Set in 1,000 acres, Swinley Forest forms part of the Windsor Crown Estate. Its Look Out Discovery Centre is a hands-on science and nature venue aimed at 4-12 year-olds, with more than 80 interactive indoor exhibits and a superb outdoor play zone with a picnic area and café.
Boys being boys, our gang headed straight for the wooden fortress and climbing frames. The centre is well spaced out and designed so that parents can relax over a coffee while watching them explore. Various nature trails are available, one of them linked to the National Curriculum Key Stage 1, or for the more energetic there are mountain bikes for hire. We opted for a gentle wander through the magical woodland and only bumped into one other family along the route.
'We especially loved the novelty of being able to swim through to the outdoors – brilliant on a sunny day.'
Nearby is Coral Reef, Bracknell Forest’s water world, resplendent with a pirate ship, cannons, rapids and water-flumes. The boys were ecstatic swimming around volcanoes, being pummelled by waterfalls and thrashing against the fast water-flows (make sure you hold on to kids along the wild-water rapids). We especially loved the novelty of being able to swim through to the outdoors – brilliant on a sunny day. There are also good facilities for younger ones, including the Little Corals toddlers’ pool and free use of armbands, and a café/restaurant. It’s a popular place, though, so come early.
Tired but happy, we finally made our way back to the car-park via one last attraction – Go Ape!, a high-wire forest adventure course with rope bridges, Tarzan swings and zip slides. If you’ve ever watched Raven with your kids, you’ll get the picture. The minimum age is 10, and pre-booking is essential, but we’ll definitely be back to experience that one in a few years time…
Read more about family breaks in South East England. If you want to make a weekend of it, The Royal Berkshire is less than 10 miles away and is a fantastic base for a family break.