10 of the best family days out in the South West

T he summer holidays are fast approaching and it’s time to start plotting those all-important family days out.

Eden Project

We’ve cherry-picked some of the very best attractions and destinations across the South West, from Cornwall’s beautiful beaches to a mysterious underground experience in Devon, treetop adventures in Dorset, and learning to surf in Bristol - yes, really. Each is paired with a pub, inn, or hotel offering comfy and convenient accommodation for a stay to remember.

EDEN PROJECT, CORNWALL

This world-renowned attraction has a diverse range of things to see and do. Its two giant biomes house a tropical rainforest and Mediterranean garden, each bursting with rare plants foraged from far away climates and environments. If you’re feeling brave, take on England’s longest zip wire at the Skywire, or climb to the top of the biomes with a rainforest canopy walk.

The Eden Project also hosts concerts and events throughout the year, with global stars taking to the stage at the summer Eden Sessions. The Pier House lies a 10-minute drive away in Charlestown and offers the perfect place to stay overlooking the ocean.

CORNISH SEAL SANCTUARY, CORNWALL

Nestled along the serene waters of the Helford River in Gweek, the Cornish Seal Sanctuary is a must for animal lovers. Meet adorable rescue seals and a whole host of other friendly residents, including penguins and sea lions. The 42-acre site is just as fun as it is educational. Get hands-on with seal feeding experiences, embark on woodland trails, and replenish with a tasty treat in the cafe.

Gweek is a short drive from Porthleven, one of West Cornwall’s most popular fishing towns. The Harbour Inn is a pebble’s throw from the water and well located for access to golden beaches and the area’s patchwork of art galleries and restaurants.

TUNNEL TREE TOPS, DORSET

You’ll need a head for heights at this adrenaline-pumping family destination. Enjoy a bird’s eye view from the treetops near Lyme Regis as you brave tightropes and zip wires, including a particularly dizzying drop that’s suspended 20ft high in the roof of the woods. There are courses to suit all abilities and it’s a hit with daring families throughout the year. The Tunnel Tree Tops was awarded Tripadvisor’s Travellers Choice 2020 Award.

After an exhilarating day out, head to Lyme Regis for a restful retreat at the Rock Point Inn, found on the waterfront of the ‘Pearl of Dorset’.

DARTMOOR NATIONAL PARK, DEVON

The magical landscape of Dartmoor feels a world apart from the buzz of seaside resort towns and beaches. Visitors flock here from across the globe, but the sheer expanse of the place ensures there’s ample untouched space for all to enjoy. Climb iconic tors and explore wooded valleys, swathes of open moorland, and serene rivers. Visit the Visit Dartmoor website and Active Dartmoor for ideas, info and inspiration.

Dartmoor National Park is just 12 miles from Yealmpton, where you’ll find the Rose & Crown. This cosy pub is renowned for its welcoming atmosphere, delicious menu, and stylish accommodation.

PENDENNIS CASTLE, CORNWALL

Pendennis Castle occupies a commanding position on Falmouth’s headland overlooking the Carrick Roads to St Mawes and out across the open ocean. There’s plenty to take in both inside and out at this fascinating destination. Step back in time and discover a diverse history that spans the reign of King Henry VIII and Cornwall’s role in the Second World War.

The landmark is a short distance from the town centre. Head to the Chain Locker, found tucked into the historic quayside, for an inviting place to stay and feast following an immersive day of spectacular sights.

EXETER'S UNDERGROUND PASSAGES, DEVON

Chances are, you will recognise Exeter's grand cathedral and peaceful riverside scenery, but do you know about the history lurking beneath the surface? Exeter is the only city in the UK to have these kinds of medieval underground passages open to the public. Guided tours have operated here since the 1930s and carry stories of wars, plagues, sieges, and pestilence. There are interactive displays, films, and exhibitions included at this eye-opening attraction.

Unwind at the end of the day at the Mill on the Exe. The comfy accommodation is close to the city centre, yet feels far from it, thanks to its tranquil location on the water’s edge.

LAND'S END, CORNWALL

A trip to mainland Britain’s most south-westerly point offers the best of both worlds. The Land’s End Landmark Attraction is a tourist complex with restaurants, cafes, and interactive family experiences including Greeb Farm and Arthur’s Quest. The headland also rewards coastal explorers with outstanding views and secluded gems in both directions.

Within easy walking distance is Sennen Cove. Not only is this picture-postcard village as visually impressive as its famous neighbour, but it’s also home to the Old Success Inn. Relax inside or find an outdoor table, indulge in quality food and drink, and admire the cove’s glorious sunsets.

WOODLANDS FAMILY THEME PARK, DEVON

The largest theme park in Devon is a go-to for memorable days out, with something for all ages. Little ones are kept occupied by a large indoor play area, while older kids can tackle a collection of thrilling rides. There’s also a zoo farm and themed rides and events throughout the year. Woodlands Family Theme Park is a sure bet for an action-packed experience, come rain or shine.

The attractive riverside haven of Dartmouth is five miles away. The Royal Castle is a historic hotel offering contemporary en-suite accommodation overlooking the River Dart.

FISTRAL BEACH, CORNWALL

Fistral Beach is a sandy playground that’s synonymous with surfing and getting active outdoors. Elite athletes take to the waves each year, notably during the Boardmasters Surf Championships. It’s an enticing place to learn how to carve your first waves, or simply admire the action from afar while building sandcastles and bathing in the sunshine.

If you’re seeking a place to stop over in Newquay, look no further than the Great Western. Overlooking its namesake beach, this well-appointed hotel enjoys far-reaching views and immediate access to the coast.

THE WAVE, BRISTOL

Did you know you can learn to surf in Bristol? The Wave is the first inland surfing destination of its kind and provides a safe environment for people of all ages and abilities to take to the water. The surf here is consistent, delivering the same great conditions every time. What’s more, the price of admission includes all the equipment you need - you can bring your own too though.

Gloucester Road is seen by many as the epitome of Bristol’s independent spirit. The Wellington offers boutique hotel-style rooms, equipped with all the desirable mod cons, in a convenient location.

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