Published: 06:00, 17 July 2021
| Updated: 13:09, 21 July 2021
The long summer holidays are almost upon us - but what's on offer for families?
Here's our guide to fun trails and events for families all summer long across Kent.
The Beach, Bluewater
Back for a fifth consecutive year, The Beach, opens on Saturday, July 17, with rides for thrill-seekers, plenty of sand with deck chairs to soak up the sun in. This year there will Wipe Out, and on selected days activities for children such as balloon modelling and magic shows. Find out more here.
The rural haven is holding a programme of activities for children in the summer holidays, where they can explore the outdoors and have fun with practical projects and games. Activities include summer gardening sessions in Brogdale’s wildlife garden; juicing workshops; outdoor music workshops in Brogdale’s music garden and outdoor cookery sessions, all on selected dates in July and August. To choose which to book for, visit brogdalecollections.org
Discover a series of new outdoor games provided by Sport England, as part of the National Trust’s Get, Set, Go! programme this summer from boules and quoits to skipping at the Visitor Centre or try the summer trail all about the treasures of the Chartwell gardens. The lower lawn towards the lake is also perfect for picnics, or there’s picnic tables in the field beside the overflow car park. The trail is £2 plus normal admission. Details at nationaltrust.org.uk/chartwell
Chatham Historic Dockyard
The dockyard will welcome back Doc. Yard's summer show from Saturday, July 31 to Bank Holiday Monday, August 30 when there will be hands-on science experiments at the secret lab, examining Archimedes, the world’s most famous mathematician and inventor's statement: ‘Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.’ Book your entry tickets, which last a year, here.
The English Heritage site has its Summer Explorer Quest from Saturday, July 24. Can you help uncover the castle's history, explore the trail, find the missing stories and crack the secret code? Standard admission applies. Pre-book entry tickets here.
Emmetts Garden, Sevenoaks
Outdoor games provided by Sport England, as part of the National Trust’s Get, Set, Go! programme this summer include cricket, rounders, hopscotch, giant dominoes and croquet. Fairies will come out to play for youngsters to follow around the gardens and into the Fairy Kingdom, spotting wooden toadstools around the grounds. There is a picnic area by the Discover Cabin and a wild play area. There are two open-air theatre performances for families too. Book tickets for Immersion Theatre’s Jungle Book on Tuesday, August 10, and the Lord Chamberlain’s Men’s Macbeth on Thursday, August 12. The fairies trail is £2.50 plus normal admission. Theatre tickets start at £12. Book at nationaltrust.org.uk/emmetts-garden
Elmer's Big Heart of Kent Parade
The 51 large and 30 small Elmers in and around Maidstone are based on David McKee’s popular children’s character Elmer the Patchwork Elephant. The trail totals around six miles, takes visitors all over Maidstone and includes three walks. Maidstone Museum, which is also the home of the town’s Tourist Information Centre has a supply of trail maps as well as a collection tin with all proceeds going to the Heart of Kent Hospice. All Elmers will be on show until Sunday, August 22, when they will be rounded up for a farewell weekend at Lockmeadow from Friday, September 3 to Sunday, September 5. Each elephant sculpture will be auctioned on Thursday, September 9.
Groombridge Place, Tunbridge Wells
Have fun searching for clues around the 150 acre estate with a little help from Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson by picking up a map to help you find the clues and solve the mystery in the gardens and Enchanted Forest. There's a sweet treat for those who get to the end. There will be shows on selected days and birds of prey displays. Pre-booked tickets from groombridgeplace.com
Young visitors can join the resident sorcerers through the summer holidays from Thursday, July 22 to Tuesday, August 31 and take part in a series of hands-on activities including learning about magical creatures; how to cast spells and how to execute the perfect wand waving technique. Come dressed as fairytale characters, your favourite witch or wizard or perhaps as a brave knight and the best dressed will receive a certificate.
Until Bank Holiday Monday there will also be a knight's quest through the Castle, coming across mythical beasts and finding out the best way to protect yourself. There will also be jousting on weekends and selected dates. Details at hevercastle.co.uk
Hop Farm Family Park
The summer holiday fun at the park at Beltring near Paddock Wood runs from Thursday, July 22 to Tuesday, August 31. All rides and attractions, from the Giant Jumping Pillows to the Magic Castle, will be open and on selected dates there will be visits from TV characters Paw Patrol's Chase & Marshall, PJ Masks's Catboy and Owlette and Go Jetter's Ubercorn and Glitch. Circus Zyair will also be visiting. Details here.
Ightham Mote, Borough Green
Make your way around the new mini-beast trail complete with bug hotel, or head to the play area and discovery den. The best place for a picnic is past the North Lake. Book entry tickets here.
Kent Life, Maidstone
The working farm will have summer holiday fun from Thursday, July 22 to Tuesday, August 31, with a return of its Big Top shows; owl flying demonstrations and animal feeding sessions. Pre-book your tickets here.
Borrow sports equipment to have fun in the surrounds of the house and pick up a set of Get, Set, Go! cards. Every Monday throughout the holiday will have a different theme for Family Monday, including something special to mark Archaeology Week in late July. The house meanwhile is open for a chance to see the historic collection. A small donation is requested for Family Mondays. Pre-book tickets to guarantee entry to the car park and house at nationaltrust.org.uk/knole
Leeds Castle, Maidstone
Young visitors can spend the school holidays on a mission trying to complete 55 Leeds Castle challenges armed with a challenge booklet. Enjoy different family-friendly experiences from taking a picture holding the Castle in your hand, getting lost in the Maze, playing pooh sticks in the stream at the Pavilion Lawn and taking a selfie with birds of prey. Book your entry tickets, which last a year, here.
The summer fun programme runs through to Tuesday, August 31. There will be falconry on Saturdays on the South Lawn at 11.30am, 2.30pm and 4.30pm and new for Mondays from Monday, July 19 will be Summer Story Time from Aardvark Productions with whacky panto-style adaptations. Weekly on Wednesdays from Wednesday, July 21 is Wilderness Wednesdays with have a go drop-in sessions on bushcraft on the Woodland Trail, from smore-eating to fire-making and shelter-building with the Camp Wilderness team. There will be two outdoor children’s trails running daily, Itsy-Bitsy-Bingo and the Woodland Butterfly Trail, a magical butterfly hunt.
Children can collect a frequent visitor passport from the main entrance as they come in on their first summer entry and should collect a stamp for each activity they attend to complete their passport. They will receive a bundle of What On Earth books to take away if completed.
To pre-book tickets click here.
There will be activities for families and young children, family-friendly monk-themed tours and craft activities and brass rubbing throughout the summer holidays between Monday, July 26, and Tuesday, August 31. The Cathedral is open, with no need to pre-book, from 10 to 4pm Monday to Saturday and 1pm to 3pm on Sundays. Admission is free. Details at rochestercathedral.org
Scotney Castle, Lamberhurst
Follow the waymarked trails for a summer stroll; head to the natural play area or try the family wildlife guided walks around the estate. Find out more and book at nationaltrust.org.uk/scotney-castle
There is both a dragonfly trail and a Junior Garden trail this summer which will take you on an adventure criss-crossing the garden rooms, vegetable gardens, woodlands and lakes identifying creepy crawlies and taking in floral scents. You’ll also find out about the key conservation work which helps protect this world-famous garden and can see the newly-restored Delos garden, inspired by Vita and Harold's visit to the Greek isle in the 1930s. Details here.
Stour Leisure Centre, Ashford
The centre's main swimming pool will open from Monday, July 26 for casual swimming with swimming lessons available from Sunday, August 1. Anyone interested in enrolling in lessons for both adults as well as children should call 01233 663503 or email email@example.com.