20 of the best Easter days out for families
As well as cracking activities for kids involving chocolate, lambs and rabbits, we also hatch plans for foraging adventures, a food festival and a mass spring clean
Easter egg hunts, nationwide
Cadbury has teamed up with the National Trust and the National Trust for Scotland to run Easter egg hunts in more than 300 locations across the UK; clues hidden around the properties or landscapes lead hunters to chocolate treats. Many sites also have newborn lambs, spring chicks and daffodil displays. Others have Easter crafts, such as making a ladybird house on Dunstable Downs in Bedfordshire, or seed bombs at Canons Ashby, Northamptonshire, or activities such as archery at Bodiam Castle, Sussex.
• All hunts 19-22 April, some 6-28 April, from £2 plus standard admission, easter.cadbury.co.uk
Lambing live, Northumberland
Broom House farm has just launched Lambing Shed Live, a 90-minute guided tour during peak lambing season. More than half of visitors in previous years saw a lamb being born and, at the very least, there will be lots of newborns. The price includes a tractor ride to the farm from Wallington Hall, a visit to the “lamb hospital” and the chance to bottle-feed the lambs. The farm is also looking for “lambing apprentices” to help in the shed, caring for the pregnant ewes and newborns (age 10-plus, between 8-11 and 15-18 April, £35).
• Until 22 April, £7.50, broomhousefarm.co.uk
Chocolate festival, York
York claims to be Britain’s most chocolatey city, with a cocoa heritage dating back almost 300 years to the founding of Terry’s and Rowntree’s, and a thriving industry of modern chocolatiers such as Monk Bar. It also holds an annual chocolate festival over the Easter weekend. It is a great place to stock up on Easter eggs, truffles and chocolate bars; feast on chocolate pies or hot chocolate with churros; and knock back some chocolate liqueur. Local businesses, such as York’s Chocolate Story, host Easter egg masterclasses (£19.95) and other events.
• 18-22 April, free entry, some ticketed activities, yorkfoodfestival.com
Spring foraging, Devon and Buckinghamshire
Wild Food UK runs foraging courses across the country, aiming to educate people about edible wild plants, mushrooms, fruit, roots and flowers, so they can pick and eat them with confidence. Over the Easter holidays, there are still places available on courses in Lustleigh on Dartmoor (12 April), Exeter (14, 26 April) and Ouzel Valley Park, Milton Keynes (21 April). Many courses start in the pub and all include a two-and-a-half-hour walk, refreshments such as hogweed soup along the way, and lunch from the spoils, perhaps a foraged salad with wild garlic pesto.
• From £45, wildfooduk.com
Easter camps, Surrey
Painshill, an 18th-century landscaped garden in Cobham, is running wild Easter day camps over the holidays. Children aged 8 to 13 can spend the day in the forest, running, climbing and learning woodland skills, such as building dens or survival shelters; making tools and crafts out of wood, willow and wool; and cooking doughnuts and other goodies over the campfire. Other events at the gardens include a family afternoon tea with egg decorating (19, 22 April), an Easter bunny hat-making workshop (20 April) and a chocolate treasure hunt (21 April).
• Camps £40 a day, painshill.co.uk, 9-11 and 16-18 April, 9am-4.30pm
Adventure quests, Whitby and nationwide
Twenty-five English Heritage sites are running egg hunts with a twist. On an Adventure Quest, kids have to crack the clues to find not chocolate eggs, but dragons’ eggs! (there is a chocolate prize, too.) One of the participating properties is Whitby Abbey, which reopened on 1 April after a £1.6m restoration with a revamped museum, new permanent exhibition and a coffee shop. A new Museum of Whitby Jet has also recently opened in the town, exploring the history of the town’s gemstone industry.
• Until 22 April (dates vary by property), £1 plus standard admission price, english-heritage.org.uk
Mass spring cleans, nationwide
The Easter holidays are an ideal time for a spring clean – and not just in your own home. The charity Keep Britain Tidy is organising a Great British Spring Clean, encouraging people to join litter-picking and recycling events in their area. Last year, more than 374,000 people volunteered at 13,500 events; this year the target is to get 500,000 cleaning up (until 23 April, keepbritaintidy.org). Similarly, Plastic Patrol is asking people to clean up Britain’s waterways – volunteers get a free paddleboard session in return for picking up litter and logging it on the app (next patrols Clapton, London, 13 April, and Oxford Canal, 14 April, plasticpatrol.co.uk).
The Passion of Jesus, London and Guildford
Every year since 2010, the Wintershall Players have brought the true meaning of Easter to life with a re-enactment of the Passion of Jesus. A cast of more than 100 people – plus horses, doves and a donkey – tell the story of Christ’s arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection (the crucifixion scene is realistic and may not be suitable for young children). There are two 90-minute performances on Good Friday in Trafalgar Square, watched by more than 20,000 people, and two more in Guildford town centre on Easter Saturday.
• 12pm and 3.15pm on 19 April, London, and 12pm and 2.30pm on 20 April, Guildford, both free
Spring bulb festival, Staffordshire
Trentham Gardens is in full bloom this Easter as it hosts its inaugural spring bulb festival. More than 50,000 extra bulbs and 500 extra pots were planted to create the floral displays, which feature tulips, narcissi, hyacinths, allium and scilla. One unusual display can be seen on the lake, where rowing boats have been turned into planters filled with daffodils and nine varieties of tulip. In the woods, visitors can walk through drifts of anemones, cyclamen, bluebells and wild garlic.
• Until 29 May, £12 adult, £9 child (3-15), under-5s free, trentham.co.uk
Rhyming Rabbit, North Yorkshire, Essex, Devon and Surrey
This year’s Easter celebrations at the four RHS gardens (Harlow Carr in North Yorkshire, Hyde Hall in Essex, Rosemoor in Devon and Wisley in Surrey) are based on the Rhyming Rabbit picture book by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks. A “hop about” will take families through a giant burrow and on a trail through the gardens; there will also be poetry workshops and drawing competitions; and lots of craft activities, including sow-and-grow a “bunny tail” plant. On selected dates, children can meet real-life rabbits, lambs, kids and ducklings. At Harlow Carr, there is also a Hunt the Golden Carrot competition with the chance to win a giant Bettys Easter egg worth almost £500.
• Until 21 April (Rosemoor), 22 April (Hyde Hall and Wisley) and 29 April (Harlow Carr), most activities free with standard admission, some crafts £3/£4, rhs.org.uk
Easter steam trains, nationwide
Heritage railways across the country have special journeys for Easter, from TeddyFest on the Ravenglass and Eskdale railway in Cumbria (all children with a teddy bear travel free with adult buying an all-station ticket, £13.50, until 22 April) to daily Easter bonnet parades on the Isle of Wight steam railway (18-22 April, from £13 adult, £6 child). The Downpatrick and County Down Railway is running an Easter Eggspress, with a word puzzle hunt, face painting and a visit to the Easter bunny to collect a chocolate egg (20-22 April, £8.50).
• Find other Easter train events in the UK and Ireland at heritage-railways.com
Duck trails, various locations
The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust is going quackers over ducks this Easter. Eight of its visitor centres in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have giant Easter duck trails: children follow activity cards to find plastic ducks hidden among reeds and trees, learning about the feathered versions along the way. At Castle Espie in County Down, there is also an Easter duckling party with a guided feeding session (22 and 23 April, £2 plus standard admission). Washington in Tyne and Wear has a Lego brick animal trail with enormous models of wetland creatures (until 6 May, included in standard admission), plus Lego-making workshops (daily until 22 April, then 27 and 28 April and 4-6 May, £9.50). A flock of Dusty Ducks has landed at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire, created by Aardman Animations – there are model-making workshops on 17 April (£10.50).
• Until 29 April (check individual centres), included in standard admission, wwt.org.uk
Food festival, Buckinghamshire
The Great Missenden food festival over the Easter weekend has lots of hands-on activities in the kids’ zone. At the cookery school and food lab under-13s can make pizza and cupcakes, or try exciting experiments such as exploding jelly. Older children can cook along with a chef, attempting more ambitious dishes such as fresh pasta or falafel. Other activities include an Easter egg hunt and a pottery workshop (from £5). Adults might prefer a bushcraft cookery session or fancy their chances in the beer-tasting competition.
• 19-22 April, from £5.50 adult, £1 child (6-16), family (2+2) £15, greatmissendenfoodfestival.co.uk
Canal boating, England and Wales
Sunday 7 April sees the Canal & River Trust’s annual open day, held with Drifters Waterway Holidays, offering boat tours and free short trips on skippered narrowboats at 17 locations across England and Wales. Last year, 3,000 people took to the water. The idea is to give people a taste of a canal boat holiday; Britain has a 2,200-mile network of inland waterways to explore. There will be discounts for anyone booking a trip over the Easter weekend and beyond (£50 off short breaks, usually from £495, £100 off a week, usually from £705).
• 11am-4pm on 7 April, no booking required, full details at canalrivertrust.org.uk
Adder adventure, Norfolk
For a change from chicks, lambs and bunnies, Sheringham Park in Norfolk is offering brave children the chance to meet another native species: the adder. A ranger will give a talk on British reptiles, then lead a two-mile walk, searching for Britain’s only venomous snake. Adders can be elusive, but there are some known sites around the park. Snakes aren’t the only wild inhabitants at Sheringham – foxes, badgers and deer might be spotted, too.
• 18 April, £3 adult, £5 child, suitable for over-sevens, nationaltrust.org.uk
Teddy bear picnic, Isle of Arran
After two years of refurbishment, Brodick Castle and country park is reopening in time for Easter. As well as the castle itself, which has a new self-guided visitor experience, there are gardens, woodlands and waterfalls to explore, and pools for a (very) bracing swim. Events over the holidays include family badger watches (10 & 17 April, £15 adult, £8 child), bird-box making (11 April, £5) and Easter egg hunts (19-22 April, £2). There is also a free teddy bear picnic, with storytelling, games and lots of cuddly bears (19-22 April).
• Open daily until 31 October, £13.50 adult, £9.50 child, nts.org.uk
Open-air cinema, Midlothian
Most outdoor film screenings take place in the summer holidays, but Dalkeith country park is starting its first-ever cinema season early. Two films are being shown on Easter Saturday: Toy Story (free with standard admission) and The Greatest Showman (£10 adult, £6 child). Other activities in the Fort Douglas adventure park include egg decorating, balloon twisting and a reading from a new children’s book, The Sock Monster, followed by a craft workshop where children can make their own monster.
• 20 April, £3 adult, child from £5, dalkeithcountrypark.co.uk
Scottish rhododendron festival
Scotland’s rhododendrons are in bloom, and the country’s fifth annual rhododendron festival is taking place across several sites, including four new venues: Abbotsford, Cawdor Castle, Cowden Japanese Garden and Culzean Castle. There are more than 50 events, such as guided rhododendron walks at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh (6, 18 & 28 April and 2, 11 & 23 May) and Dawyck Botanic Garden in the Scottish Borders (Sundays in April and May), and talks at Inverewe Garden in the Highlands (23 April and 2 May).
• Until 31 May, discoverscottishgardens.org
Meet the koalas, Wiltshire
Longleat Safari Park has a new exhibit for Easter: Koala Creek, home to a group of southern koalas, two hairy-nosed wombats and a family of long-nosed potoroos. It is the only place koalas can be seen in England, and is an initiative with the government of South Australia to help the conservation of the species, which is classed as “vulnerable to extinction” in some parts of Australia. Longleat is now the European hub for the International Koala Centre of Excellence.
• From £29.70 adult, £22.27 child, under-3s free, longleat.co.uk
Mad Hatter’s tea party, Neath Port Talbot
Children are invited to the Mad Hatter’s tea party in the Orangery (pictured) at Margam country park. The dress code is Easter fancy dress, with prizes for the best bonnets. There will be Alice in Wonderland characters, games and a high tea of “eat me/drink me” treats. Elsewhere in the park, there is an adventure play area and a Go Ape course, plus rare-breed farm animals, a herd of deer and other wildlife. On Easter Monday, there will be some scarier creatures, too: dinosaurs.
• Tea party on 24 April, £16.95 adult, £11.95 child, margamcountrypark.co.uk
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