Maybe it’s because we thought our children weren’t old enough for it, or perhaps it’s because our trips to the Dales usually involve a walk rather than an attraction, but The Forbidden Corner is one of the few attractions we hadn’t visited. But with the threat of another lockdown looming – and with it, the opportunity for family days out – and our youngest coming up to her 6th birthday, we decided that the time was right. We pre-booked our tickets (can anyone else remember a time when we could have spontaneous days out?) and headed across up to The Forbidden Corner the day before Halloween, hoping it wouldn’t scare us silly.
While we’ll happily contemplate hopping over to the Yorkshire Coast for a day out (horrific A64 traffic aside), the prospect of driving across to the Yorkshire Dales always feels more of a trek. In fact, it was just an hour for us to reach The Forbidden Corner from our house just outside York city centre – not much longer than it would take us to get to Whitby or Scarborough, and much easier from a traffic point of view. It’s an easy route, but a word to the parents of kids who feel car-sick: ours were a bit green when we arrived, thanks to the (extremely pretty) the Postman Pat-style country roads towards the end. No sooner had they spotted the big dragon outside the entrance, though, than they cheered right up.
What to expect
Along with a warm welcome, the staff at the visitor centre gave us a free one-page guide to The Forbidden Corner. Initially, we wondered why it wasn’t a map, but it didn’t take long for us to work out that a map would take out all the fun. Instead, the guide has pictures of different things that we should try to spot on our way around, something that we found really useful because it’s a deliberately disorientating place: at first, you can’t be sure how much you’ve seen of it and what you might have missed.
The Forbidden Corner is unlike any other Yorkshire attraction we’ve been to, and all the better for how unique and unpredictable it is. We’re going to be light on detail here, not because we weren’t paying attention or can’t be bothered to describe it, but because a lot of the joy in our visit was in not knowing what to expect. There are four acres of grounds to explore, with interactive statues, tunnels, chambers, stepping stones and lots and lots of surprises. You’ll meet cats, bats, mice, gnomes, horses and skeletons and, if you’re not careful, you might get wet…It’s as though someone asked a child to describe their most bizarre dream and then went ahead and created, all with the backdrop of the far more sensible, and absolutely stunning, rolling hills of Yorkshire.
From the very first interactive exhibit – a massive mouth complete with sound effects – we were laughing our heads off, and we had fun the whole way round. It’s silly and good-natured, with no jump scares and nothing nightmarish, although we did give the mausoleum a miss with the youngest one (our middle one was fine with it, the eldest less so). There are parts that are a little bit darker, but they are quite easily avoided, and we found that there was enough light and silliness to balance out the other bits. When we visited, there was a one-way system in place in some parts for social distancing reasons, which seemed to work well.
Most of The Forbidden Corner is outside, but we wouldn’t let bad weather put you off visiting: it was cold and fairly damp when we went, but we still really enjoyed ourselves. There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes…
Food and drink (and a trip to Brymor Ice Cream Parlour)
There’s a cafe serving hot and cold drinks and meals and snacks, but we took a picnic and had it in the picnic area. Despite the chilly Yorkshire weather, the kids decided they’d like an ice cream after our visit – it was a birthday treat, after all – so we drove via Brymor Ice Cream Parlour on the way home. It’s just 10 minutes away and is a great place to stop-off for fresh ice cream and a(nother) run around. As well as an array of ice cream to choose from, there’s a lovely little play area and a disused tennis court that’s been turned into a makeshift go-kart track. Parents can join in or watch from one of the picnic benches and tuck into a mint choc chip. What’s not to love?
Distance from York – Approximately 1 hour
Booking – Essential for The Forbidden Corner, not needed for Brymor Dairy
The Forbidden Corner, Tupgill Park Estate, Middleham, Lebrun DL8 4TJ – visit The Forbidden Corner website and Brymor Dairy, High Jervaulx Farm, Jervaulx, Malham, HG4 4PG – visit the Brymor Dairy website