Woodland trails, a river straddled by stepping stones and the ruins of a 12th-century priory make this beautiful swathe of countryside a brilliant adventure playground
This 12,000-hectare (30,000-acre) estate near Skipton, in the Yorkshire Dales, is laced with 80 miles of footpaths that weave their way around the ruins of an ancient Augustinian priory – better known as Bolton Priory – although the real draw is just outside, on the banks of the River Wharfe. There’s a large beach area along this quarter-mile stretch that’s ripe for sandcastle building and the water is shallow enough for toddlers to paddle safely. Older children can swim or tackle the 60 stepping stones that cross the water – once the route of lay workers making their way over to the priory. (If you’d rather not brave it or are with a buggy, there’s a bridge over to dry land).
Wildlife can thrive in city centres, as well as in reserves, wild moors and remote islands; you just need to know what to look out for, say our tipsters
Cuckoos, kingfishers, water voles, marsh harriers, seals and fantastic views from the coffee shop: inside the M25! Take a bow, Rainham RSPB reserve. A two-mile walk around the reserve (which is only a 20-minute stroll from Purfleet station) yields rich rewards, and even spectacular views of Eurostar trains. Spring is particularly noisy, with warblers of all sorts, and winter, with large flocks of lapwings and a gazillion ducks, is spectacular. There are also rare bearded tits, comfortable hides, simple walking, kids’ events and a great coffee shop with a small playground. The Thames views are wonderful: the sun filling the cafeteria, which has huge windows over the reserve and the river with basking seals, makes one forget the nearby big smoke.