Taking your summer holiday in the UK is always a bit of a lottery. In sunny weather, you head to the beach. But when it rains, how do you keep the kids amused? Fortunately, family-friendly Devon is one area that has no shortage of attractions to keep kids entertained even when its plentiful natural attractions are temporarily off the agenda. With kids of varying ages – nine, six and nearly one – to keep amused, the following places provided havens of fun for my family when the weather let us down.
Coombe Martin Wildlife & Dinosaur Park, near Ilfracombe
Though this park set in 26 acres of gorgeous countryside comes into its own in fine weather, it’s worth knowing about for its indoor entertainment: the Dinosaurus playzone, a dinosaur museum, the Tomb of the Pharaohs, with displays on ancient Egyptian language and culture, and Bug World with displays of creepy-crawlies along its cavernous tunnels. Outside, life-size animated dinosaurs thrill kids as they roar and spit, and there are a variety of wild animals, including lions, wolves, monkeys and meerkats, plus regular talks and handling sessions and even (at extra charge) the chance to swim with sealions.
Watermouth Castle and Family Theme Park, near Ilfracombe
This Victorian castle overlooking picturesque Watermouth Cove has nostalgic displays of toys and games and all sorts of curios, including plenty of old fashioned end-of-pier games (have change at the ready) and some schlocky dungeons to tour. Out in its sub-tropical gardens are a whole bunch of Victorian and other quirky rides, including a steam carousel and swing boats, plus Gnome Land.
The Big Sheep, near Bideford
This amusement park on a former sheep farm has plenty of animals, performing and otherwise. Sheep dog trials, sheep racing and pony rides are among the offerings, as is the chance to feed lambs. EWEtopia, the vast indoor play centre, is great to shelter in when the heavens open, and will help tire them (and you) out.
The Milky Way Adventure Park, near Bideford
This more conventional themepark has a couple of rollercoasters, a few other rides and a variety of live shows, there’s plenty to fill a day out, much of it indoors, including a play centre with a baby and toddler section.
Lynton and Barnstaple Railway
A great way of seeing the stunning scenery of north Devon in sunshine or rain, this 3km narrow-gauge steam train trip can be combined with a stop-off at the tea-room or summer tea garden. Special events include the chance for dads to try their hand at driving a diesel locomotive on Father’s Day, plus Santa Specials.
Where to stay: Ruda Holiday Park (see above).
Read more about family holidays in Devon, including things to see and do with kids and family-friendly places to stay.