Mega half-term guide
Berkeley Castle, Sun 22 to Wed 25 Oct
If you’re looking for a properly spooky Halloween setting, Berkeley Castle where Edward ll was reputedly murdered must come pretty high up on the list. The castle closes for the winter, so this is a good time to visit the historic pile and enjoy its autumn splendiffery. Each day there’ll be wizards and witches with spell books and potions in the cellar and kitchen, marshmallow toasting and pumpkin carving. On Sunday 22, King Henry VIII and his six wives will be telling tales of ghostly goings on in the castle and on Monday to Wednesday you can meet Berkeley’s Wandering Wizard and his Magical Owls from 3pm to 7pm.
Halloween Land at Cotswold Farm Park, Kineton, near Cheltenham, until Sun 29 Oct
A Muddy award-winning finalist, Adam Henson’s farm is taking Halloween to the next level. Just the pumpkin patch alone would be enough for me frankly as they look so otherworldy amazing and make you feel like you’re in a fairy tale, but you also get to pick one and decorate it, something the mudlets and I love doing, but I hate cleaning up, so this is win, win for me! There’s face-painting so you can go all Mexican Day of the Dead and then head off on a spooky woodland trail or get lost in the maize maze. Or, if you’re not feeling energetic, just carry on crafting in a Witches & Wizards workshop. On Friday 27 October from 6-10pm, there’s a special Freaky Friday event for 12+ where the brave can experience a thriller maze featuring live actors and music from DJ Farmer Terry. Be a good idea to book for this one I reckon.
Rush Skatepark, Brimscombe, near Stroud
For fun on two wheels you’d be hard pushed to find a better have-a-blast venue than Rush, which is one of the largest indoor skate parks in the world. Yes, the world! It’s a family-run outfit and you feel that as soon as you walk through the door. Safety is paramount but there’s also no-holds-barred within health and safety boudaries. You can have a properly good time on BMXs, scooters, skateboards, aggressive skates (had to look them up, basically rollerskates with a gangsta name). If your offspring are new to skateparks, book in for the Saturday and Sunday beginners sessions from 11am to 12.30pm. And do book because the sessions are insanely popular. There are also some special half-term academies – Scooter Advanced on Fri 27 Oct, Inline Mixed and Skateboard Mixed on Mon 23 Oct and Rocker Mixed, also on Mon 23, which is super-duper session from 9.30am to 2pm including lunch and a Rocker T-shirt.
Halloween at Cattle Country Adventure Park, near Berkeley, Sat 21 to Sun 29 Oct, 10am-4pm
Take a scary tractor and trailer ride through a maize maze and a spooky fairy-tale wood to meet the witch of candy cottage who, the offspring will be pleased to hear, has a sweet side and hands out free treats. (I could do with that kind of witch in my life right now •sob*.) This is reason enough alone to head over to Cattle Country this half-term, but as well as the usual slides (drop and wavy), trampolines, zip wires, jumping pillows, climbing net and farm animals, there will also be marshmallow toasting on an open fire and pumpkin carving.
Halloween Hunt, Puzzlewood, Coleford, Forest of Dean, Mon 23 to Sun 29 Oct
Quite frankly, I can’t think of a better place for some spooky Halloween fun than Puzzlewood, the forest that inspired JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Search the mysterious woods for witches, goblins, pumpkins and goodness knows what else all hiding in mossy gulleys, under wooden bridges, in spooky trees and next to secret benches. And there are prizes! No need to book, just turn up.
Scare Cave at The Warehouse Climbing Centre, Gloucester, Mon 23 to Tue 31 Oct
Night-time monsters are taking up residency in Gloucester’s faberoo climbing centre’s caves over Halloween week. Spooky and scary sightings are under investigation and apparently construction work last year did unearth a strange sinkhole… oooohhh. These caves for subterranean explorers are incredible even without the spooks. It’s the biggest and best of its kind in the south-west with over 90m of tight, twisted tunnels, four challenging chambers with ball pits (love a ball pit) and different levels of challenges so it’s as good for a five-year-old as it is for a teen. And, of course, if you like your fun overground, there’s the amazing climbing facilities too.
Goodrich Castle, Herefordshire, Sat 21 to Sun 29 Oct
If it’s a stormy day and you fancy coming face-to-spectre with a ghost, get yourself over to Goodrich Castle where two star-crossed lovers were sent to their watery graves during the Civil War. Alice Birch, the niece of a parliamentarian colonel, had fallen in love with a royalist and was with him at the castle when her uncle placed it under siege. Fearing for their lives, they tried to escape on horseback under cover of a violent storm, but the River Wye had become swollen and swept them away to their deaths. Today their spirits are said to still haunt the castle, particularly during stormy weather when their shrieks can be heard from the river. Eek! This tale as well as another about an Irish chieftain imprisoned in the dungeon will be told on family-friendly tours during half-term week and there will also be a fancy dress competition and craft workshops.
Go Bananas, Stroud
Ebley Wharf Mill used to be a bit nada, but now it’s ballooning with cool places to go and Go Bananas is the perfect low-key soft play to take your little ones to so they can burn off some energy while you recharge your batteries ready for a bit of mooching afterwards. As well as bouncing around in ball pools and charging down slides, there are also martial arts classes on offer – boxing, kick-boxing, stunt wrestling – seven days a week for ages 4 to 14. You sign up per month (for a pretty reasonable £35), but half term might be a good time for a free trial. Just saying.
Spot the Pumpkins, Clearwell Caves, Fri 20 to Sun 29 Oct
It’s a whole other world under the earth at Clearwell’s natural cave and mine system, with two levels of entry, deep for the really adventurous, and semi-deep for the more tentative moles out thiere. And over half-term, you’ll also find hidden in the caverns a whole load of pumpkins, some easier to find than others. And if you spot them all, you can enter the Grand Halloween Prize Draw and win some goodies.
Trampoline Parks, various locations in Cheltenham, Gloucester, Swindon and Bristol
I used to love trampolining and if I could trust my pelvic floor to behave after three rounds of childbirth I’d definitely be joining in on the bouncing fun. There are plenty of options and having been to them all, the mudlets rate Airhop in Bristol for sheer size and number of different activities, especially the Wipeout; Freedog in Swindon and Bristol ‘cause they’re “ace” (and I like the look of the half-term Junior Ultimate Movement Program (J.U.M.P) camp where you can drop them in the morning and pick them up after lunch); XJump (formerly Jumptastic) in Gloucester for the bounciness of the trampolines (there are also fitness sessions for the over 14s if you have a slothful teen); and Airborne in Cheltenham for the basketball. There’s also Funky Warehouse in Cheltenham, which I can’t vouch for, but it looks pretty good and offers disability sessions, as well as teen/adult evenings when the lights go down and the music goes up for two hours of bouncing and dancing fun. Damn that pelvic floor!
We The Curious (formerly At Bristol), One Millennium Square, Harbourside, Bristol
This hotbed of scientific curiosity is properly wonderful for adults, as well as kids. Throughout half-term week, there will be autumn stargazing in the 3D planetarium, autumn in the greenhouse where kids can plant their own crop; science of food demos; a lively brain show exploring what the grey matter gets up to; the Live Lab which investigates the workings of the human body; danceroom Spectroscopy, which brings the world of atoms and molecules to life; and the twisty-turny-topsy-turvy ball run where kids can build their own. And can I recommend nearby Za Za Bazaar for a meal while you’re there? It offers pretty much every cuisine under the sun for a fixed price and, although I was a doubter, the food was incredible (and the price even better).
Shriek Week at Birdland, Bourton-on-the-Water
Home to one of the largest collections of exotic birds in the UK, over half-term you’ll be able to let your imagination fly away with you with a special Halloween-themed Myths & Legends week. Discover why owls are considered to be so wise, where the legend of the phoenix came from and discover which bird’s call the Romans believed meant imminent death. Yikes!
Half-term Family Yoga Class, Cheltenham Pilates & Yoga, Cheltenham, Mon 23 Oct, 4.15pm
Limber them up and chill them out! Sounds like the perfect start to half-term to me and the Muddy award-winning studio Cheltenham Pilates & Yoga has scheduled in just the thing. A 45-minute yoga class with an autumn theme and fun stuff for the kids, and natural health practitioner Jeni Howland also brings in many brain integration techniques that help teach children to relax, concentrate and find stillness. I need this class! £6 each. All ages welcome.
The Great British Autumn, Longleat
Brand New for 2017 is the perfect day out for the whole family, sorted. Celebrate all that is wonderful about the great British autumn and British wildlife as the Longhouse plays host to some feathery visitors. Throughout the week you’ll be able to come and meet stunning barn and tawny owls, learn all about what they get up to during the long autumn nights, and even see them in action in one of their live demonstrations. Plus, get hands on with the mud kitchens, arts and crafts stations and authentic apple presser. And any future farmers can jump on one of their mini ride-on tractors. Ooh, and Halloween’s right around the corner so guess what? Giant pumpkins have sprouted up throughout their Hedge Maze…if you solve the tricky trail you’ll earn yourself a sweet treat. For anyone looking for a truly terrifying treat, why not book onto one of their ghoulish Ghost Tours?!
Pumpkin Week, Roves Farm, Swindon
Carve a pumpkin and leave the mess right here at the Farm…Choose, design and create your very own spooky pumpkin to take home. And don’t miss their family friendly fireworks display on Sat 21 Oct, designed especially for young children. No big bangs but lots of sparkle, a massive bonfire, fairground rides, children’s disco, and, weirdly, birds of prey.
Cotswold Water Park, near Cirencester
The aqua park may have packed up and gone for the winter but there’s still pots of stuff to do here despite the cooler weather. With more than 150 lakes spread over forty square miles, there is something for everyone – from angling to archery, watersports to walking, birdwatching to biking, to name just a few. Book now for their Zombie Apocalypse Fright Night on Fri 27 Oct…After a pre-evacuation briefing in Ground Zero, launch your escape boat onto the lake to reach the de-comtamination zone on the island, then board a rapid evac power boat deep into infested territory and navigate your way through the darkness of zombie infested woodland. Um, this might not be for the feint hearted.
Haunted Half Term, Old Sarum, Salisbury
Bring your little horrors this Halloween half term and wander the haunted landscape of Old Sarum. Discover some ghoulish goings-on and spooky happenings while hearing about Old Sarum’s eerie former residents.
Sorcerer’s Shield Trail, Lacock Abbey, near Chippenham
Celebrate 20 years of Harry Potter with our marvellously magical self-led family trail. Do you have what it takes to join Lacock Abbey’s Sorcerer’s Shield? When you visit the cloister, see if you can find the enormous cauldron…
Cholderton Charlie’s Farm, near Salisbury
A fantastic-value, fun filled family day out. There are loads of gorgeous animals for you to meet, feed, cuddle and pet, most of which are British Rare Breeds. Down on The Farm there is a Pig Corner, Rabbit Village, Goat Mountain, Donkey Den, The Chicken Coop, Duck and Geese Ponds, Pony Pastures, Sheep Shelters and the Farmyard, plus play areas including an indoor Playbarn as well a brand new 500 foot long, 32 foot high Tree Top Trail. Phew!
Farmtastic Animal Farm, near Royal Wootton Bassett
Ready for a close encounter of the furred kind? Meet some of the county’s cutest, cuddliest and most entertaining animals, from alpaca to miniature donkeys and barn owls to pygmy goats, plus some more familiar barnyard friends.
Need to sit for a couple of hours in a dark space? Here are some options…
The Tiger Who Came To Tea, Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, Mon 23 & Tue 24 October
Based on the classic Judith Kerr book, this sweet children’s story about a big, stripy tiger who pops in for tea causing clumsy chaos has been charmingly adapted for stage by leading writer and director of plays and musicals David Wood. Packed with magic and sing-along songs, it’s perfect for kids aged three and above and adults of all ages.
Monstersaurus, Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury, Wed 25 Oct
This brand new show from the creators of Aliens Wear Underpants follows young inventor Monty as he creates a whole new world of wacky inventions and incredible monsters. Lots of on-stage hilarity, music and audience participation. Perfect half-term fodder for your own little monsters.
The Night Pirates, Wyvern Theatre, Swindon. Mon 23 & Tue 24 Oct
Adapted from the best-selling children’s book by Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright, The Night Pirates tells the tale of a group of little girl pirates who descend on a young boy called Tom at bedtime. Eager to join the pirate adventure, Tom uses his house as a pirate ship and sets sail to retrieve stolen treasure from Captain Patch and the bumbling grown-up pirates.
Salisbury Playhouse, Peter And The Wolf, Sat 21 Oct & Blown Away, Fri 27 Oct
Sat 21 Oct:Peter and the Wolf
Peter and Grandad have gone camping for the weekend. Grandad says stick to the campsite but Peter has other ideas…Join Peter on a hilarious adventure through the fields and forest as he discovers new sounds and noises. Featuring animal antics of singing birds, waddling ducks, sneaky cats, and a rocking wolf. With new music lovingly inspired by Prokofiev’s classic, this is Peter and the Wolf as you’ve never seen it before.
Fri 27 Oct:Blown Away
Meet Penguin Blue and friends as they go on an acrobatic Antarctic adventure full of good ideas, homesickness and the perils of kites. Packed full of spectacular circus, magical puppetry and catchy songs this stage adaptation of Rob Biddulph’s award-winning children’s book is fun for all the family.
War Horse, Bristol Hippodrome, Wed 18 Oct to Sat 11 Nov
After young Albert’s beloved horse Joey is sold to the cavalry and shipped over to France during WW1, he sets off on a dangerous mission to find him and bring him home. Be prepared to shed a tear. We’ll be reviewing the show on opening night, so watch this space. Want to know how they created the horses? There’s a two-hour family workshop on Sat 21 Oct.