We often spend our Bank Holidays visiting a castle or a stately home which is both fun and educational and most provide additional entertainment during the school breaks, such as jousting tournaments, birds of prey displays etc
A few years ago we headed to Hampton Court Palace where Henry VIII lived most of his life. Nowadays important moments in the life of the Palace are re-enacted by the “King and his Court”.
Then, last Easter, we visited Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII. The children loved it as there was an Easter egg hunt and both the Yew Maze and the Water Maze were open. The latter provided hours of fun for everyone.
Preston’s Avenham Park has been the scene for Easter egg rolling for well over a century. Last year was the first time we had visited this event, and couldn’t believe the huge numbers of people that it attracted. This year’s Easter Monday event promises to be bigger and better than ever as it coincides with the Preston Guild celebrations. From mid morning until late afternoon there will be mass egg rolling down the grassy hill on the hour every hour. Between egg rolling sessions there will be a variety of entertainment, including an Easter bonnet competition, music, fairground rides and plenty of other family friendly activities.
With interest in the First World War now greater than ever, one untold story is that of the thousands of miles of light railways that were laid to supply the front-line trenches. The narrow-gauge railway in Leighton Buzzard has one of the few surviving steam engines from that era, painstakingly restored to original War Department condition, and it is scheduled to haul passenger trains on Easter Sunday and Monday. A true iron war-horse!
There's nothing more relaxing than chug-a-lugging through the ancient Sussex landscape on a steam train. This Easter Sunday and Monday three special trips each day will include Easter eggs for children and hot cross buns for parents, all delivered by Little Bo Peep. There will also be a children’s entertainer on board. If you're lucky you might even see some bluebells and wave at some railway children. The first preserved standard gauge passenger line in the world has events running all year, so if you miss the Easter Special from Sheffield Park there will be plenty of other opportunities to ride on steam trains dating back to the nineteenth century.
The Bluebell Stepney Club for under eights dishes out badges, membership cards and other paraphernalia. If children turn into real enthusiasts they can graduate to the 9F Club, where they will be able to get involved in the preservation of this living piece of British history.
At the National Media Museum in Bradford all the exhibitions are free, and aside from the permanent photography, cinematography and television exhibitions (all family-friendly and interactive), there is now the world's first gallery devoted to the impact of the internet and digital age on our daily lives. There is always a range of films showing, as well as the mind-bending IMAX screen. This Easter there are various family activities on offer, including the chance to create animations and 'movie mash-ups'. There is a great shop, and a good cafe/restaurant; but this is Bradford, so it would be a shame to miss the chance to visit one of the fabulous curry shops just yards from the museum.
Almost 60 years ago but not forgotten …
We set out from Helmsley, now a trailhead of the Cleveland Way, on heavy sit-up-and beg bikes with three-speed gears, and started by taking a rewarding detour to the northwest. We stopped off for a bar of chocolate and some lemonade at Riveaulx Abbey and enjoyed wandering through the ruins. Then onwards, through moorland dotted with fields and woods, past Scawton and onto the main road. Then, sandwiches on the bridle path near the top of Sutton Bank with Gormire Lake in the foreground and the unending Vale of York ahead. A few of the more intrepid of us rode down the one in four gradient, through the dauntingly tight hairpin, and on to see the White Horse at Kilburn, an eight mile excursion. Riding back up Sutton bank, however, defeated us all. Back to Helmsley on the A170 (few cars there back then) until, on a downward hill, my rolled up ex-army combined waterproof cape and groundsheet parted company with the handlebars and dropped into the front forks. For those who saw it, my flying somersault over the handlebars was an awesome sight; the bike hit my back on our way down, but I was unhurt. Not so the bike. With front forks bent in a graceful S-shape, and the buckled front wheel jammed around the pedals, it had to be walked with front wheel lifted the remaining four miles back into Helmsley. The lavish Yorkshire Tea that awaited us there (egg, bacon, chips, lashings of fresh white bread, cakes, and strong sweet tea) brought an appropriate ending to an eventful day
North Yorks Moors
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The Taff Trail is a 55 mile route that starts in bustling Cardiff Bay and ends in the lovely market town of Brecon. It is unique in offering a series of accessible varied rides lasting from a few hours to a whole day. For example, you could do a short ride to Castell Coch a fairytale folly castle or a longer trip to the Bunch of Grapes pub near Pontypridd which serves great food and real ales. Serious cyclists might consider carrying panniers and staying overnight in Brecon. Accomodation options range from a basic tent to a luxury hotel! Don't have a bike? They can be easily hired from Pedal Power, who cater for all ages and abilities.
Castle Hill, Tongwynlais, Cardiff CF15 7JS
+44(0)29 2081 0101
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Ynysyngharad Road, Pontypridd, CF37 4DA
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Off Dogo Street, Cardiff, CF11 9JJ
+44(0) 7775 616411
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The C2C is an excellent middle distance for the inexperienced cyclist. Being one myself, I didn't expect such a spectacular ride across England through some of the most stunning rural scenery the north of has to offer. We started in Workington, dipping our wheels in the Irish sea and spent the first night in the Borrowdale YHA- then onto Renwick where we stayed at the wonderful Scalehouse Farm B&B, the excellent home-cooked food with scrambled eggs made from the bantam hens in the garden set us up for Hartside the highest ascent on the C2C of 1903ft. After this it was a cycle through the eerily abandoned mining villages around Rookhope and a gentle cycle along the undulating Waskerley Way. There was a true feeling of exhilaration when crossing the Gateshead Millennium bridge in Newcastle to the final dip in the sea at South Shields.
This route offers a bit of everything and an amazing variety of scenery over such a small area. From the highest point at Cronk ny Aree Laa (Manx Gaelic for hill of the rising sun) to the west the Mountains of Mourne can be seen rising from the Irish sea. On clear days further south, also of Ireland are the Wicklow Mountains. Looking north is Scotland, and the peninsula of Whithorn and the Mull of Galloway, which is not to mention the great views of the Isle of Man’s own hills with their distinctive checkerboard fields and purple tops.
The terrain on this ride varies from tarmac roads to tricky off road singletrack. After the cycle out of Peel along the road to Glen Maye a well surfaced track leads through the thickly wooded Glen Rushen valley. A tricky technical ascent out of the valley awaits, then a section of relatively gentle road cycling gives some chance to recover before the exhilarating, yet technical green way track that traverses the steep slate slabs before Dalby (pronounced Dauby by the true Manx) which will test even the best off-road skills. On the route you will pass the lonely remains of lead mines in Glen Rushen and a short detour at Dalby will lead you down to the spectacular coastal scenery at Niarbyl (Manx for tail, think of the rocks here and you’ll see why) and a well earned cuppa at the café here before hitting the road back to Peel.
Serious roadies could cover the 70 miles in under four hours but why rush round this Lochinver-Drumrunie-Ledmore Junction-Kylesku-Drumbeg loop when it can be a leisurely day ride soaking up the stunning landscape with some great out-of-the-saddle climbs. Added bonus is that for the most part, you’re cycling on some of the quietest roads in the UK. Poet Norman MacCaig was inspired by this area. You will be too.
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Starting from the compact but surprisingly busy seaside resort of Talacre, park up at the bottom of Station Road, and cycle towards Prestatyn, along the boardwalk bordering the dunes and the beach, taking in the warrens' site of special scientific interest (where you might also see huge numbers of wild rabbits if you're there at dusk). Pass through the neat and tidy caravan park at Presthaven Sands and just as you reach Prestatyn, (just before Pontins), turn left off the coastal path and cycle through the town centre towards Dyserth. Head toward the waterfalls, taking a bridle path that takes you up to a pub and thereafter to the waterfalls and its waterside cafe. After a break for sandwiches and welsh cakes, continue in the direction of Rhuddlan, taking a break at the castle there. Then take the road to Kinmel Bay, turning right to return to Talacre via Rhyl and Prestatyn and more sea views. Recommended for blowing away the cobwebs and getting a great fix of coast, countryside and traditional seaside resort action. Lots of opportunities to stop and refuel as well!
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Starting in Fleckney cycling along the footpaths going over the fields, passing over the canal and then through the wood. After carrying on the footpath, crossing over the road and folling the footpath still for a few miles, you end up in a beautiful area of countryside called Gumley. There are many routes to make for yourself around there and just watch the stunning scenery go by. There are hills and flat areas, farm land and land left for the wildlife. There are so many areas to take a break and watch the birds of prey that live and hunt in the local area. It's nice sometimes to take some food along and enjoy a picnic before heading home. It's a beautifully quiet part of the country and liked by walkers and cyclists. I love sitting after a ride and just enjoy the peace, relaxing in the sun when its shining. It's nice to come across people to talk to and their dogs, and the lambs in spring make it even better. The route to Gumley takes you through a lovely wood planted 11 years ago which is full of bird life, and all sorts of other wildlife now. When the trees are in full leaf it's a gorgeous place to be. The countryside on the whole route is great, and when not cycling I walk my dog there everyday.
The road where the entrance to the field is is Kibworth Road, and the footpaths are obviously signed.
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Join the canal at Carnforth or Bolton-le-Sands. Family friendly flat cycling south, with spectacular views across Morecambe Bay, brings you to Hest Bank where the Hest Bank Inn does Guardian recommended budget eats. After Hest Bank take the cycle path to Morecambe which joins the wide flat prom (after a short descent). You can ride along this for 3 miles, taking you down to the Art Deco Midland Hotel and Stone Jetty with it's bird themed art works. Return by retracing your steps or the more adventurous can take the cycle path into Lancaster and then rejoin the canal taking in the newly restored aquaduct.
Arrive by train at Carnforth or free parking between Bolton le Sands and Carnforth.
If you live in London and only have time for a half-day ride, take a train down to Petersfield and get out on the South Downs Way. A 15 minute ride from the station to Buriton and your tyres will be rolling along the undulating tracks of the latest National Park. Ride from Buriton to South Harting and back for a 10 mile route with spectacular views all the way to the North Downs. Pedal on to Cocking and loop back for a brilliant 25 mile ride through woodland and the chalk-white tracks of the downland fields before catching the train home from Petersfield. Don't forget a camera for the views, some lights just in case and some zip ties for every mechanical eventuality.
The Wirral Way is a disused railway line from Hooton to West Kirby which provides a flat, car-free and scenic 12 mile cycle route for all abilities and ages. This route has the added advantage of having a Merseyrail station at either end, with regular trains to Chester or Liverpool and offering designated areas for bicycles, which are welcome outside peak hours. In my experience if you are intending to cycle the 12 miles only, the best starting place is Hooton. This option allows you to finish in the bustling seaside centre of West Kirby with shops, cafes, marina and beach. The route runs parallel to the river Dee with stunning panoramic views of the sweeping estuary, Hilbre Islands and the hills and hazy mountains of Wales beyond. On the way you will pass Hadlow Road Station, closed in 1955 but now returned to its original state. The village of Parkgate is a good stop for local ice cream and estuary bird watching. As you tootle along there are ample opportunities to unpack a picnic on the cliff side or at the Wirral Country Park visitors centre at Thurstaston. If you are still feeling fresh and frisky on reaching West Kirby you can add on another eight miles, following the coastline of the peninsula through Hoylake to New Brighton. Here you will be hard pressed not to be impressed by the view across the River Mersey of Liverpool's World Heritage Waterfront.
For the perfect overview of northern England, not to mention 140 miles of great biking, do the C2C. Set off from the beautiful harbour of Georgian Whitehaven, in West Cumbria, meander through the lovely lakes. Head up and over the picturesque Pennines, across Northumbria and into the industrial north east, ending up in Tynemouth. Do it in three, fun-filled days or, for those after something a bit more challenging, try it in one (long) day.
This 170 mile circular route dips in and out of the lovely Chiltern Hills, home to chalk downs, red kites and the ancient Ridgeway. What I love about this trail is that you can do a little or the whole lot if you feeling up to it. Hilly, but with wonderful fast downhills, the scenery is lovely, so take a picnic or refuel at one of the many pubs on route.
Mostly on-road, but there are plenty of off-roads tracks to tempt you if you fancy playing under the beech trees.
Take a short and sweet bike ride from Exeter Quay to where a colony of swans rule the water, along the canal past the cows, the wildlife reserve and the bird-filled marshes. I recommend this bike ride because The Turf pub awaits at the end of the canal where you can rest with a lovely long view of the Exe River Estuary. The food is simple and tasty with a hint of exotic and the atmosphere is always friendly and welcoming. You can continue your bike ride along the river to Dawlish and even get a ferry over to Exmouth and extend the ride back up the river to Topsham. From here (Ferry Road) there is a small ferry which crosses the river again to take you back on the trail to Exeter Quay.
An immensely popular, 102 mile national trail, that takes you from Winchester in Hampshire to Eastbourne in East Sussex, via the most stunning countryside that the UK has to offer.
We took a three-day cycle on mountain bikes (with front suspension), though the route is suitable for any bike. A mixture of flat country-lanes and more difficult mountain slopes takes in a route used by traders for centuries. If the water-taps along the way do not suit your tastes, there are a number of rider-friendly pubs. Likewise, there are at least six bed and breakfast's for you to choose from before you finish at Beachy Head, which overlooks the English Channel.
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