Best short breaks near London: The Chilterns
Get out of London to explore the cultural treats of the Chilterns. Find blissful nature and family fun, all under an hour away
Along with offering a rustically rural retreat less than an hour North West of London, the Chilterns has a charming and kooky selection of museums and things to do that make it one of the best short trips for families in the UK.
Tickle your imagination at the Roald Dahl Museum, Great Missenden
Roald Dahl might be the darling of the London stage but if you can't get enough of his marvellous imagination then head to his family home in Great Missenden to visit the charming Roald Dahl museum.Though it's oficially aimed at six to 12 year olds we can attest that there's no age limit on the charm. Besides, even the grumpiest of grown ups won't be able to resist the Bogtrotter chocolate cake in the Twit cafe.
Bring the books to life with interactive activities, including stop frame animation and a Story Centre that's jam-packed with inspiration for avid readers and budding writers. Get an insight into the great writer himself, with unparalleled access into Dahl's manuscripts and ideas book. Explore the real life context and inspirations for the novels in Boy Gallery, which captures Dahl's experience at school, then see where the magic happened with a peep into his writing hut.
Weekends are the ideal time to visit the Roald Dahl Museum. Forget London crowds, this little museum is at its quietest on Saturdays -- plus the programme of Wonderous Weekends means that there's always plenty of exiting activities get involved with -- from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory's 50th birthday party, to arts and crafts.
Practical: tickets £4.40+, open 10am - 5pm on Tuesday to Friday and 11am - 5pm at weekends; closed Mondays. Book here.
Go Wild at Whipsnade Zoo
Whipsnade Zoo is a partner of ZSL London Zoo, but spread across the Chiltern Hills, it has space, serenity, and even free-roaming wallabies. We love that the generous enclosures evoke each animal's natural habitat, and daily events, from feeding sessions to shows, let you get up close and personal with the animals (on our last visit we were given a very sloppy kiss by an elephant). If you're looking for cute creatures to coo over, head to the sealions' home to meet the zoo's youngest inhabitant, furry little sealion pup Oscar, who was born this summer.
For those after something a little more intrepid, there's a brand new Deadly Explorer trail set up by BAFTA-winning naturalist Steve Backshall. Children will be sent on a journey around the zoo, with a series of activities along the way to hone adventuring skills. Each budding Bear Grylls will need to overcome four challenges in order to graduate as a certified Deadly Explorer.
Practical: tickets £16.35+, open 10am - 6pm everyday. Book here.
Discover weird, wacky and wonderful creatures at Tring Natural History Museum
It may not have a gargantuan wale skeleton, but this bijou Natural History Museum in chocolate-box-pretty town Tring does have fleas dressed up as Victorian Gentlemen...
Lovingly amassed by eccentric aristocrat zoologist Walter Rothschild, the collection of barmy and brilliant curiosities makes up one of the country's largest private natural history exhibitions. Over 4,000 specimens are displayed in the authentic victorian glass cases.
If this sounds a little staid, it's worth noting that this particular member of famously wealthy Rothschild clan was no dowdy scientist. His passion for the natural world was matched by a vivid imagination, and he was known to parade around town in a carriage pulled by specially trained zebras. At the tender age of seven he announced a desire to 'make a museum', and the resultant Tring institution has quirkiness at its heart. Still authentically Victorian, it takes you back in time and around the world.
Along with the family of oddities on regular display, this summer a new Myths and Monsters exhibition sheds scientific light on mystical, magical creatures, from unicorns to mermaids.
Practical: free admission, open from 10am to 5pm Monday - Saturday, and 2pm to 5pm on Sunday
Country pub meets Michelin quality at the Hand and Flowers in Buckinghamshire
Two Michelin Stars and still casual enough to take the kids, Marlow's The Hand & Flowers is the jewel in the Home Counties' culinary crown. Set up by Great British Menu chef Tom Kerridge and his wife Beth, it's the only pub with star status. With an uncompromising attitude towards quality, the kitchen specialises in familiar favourites made special. Rural rustic surroundings and an 'anything goes' dress code mean that you can tuck into Michelin-worthy food without having to mind Ps and Qs. Kids are welcome and catered for accordingly (there's no separate children's menu, but portion sizes and details can be adjusted for little appetites and fussy eaters).
We recommend the Sunday lunch for the roast of your life, whether it's chicken, beef or wood pigeon, complimented by imaginative flavour flourishes such as sweet garlic puree and oak gravy. There are light fishy options too, not to mention the plus irresistible puddings including Elderflower "Doughnuts" with White Chocolate Crumble and Bitter Orange Soufflé with Sweet Toast Crumb.
Practical: you'll need to book well in advance to nab a table, but there's also an unreserved bar area. Book here.
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