Review: A Grand Day Out at Harewood House

It’s not just the daffodils and tulips that are opening at this time of year. Yep, with springtime in full swing, some of our favourite day trip destinations are also opening for the year, including Harewood House. We headed over to see what’s new for 2016.
Why visit? Harewood House, a stately home near Leeds in amazing grounds, has been a favourite with families for decades. We used to visit as kids, so it was a treat to take our own three children to see if they’d give it the Little Vikings seal of approval. Harewood have clearly been busy over the winter: the bird garden has been revamped, with lovely views of the lake; there’s a great new farm experience with alpaca, goats, pigs and other animals to admire, and the penguin viewing area has been spruced up for spring. There’s also the all-important adventure playground. And that’s before we mention the house itself…
What we did – Our little Vikings didn’t know where to start first: marvel at the flamingos? Watch the penguins being fed in their fancy new pool? Stroke a rabbit? Take a trip on the lake? There’s a lot to see and do, so we’d suggest arriving early when it’s quiet so get a great view of the birds and animals.
We started by watching the penguins being fed – check feeding times so you don’t miss it, as it’s great to see. The cockerels in the bird garden were the next big hit (there are more exotic creatures but our children obviously have simple tastes), followed by bug-spotting and then the chance to stroke a rabbit and have a look at some guinea pigs (cue the predictable conversation about whether we can get a pet: er, no. Sorry). Everything feels fresh, modern and perfect for a family day out.
The kids then spent hours rampaging around the adventure playground, which is one of the best we know of. It’s vast and pretty much suitable for all ages (our 18 month old was as happy as the 6 year old, and there were a lot of happy older kids there too). It’d be easy to get stuck there, but it’s well worth heading to the house to the ‘below stairs’ area where you can learn about the how the servants lived and how they ran the house. It’s fascinating and really accessible for children, with the chance to get hands on and dress up too.   All in all, it was a brilliant day out that’s closer to home than we’d remembered.
Food and drink – There are various café and restaurant options, all serving good quality homemade food and a great selection of hot and cold drinks and tasty cakes. There are children’s options, but like many other families, we took a picnic and bought hot drinks from the café. There are a few picnic benches, but it’s a good idea to take a rug in case they’re full. There’s lovely Yorkshire ice cream available too.
Good to know – If you think you might visit a couple of times, it’s worth considering the family membership (£95 for a family of four). It’s really popular with locals and could be a lifesaver when it comes to those long summer holidays. Fancy a trip around the lake? There’s a new pleasure cruise around the lake that runs during weekends and some bank holidays (£3 per person).
The damage – A family ticket for 2 adults and 2 children is £45. Free parking.
Travel time from York 35 minutes approx.
Harewood House, Harewood, Leeds LS17 9LG – open between 25th March and 30th October 2016 – gardens open 10am to 6pm (bird garden and farm experience open until 5pm) – – family of four £45 (under 4s free).
This article was first published in issue 2 (summer 2014) of the Little Vikings magazine

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