Getting the kids out of the house is not always easy, especially as the temperature outside begins to drop and the first frosts of the year begin to set in. However, despite the chill, autumn can be one of the most enchanting times of the year, rich with colour and character, and perfect for family days out.
Listed below are some of York’s most impressive nature-inspired sites, new and old, to offer little ones a chance to play, explore, and make the most of being outside this Autumn.
Northwood Trail Fairy Sanctuary
One of the most exciting editions to North Yorkshire’s repertoire of attractions is Northwood Trail Fairy Sanctuary, which launched earlier this year to widespread approval. Once home to Victorian Professor and avid fairy researcher, Harvey John Howland, Northwood has now opened its gates to the public as a veritable wonderland of childhood magic and miniature curiosities, where children, families, and adults can tread amongst fairy paths and explore the ancient magic of these mythical little folk.
Set amongst one hundred acres of glorious woodland, the Fairy Sanctuary not only stands as a tribute to the enchanting myths and folklore of fairies, but as an immersive celebration of the natural world. It’s winding woodland paths lead curious explorers through 1.5km of fairy trails, where you can catch glimpses of miniature fairy houses, toadstools, wood carvings, and Elvin thrones.
As well as this, their ‘Fairy Museum’ offers a look at Professor Howland’s intricate and extensive collection of fairy artefacts, including his writings, drawings and miniature creations of fairy clothing which have been lovingly restored.
Northwood’s reverence for nature is embedded into their company ethos, and their themed woodland café offers an organic and locally sourced menu with impressive eco-credentials. There’s even an affiliated Jollydays glamping site nearby, which offers luxury tents, huts, and log cabins to round off your woodland adventure in comfort.
Located just twenty minutes from York city centre, Northwood is the perfect site for autumn escapism and will be sure to capture the imagination of your little ones, as well as even the most cynical of adults.
Although the splendour of Castle Howard’s beautifully ornate architecture is not to be overlooked, young visitors will probably be most excited to the discover the estates newest and most magical addition yet – a themed treetop playground known as ‘Skelf Island’.
The play area is themed around mythical and mischievous ‘Skelves’, who play amongst the woodlands and waters of Castle Howard and work to protect the flora and fauna that also reside there. Having inhabited the island for thousands of years, they’ve grown curious of humans and invite them to explore their world through interactive web of rope bridges, slides, nets and climbing frames that will be sure to delight children.
The play area itself is in the set heart of the woodlands, and promotes nature connectivity at its core – encouraging young visitors to explore the outside world through play while leaning about the resident wildlife and ecology of the estate.
Of course, Castle Howard is by no means short of interactive green activities for their younger visitors, as the grounds also offer children’s illustrated nature trails and hireable ‘explorer backpacks’ which include bug hunting kits, mini binoculars, tree rubbing, explorer stickers and more.
Tickets to the Gardens (including Skelf Island) are priced at £7.95 for under 16 year olds, while under 4 year olds can play for free!
Piglets Adventure Farm is a firm family favourite all year round, offering not only indoor and outdoor play areas but tractor rides, go carts, and a whole farmyard to explore.
As well as animal paddocks, and farmyard trails, there are regular sessions at the Animal Barn every day, where children can interact with the animals up close all year round. Kids & parents alike can enjoy cuddles with bunnies and guinea pigs, and help to feed cows, pigs and alpacas.
Of course, the farm offers plenty of play opportunities including both obstacle courses, crazy golf, and indoor play areas, which can prove invaluable during the colder months.
For those who want to rest their feet and refuel after all the day’s excitement, there are several on-site venues to treat yourself to a cup of tea or a bite to eat. While ‘Piggy Pizza’ and ‘Truffles Trough’ are great for a quick bite to eat, their Coffee House cafe serves hearty, seasonal food from local suppliers that are the perfect remedy to the autumn cold.
If you’re planning a visit it’s worth remembering that while farm visits may provide some picture-perfect moments, they can sometimes be a messy affair in the unpredictable Yorkshire weather, so make sure you and your little ones bring wellies, just in case!
Beningbrough Hall & Gardens
On the outskirts of York, Beningbrough Hall has been enchanting visitors since it opened over sixty years ago. With miles of parkland complete and nature trails that lead you alongside wildlife rich riverbeds and into picturesque ancient woodland carpeted with autumn leaves, the estate has so much to be explored!
To add to the magic, from October 26th, Beningbrough will be temporary home to Gerard Hobson’s nature inspired sculptures which can be seen be scattered throughout the gardens. His works are intricate celebrations of the natural world – showcasing our native wildlife in all their beauty. Why not take a trail around the gardens this autumn and see how many you can spot?
Finally, Mums and Dads will be happy to know that the 3rd November officially marks the start of the National Trust’s ‘Winter Season’, meaning ticket prices are lowered by almost half. At £8 per adult and £4 per child, it’s a pretty good excuse to plan a visit, and explore the splendour of the house and gardens one of these golden autumn weekends!