We’re always on the lookout for new places for a family walk near York and, after some late-night research, it sounded as though RSPB Fairburn Ings would tick all the boxes. A short drive from York, located between Leeds, York and Wakefield, the site of a former coal face is now a brilliant wildlife site that’s popular with families and nature watchers alike. We hopped in the car during that strange time between Christmas and New Year to check it out, only to arrive to an exciting winter snowstorm. Here’s what you need to know about visiting RSPB Fairburn Ings with kids, and five reasons why we’d recommend it. Edit – we’ve since been back during the summer months and have included some images from that visit, too, just to show the (dramatic) difference!
1. Fairburn Ings has a selection of walking routes to choose from
There are five walking routes around Fairburn Ings, from a 500m flat Discovery Trail that’s perfect for buggies and wheelchairs to the Riverbank Trail which is 3km each way and gives you the chance to spot kingfishers, wild flowers and ducks aplenty. We did the Riverbank Trail on our second, summer visit and it was lovely: great views of the river and lots of nature to spot along the way.
We did the Roy Taylor trail and found it easy to follow with plenty to see along the way. The Arrow Lane Trail (1km) runs from the Lin Dike car park and has great views of the swans, ducks and geese. It’s great to have a choice of planned walking routes, not least because it reduces the thinking and planning time and, importantly, the chance we’ll get lost! Click here to take a look at all the Fairburn Ings walking routes on this map and maybe print it off or download it before you go
2. The paths are accessible, making it easy for most buggies
Fairburn Ings has families in mind, among other visitors, so most of the trails are accessible for rugged buggies. They aren’t boarded though, so we did find them fairly icy when we visited, but of course, our kids thought this just added to the fun. As usual, we’d recommend wearing the right footwear so that everyone has a better time (take a look at our top tips for having a successful family walk, from games to play to the gear we think makes all the difference)
3. There’s plenty of nature to spot
This being an RSPB reserve, it’s no surprise that there is plenty of nature to spot at Fairburn Ings. Bird enthusiasts flock there to see if they can spot a kingfisher or other hard-to-find feathered friends. Herons, owls, woodpeckers and herons all call Fairburn Ings home, so why not take some binoculars? There’s a pond for pond-dipping, too (you can borrow a net). If that’s not enough, there’s also a small play area with a great climbing wall and den-building area that will please little visitors.
4. There’s a Visitor Centre serving hot drinks!
There are many great little walks not far from York (take a look at our pick of the best walks in and near York) but some, like Askham Bog and Moorlands Nature Reserve, have no facilities at all. While it’s lovely to get back to nature and simplicity, there’s a lot to be said for having access to a loo when you have little ones in tow. Likewise, the option of a hot drink is also a bonus for tired parents. Another great thing about Fairburn Ings is that there’s a little Visitor Centre selling everything you might need to look after the birds in your garden or local area, as well as snacks and hot and cold drinks to take away. There are loos and baby changing too. The facilities aren’t always open, though, so do check the Fairburn Ings Facebook page before you travel.
5. Admission to Fairburn Ings is free – just pay to park
We love a day out, but costs can really add up when you’re entertaining a whole family all day. Good news, then, that admission is free to Fairburn Ings. You do need to pay to park, though, so make sure that you have some coins or means of paying (we had a bit of trouble paying for our parking using a phone and wished we’d thought to bring a card). To save more money, pack a picnic and the snacks/drinks you’ll need – there’s even a dedicated picnic area, but beware of nesting wasps! We spent a couple of hours at Fairburn Ings but could easily have spent longer if we’d not been soggy and cold from the snow. It’s an excellent value day out and we can’t wait to go back to see how it changes throughout the seasons (and hopefully spot a kingfisher!).
Fairburn Ings – Trip essentials
Address – RSPB Fairburn Ings, Newton Lane, Castleford WF10 2BH
Travel time from York – 35 minutes (approx)
Cost – Free, just pay to park (£4)
Opening hours – Check the Facebook page or website for the latest
More info – Visit the RSPB Fairburn Ings website