With the Yorkshire Moors, Coast and Dales on the doorstep, there’s no shortage of options for family day trips from York. One of our favourites is Lotherton, an easy 20 minute drive from home and guaranteed to please our whole family. We visited again on a sunny spring Sunday to see if it still ticked everyone’s boxes, and happily, it does. There’s lots to do and see, it’s an ideal size and it’s really good value. Here’s why we recommend Lotherton as a fun place to visit with children.
1. There’s loads of play equipment for all ages
Regardless of where we park (there’s a small central car park that fills up early and a parking field for overflow), our first stop is always the main playground. Although it’s not huge, it has just the right amount and range of equipment to keep our children entertained for longer than we’d predict. There’s an area for toddlers and a larger play frame with a helter-skelter style slide, fireman’s pole and various things to climb up and crawl through for older children.
The only way we can tempt ours to leave is by reminding them that there’s a whole load more things to play on just across the path. As well as some great swings, logs to balance on and bars to swing from, there’s not one but TWO zip wires! What more could you ask for? Everything’s well maintained, spaced out and rarely feels crowded. Again, the only problem is persuading them to leave to explore the rest of the gardens. It’s worth doing, though, as there are some lovely walking trails and you might just find things to play on along the way (we did).
2. It’s ideal for young wildlife fans
As we drove up to the ticket office, we were greeted by bunnies hopping about in the grass (and we’re fairly sure they hadn’t just been put there because it’s nearly Easter). There’s a lot for young animal lovers to enjoy at Lotherton, from herds of deer (make a beeline for the deer hide and see if you can spot them) to Wildlife World, the dedicated zoo area. Originally a bird garden, there’s an emphasis on our feathered friends, with some weird and wonderful ones to spot. Our eldest had a staring contest with an owl (the owl won) and we could have watched the sweet Humbolt penguins playing about in the water for hours. Our youngest – a big flamingo fan – was really pleased to see some in real life, while the middle one was very taken with the fruit bats in the Nocturnal House. There are free animal activities to do within Wildlife World – ideal if the weather turns sour – and the gift shop is heaven for children who *need* to add another soft cute thing to their toy collection (grown-ups, brace yourselves. Or at least set a budget).
3. There are activities in the house
As most of Lotherton’s highlights are outdoors, it’s best to visit on a dry day. However, this is Yorkshire and we’d never do anything if a bit of bad weather put us off leaving the house. It would be easy to assume that the Lotherton Hall museum would be off-limits for children, but it’s actually well worth a visit. Ours love to see how people used to live – from fancy beds to chandeliers – and there’s a trail to follow to keep them engaged too. Not only that, but there are a few children’s corners with dressing up, and even some free craft activities that change with the season. Families are made to feel very welcome, from buggy parking outside to baby changing facilities and friendly staff.
4. It’s ideal for a picnic (but you can buy food and drink too)
If you’d like to keep costs down by taking a picnic (we do), there’s loads of space to sit and eat. The field car park has lots of space and it’s a great place to kick a football or throw a frisbee too. There are picnic tables by the play area so you can eat while the children play, and there are even some indoor tables within the courtyard as well as plenty of benches dotted about. If you can’t be bothered to take your own food, the cafe serves light meals as well as a tempting array of cakes and scones. The ever-popular children’s picnic bags are available, too.
5. It’s good value
We spent over three hours at Lotherton on our most recent visit, and could have stayed longer if we didn’t have to get back home. The children spent ages playing in the play areas, and it was brilliant that there was something to suit all of them (no mean feat now that our eldest is 12). Animals and birds are always a hit, regardless of age, and Lotherton’s the ideal size to feel manageable but not too small. A family ticket for two adults and up to three children is currently £27, which feels like good value for what we did and how long we were there. It’s worth mentioning that there’s an annual membership, too, which is £61 for a year for two adults and up to three children. It’s well worth considering if you think you will visit a couple of times, and will give you a year’s worth of day trips! There are events and activities throughout the year, so keep an eye on our website for all the details.
Address – Lotherton, Collier Lane, Aberford, Leeds LS25 3EB
Opening hours – 10am to 5pm daily
Approx time from York – 20 minutes
Booking – Recommended but not essential