The Best Things to do with Kids at Hever Castle

The Best Things to do with Kids at Hever CastleHever Castle in Kent is one of our favourite castles to visit in the UK. The childhood home of King Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, is a picture-perfect castle in beautiful grounds. There are so many great activities for families here from trying your hand at archery and rowing to watching knights jousting and getting lost in the mazes. Here’s a list of our favourite things to do at Hever Castle.

Explore the castle

The 700-year-old castle has everything children require from a castle: a moat, an impressive drawbridge and a gatehouse filled with armour and instruments of torture.

It also boasts one of the UK’s best collections of Tudor portraits. The connections with Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn make Hever a must-visit for anyone interested in the Tudors. You can see the bedchamber where Henry VIII is believed to have stayed and the signed, exquisite prayer books belonging to Anne Boleyn.

Our favourite time to visit is at Christmas when all the rooms are decorated with Christmas trees.

Find your way around all three mazes

There are no less than three mazes at Hever Castle. Kids love the Tower Maze in the adventure playground and my two love the challenge of finding their way around the traditional Yew Maze in the shortest time possible.

The Water Maze is the most fun of all and a brilliant place to cool down on a hot summer’s day. Stepping stones lead through the reeds to a stone tower in the centre. Step  on the wrong stone and your path will be blocked by jets of water. Most children positively delight  in getting soaked so bring a towel and a change of clothes.

Watch a jousting tournament

You can watch knights jousting most weekends over the summer. King Henry VIII and Queen Anne Boleyn lead the procession of spectators all the way from the castle to the jousting field where big crowds gather to watch the Blue Knights battle the Reds.

The hour-long show is a real spectacle. The knights knock each other off their horses, spear metal rings onto their lances and engage in hand-to-hand combat. Children are invited to join the King’s Army. The raggle-taggle bunch are given helmets, swords and pikes and made to parade around the field.

Take a boat out on the lake 

We love rowing on the large lake at Hever. You can hire a rowing boat or a pedalo and spend a very happy hour mucking around on the water, rowing over to the Japanese Tea House and ringing the bell in the middle of the lake. See if you can sport the ducks’ house in the shape of a miniature castle.

The lake is a great place to teach children how to row. It’s usually fairly peaceful and you can see dragonflies, herons and kingfishers on the lake. There’s also a steamboat cruise.

Wander around the gardens

The extensive gardens are a pleasure to explore and there are plenty of good places for hide-and-seek. The formal gardens are a delight: the Italian Garden has shaded grottos and classical statues and there’s a colonnaded loggia beside the lake with a fountain and sculptures inspired by the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

The giant topiary chess set in the Tudor Garden will make you feel as if you’ve wandered onto a film set for ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Don’t miss the lovely sunken garden hidden behind a hedge in the Italian Garden – it’s a wonderfully tranquil spot often missed by the crowds because it’s so hidden away.

Walk around the lake

With 125 acres to explore, there’s no surprise that there are some lovely walks around the grounds and the wilder parts of the gardens. Our favourite is the Lake Walk which goes all around the lake. You can download a nature trail to complete as you go round. It’s a great place to spot birds like kingfishers and crested grebes and even on busy days it’s always quiet here, right in the middle of the countryside.

Have a picnic in the grounds

The stunning grounds are perfect for a picnic. Spread out your rug on one of the big lawns in front of the castle and watch the ducks and swans in the stream nearby. There’s lots of space here for children to have a run around. If you prefer to be away from the crowds, you’ll find quieter spots along the Lake Walk.

If the weather’s not good enough for sitting outside, there are two excellent cafés serving sandwiches, cakes and hot meals.

The next jousting tournament at Hever takes place this coming Bank Holiday Weekend. 

Hever Castle is open every day until 30th October, then from Wednesdays until Sundays until Christmas. Adults, from £13.10; children, from £8.30; under 5s, free.

For more castle inspiration, take a look at The UK’s Best Castles for Families and The Best European Castle Stays for Families

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The UK’s Best Castles for Families

Best UK Castles for Families

Who doesn’t love visiting a castle? Children can really fire up their imaginations by dressing up as a knight or princess and walking over the drawbridge, climbing the tallest tower and finding out about the people who used to live there.

Over the summer holidays, the best castles offer a huge range of activities for families from dressing up boxes and jousting tournaments to dragon quests and live shows. Here are a few of our favourites:-

ALNWICK CASTLE

Best UK Castles for Families

Harry Potter fans can learn how to fly a broomstick at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland which was used as Hogwarts in the first two films and now offers broomstick training sessions for aspiring witches and wizards.

There has been a castle here for 1,000 years and it is still lived in by the Duke of Northumberland. Families can dress up in medieval clothes and watch longbow demonstrations and jester shows, take part in the Dragon Quest and make magic wands and herbal soaps in the craft area.

Alnwick Castle is open daily until 30th October. Adults, from £13.95; children, from £6.97; under 5s, free.

DOVER CASTLE

You can sit on King Henry II’s throne at Dover Castle and then explore secret wartime tunnels. Dover is a fantastic example of a medieval palace, with burning log fires and costumed characters walking around, but it’s also a great place to find out about World War II as its network of tunnels housed an underground hospital and a secret naval command centre during the war.

Activities this summer include siege warfare and battles through the ages, with fighting knights, Romans and the redcoats from the war of 1812.

Dover Castle is open daily. Adults, from £12.70; children, from £8.

WARWICK CASTLE

Best UK Castles for Families

If you go Medieval glamping at Warwick Castle you can stay in a luxurious Medieval-themed tent and enrol your children in the Knight’s School.

There are lots of activities for families here from the new Horrible Histories Maze, the gruesome castle dungeon tour, the Princess Tower, where you have to break the evil sorcerer’s curse, and the largest working trebuchet in the world. Children can also let off steam in the adventure playground and spot the peacocks wandering around the gardens.

Warwick Castle is open daily. Tickets, from £18.50; under 3s, free.

CORFE CASTLE

©National Trust Images/David Levenson

©National Trust Images/David Levenson

Corfe Castle in Dorset was the inspiration for Kirrin Castle in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books. It was a royal palace and dungeon in medieval times and was besieged twice during the English Civil War in the 17th century when the Cavaliers defended the castle against attacks from Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads.

Nowadays, children can learn about its history by dressing up as a knight or princess, doing brass rubbings and going on a castle quest with an activity booklet. You can even ride there on a steam train!

This summer, there will be Tudor Adventures where you can follow a trail to uncover a spy network, a Victorian Villainous Thriller Walk and an open-air theatre.

Corfe Castle is open daily. Adults, from £8; children, from £4; under 5s, free.

BOLSOLVER CASTLE

English Heritage

English Heritage

You can watch amazing horse shows at Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire where riders dressed in the Cavalier style of frills, feathers and high boots show off their dressage skills. Aspiring actors will also love the Theatre Room where they can try on theatrical costumes, learn their lines and perform a play.

Visitors to the castle this summer can join the army of King Charles I as he prepares for civil war and learn all about medieval torture.

Bolsover Castle is open daily. Adults, from £10.20; children, from £6.10; under 5s, free.

HEVER CASTLE

Best UK Castles for Families

There are jousting tournaments most weekends over the summer at Hever Castle in Kent. Families can meet King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn at this, her childhood home, and process with them towards the tournament ground to watch knights on horseback show off their skills.

The water maze is great for cooling off when the weather gets too hot and children can also go rowing on the lake, try their hand at archery and run around in the adventure playground.

Hever Castle is open daily. Adults, from £13.10; children, from £8.30; under 5s, free.

CULZEAN CASTLE

National Trust for Scotland

National Trust for Scotland

This 18th-century Scottish castle has a dramatic clifftop setting and is surrounded by a large country park which is ideal for families. Children can explore Culzean Castle by trying to spot the Lego figure hidden in each room. The castle also boasts one of the world’s largest collections of swords and pistols and there are special family tours at weekends.

You can visit the beach, see the deer and llamas in the Deer Park then head to Adventure Cove, the fantastic play area complete with dungeons, boats and smugglers’ caves.

Culzean Castle is open daily. Adults, from £15.50; children, from £11.50.

TINTAGEL CASTLE

English Heritage

English Heritage

Ruined castles are so much fun to wander around and Tintagel in Cornwall is extra special because of its dramatic headland setting and connections with the Legend of King Arthur. When you’ve explored the Great Hall and the ruined chapel, go down to the beach where you can look for Merlin’s Cave and search for crabs in the rock pools.

Over the summer, families can have fun being archaeology detectives, laugh at the castle jester and listen to Merlin and King Arthur tell tales of monsters, heroes and princesses.

Tintagel Castle is open daily until 31st October and then at weekends and school holidays. Adults, from £7.90; children, from £4.70; under 5s, free.

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City Breaks with Kids: Bath

Bath is, quite simply, one of the loveliest cities in England. Surrounded by beautiful countryside, it’s the only city in the UK to be classed as a World Heritage Site. It’s not hard to see why when you first glimpse the gorgeous honey-coloured stone of the Georgian buildings and visit the spectacular Roman Baths. There are delights on every corner, from the numerous museums and parks to the wonderful independent shops and restaurants.

It’s a fantastic city to visit as a family. It’s small enough to explore on foot and there’s more than enough to entertain children and adults alike. What’s more, it makes an ideal base to see more of the local area – the cities of Bristol and Wells, Stonehenge, Longleat and the Cotswolds are all nearby.

Walk in the footsteps of the Romans at the Roman Baths

A visit to the Roman Baths is an absolute must – it’s one of the finest spas of the ancient world. Naturally hot water has been rising up from the spring here for thousands of years. In the 1st century AD, the Romans built a magnificent temple and bathing complex where they came to bathe in the sacred waters, pray and seek healing.

You can still tread on the ancient stone pavements where the Romans walked, see the ruins of the temple to the Goddess Minerva and the various bathing rooms. It’s a great place to find out more about the Ancient Romans as there are displays of all the items that have been excavated from the site – thousands of coins, jewellery, writing tools, drinking cups, perfume pots and, best of all, the Roman Curse Tablets, on which the Romans wrote messages to Minerva on lead and pewter, cursing people who wronged them.

The children’s audioguide is excellent and there are characters in costume at the Baths every day to help visitors learn more about Roman Britain. During the school holidays there are family activities on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Don’t forget to taste the spa water at the end of your tour. You’ll probably find the warm water as revolting as we did!

The Roman Baths are open every day from 9am until 6pm. You can see them by torchlight in July and August when they remain open until 10pm. Adults, £15; children, £11.25; under 6s free. 

Try the Bath Bun at Sally Lunn’s

You can’t leave Bath without trying the original Bath Bun, created over 300 years ago by a French refugee. Part bun, part cake, part bread, Sally Lunn’s bun was really popular in Georgian England, where it was served for breakfast and afternoon tea.

Sally Lunn’s is in one of the oldest houses in Bath. You can visit the original kitchen used by Sally, with its faggot oven and Georgian range. The buns themselves are delicious and served with a sweet or savoury topping. We chose lemon curd, ginger butter and the most incredible cinnamon butter we’ve ever tasted.

Sally Lunn’s, 4 North Parade Passage, is open every day from 10am until 9.30pm. Sundays, from 11am until 9pm and on Fridays and Saturdays until 10pm.

Raid the dressing up box at the Fashion Museum

You can try on corsets, top hats, Victorian dresses, bonnets and wigs in the brilliant dressing up room at the Fashion Museum. The museum has one of the world’s best collections of historic and fashionable clothes so you’ll find everything from Tudor shirts, 18th-century French silk dresses with hooped petticoats, Jane Austen-style Regency muslin frocks and beautiful satin shoes from the 1800s right up to the Roland Mouret Galaxy dress.

The Children’s Trail showcases ten historical fashion looks for kids and there are family workshops in fashion design on Tuesdays during the Summer holidays.

The Fashion Museum at the Assembly Rooms, Bennett Street is open every day from 10.30am until 5pm, until 4pm from November to February. Adults, £8.75; children, £6.75.

Dance around the ballroom at the Assembly Rooms

My two boys could not resist dancing around the ballroom in the Assembly Rooms. This is where thousands of people gathered for parties and balls, including a fair few of the characters in Jane Austen’s novels. The ballroom is the grandest of the three rooms and contains the finest set of 18th-century chandeliers in the world. They are more than 8 feet high and in Georgian times they would have been lit with 200 candles.

The Assembly Rooms are free to enter on the days when there isn’t an event going on.

Have afternoon tea at Bea’s Vintage Tea Rooms

Afternoon tea is a Great British tradition and has always been popular in Bath. You could have your tea in the elegant surroundings of the 18th-century Pump Room but Bea’s Vintage Tea Rooms is a far more fun and laid-back setting for kids.

The entire restaurant has been decorated in the style of wartime Britain of the 1930s and 1940s so it’s all embroidered tablecloths, knitted tea cosies, wartime posters and mismatched china. The waitresses wear old-fashioned pinafores and headscarves and the afternoon tea is an absolute delight: a selection of finger sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream and huge slices of homemade cake.

Bea’s Vintage Tea Rooms, 6-8 Saville Row, is open every day from 10am until 5pm.

Take a boat out on the River Avon

Have fun messing about on the river for an hour by hiring a punt, rowing boat or canoe from the Victorian boating station at Bath Boating Station. You can take one of the Pulteney Cruise motorboats there from the centre of Bath.

If you’ve got more time, don’t miss spending the day cruising along the picturesque Kennet & Avon Canal in a narrowboat.

Be a history detective at No 1 Royal Crescent

Find out what life was like for Bath’s richest and most fashionable residents by taking a tour around the first house to be built in Bath’s famous Royal Crescent. The rooms at No 1 have all been furnished as they would have looked in the late 18th century and children are given a History Detective Pack complete with magnifying glass, worksheet and fun activities to do in every room.

My two really enjoyed finding out that the Georgians didn’t leave the dining room to go to the toilet – the flush toilet hadn’t been invented so they had to go behind a folding screen and wee into a chamber pot. We also visited the Gentleman’s Retreat and the Lady’s Bedroom where we laughed at the wig scratcher which they needed because of all the head lice they had underneath their wigs.

Down in the Servants’ Hall you can dress up in Georgian clothes. There are additional craft activities on Family Fridays.

No 1 Royal Crescent is open every day until 5.30pm. Mondays, from 12pm; Tuesdays to Sundays, from 10.30am. Adults, £10; children, £4; under 6s, free.

Have a picnic in Royal Victoria Park

The large park in front of the Royal Crescent is a suitably grand place for a picnic and great for watching all the hot air balloons on a summer’s evening. The 57-acre park was opened by Queen Victoria when she was only 11 (before she became queen) and boasts a botanical garden, crazy golf, duck pond, bandstand with live music and a brilliant adventure playground with a zip wire and pyramid climbing frame.

For more information about visiting Bath, take a look at the Visit Bath website.

Disclosure: We were very kindly given free admission to some of the sights mentioned but all opinions are honest and my own.

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City Breaks With Kids: Wells

Your kids will need no persuading to visit Wells, the smallest city in England – it’s full of tales of dragons and witches. The medieval city in Somerset is also home to swans that perform tricks, spectacular caves and one of Britain’s most beautiful cathedrals. It makes the perfect place for an easygoing city break with children: it’s easy to walk around and there’s so much to capture their interest.

You’ll only need a day to see most of the sights but it’s such a lovely location that you’ll want to stay longer and use the city as a base to explore more of the area. Bath, Weston-Super-Mare and Cheddar Gorge are all within easy reach.

Try to catch the swans ringing the bells at the Bishop’s Palace

The medieval Bishops’s Palace in the centre of Wells has been home to the Bishops of Bath and Wells for over 800 years. The swans that live in the moat here are famous for ringing the bell beside the gatehouse when they want to be fed. They were first taught this by a bishop’s daughter in the 1870s and the tradition has been kept up ever since. The nine cygnets born here in early May are already learning the skill.

The Bishop’s Palace is worth a visit in its own right. Set behind an imposing gatehouse with a portcullis and drawbridge, you can walk around some of the palace’s most impressive rooms, dress up in bishop’s clothes from the dressing up box and hunt for dragons on the staircase.

The Bishop’s Palace is open every day from 10am until 4pm, until 6pm from March until October. Adults, from £7.25; children, from £3.05; under 5s, free.

Walk down the oldest medieval street in England

Vicars’ Close is believed to be the only complete medieval street left in England. It was built in the early 14th century to provide housing for the Vicars Choral who sang daily worship in the cathedral and the cathedral choristers and organists still live in the houses today – it’s the oldest street in Europe that is still being used for what it was built for.

You can walk all the way up the street to the chapel at the end. The houses themselves are charming, with roses climbing over the door and cats sleeping on benches in the pretty cottage gardens.

Watch the knights jousting above the cathedral clock

Wells Cathedral is one of the finest Gothic cathedrals in Britain. Its stained-glass windows are some of the most beautiful in Europe. Don’t miss the clock – it’s the second oldest surviving clock face in the world and every 15 minutes the jousting knights gallop around the turret above the clock face. The same poor knight has been knocked down every quarter of an hour for over 600 years.

Wells Cathedral is open every day from 7am until 6pm, until 7pm from April to September. Entrance is free but donations are welcome.

Visit the witch at Wookey Hole

Britain’s most spectacular caves are only two miles outside of Wells. The legend of the Witch of Wookey has fascinated visitors since medieval times when an old woman lived alone in the caves with her dog and some goats. The locals believed she was a witch and everything that went wrong in the village was blamed on her.

The Abbot from nearby Glastonbury Abbey sent a monk, Father Bernard, to exorcise her. He entered the caves armed only with a Bible and a candle. While she screamed curses at him, he sprinkled holy water over her and she turned to stone. You can still find her figure in the cave called The Witch’s Kitchen.

The caves themselves are millions of years old and were lived in by cavemen 50,000 years ago. They’re full of stalactites, stalagmites and stunning waterfalls of crystalline stone.

Wookey Hole has a range of other attractions too, including a Sci-Fi circus show, Valley of the Dinosaurs with 20 life-sized dinosaurs and a wizards’ play barn.

Wookey Hole Caves are open every day from 10am until 5pm. Adults, from £15.73; children, from £11.90. 

See the chained library in the cathedral

Ever wondered what the Restricted Section in the library at Hogwarts might look like? Climb up the stone spiral staircase in the cathedral and you’ll find one of only four chained libraries left in the UK. Centuries old leather-bound books are attached to the shelves with heavy chains.

Built in the mid 15th century, it’s the longest medieval library in England and over half of the books are in Latin and Greek. There’s a copy of the first ever world atlas, the first mathematics book published in England in 1522 and Sir Walter Raleigh’s History of the World, written while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Climb a tree in the Bishop’s Garden

The 14-acre gardens in the grounds of the Bishop’s Palace are absolutely delightful and the perfect place for hide and seek. Children are encouraged to climb the trees, walk along the ramparts and play in the new activity area, The Dragon’s Lair.

There’s a sensory trail around the grounds encouraging you to listen to the sounds of the waterfall, smell the flowers and touch the knobbly trunks of the mulberry trees. Wander deeper into the gardens and you’ll find the natural springs that give Wells its name. If you look closely you can sometimes see water bubbling up from the Bottomless Well – the water bubbles up at a rate of 100 litres a second.

Find the dragon mosaic on a walk into the countryside

Myths and legends surround this part of Somerset and there’s a story of a dragon in the 13th century who terrorised the locals by eating children and sheep. It was eventually killed by Bishop Jocelin but before it died it warned the people of Wells that if it was not honoured every 50 years it would come back to life. Local schoolchildren made a mosaic to show the dragon that it had been remembered.

You can find the mosaic by taking a lovely walk into the countryside from the Bishop’s Palace. The 45-minute walk take you through fields and woods, through kissing gates and past pillboxes left over from the Second World War.

You can download a copy of the walk from the Wells Tourist Office website.

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The Family Guide to the Royal Bath & West Show

The Family Guide to the Royal Bath & West ShowWe went to one of the oldest agricultural shows in England last weekend and we had a blast. The Royal Bath & West Show takes place over four days in early June at a showground near Shepton Mallet in Somerset. It’s been held every year for over 150 years and it’s one of the best farming shows in the country.

It’s a wonderful day out for families. There’s a great atmosphere with live music and fantastic food. It’s a must for animal lovers of all ages as there are so many demonstrations, competitions and show jumping events. But there’s lots of other things to do from going on one of the fairground rides to riding on the steam train and watching rural crafts.

Here’s my guide to the best things to do with children at the show.

Learn more about animals on the farm

There are thousands of animals at the show from alpacas and cows to hens, horses and pigs. You can watch the animals being judged in the various competitions and take a look at the various breeds in their stalls. The parade of prize winning animals every afternoon is not to be missed.

Do a Family Trail around the showground

Children are given a really good Family Trail booklet at the entrance. The trail guides you around the showground and encourages kids to answer questions and collect stickers on their way around.

Go on a fairground ride

The traditional fairground rides were a big hit. We had the best views over the show on the gigantic ferris wheel and loved the merry-go-round and the helter skelter rides.

Ride on the miniature steam railway train

Photo Tour of the Royal Bath and West ShowThe Bath & West Railway takes passengers on a really picturesque half mile route around the lake and over the bridge.

Taste a prize-winning cheese

The show’s a great place for foodies of all ages. You can watch demonstrations of cider making – the British Cider Championships held here is the biggest cider competition in the world. You can also sample champion cheeses at the British Cheese Awards and try all sorts of gorgeous foods from strawberries to gourmet sausages.

Build a cannon in the Imagineering tent

Wannabe engineers can build a cannon or design and race a buggy in the Imagineering tent. Children can learn how to use tools and take part in lots of mechanical challenges and fun activities here.

Watch sheep being sheared 

You can watch sheep shearing and cows being milked by hand. There’s a fantastic Sheep Show and you can see a farrier shoeing a horse and watch heavy horses pulling logs.

Listen to live music while you have a picnic

Watch some live music or morris dancers while you have your picnic. There are some lovely picnic spots at the show where you can enjoy some of the fantastic street food on sale – some of the best bacon and gourmet sausage butties we’ve had in a long time washed down with home-made lemonade.

Check out the oldest – and newest – vehicles at the show

We enjoyed looking at the some of the oldest farm machines – steam engines and vintage tractors. My two then had to be literally dragged away from the Jaguar stand where they were ecstatic about being allowed to sit in lots of the cars.

Eat candy floss, sweets and ice creams

Where better than a fairground to indulge in far too many sweet treats? We weren’t persuaded by the pear and cider fudge but had to have ice creams and candy floss.

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A Photo Tour of the Suffolk Coast

A Photo Tour of the Suffolk CoastThe Suffolk Coast is delightful. It’s all genteel seaside towns, pretty villages and fantastic beaches looking out onto the North Sea. The historic towns both on the coast and inland are all charming. The coast has everything you need for a good old-fashioned beach holiday for the whole family. On our recent visit we explored the two towns of Aldeburgh and Southwold and the village of Walberswick. Let me take you on a photo tour.

The pretty coastal town of Aldeburgh is famous for being home to the composer, Benjamin Britten, who lived and worked here from 1942 until his death. It’s still the location for the annual Aldeburgh Festival of classical music.

We loved all the colourful houses overlooking the beach. They were painted in every shade of blue, pink, peppermint green and purple.

Aldeburgh was a leading port in the 16th century and shipbuilders from the town were responsible for building Sir Francis Drake’s ‘Golden Hind’. We loved looking at all the boats moored up on the beach.

Fishermen still land their catch on the shingle beach and you can pick up some freshly smoked fish from one of the huts here. We found piles of huge pebbles and pens laid out on a table, all ready to be decorated with drawings and signatures.

Drive further up the coast and you’ll come to the lovely village of Walberswick. A picture perfect Suffolk village complete with pastel-painted cottages, village green and a smattering of shops and cafés.

There’s a lovely sand and shingle beach backed by sand dunes that’s perfect for building sandcastles or for going for long walks beside the North Sea.

Walberswick is the sort of place where you’ll find yourself slowing down and living life at a more relaxed pace. Spend a couple of days here and you’ll become obsessed with crabbing, joining the lines of eager children lined up on the bridges or the banks of the river, desperately trying to beat the total of crabs caught in your bucket the previous day. It’s no surprise to discover that Walberswick hosted the British Open Crabbing Championship for thirty years.

We loved going for walks beside the river, looking at the boats in the harbour. You can even spot a seal in the river here if you’re lucky.

You can get to Southwold if you cross the river over the Bailey Bridge and walk along the old railway line. Even better, catch one of the last rowing boat ferries in the UK. For a pound you can cross the river in two minutes on the Walberswick Foot Ferry. The current ferrywoman is the fifth generation of her family to row the boat.

Southwold is the sort of genteel seaside town your grandparents will remember. The award-winning beach is lined with the prettiest pastel-painted beach huts I’ve ever seen.

The beach is the perfect place for flying kites, splashing around in the North Sea or  searching for amber among the shingle. The shingle beaches along this stretch of the Suffolk Coast are known as the Amber Coast because they’re such great places to look for the fossilised resin, some of which can be up to 30 to 40 million years old.

After a few hours on the beach, head towards the pier for that all-important fish and chips while you watch the Punch and Judy show.

Southwold Pier is the place to come for cream teas, the old-fashioned penny arcade and the wonderfully eccentric Under the Pier show where you can play some of the world’s most unusual slot machines like Crankenstein the wind up monster and Whack-a-Banker. One of the highlights for children is the mechanical water clock further up the pier. Every half hour the cheeky boys drop their trousers to have a pee.

If you’ve always fancied climbing to the top of a lighthouse, Southwold is the town for you. They do guided tours here of the lighthouse that was featured in the children’s TV show, Grandpa in my Pocket.Best of the British Seaside at Southwold

For more detailed information about Southwold and Walberswick, read my guides:

The Six Ways to fall in love with Walberswick

Best of the British Seaside at Southwold

Next time we go to Suffolk, I’m looking forward to revisiting the fishing village of Orford, taking my kids to Sutton Hoo and visiting the historic towns of Halesworth and Lavenham.

I’m linking this post up to #WanderfulWednesdays with Marcella of What a Wonderful World, Lauren from Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso and Isabel from The Sunny Side of This.

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The Six Ways to fall in love with Walberswick

There’s something rather wonderful about Walberswick. It’s not just that it’s a very picturesque village or that it’s got a great beach. Nor is it the striking black beach huts among the sand dunes, the houses on stilts or the pretty harbour.

It’s more to do with the feel of it. It’s the sort of place where you find yourself slowing down and living life at a more relaxed pace. The kind of place where you’ll happily spend hours crabbing, playing on the beach or going for long walks across the marshes or along the Suffolk coast.

Its charm is no secret – it’s long been a favourite hideaway for artists and writers. The artist and architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh lived here from 1914 and novelist, Esther Freud, who has a home here with her actor husband, David Morrissey, has set two of her novels in the village.

Here are six of the ways you’ll fall in love with Walberswick.

The Beach

Walk up the banks of grassy dunes and you’ll reach the beach, a glorious stretch of sand and shingle that never gets as crowded as the one at Southwold just across the river. Wander further south in the direction of Dunwich and chances are you’ll have the whole beach to yourself.

The coarse sand here is perfect for building sandcastles or you can search for amber amongst the rocks. The waves are just right for jumping in and dogs are allowed on the beach all year round.

If you’re here early in the morning, don’t be surprised if you catch some scantily clad individuals heading down to the sea. Every day, a group of locals walks down to the beach for an early morning dip in the North Sea, even in winter.

The Crabbing

It’s virtually impossible not to spend time in Walberswick without becoming obsessed with crabbing. All you need is a crab line, bucket, fishing net and some raw bacon bits for bait and you’re ready to go.

From morning until early evening you’ll find eager children – and their almost as eager parents – lined up on the banks of the river, crammed onto one of the wooden bridges or peering into the harbour, trying to catch those elusive crabs.

There’s nothing quite like the sheer excitement of pulling up your line and finding a crab (or two) clinging on at the end. Be warned, it’s addictive. All the crabs get put back into the water when you’ve finished – ready for the next load of eager crabbers. Take plenty of spare clothes – there’s always one or two children who end up wading – or falling – into the shallow water in their excitement!

The Village

Walberswick isn’t just about the beach. It’s a picture-perfect Suffolk village complete with pretty village green, pastel-painted houses and a couple of shops and cafés. In the courtyard of The Parish Lantern you can have locally-made ice-cream or home-made cakes and cream teas. A few doors down, at Tinkers, you can buy well chosen antiques and homeware alongside the lovely hand-painted mugs.

The annual village fête over the August bank holiday weekend is one of those quintessentially British affairs, with teas and sandwiches in the village hall, tombola stalls and dog show. The only difference being that you’re more than likely to bump into a celebrity or two – Richard Curtis and Emma Freud, Paul Greengrass, director of the Bourne films, and DJ Simon Mayo all have holiday homes in the village.

The Harbour

The mouth of the River Blyth forms part of Southwold Harbour. It’s a wonderful spot to sit and watch the seagulls and the small boats moored at the jetties on the bank. We loved walking along the harbour path, with the boats on one side and the marshes on the other. If you’re lucky you might spot a seal in the river and there is a huge variety of birdlife on the marshland.

Walk across the Bailey Bridge and through the harbour on the Southwold side and you’ll find stalls selling fresh fish, a great fish and chip shop and the Alfred Corry Lifeboat Museum. From here you can cross the grassy dunes and walk to Southwold along the beach.

The Ferry

Walberswick is just across the river from the seaside town of Southwold. It’s an 8.3 mile drive by car but there’s a lovely 45-minute walk beside the harbour, across the marshes, over the Bailey Bridge and along the old railway line. Even better, catch the rowing boat ferry across the river. It only takes about two minutes.

There has been a regularly scheduled service across the Blyth River since 1236. Today it’s one of the last remaining rowed ferries in the UK. The Walberswick Foot Ferry has been operated by the same family since the 1920s. The current ferrywoman is the fifth generation of her family to row the boat.

The foot ferry operates a daily service from the end of May until early October. It runs on weekends and bank holidays during the rest of May and October. Over 5s, £1; bicycles, £1; dogs free.

The Pubs

There are two excellent pubs in the village, both of which serve good food and welcome families. The 600-year-old Bell Inn has open fires, low beams and flagstone floors. It’s the perfect place to retreat into one of their hidden alcoves with a pint of the local Adnams and good freshly-cooked food like Suffolk Smokies (flaked smoked haddock in cheese sauce) with granary toast or the steak, ale and mushroom pie.

On Sunday lunchtimes the place to be is in the garden of The Anchor for one of its delicious summer barbecues. The 1920s Arts and Crafts pub is one of the best gastro pubs in the UK and well worth a visit at any time of the year for its fantastic food and good selection of wines.

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