Summer hols survival kit
Gin not included. What's on for kids in and around Somerset in July, August and the beginning of September
Adventure Day Camps at Mill on the Brue, Bruton, Mon 23 July–Fri 24 Aug
Over 25 acres of beautiful grounds, more than 40 different activities, from an assault course to a 240m zip wire. Each day runs from 8.45am to 5.30pm and includes different activities and a home cooked lunch. Book for a day or more, with a discount for the whole week. Suitable for 7–12 year olds. Also Mini Mobster Mornings for 5 & 6 year olds, 9am–12pm Weds 25 July, 1, 8, 15 August. The Muddies love this place.
Avalon Marshes, throughout the summer
Magical wetland landscape at the heart of the Somerset Levels. Hunt for glow-worms and watch for bats on night time walks. Learn stone carving. Go pond dipping. Make art with natural materials. Explore the marshes by canoe: places for this little paddle get snapped up super fast, so act fast and book now.
Channel Adventure, Minehead and Taunton, throughout the summer
Stand up paddleboarding, sit on top kayaking, canoeing and swimming with experienced instructors in Minehead Bay and on the river Tone. Archery, tree climbing and axe and knife throwing on dry land.
Cheddar Gorge, Cheddar, throughout the summer
Go deep into vast subterranean caves, see where Britain’s oldest man (Cheddar Man) was found, try rock climbing and go for walks on the top of this. There’s a hands-on Festival of Archaeology from Weds 25 July–Sun 2 Sept, too. Organised by the British Council of Archaeology, there are activities for kids and a special Cheddar Man (as featured on Channel 4’s The First Brit) exhibition.
Dorset Waterpark, Corfe Castle, throughout the summer
Bouncing, sliding and splashing around on giant inflatable obstacle courses on two idyllic woodland lakes, overlooked by Corfe Castle, is the best fun ever – and the kids might like it too.
Longleat, Warminster, throughout the summer
As well as the famous safari drive-through, Longleat House and Grounds, Jungle Kingdom, Adventure Castle, Family Farmyard, Longleat Railway, Little Explorers Garden and a penguin walk-through *pause for breath* – this summer you can see Amur tigers, painted pop-up pandas and, until 3 Sep, Predator’s Season (yikes), with new exhibition T.rex: The Killer Question.
Valley Fest, Chew Valley Lake, Fri 3–Sun 5 Aug
Small, very family-friendly festival set against the backdrop of the glittering Chew Valley Lake. Live music, live animals (and a hobbyhorse gymkhana), Junior Jungle, Mr Potato Head sculptures, swing boats, a Midnight feast, a Michelin-cooked Sunday picnic – and this chap. We went last year – it was cool.
Wimbleball Lake, Exmoor, throughout the summer
All sorts of water sports, including sailing, windsurfing and paddleboarding for all ages up to adult on a massive reservoir. Their website’s not the best so you may need to call up to book. Onsite cafe, The Duck, is said to be good.
CASTLES AND OTHER HISTORIC PLACES
Bishop’s Palace, Wells, throughout the summer
Family trails around the grounds, with a different theme each week: Animals at the Palace, Jesters and Fools, Mini-beasts and Mediaeval Life. Craft sessions on Mondays and gardening sessions on Fridays. Circus skills, bouncy castle and more at the Midsummer Mayhem Family Fun day on Sun 5 Aug. People who like to dress up as mediaeval soldiers and fight each other with longbows and swords will be at the Bowlore Mediaeval Weekend Sat 25–Mon 27 Aug.
Dunster Castle, Dunster, throughout the summer
A motte and bailey castle in Norman times, a country house in the 19th century, now a National Trust fun day out. Explore the castle on a family trail. Find out about Victorian falconry and Victorian explorers. Go on a World War I assault course or join the Taunton Garrison for a weekend of Civil War skirmishes, weaponry and musket displays.
Hestercombe House, near Taunton, every Tues throughout the summer from 31 July
Terrific Tuesdays, starting Tues 31 July, throughout the hols: dog show, mini gardening, sports day, bugs and wild art.
Tyntesfield, near Wraxall, throughout the summer
Impressive Victorian Gothic country pile offering a night time nature walk, butterfly survey, tree walk and ranger day as part of a World Ranger weeekend (Sat 28 & Sun 29 July) and kids-only day camps throughout the summer, where they’ll live like Victorian children (inspired by the commonplace book by Hannah More, 1745-1833, in which she wrote about her time at Tyntesfield).
MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES
Aerospace Bristol, Flitton, throughout the summer
Fly through aviation history: aeroplanes (including the last Concorde ever to fly), helicopters, space rockets and satellites – then make your own paper plane.
Fashion Museum, Bath, Tues throughout the hols
Creative family activities with a fashion-related theme each Tuesday, at the museum which houses a world class collection of clobber from the 18th century to the present day.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Bruton, Thurs 26 Jul & Thurs 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 Aug
Drop-in summer storytelling for pre-schoolers and families inspired by the international art gallery’s current Alexander Calder exhibition (have a look at that too – fab). In the beautiful Oudolf Field or Radić Pavilion (the 2014 Summer Pavilion at the Serpentine Gallery). Thurs 26 Jul & Thurs 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 Aug.
Haynes International Motor Museum, Sparkford, various dates throughout the hols
World class collection of around 400 cars and other vehicles from around the world. Family trail discovery days throughout the hols but well worth a trip any time. Cafe and rather good gift shop.
Museum of Somerset, Taunton, from Sat 28 July–Sat 13 Oct
Is this one for you or for your kids? Toys, board and video games, costumes and photos at the museum’s summer exhibition. With kids’ activities throughout August – toy making, retro board games and more.
Somerset Rural Life Museum, Glastonbury, Thurs 26 July & Thurs 9 August
£2.4 million very well spent: this is a small but perfectly formed and fascinating museum about Somerset of yesteryear. Two days of family crafts and activities: Awesome Archaeology Thurs 26 July and Farmyard Fun Thurs 9 August. Tiny, good cafe. Climb the Tor while you’re there? It’s only a few minutes away.
SS Great Britain, Bristol, Mon 23 July–Sun 2 Sept.
Become Brunel’s summer apprentice: find out about Mr B himself, solve problems and learn engineers skills and climb the rigging (not literally).
Victoria Art Gallery, Bath, selected dates between Weds 25 July–Weds 29 Aug
Creative workshops for families around the themes of flowers and nature inspired by their current exhibition A Celebration of Flowers by Kaffe Fassett with Candace Bahouth – making mobiles, mosaics and all sorts of flowery things.
We the Curious, Bristol, throughout the summer
Do touch the exhibits, do use your phone, do laugh out loud at Bristol’s interactive science – not a museum – but a place to ask questions, get creative and test stuff out. Huge fun. Special events over the hols include: Festival of What If (Thurs 26–Tues 31 July), Aardman model-making workshops (Thurs 26–Sun 29 July), Solar System Odyssey (Weds 25 July–Mon 31 Dec).
Young Artists Summer School, Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Tues 31 July–Weds 1 Aug
Drawing challenges, making sculptures, and experimental printmaking for 6–11 year olds, in a 2-day workshop inspired by the the galleries current Alexander Calder exhibition.
CYMT Summer Music course, Taunton, Mon 6–Fri 10 August
Summer music school run by the prestigious Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s Somerset outpost, CYMT (Centre for Young Musicians Taunton) includes bands, orchestra, music technology, singing junk percussion, music theory for beginners, and music theory fast-track to Grade 5. For 10–18 year olds, Grade 3 to 8.
Actiontrack Showbuild Week, The Brewhouse, Taunton, Mon 13–Fri 17 August
Let’s put on a show! Not here in the barn but in The Brewhouse theatre. Create a full show from scratch with Actiontrack Performance Company at this five-day summer school for 8–16 year olds.
Millfield Sports, Street, throughout the hols
The famously sporty school opens its doors to all, with a summer programme of sports and multi-activity courses for 2–17 years old. See the full list of courses here.
THEATRE & CINEMA
The Princess and the Giant, Hestercombe House & Gardens, nr Taunton, Sun 22 July, Ecos Amphitheatre in Frome Fri 27 July; the Walled Gardens of Cannington Sun 29 July.
Open air cinema: a grumpy giant is keeping Princess Sophie awake… then, as she reads a fave fairy tale, she comes up with a plan. Also on at
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Woodlands Castle, Taunton, Fri 27 July
A boy goes to a school for wizards and a huge franchise is born. Another al fresco evening out– take a blanket.
Shrek the Musical, Bristol Hippodrome, Weds 8–Sun 19 August
The swamp-dwelling ogre and donkey side-kick embark on their quest to save Princess Fiona from a fire-breathing dragon. All new songs, over 100 fairytale characters and a 14-foot dragon…
Treasure Island, Bishop’s Palace, Wells, Thurs 23 Aug
Long John Silver and all, rollicking around in the grounds of the Bishop’s Palace as you look on from your picnic blanket.
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