This summer will mark five years since we moved to Derbyshire from East Yorkshire. I was really fond of coming here as a child for caravan holidays at the Lime Tree caravan park near Buxton, mostly as my parents would take my sister and I to some fantastic theme parks, but also because the caravan park itself was fun to explore. I still adore my home town (look out for an upcoming post) but in moving over to Derbyshire I have felt a little spoilt at the abundance and choice of family friendly attractions there are to visit within easy distance. Aside from Derbyshire’s un-spoilt countryside, varied terrain, and historic spa towns to explore, the county’s proximity in the center of the country make it an ideal base for a family holiday. All the attractions in this list are within one hour or less driving distance from where we are in North Derbyshire.
1. Wheelgate Park
Near Mansfield, Wheelgate Park is a family friendly theme park with plenty to do whatever the weather. On hot summer days we love to spend time at the water-park and last year they opened a brand new wooden fort-style playground. There are lots of indoor play areas, rides, a farmyard and plenty of special events throughout the year.
2. Crich Tramway Village
Crich Tramway Village is a wonderful open air museum where you can ride authentic vintage trams all day long. There’s also a Victorian sweet shop, cafe, restaurant, indoor and outdoor play areas and various walks you can do. We love the sculpture walk through the woods where a huge wooden troll hides under a bridge and you can climb onto larger than life insect. There are various special events at the museum throughout the year and in the Summer the place is transformed into a seaside with a large sand pit to play in and small fairground rides.
3. Matlock Farm Park
There are lots of farmyard parks that are accessible from Derbyshire. At Matlock Farm Park, as well as feeding and meeting farmyard animals, there are opportunities to ride ponies and even hold snakes! There is a little restaurant at the park and this year an indoor rain forest themed play area has opened. They often put on events during the holidays and weekends. We really enjoyed their ‘Pirate’ themed day that included a free entertaining show from a theatre company.
4. Carsington Water
Carsington Water is a massive reservoir that provides a lovely back drop for walks and feeding the ducks, geese and swans they have there. It would be quite easy to spend a whole day here as there is a fun, interactive visitor’s centre that teaches you all about water conservation, a restaurant, shops and an impressive playground.
5. Gulliver’s Kingdom
Gulliver’s Kingdom is a theme park that even I remember visiting when I was a child. The place is a little dated but is still arguably one of the best family friendly attractions nearby as there is such a variety of activities on offer. From fairground rides, playgrounds, to more unusual attractions like charming model villages or a small underground cave that can be explored, there really is something for all weather. Be aware that there are some pretty steep hills to walk up.
6.Sherwood Forest Visitor’s Centre
Sherwood Forest is easy to access from Derbyshire and we love going to the Sherwood Forest Visitor’s Centre for strolls in the woods and to see the Major Oak tree where it is said Robin Hood and his Merry Men took refuge. There is also an exhibition about Robin Hood, a restaurant, shop and small play area.
Belper is a pretty mill town in Derbyshire. We usually visit Chucklebutties, an award winning indoor play area with great food and incredible views. Next door is Belper River Gardens, a lovely area to stroll around and feed the ducks. There’s a playground here and lots of opportunities to spot trains whisking by.
7. Alton Towers
This was always my number one reason for going on holiday to Derbyshire when I was young; in neighbouring county of Staffordshire is one of the country’s most exciting theme parks, Alton Towers. Cbeebies Land is an awesome addition to the park for young children where kids can take a boat ride through the land of In the Night Garden, make special deliveries on the Postman Pat ride and for little daredevils, try out the family-friendly Octonauts Roller-coaster. Noah also enjoyed conquering the river rapids, the Ice Age 4D movie and marveling at the park’s enormous roller-coasters.
8. Hardwick Hall
Hardwick Hall is a National Trust property with beautiful gardens to explore, however our favourite part of the attraction is the woodland walk that has quite a few surprises along the way. Read our full review here.
9. Clumber Park
Clumber Park is a well-maintained area of natural beauty by the National Trust. It’s a great place to go for a picnic and we like to take Noah’s scooter and a swing tennis ball game when the weather is decent. There’s also a woodland play area, restaurant, shops and bike rental available.
10. Chatsworth House
Chatsworth House is a period property with vast grounds to explore. Children will probably want to spend the whole day at the farm yard park they have here though. Noah adores meeting the animals here but he always makes a beeline for the park’s thrilling adventure playground before anything else.
12. Sudbury Hall and the National Trust Museum of Childhood
Another National Trust property, but worth mentioning because this one caters towards children so well. Noah really enjoyed the photo scavenger hunt while exploring the hall itself. The Museum of Childhood has lots of traditional toys to try out and children can experience what a Victorian classroom would have been like. There’s a woodland play area and plenty of interesting areas in the grounds to explore like the orchard above.
13. Tapton Lock
Located in the town of Chesterfield, Tapton Lock is a lovely place to take a canal boat ride on Sundays and bank holiday Mondays in the Summer. This is so relaxing, Noah even fell asleep before we got back to the small visitors centre. There’s a few snacks available to buy and across the road is a Brewer’s Fayre pub restaurant with indoor and outdoor play areas.
A full day needs to be devoted to exploring Conkers, a (mostly) outdoor adventure park. There’s train rides, play areas, ropes courses, shows, face painting, crafts, obstacle courses, plenty of wildlife to spot and one of the more unusual activities we tried was the barefoot walk.
This list is by no means exhaustive. Even after five years, we still have plenty of exploring to do. We are looking forward to going on some of the county’s best-known walks like the Dovedale Steppingstone Walk and the Derbyshire portion of the Trans Pennine trail. We’ve also not gotten round to spending much time in some of the nearby towns, such as Buxton, Matlock and Bakewell or taking tours of underground caves like the ones at Creswell Crags.