Looking to take a family break in the Heart of England? You’re spoilt for choice! Medieval castles, scenic countryside, Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon and a real-life chocolate factory are just a few of the region’s highlights.
This area of England has more than enough history, culture and outdoor activities to fill a two week staycation, whatever the weather. So get ready to discover the very best that the Heart of England — otherwise known as the Midlands, and its surrounding areas — has to offer.
4 must-see sights in the Heart of England
1. The Peak District
An absolute must for families who like the great outdoors, the Peak District National Park — spanning from Derbyshire all the way to South and West Yorkshire — provides almost 1,500 square kilometres of action and adventure.
Hike, mountain bike, rock climb, abseil and go caving, or pitch up a tent, fire up a BBQ and just breathe in the fresh air. With picturesque villages like Bakewell (yes, as in the tart!) and no shortage of cozy country pubs, the Peaks are every bit as trip-worthy as any other European mountain range.
2. Warwick Castle
Towering turrets and spooky dungeons await at Warwick Castle, which was built by William the Conqueror in 1068. The castle’s 1100 year past is wonderfully brought to life with a programme of daily shows (involving jousting, birds of prey and medieval dining) that the kids are sure to love.
Once you’ve had your fill of historic reenactments, lay back in the grass for a well-deserved picnic. Bliss!
3. Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon
Walk in the bard’s footsteps in Stratford-upon-Avon, the place where Shakespeare was born and raised. You can visit Shakespeare’s house, head to the theatre to catch a classic, or just soak up the atmosphere along the pretty riverfront of this medieval market town.
If the kids aren’t so enamored with soliloquies and sonnets, take them down to The MAD (Mechanical Arts and Design) Museum. The littlest ones will love the sensory playroom, while kids and big kids alike can play with interactive exhibits and learn exactly how machines work.
4. Ironbridge Gorge
But if your kids are really into mechanical and structural design, there’s only one place in the Heart of England to take them: Ironbridge Gorge.
Budding engineers will be blown away by Ironbridge, where the world’s first ever cast-iron bridge was built over the River Severn in 1779. Take a boat trip along the river or walk an easy three mile trail to see this UNESCO World Heritage Site in all its glory.
You can also pay a visit to one of the excellent museums that cluster around the area. A Victorian town experience and the kid-focused science museum, Enginuity, are just a few of the options sure to appeal to little imaginations and shed a little more light on the local history.
5 must-do family activities in the Heart of England
1. Visit a real life chocolate factory
Willy Wonka dreams become a reality at Cadbury World in Birmingham, and chocoholics — young and old — will relish in learning how Cadbury chocolate is made, while getting hands-on with the tasty exhibits.
And as an extra sweet treat, you even get the chance to customise your very own family-size bar of chocolate. The more jelly babies and mint chips the better!
2. Go bug hunting in Stratford
Stratford Butterfly Farm is home to around 2,000 butterflies of all shapes, sizes and colours. Little animal lovers can also take a peek at spiders, stick insects, snakes and lizards from around the world. These exotic greenhouses are a great option for the whole family, come rain or shine.
3. Ride the roller coasters at Alton Towers
Daredevils unite at Alton Towers, the UK’s biggest theme park. While the 14 loops of The Smiler are reserved for the big kids, little ones can also get in on the action at CBeebies Land, where they’ll come across all of their TV favourites.
You can make a splash at the waterpark too, with its high-speed water slides and interactive water play areas — maybe save that part for a warm and sunny day, though!
4. Take a trip on a steam train
Any train fans in the family? Shropshire has the best preserved steam train network in the whole of England. Take a trip on the Severn Valley Railway, travelling by historic steam train and stopping off at quaint country villages along the way.
5. Walk the Gruffalo Trail in Wyre Forest
Gruffalo book fans (which, let’s face it, covers many of us!) flock to the Wyre Forest, to take part in the Gruffalo orienteering trail. With several routes to choose from — from 1 hour to 5 — you’ll come across Gruffalo character statues, woodland play areas, and little puzzles for the youngsters to work out.
With a good amount of forest cover, the trail is good fun even on a drizzly day (as long as you’ve packed your wellies!).
The best time to visit the Heart of England?
You’ll get the most out of a family holiday in the Heart of England if you travel between Easter and mid-autumn. The weather during this period (while never guaranteed) is drier and warmer than in winter months.
That being said, wintery getaways in Peak District B&Bs also have an undeniable charm — it all depends what you’re in the market for.
What to pack for the Heart of England?
First on the list: a pair of sturdy walking boots for outdoor adventuring. Next: swimwear for the Alton Towers waterpark. Otherwise, you’ll need plenty of layers to be ready for whatever the changeable climate throws at you!
Getting around the Heart of England
Covering a fairly large part of the country, you’ll find yourself taking a lot of time to travel by public transport around the Heart of England (although it can be done).
If you want to make the most of your time, and venture off the beaten track now and then, travelling by car is your best option by far.