When did you last go to Harewood? Just over half an hour from York, and with a huge amount to do and see, it’s perfect for a family day trip. The last time we went, our youngest was nose-to-snout with the pigs. Now she’s a sweet seven-year-old, it was high time we ventured back to Harewood to see if it’s still just as good for families. Spoiler alert: it is. Here are our highlights, and why we recommend Harewood as a fun place to go with children.
1. There are beautiful grounds to explore
There are acres of stunning grounds to explore at Harewood, and it’s almost entirely accessible with a buggy. We did a lakeland walk, explored the Himalayan Garden, conquered the stepping stones (although we nearly fell into the water – it’s hard to cross them and keep your balance while holding hands!) and played hide and seek on the pretty terrace outside the house. We ended up staying four hours at Harewood and could have stayed longer if the children hadn’t completely run out of energy.
2. A taste of farm life
We persuaded the kids out of the adventure playground with the promise of their next favourite thing: seeing some animals. Harewood’s Farm Experience gives children the chance to see some animals up close, from fluffy alpaca to potbellied pigs, giant rabbits and busy guinea pigs – our youngest, in particular, loved it. The keepers were more than happy to chat and answer her questions too.
3. It’s a varied day out for all ages
There aren’t many day trips from York where you can see penguins, do stepping stones, hop on a boat, enjoy a big adventure playground, explore a stately home, play in a treehouse, walk around a lake and run around a willow maze, but Harewood has it all. For young children, the enclosed Woodland Wonderland is excellent, with a maze and things to balance on and run around: it’s a nice, calm alternative to the big adventure playground.
Our children (12, 9 and 7) loved the big adventure playground, the animals and the novelty of being able to hop on a boat to cross the water (even if it did only take five minutes!).
Harewood has the potential to be a full day out, depending on how much stamina you have (and there’s always ice cream if you need an extra boost). It’s grandparent-friendly, and would be a brilliant choice for meeting friends.
4. Harewood’s a short drive from York
One of our family rules for a successful day trip is this: GET THERE EARLY! While it often means a fairly frantic start to the day, crowbarring everyone out of bed and into their clothes and cobbling together some sort of picnic at top speed, it’s well worth it for easy parking and a lack of crowd and queues when we get to where we’re going. We really excelled ourselves on our trip to Harewood, arriving 20 minutes before they’d even opened the gates in the parkland! The children moaned at first about us being so early, but they soon quietened down when they saw two stunning birds of prey circling above our car, giving us a free flight display. Oh, and within five minutes there was a massive queue of cars behind us, so it was definitely worth it. From our house to Harewood was an easy 30-minute drive, making it very accessible for a day out.
5. There are regular exhibitions and holiday activities
Harewood regularly hosts exhibitions within the house and grounds, giving families a good reason to return throughout the year. Radical Acts: Why Craft Matters, was the exhibition when we visited, looking at how we can live more environmentally and in a more socially responsible way. We’d wondered whether there would be much in it for the children to engage with, but there were plenty of exhibits within the house that caught their eye and made them stop, read and ask questions. A display of old clothes and the stories behind them, for example, got them talking about their favourite clothes and toys and how much they loved them even though they’re not perfect, and a hammock made from sustainable material prompted them to check the labels on their clothes to see what they’re made out of.
The exhibition’s big hit, unsurprisingly, was the treehouse. Built to question whether cutting down trees is always a bad thing, it was something for us grown-ups to think about while the kids pretended it was a pirate ship. As if that wasn’t enough to do, there were also Easter craft activities on offer, but by that point, we were destined for a car and a very quiet journey home. Just one more go on the adventure playground first…
Good to know
- – Harewood is open daily, and tickets include access to the house, gardens and grounds
- – Pre-booking is advised but not essential (although it’s cheaper)
- – There’s a shuttle bus that can take you around the grounds (free)
- – Under fours go free
- – There’s a variety of places to eat and drink, and lots (and lots) of space for a picnic
- – If you think you’ll visit a few times, it’s worth considering a membership to save money