19 of the south west’s ultimate family experiences

The south west of England is home to so many incredible experiences, with something for every family member – from wildlife-loving little ones to older and more adventurous children – with SoGlos rounding up 19 of our favourites in this hot list.

By Chloe Gorman  |  Published
Gloucestershire families have heaps of fantastic experiences on their doorstep, with the south west offering everything from historic monuments to legendary festivals.
Gloucestershire families have heaps of fantastic experiences on their doorstep, with the south west offering everything from historic monuments to legendary festivals.

From singing along to some of the biggest bands around to marvelling at the wonders of the ancient world, south west England offers some of the most unforgettable experiences to share with your children.

While there’s no shortage of fabulous family experiences on our doorstep, for those looking for adventures outside of Gloucestershire, SoGlos has handpicked 19 ultimate family experiences taking in Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, as well.

The Eden Project in St Austell, Cornwall

One of the most instantly recognisable attractions in the UK, Cornwall’s The Eden Project offers a thought-provoking family day out, where kids can learn all about protecting the planet and the exotic plants and flowers that grow in Eden’s unique environment.

Formerly a lifeless clay pit, its now iconic biomes are home to the biggest indoor rainforest in the world and a Mediterranean paradise, while there are extensive outdoor gardens to explore and a Minibeast Mansion, too – not to mention intriguing contemporary art installations, regular storytelling sessions and a series of summer concerts.

Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire

With residents including newborn baby koalas, majestic lions, a family of Siberian tigers, white rhinos and Anne the Asian elephant, it’s easy to see why Longleat is the UK’s favourite safari park.

The Wiltshire wildlife park offers an exciting safari drive-through to see some of its biggest animals; a chance to meet smaller critters like giant otters, cheeky meerkats and anteaters; as well as a family farmyard, hedge maze, medieval adventure castle and a jungle cruise to see sea lions and gorillas – all set within 900 acres of grounds landscaped by Capability Brown.

Glastonbury Festival

The family-friendly Glastonbury Festival is an incredible experience for children and adults, with some of the biggest names in music like Beyoncé, David Bowie, Foo Fighters, Sir Paul McCartney and Stormzy having taken to the Pyramid Stage in previous years.

Under 12s can go to the festival for free with a ticket-holding adult – and as if the music wasn’t enough, there’s plenty more for little ones to do. The Kidzfield is a festival within the festival, featuring the most popular children’s entertainers alongside fun rides, soft play and plenty of free activities; the Green Kids Area is like a huge adventure playground with climbing walls and wooden ships to clamber over; while there are children’s workshops and morning shows in the theatre and circus fields, too.

Tintagel Castle in Cornwall

Stand side by side with the legendary King Arthur at Cornwall’s Tintagel Castle. The former Medieval stronghold is the inspiration behind the tales – according to Geoffrey of Monmouth – and a life-size bronze statue of the king joins it on the cliffs.

As well as exploring the ruins of the castle, intrepid visitors can discover the love story of Tristan and Iseult in the gardens; spot seals in the water; and even venture down to the beach to find Merlin’s Cave, when it’s safe to do so.

SS Great Britain in Bristol

One of the most important ships in maritime history, Brunel’s SS Great Britain sits atop a spectacular dry dock in Bristol – where families can set foot aboard the painstakingly restored vessel to experience the sights, sounds and smells of life on board.

From seeing the working replica of Brunel’s original engine; wandering along the promenade deck; examining the ship’s unique screw propellor below the waterline; to uncovering the ship’s fascinating story at the Dockyard Museum, it’s an unmissable sight on any trip to Bristol.

Stonehenge in Amesbury, Wiltshire

The enigmatic Stonehenge has been fascinating people for millennia. Marvel at the strange beauty of these ancient stones, one of the most recognisable sights in the south west, which is sure to capture young imaginations, too.

From unravelling the history of the mysterious monument to celebrating the winter and summer solstices, people travel from far and wide to catch a glimpse of the World Heritage Site’s awe-inspiring stone circle – with the wonder of seeing it up close making it well worth the trip!

Monkey World in Dorset

The subject of long-running television show Monkey Life, Dorset’s Monkey World ape rescue centre is popular with animal lovers of all ages. Home to over 260 rescued primates, many of which are from endangered species, visitors can meet gentle giants like orangutans through to tiny marmosets.

As well as seeing the animals enjoying their carefully created habitats within the park’s 65 acres, there are regular Q&A sessions with keepers so visitors can learn all about the resident apes and monkeys – and the important rescue and rehabilitation work Monkey World does around the world.

We The Curious in Bristol

Inquisitive young minds will have a ball at Bristol’s science museum, We The Curious, offering an interactive, hands-on experience that lets little ones make giant bubbles, mould tactile sand, see how astronauts live and even draw and film their own animations.

For space enthusiasts, there are daily shows in the museum’s 3D planetarium and there are lots of free activities for kids of varying ages taking place throughout the week, too – from storytelling sessions for the littlest visitors, to lively discussions in the John James Theatre of Curiosity for older ones.

Please note, We The Curious is currently closed until January 2023 due to a fire. 

Fossil-hunting in Lyme Regis, Dorset

As the gateway to the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, Lyme Regis in Dorset is the ultimate destination for dinosaur-lovers, as it’s one of the best places in the country to find fossils.

Visitors can walk in the footsteps of world-famous palaeontologist, Mary Anning, on the beach where she discovered the first complete ichthyosaur found in England. As well as hunting for their own fossils, dinosaur enthusiasts can also visit the Lyme Regis Museum in Anning’s former home to explore its interactive fossil gallery.

The Golden Retriever Experience in Minehead

The ULTIMATE day out for dog-loving families, The Golden Retriever Experience allows guests to enjoy a two-hour session playing with its pack of trained golden retrievers – from puppy cuddles to playing fetch.

Ideal for family members with additional needs, the team (and dogs) at the Golden Retriever Experience specialise in meeting the therapeutic needs of children and adults with learning disabilities, such as autism, Asperger’s and Down’s Syndrome, as well as those who are blind – with the whole experience being wheelchair accessible, too.

The Magna Carta at Salisbury Cathedral

One of the world’s most important historical artefacts, the Magna Carta was the first ever document to declare that the king and his government were not above the law. It was first signed by King John in 1215 and only four of the original documents survive – one of which resides at Salisbury Cathedral.

History-loving families can see the famous document at the cathedral’s Chapter House, with its beautiful medieval carvings depicting scenes from the Bible, as well as taking in the sights of the famous cathedral, which has the tallest spire in Britain and the oldest working clock in Europe.

Minack Theatre in Cornwall

Nestled on the top of a Cornish cliff with dramatic views over the Atlantic Ocean, the spectacular Minack Theatre is a sight to behold. Despite looking more like a Roman amphitheatre, the world-famous theatre actually opened in 1930 – and its creator, Rowena Cade, built much of the structure herself, by hand.

The unique clifftop venue and its subtropical gardens are well worth a visit on their own, but to make the experience truly unforgettable, book tickets to see a show – with upcoming family-friendly performances including Jaqueline Wilson’s Hetty Feather; The Kiss That Missed; and The Piskie in the Garden.

Snowtrax in Dorset

Dorset’s Snowtrax offers skiing and snowboarding whatever the weather at its Alpine activity centre in Christchurch. Catering for everyone from complete beginners to experienced ski and snowboarders, it offers lessons for little ones, recreational sessions and learn to ski in a day courses.

Thrill-seekers can race down the slopes on a ski bob or head down the tubing run on a free-spinning Ringo. There’s even an Alpine-themed adventure playground with zip wires, trampolines, slides and a pirate ship on its very own island, too.

Cheddar Gorge in Somerset

As one of the country’s most spectacular natural landmarks – not to mention being an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a Site of Specific Scientific Interest – adventurous families won’t want to miss exploring Somerset’s Cheddar Gorge.

Descend into stalactite-filled caves below ground and uncover stories of prehistoric life; climb the 274 steps of Jacob’s Ladder to marvel at the spectacular views over the Mendip hills; and head off on a clifftop walk to spot the local wildlife. Those feeling brave enough can even try a rock-climbing experience on the gorge’s 450-foot cliff face or an adventure caving session in the underground caverns.

Cornish Wave surf school in Newquay

Catch a wave at the Cornish Wave surf school in Newquay, with Fistral Beach being one of the best surfing spots in the country, where the waves can reach up to eight feet!

Offering private, group and family surf lessons, Cornish Wave caters for everyone from novices to more experienced surfers, with equipment hire included. Fistral Beach also boasts some of the most spectacular sunsets in Cornwall, so after a day in the sea, wrap up in a towel and roll out your picnic blanket to soak up the last of those rays as the sun goes down over the Atlantic.

The Roman Baths in Bath

Once one of the most important religious spas in the world, where ancient Romans would come to worship the goddess Sulis Minerva, the Roman Baths are a fascinating place to visit for kids with an interest in history.

As well as discovering the history of the baths, the importance of its thermal spring waters and paying respects to the gilt bronze head of Sulis Minerva in the museum, families can enjoy exploring the city of Bath itself, which is full of incredible Roman architecture and historical sights.

Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek

Animal-loving families can meet the seals, sea lions, Humboldt penguins and beavers that live at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary. As well as providing a permanent home and specialist care for marine animals, the sanctuary rescues around 70 grey seal pups from the Cornish coastline each year, too, helping to rehabilitate injured and orphaned pups and get them fighting fit before being released back into the wild.

Visitors are able to see the pups up close in the Seal Hospital, nursery pool and main seal pool during pup season from September to March – making the sanctuary an ideal place to visit during winter.

Exmoor Wildlife Safari in Devon

From Exmoor’s famous ponies to its iconic red deer, spotting the incredible animals on a wildlife safari is an unforgettable experience for families visiting Devon – with Exmoor Wildlife Safaris taking visitors on an exciting trip across the rugged terrain in a Land Rover.

The company’s owner, Daphne Brace, is Exmoor born and bred and has over 18 years’ experience driving wildlife safaris in the area – so her knowledge of the landscape and its resident wildlife is unrivalled. Her tours provide exclusive access to little-known parts of Exmoor to see the ponies and deer in their natural environment, as well as giving participants a chance to meet an Exmoor pony and learn all about the legends and folklore surrounding the mystical moors.

Land’s End in Cornwall

Take a trip to the end of the Earth – literally! – With Land’s End in Cornwall being the most westerly point in England. As well as taking in the astonishing views and snapping a family selfie with the country’s most iconic signpost, there’s plenty of attractions for kids to enjoy, too.

Aardman presents: A Grand Experience lets visitors step inside Wallace and Gromit’s living room, workshop and their infamous rocket, as well as ‘Morphing’ themselves and playing games with Shaun the Sheep. There’s also a 4D film experience telling the story of Robinson Crusoe and his dog; an interactive exhibit on the legend of King Arthur; and a lovingly restored 200-year-old Cornish farmstead full of adorable animals to make friends with.

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