lake District with our guide.

6. Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Lancashire

Top rides at Blackpool Pleasure Beach include the Avalanche, Big Dipper, Grand National and The Big One (Europe’s tallest roller coaster at 235 feet). The ‘Flying Machines’ were built in 1904 but still pull in crowds.

Contact: 0871 222 1234;

blackpool pleasure beach
The Big One is a highlight of a day in Blackpool - Getty

7. Beamish Museum, County Durham

A 300-acre area containing reconstructed houses, shops and heritage buildings contrasting life in north-east England in 1825 with the post-industrial 1900s, 1940s and 1950s. One highlight is the colliery village with pit cottages. A hop-on, hop-off tram dating from 1913 takes visitors around and demonstrators also bring their skills and crafts alive.

Contact: 0191 370 4000;

Family day out school holidays half term
A hop-on, hop-off tram dating from 1913 takes visitors around Beamish Museum - Getty

8. National Railway Museum, North Yorkshire and County Durham

One of the best free museums in the country, across two sites, in York and at Shildon in County Durham. Highlights include a Japanese bullet train, a Chinese locomotive, Queen Victoria’s railway carriage and Mallard, once the fastest steam trains in the world. There is also a model railway, outdoor play area and train-ride simulator. Opening in May 2024 at the Shildon site is “New Hall”, housing 47 historic railway vehicles.

Contact: 033 0058 0058; Plan the perfect trip to Yorkshire with our guide,

9. Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland

The best Roman forts and museums along the 150-mile wall are between Brampton and Hexham. Highlights include finds at Vindolanda (shoes, party invitations and jewellery), Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum (full scale reconstructed bath house) and the Roman Army Museum.

Contact: Plan the perfect trip to Northumberland with our guide.

Family day out school holidays half term
Pick a section of Hadrian's Wall to explore - Getty

10. Chester Zoo, Cheshire

From aardvarks to zebras, there’s a vast range of animals housed in 128 acres of gardens at Chester Zoo. Private activities include early morning bus tours of the zoo before it opens, hand-feeding the fruit bats, and delivering lunch to the lions via a zip line.

Contact: 01244 380280;

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Eastern England

11. Whipsnade Zoo, Bedfordshire

One of Europe’s largest wildlife parks, with more than 10,000 animals. Attractions include Lemur Island, Cheetah Rock and an indoor gym (chimpnasium) for acrobatic chimpanzees. Among the zoo’s newest additions is a white rhino calf and a baby camel called Sally.

Contact: 0344 225 1826;

Whipsnade Zoo wildlife park
Whipsnade Zoo is one of Europe’s largest wildlife parks, with more than 2,500 animals - Joe Giddens

12. Imperial War Museum, Duxford, Cambridgeshire

A range of vast hangars show historic aircraft including a Battle of Britain Exhibition and a Land Warfare Hall with giant tanks and military trucks. There are flying days and events hosted regularly.

Contact: 020 7416 5000;

13. Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure, Norfolk

Follow a wooded trail to find life-size dinosaurs, with Tyrannosaurus rex and vast Brontosaurus, and audio equipment used to create prehistoric grunts and roars. There’s also a wide range of family attractions including adventure play areas and a farmyard.

Contact: 01603 876310; Plan the perfect trip to Norfolk with our guide.

14. Sutton Hoo, Suffolk

An Anglo-Saxon burial ground in 91 hectares of grounds overlooking the Deben estuary with woodland walks and plenty of activities for families, including an adventure playground, tracker packs, dressing-up and activity trails.

Contact: 01394 389700; Plan the perfect trip to Suffolk with our guide.

Family day out school holidays half term
Sutton Hoo is an Anglo-Saxon burial ground in Suffolk - Getty

15. Anglesey Abbey, Gardens and Lode Mill, Cambridgeshire

There is plenty of room to let off steam in the spacious gardens containing a wildlife discovery area with a two-storey treehouse and a 150-year old, working mill. Families can explore the woodland trails and pick up an activity pack for exploring house and grounds on entry. House highlights include a collection of clocks and silverware. A renovated “domestic wing” allows access to the kitchen, butler’s pantry, brushing room and servants’ hall.

Contact: 01223 810080;

16. Snettisham Park, Norfolk

A friendly 329-acre farm-turned-family-attraction where children can feed orphan lambs and collect eggs. A large adventure playground, deer safari, walking trails and ride-on tractors provide all-day fun.

Contact: 01485 542425;

Family day out school holidays half term Snettisham Park, Norfolk
Snettisham Park is a 320-acre farm-turned-family-attraction - Getty

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Southern England

17. The British Museum, London

The “explorer trails” at the British Museum are a wonderful way to get children to really examine the exhibits in front of them. The animal masks in the African galleries are particularly popular with young children; youngsters keen on counting will enjoy comparing Buddhas in the Indian galleries. The museum regularly runs workshops for children at half term.

Contact: 0207 323 8000; Plan the perfect trip to London with our guide.

18. Warner Bros. Studio Tour, London

A great day out for all Harry Potter fans of all ages. Allow around three hours for this tour, which gives you an opportunity to browse at your own pace through the vast hangars where the films were made. Highlights include the Great Hall, Hagrid’s hut, the Gryffindor common room, the original Hogwarts Express steam engine and a recreation of Platform 9 ¾. Wander along Diagon Alley, learn the secrets behind the special effects and find out what butterbeer tastes like (buy a glass to share – it’s an acquired taste).

Contact: 0800 640 4550;

Family day out school holidays half term
Explore Hagrid's Hut on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour - Getty

19. Legoland, Berkshire

Thousands of small plastic bricks used to create themed areas, including “Miniland”, with London landmarks such as the Millennium Bridge, Canary Wharf and Tower Bridge, can be seen at Legoland. Also Lego-themed rides and adventure films within the 150-acre park.

Contact: 01753 626416;

20. Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Hampshire

Ships include HMS Victory, HMS Warrior 1860 and the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s warship, for which a £27 million museum opened in 2013. Single-attraction tickets are available, but best for value is the annual admission, which covers all of the exhibits. On HMS Warrior, visitors can have conversations with historic figures, try their hand at sword-fighting and create secret signal flag messages.

Contact: 023 9283 9766;

Family day out school holidays half term Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
Visitors to HMS Warrior can now try their hand at sword-fighting - Getty

21. Osborne House, Isle of Wight

Swiss Cottage, the small two-storey wooden play chalet in the gardens of Queen Victoria’s seaside palace, was reopened in 2018 with hands-on displays portraying the life of a royal Victorian child, while the grounds contain a trail and play area. A short walk from the house is the Queen’s private beach with her 1840s bathing machine, deck chairs and great ice cream.

Contact: 01983 200022;

22. Weald & Downland Open Air Museum, West Sussex

Over 50 historic buildings, including barns, a Victorian school, timber-framed farmhouse, market hall and water mill, all rescued from demolition and reconstructed on a 40-acre, grassy site. Authentically dressed staff add further atmosphere by demonstrating traditional crafts in situ.

Contact: 01243 811363;

Family day out school holidays half term
Authentically dressed staff add atmosphere at Weald & Downland Open Air Museum - Getty

23. Hampton Court, Surrey

There is a lot to see here, including the Great Hall, Tudor kitchens, William III’s state apartments and the gardens with maze and 240-year-old grape vine. Don’t miss the Cumberland Art Gallery with paintings by Rembrandt and Caravaggio, or the Georgian chocolate kitchens.

Contact: 0333 320 6000;

Family day out school holidays half term Hampton Court
Hampton Court is a clasic family day out - Credit

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South West England

24. Slimbridge Wetland Centre, Gloucestershire

Children can get soaking wet in Welly Boot Land, where they’re encouraged to build dams, jump in puddles and mess around with water. Also 4x4 safaris, toad demonstrations and canoe safaris at this bird conservation trust founded by Sir Peter Scott in 1946. During half term there are daily activity sessions for children, including pond dipping and arts and crafts.

Contact: 01453 891198;

25. Stonehenge, Wiltshire

The ancient prehistoric monument Stonehenge is enhanced with audio-visual displays, hands-on exhibits and a café. Reconstructed huts show how life would have been for Neolithic children.

Contact: 0870 333 1181;

Family day out school holidays half term Stonehenge
Stonehenge is enhanced by audio-visual displays and hands-on exhibits - Getty

26. Longleat Safari Park, Wiltshire

Tour the game reserve to see giraffes, zebras, rhinoceros, camels, lions, tigers and wolves. Longleat Safari Park’s day ticket also covers the 16th-century house, miniature railway and Adventure Castle playground for younger children.

Contact: 01985 844400;

27. Eden Project, Cornwall

Children and adults love the walk-through “biomes”, one with a rainforest ecosystem, the other with Mediterranean trees and plants. There is a rainforest canopy walkway with a nest platform, a zip wire, gardens and a great range of educational (and fun) play areas.

Contact: 01726 811972; Plan the perfect trip to Cornwall with our guide.

Family day out school holidays half term Eden Project Cornwall
Children and adults love the walk-through “biomes” at the Eden Project Cornwall - Getty

28. Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall

Restored after years of neglect, this 100-acre area contains glasshouses, walled gardens, pleasure grounds, a “jungle” of ferns with boardwalks, and peaceful woodland.

Contact: 01726 845100;

The Lost Gardens of Heligan
The Lost Gardens of Heligan host events perfect for kids to run wild

29. Battle Abbey, East Sussex

Audio guides bring the blood and gore of this 1066 battle ground alive and you can see the spot where King Harold died. An introductory film tells the story in the visitor centre.

Contact: 0370 333 1181;

Family day out school holidays half term
A well-preserved common room at Battle Abbey - Getty

30. Paignton Zoo, Devon

Opened in the Twenties by an eccentric millionaire, the zoo covers an 80-acre area containing a crocodile swamp and six habitats, including savannah, forest and wetland, plus botanic gardens. Daily events include animal talks, bird shows and feeding times.

Contact: 01803 697500; Plan the perfect trip to Devon with our guide.

31. Wookey Hole, Somerset

Designed for families with younger children to explore themed areas such as Dinosaur Valley, Monster Mill and Fairy Garden. You can also join a 35-minute tour of the prehistoric caves. Special events include half term activities and shows.

Contact: 01749 672243; Plan the perfect trip to Somerset with our guide.

Family day out school holidays half term Wookey Hole Cave
Wookey Hole is great for families with younger children - Getty

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32. The Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre, Stirling

Opened to mark the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn in 2014, this centre recreates the sights and sounds of medieval battle using 3D technology. Visitors can watch or participate in the Battle Game, an interactive test of strategy, and Battle Show, a demonstration of how the battle was won.

Contact: 01786 812 664;

33. Culloden Battlefield, Highlands

The site of a bloody clash between Jacobites and Hanoverians in 1746, where more than 1,200 died in less than an hour of fighting. A hi-tech visitor centre uses film, models and hand-held electronic guides to convey the stories surrounding the event: the animated battle table uses vivid narration to bring the drama of this brutal conflict to life.

Contact: 01463 796090;

34. Culzean Country Park, Ayrshire

An 18th-century castle on a rocky promontory by the Firth of Clyde, with Robert Adam interiors and castle armoury. Waymarked paths run through the grounds and deer park, and there are Adventure Cove and Wild Woodland play parks.

Contact: 01655 884455;

Family day out school holidays half term
Waymarked paths run through woodland and a deer park at Culzean Country Park - Getty

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35. Anglesey Sea Zoo, Isle of Anglesey

Highlights at Anglesey Sea Zoo include the Shark Pool, Big Fish Forest and Shipwreck using huge tanks stocked with marine life found in the waters around the local coastline. Also a bouncy castle, adventure playground and radio-controlled boats.

Contact: 01248 430411;

36. Big Pit Mining Museum, Torfaen

You really get a feel of what life was like underground on a guided tour of the mine, which starts with a 300ft descent by pit cage down the mineshaft, equipped with helmets and cap lamps. Or you can opt to take a virtual tour of a modern coal mine. The original winding engine house, blacksmith’s forge and fan house are open to visitors.

Contact: 0300 111 2 333;

Family day out school holidays half term Big Pit National Coal Museum
Experience what life was like underground on a guided tour of Big Pit Mining Museum - Getty

37. Llancaiach Fawr Manor, Caerphilly

A Tudor house restored to its mid 17th-century condition, with a resident Puritan family, the Pritchards. Characters are brought to life by actors, and set in the context of the English Civil War. Children’s activity days are planned throughout the school holidays.

Contact: 01443 412248;

38. Bodnant Garden, Conwy

Explore 80 acres of terraces, informal lawns, river valley and wild gardens with plants from all over the world at Bodnant Garden. Enjoy family trails with puzzles, activity sheets and questions, plus Yew Dell, which has rare Bodnant hybrid rhododendrons. Advance booking is required at busy times.

Contact: 0344 249 1895;

Family day out school holidays half term Bodnant Garden
Explore eighty acres of terraces, informal lawns, river valley at Bodnant Garden - Getty

39. National Slate Museum, Gwynedd

The National Slate museum has an atmospheric location set next to Dinorwig quarry in Elidir mountain. Original Victorian workshops include foundries and forges, which are now used for slate-splitting demonstrations. There are also reconstructions of four quarrymen’s cottages and the Chief Engineer’s House.

Contact: 0300 111 2 333;

Family day out school holidays half term
National Slate Museum is set next to Dinorwig quarry in Elidir mountain - Getty

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Northern Ireland

40. Mount Stewart House, County Down

Set in a scenic spot on the shores of Strangford Lough, this neoclassical house has spectacular gardens with Mediterranean-style planting and woodland areas. There are wildlife tracker packs, swans on the lake and red squirrel trails to encourage children to explore the grounds.

Contact: 028 4278 8387;

For more travel inspiration, read Telegraph Travel’s guide to the best family hotels in the UK.

This story was first published in May 2023 and has been revised and updated.