Last week saw us spending a couple of nights down in Hampshire, exploring the area and enjoying a few of the many family attractions there. To be honest, we could have spent a lot longer than three days there as there was a lot to see and do, but we did manage to cram a lot in, so here’s what we got up to on our Hampshire mini-break…
We travelled down from the West Midlands and it took us just under two and a half hours and was a very easy run. On the way back we decided to break the journey up so we stopped off at National Trust’s Upton House and Gardens, which was a chance for us to all stretch our legs and visit a site that we’d not been to before.
What to Do
There’s plenty to choose from, but in the end we chose …..
We drove from home straight to here, so by the time we got here, the kids were desperate to go and explore. As well as there being loads of animals to see, there were play areas dotted around and plenty of eating areas. We ate with a huge bird watching over us!
The enclosures all seemed large and open, offering space for the animals to roam and lots of spots to view them from. Boo adores zebras and was delighted to find that they have two types at Marwell so we spent a fair bit of time looking at and reading about those. You could get up really close to the giraffes, which Little Man loved, and there were lots of them. The Husband and I could have spent hours, no exaggeration, watching the leaf cutter ants as they moved through long tubes running through the tropical house as they were fascinating to watch.
The zoo flowed really nicely, you felt you could meander around and see everything, though there were also maps everywhere and clear signposts. All of the animals appeared to be well-cared for and it was great to see so many of them roaming or running around. There were walk ways around several enclosures enabling you to easily see into them without it infringing on their space. There was also a lot of information about where each animal lived in the wild, what it ate, whether it was endangered and so on. Boo really enjoyed learning about each animal in this way.
If I said that I wished Marwell Zoo was on our doorstep, that’d probably best sum this one up, wouldn’t it? It was one of those places that has a really nice, clean and family-friendly feel to it and all of the staff were helpful. We really enjoyed our day there.
This was the kids’ first time at a Go Ape, and though they were excited about it, I honestly wasn’t sure how it would go. It is high! As Boo is 7, she could go up on her own, with me down on the ground, and Little Man at 4 needed an adult up there with him so the Husband went up. The safety rules were made clear to us, safety harnesses attached and they all went on a practice run low to the ground to get used to how it works. All set, they went up…
Boo was straight off, shouting down to me that she was scared but she wanted to do it. Little Man took one step and cried that it was too hard and he couldn’t do it. With a bit of cajoling, he gave it a whirl and was so glad that he did as as his confidence grew, he loved it. And I mean LOVED it.
They had an hour to go round as many times as they wanted and there were really lovely and friendly instructors on hand throughout. It wasn’t too busy, a benefit of needing to book ahead, and the surroundings were beautiful. There’s also a play area near the Go Ape cabin, so something to play on before and after. The highlight for the children was the long zipline at the end of the circuit, they went on that a lot.
Go Ape was a big hit with my two and I was proud to see how well they both overcame their nerves so that they could really enjoy it. Boo attempted the trickier course, too, and though she told me that she was scared, she was really pleased with herself that she did it. It’s something completely different to anything they’ve done before, and I do now have Boo telling me that she wants to have a Go Ape birthday party later this year!
We visited when they had a Peter Rabbit trail on over Easter, which both Little Man and Boo adored doing. It did mean that they ran from clue to clue not actually looking at the animals, but that just gave us more to do there as we went back and had a proper look afterwards!
There were lots of outbuildings and farms to peek in, and as we visited in spring, we were fortunate to see baby animals. Yes, we oohed and aahhed over piglets, lambs and fluffy chicks, as well as all of the animals there. Boo loved seeing guinea pigs, as we have some, as well as rabbits, as she wants one.
They had a lot of chickens there and I found myself musing over whether I’d like to keep chickens. They tempt you, when there are so many varieties and all look so friendly! There were also owls to get up close and personal with, gardens and Peter Rabbit’s house (a wartime cottage) to explore. Outside there are other buildings and trails to explore, along with a cafe and a big picnic area that we took advantage of. It had a lovely family-friendly quaint feel to it, with all the farm animals you could think to see, a play area and also vintage tractors.
There is parking on site, you just need to leave your car registration number at reception to ensure you can park for free. It is down a very long road where you might wonder if you are still on the right track – just keep on going, you will get there!
Winchester Science Centre has over 100 hands-on exhibits and a planetarium with different shows playing throughout the day. The kids basically ran into here and scurried excitedly from exhibit to exhibit pressing everything! I’d say on reflection that though Little Man had a lot of fun there, I’d say it’s one for older children if you really want to get the most out of your visit. Boo took her time reading everything through, working out what she had to do and learning the processes of each exhibit. Whereas Little Man just exuberantly and happily hit every button, pushed every plunger and pulled every lever!
There were a great variety of things to try, from walking through a colon (yes, really!) to checking out x-rays to navigating a basketball court in a wheelchair. It’s all very interactive and I honestly can’t imagine any child not having fun there.
The sports section was a big hit with my two, as they enjoyed having running races (though Little Man was just not grasping the ‘stay in your own lane’ concept!), seeing how high they could jump and trying to beat me on the rowing machines. Yes, I did row properly, and yes, I’m aware that my legs and arms are a lot longer than theirs which gives me an advantage, but it made them try really hard!
It’s a great attraction for a rainy day as it was all indoors. We got there minutes after it opened and managed to get to try everything out quite easily, though I did notice it busying up as we were leaving, so get there early if you can. There is free parking on site and it’s just a few minutes outside the city centre.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Best Western Chilworth Manor
We had a huge suite with a bed big enough to fit all four of us in and a pull out sofa bed, along with a single camp bed, so plenty of room for us. It was all immaculate and the service great. We were so busy having fun out and about, we were really only there for sleep and breakfast. The breakfast was a delicious buffet and included fruit, cereals, pastries and a full English. I’d highly recommend the sausages and the croissants! The dining room was quite busy on both days that we were there, but we didn’t feel crowded or have to queue to get to food. We were up earlyish, of course, breakfasting at just after 8am on both days.
There’s plenty of free parking on site and the drive up to the hotel and the grounds are beautiful. Boo gasped when she saw it as it does look grand and I liked the character features throughout. Based at the Best Western Chilworth Manor, all of the attractions we visited were a short drive away, 20 minutes at most. It’s a really good spot to stay in and we were all very comfortable there and happy with the service.
As well as the above attractions, we did a little shopping at Gunwharf Quays (OK, when I say ‘a little’, I actually mean a lot!) and as we were there over Easter, we also managed to squeeze in an egg hunt at National Trust’s Mottisfont, which was well worth a visit.
If we’d have had more time, we’d have visited the New Forest, made a trip to the seaside at Bournemouth, strolled around Winchester, spent the day at Paulton’s Park, oh, there was loads more to do! For more family fun ideas and inspiration, visit Hampshire Attractions.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our break. There was a lot for us to do and we could easily have spent a fortnight down there and kept ourselves nice and busy. As a mini-break it worked for us as it was only just over two hours which was perfectly manageable for a two night stay and gave us access to lots of areas to discover and enjoy. All of the attractions were fun and worked well together as they each offered us something quite different. The highlight for the kids was definitely Go Ape, and they now want to go again and again and again!
Are you tempted to have a Hampshire mini-break now?
Disclosure: We received our break and attractions FOC for the purposes of this post