With the school summer holidays coming up next month, and some nicer weather on the horizon – fingers crossed – it’s time to start thinking about heading outdoors for some family fun, writes KATE CHAPMAN.
Until my children came along I’d never really paid much attention to all the great attractions and places of interest right here on our doorstep in Lincolnshire – but there are loads, all waiting to be explored.
I’ve been swapping ideas with family, friends and other parents to compile a list of family friendly places, all within easy driving distance.
I’ve not included the beach, as it’s kind of a given, but here’s 50 to get you started – where’s your favourite?
1 The Bubble Car Museum, near Boston, has a collection of 50 micro cars on display and a row of recreated shops to explore, plus memorabilia, a gift shop and a cafe. For an extra fee you can also have a ride in one on their quirky cars. www.bubblecarmuseum.co.uk
2 A day at the races can be great fun for all ages – especially if you can pick a winner! Check out the event’s program at Market Rasen Racecourse’s website – www.marketrasen.thejockeyclub.co.uk
3 At 50m Bourne Outdoor Swimming Pool is one of the country’s largest surviving outdoor pools. Located in the Abbey Lawn area of the town, it’s fully heated and is also close to the Wellhead Park where there’s a children’s play park and open space. www.bourneoutdoorswimmingpool.org
4 Explore the flora and fauna in Lincolnshire’s ‘lost gardens’ – Easton Walled Gardens, near Colsterworth. There’s space to play plus a bird hide, swing, turf maze and big yew tunnel. www.eastonwalledgardens.co.uk
5 Doddington Hall & Gardens is a privately owned late Elizabethan mansion with stunning gardens, just outside Lincoln. There’s also a children’s nature trail, shop, cafe and restaurant. www.doddingtonhall.com
6 Walk the castle walls, explore the Victorian prison and view one of the nation’s most important historical documents – the Magna Carta – all at Lincoln Castle. www.lincolncastle.com
7 Combine your visit to Lincoln Castle by following the Lincoln Roman Trail around the city and delve into its secrets and historic past with a new interactive guide. www.visitlincoln.com/trails
8 Fantasy Island, Ingoldmells, is the place to go if you’re looking for thrills and spills; the park has rides for all ages plus a soft play area and children’s character shows. www.fantasyisland.co.uk
9Rand Farm Park, is a working farm park at Market Rasen where you can feed and cuddle the animals. There’s also a tea room, adventure playground, farm shop and soft play area. www.randfarmpark.com
10 Gordon Boswell’s Romany Museum, Spalding, is home to the largest public display of Romany Vardos and Romany history in the world. As well as viewing the displays visitors can also experience a Romany day out in a horse-drawn Vardo and enjoy a meal cooked over a traditional stick fire. www.boswell-romany-museum.com
11 View vintage vehicles at the Lincolnshire Road Transport Museum, North Hykeham, which is home to more than 60 classic cars, buses and commercial vehicles spanning 80 years of transport history. www.lvvs.org.uk
12Burghley House, Stamford, is one of the county’s most impressive stately homes. As well as the house itself, explore the deer park and secret water garden, a must in summer. www.burghley.co.uk
13Belton House, near Grantham, has a fantastic adventure playground which has recently undergone a big make-over. As well as slides, water features, swings and bridges to traverse, there’s a miniature train ride, cafe and indoor play area alongside the house and grounds. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/belton-house
14 Cycle around the grounds at Grimsthorpe Castle, near Bourne, but don’t forget to stop off at the adventure playground, or if you fancy something less energetic take afternoon tea in the cafe. www.grimsthorpe.co.uk
15 While away a couple of hours climbing the 149 steps to the top of the tower at Tattershall Castle, near Boston. You’ll be rewarded with great views and once you’re back down you can reward yourself with an ice-cream from the castle shop. www.nationaltrust.org/tattershall-castle
16Celebrate the county’s varied social history from 1750 to the present day at the Museum of Lincolnshire Life, Lincoln. www.lincolnshire.give.uk/visiting/museums/museum-of-lincolnshire-life
17 At over 500 years old Gainsborough Old Hall is one of the best preserved medieval manor houses in England; the National Trust property has an adventure playground and a dressing up box for children to explore. www.gainsborougholdhall.com
18 The Maze in Maize, Whaplode, is one of the largest mazes in the county and has a different theme each year. There’s also a great play park on site. www.mazeinmaize.com
19Or if you’re up the north end of the county you can also enjoy getting lost in Wragby Maze. www.amazing-conifers.com
20For model trains pay a trip to Gainsborough Model Railway – one of the largest of its kind in the country. www.gainsboroughmodelrailway.co.uk
21 Visit Lincolnshire Show on the county show ground, Lincoln, on June 24 and 25 this year. It’s a true celebration of rural county life with an eclectic mix of entertainment, food, shopping, music, horticulture and farm life. www.lincolnshireshow.co.uk
22 Nicknamed the mini Nürburgring, Cadwell Park circuit Louth, has a variety of racing events on throughout the season and is a perfect day out for little boys (and girls!) who love fast cars and bikes. www.cadwellpark.co.uk
23 & 24 Visit the country’s only surviving eight-sail windmill at Heckington, or the tallest tower mill at Moulton and combine your visits with a tour or lunch in their tea rooms. www.heckingtonwinndmill.org.uk and www.moultonwindmill.co.uk
25Bourne Woods is great for a nature walk through the trees spotting local wildlife. There’s a picnic area and visitors can walk up to the ponds where kingfishers and herons can often be seen. www.thefriendsofbournewoods.org.uk
26 Another place to enjoy the great outdoors is The Spinney, Little Bytham, where families can enjoy walks, playing and picnics. www.community.lincolnshire.give.uk/thespinney
27 & 28There’s plenty to do beside shop at Springfields Outlet Shopping & Festival Gardens, Spalding, including ride the land train and mini diggers, play Jurassic Golf or explore the gardens. Combine your visit with a trip on the Spalding Water Taxi, and if you’re lucky the pilot may let you steer the boat. www.springfieldsshopping.co.uk and www.spaldingwatertaxi.co.uk
29Visit the medieval hall, play in the park, or enjoy lunch by the lake at Spalding’s Ayscoughfee Hall Gardens. If you’re feeling a bit more energetic there’s pitch and putt, green bowling and tennis courts to hire. www.sholland.gov.uk/leisure/ayscoughfee
30Visit Boston Woods Trust Frampton and check out the bee-keeping area, enjoy a walk or visit the fishing lakes before finishing off with an ice-cream treat at the café. www.bostonwoods.co.uk
31 Get back to nature at Whisby Nature Reserve, near Lincoln. Once barren and lifeless this amazing park was created by quarrying for sand and gravel. Nature reclaimed the pits and bare sand creating habitats for many species. www.lincstrust.org.uk/whisby-nature-park
32Snip Dales Country Park is one of the few semi-natural wet valley systems still surviving in Lincolnshire. Between Horncastle and Spilsby, it is an area of two halves with mixed woodland in the country park and wet valleys, grassland and scrub in the nature reserve. www.lincstrust.org.uk/snipe-dales
33 Splash about in the Fairy Dell Paddling Pool – a free attraction at the Skegness boating lake with sprinklers and an ornamental fountain at the centre.
34 Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, East Kirkby, was opened by farmers Fred and Harold Panton, as a memorial to their older brother, Christopher, who lost his life during WWII. The centre’s main exhibit is an Avro Lancaster Mk VII, NX611, named Just Jane after a popular wartime comic character. www.lincsaviation.co.uk
35 The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Centre, Lincoln, gives the public a gateway to the home of the BBMF at RAF Coningsby, where visitors can enjoy hangar tours. www.raf.mod.uk/bbmf/visitorscentre
36 RAF Scampton Museum is home to squadron being 617, also known as the Dambusters. The station museum is housed in one of the original WWII hangars and contains over 400 exhibits. www.raf.mod.uk/rafscampton/aboutus/rafscamptonmuseum
37 Film buffs will enjoy a trip to the Kinema in the Woods, Woodhall Spa, which dates from 1922 and is the only fully functioning cinema in the UK to employ back projections. It still shows films seven days a week, all year round. www.thekinemainthewoods.co.uk
38 For much of the year grey seals at Donna Nook Nature Reserve, Louth, are at sea or hauled out on distant sandbanks. Every November and December they give birth to their pups near the sand dunes: a wildlife spectacle which attracts visitors from across the UK. www.lincstrust.org/donna-nook
39 The Parrot Zoo, Friskney, is home to the country’s biggest collection of parrots, there are also meerkats, wallabies and deer and a children’s play area and café. www.parrotzoo.com
40 Meet the raccoons, reptiles and the cheeky monkeys at Woodside Wildlife and Falconry Park, near Lincoln, or watch the eagles, hawks and falcons in magnificent flying displays. www.woodsidewildlife.com
41Baytree Nurseries Garden Centre, Weston, is more than just a garden centre. There’s lots to see and do from visiting the owl centre, the extensive pet department or enjoying lunch or afternoon tea. www.baytree-gardencentre.com
42Woolsthorpe Manor, near Grantham, is the birthplace of Sir Isaac Newton; his family home is furnished as a 17th-century farmhouse might have been and you can still see the famous apple tree that inspired his thoughts on gravity from the bedroom window. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/woolsthorpe-manor
43 Rushmoor County Park, Louth, is home to creatures great and small with opportunities to feed them, and also watch bird handling and flying demonstrations during the day. www.rushmoorcountypark.co.uk
44High Ropes Adventure, in Market Rasen, is one of the county’s largest rope courses with four levels of activities, plus basic camping facilities, a nine-acre woodland site, BBQ hire, a fully-equipped catering kitchen, orienteering and more. www.highropesadventure.com
45Skegness Natureland and Seal Sanctuary is well-known for rescuing and rehabilitating orphaned and injured seal pups stranded on Lincolnshire beaches. The centre is also home to penguins, butterflies, tropical fish and creepy crawlies. www.skegnessnatureland.co.uk
46There are more seals over at Mablethorpe Seal Sanctuary and Wildlife Centre along with primates, birds of prey, reptiles and meerkats, too. www.thesealsanctuary.com
47Skegness, the home of Butlins, where the holiday camp story began in 1936. The resort has undergone a massive re-development and now has a giant splash water world alongside the usual seaside attractions, restaurants and accommodation for longer stays. www.butlins.com
48. Explore 13th century ruins at Bolingbroke Castle, Bolingbroke, birthplace of Henry IV. Time your visit right to enjoy some outdoor theatre too. www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/bolingbroke-castle
49Chain Bridge Forge, Spalding, a blacksmith’s workshop dating from the 1800s, preserved and turned into a living museum with regular blacksmith demonstrations. www.chainbridgeforge.sholland.org
50 North Ings Far Museum, Dorrington, specialises in agricultural equipment including tractors, commercial vehicles and a narrow gauge railway. The museum is open the first Sunday of the month (April to October).
* Some of the attractions listed are free, others are not. Please do check prices and opening times before you go.