Best summer days out in Hertfordshire

Ring-tailed lemur at Paradise Wildlife Park in Broxbourne

Ring-tailed lemur at Paradise Wildlife Park - Credit: Paradise Wildlife Park

The best summer family days out in Hertfordshire for fun, fitness and mental wellbeing for kids and grown ups too

Celebrate spring 
Get close to nature with a tranquil walk through the extensive park surrounding Elizabeth I’s childhood home. As spring takes hold the park and gardens of Hatfield House are transformed in a paint palette of greens. Choose from three colour-coded walks ranging from one-and-a-half to three miles; stroll the woodland walks, splashed with vibrant camellias and magnolias; and relax in the West Garden. Visit on Thursdays to enjoy the parterres and topiary of the private East Garden. 

Or try: The formal gardens, dinosaur trail and parkland of Hatfield's stately neighbour, Knebworth House.  

Hatfield House on a summer's morning

Hatfield House Park and gardens are open to visitors - Credit: Hatfield House

Into the wild
Britain’s wildlife parks have really struggled over the last year from lack of income. The animals miss the visitors too, so the meerkats and red pandas, big cats and camels will be happy to see the public return to Paradise Wildlife Park in Broxbourne. Owl fan perhaps or maybe reptiles? They live here too. And while indoor attractions remain closed, World of Dinosaurs and the outdoor play areas are open for visitors, with two new attractions opening this summer, Jaguar Jungle and Sun Bear Heights. 

Or try: Joining the 90th birthday celebrations at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo on Dunstable Downs, just over the border in Bedfordshire.

Strike a pose
No artistic knowledge is necessary to enjoy wandering among the monumental figurative sculptures in the extensive grounds of Henry Moore's former home in Perry Green. The sculptor moved here in 1940 with his wife Irina after their London home was damaged during the Blitz and the couple remained here for the rest of their lives, gradually acquiring more land. The house will hopefully reopen this summer. Meanwhile the café is serving take-away food and there are two designated picnic areas, but leave dogs at home. 

Or try: The gardens of Shaw's Corner, the former home of playwright George Bernard Shaw in Ayot St Lawrence. Open Friday to Monday. 

Three Piece Sculpture: Vertebrae,1968 by Henry Moore at Perry Green

Three Piece Sculpture: Vertebrae,1968. One of the many Henry Moore artworks visitors can wander around at Perry Green - Credit: Jonty Wilde

Canoe, cycle, cruise
Pick your adventure at the Lee Valley Regional Park which stretches for 26 miles between Ware and the East India Dock Basin on the Thames. Facilities for the sporty, adventurers, and nature lovers are spread across 10,000 acres that include nature reserves, walking and cycle routes, the Lee Valley White Water Centre, Lee Valley VeloPark, and of course the river itself. Head to Broxbourne to rent small boats from Lee Valley Boat Centre, from half an hour up to a whole day or hire a canoe, kayak or cycle from Lee Valley Canoe Cycle.,,

Or try: Some water fun in the tropical island splash park, reopening in May at King George Recreation Ground in Bushey.

Paddleboarding at Lee Valley White Water Centre

Paddleboarding at Lee Valley White Water Centre - Credit: Eleanor Bentall

Travel into the past
Discover more about Hertfordshire’s cathedral city – and the local area – on one of the popular guided walks run by St Albans Tour Guides. The programme kicks off with Historic St Albans and From Tudor St Albans to Roman Verulamium and expands over the coming weeks to include the Roman City as well as tours of Wheathampstead, Redbourn and Harpenden. 

Or try: Exploring the forest trails of the Ashridge Estate, famous for its bluebells. Or a walk around the World War I training trenches near Berkhamsted Golf Club

Golf with a difference
Kingsway Golf Centre in Melbourn near Royston offers the usual range of facilities for serious golfers, but a brand new attraction targets family groups and teenage players. Jurassic Links Adventure Golf is a dinosaur-themed course that offers some unique challenges. Players compete around 18 holes through prehistoric caves and along winding fossil paths, negotiating hazards such as a jeep and a cascading waterfall, all under the watchful gaze of a pterodactyl, soon to be joined by a 30-ft t-rex. 

Or try:  Swinging by The Grove at Chandler’s Cross, host of the British Masters in 2016. And Luton Hoo Hotel, one of the UK’s longest 18-hole championship courses.

Open water swim
Fans of open water swimming can get their freshwater fix at Stanborough Water Park in Welwyn Garden City. Chose from three two-hour sessions on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday but don’t forget your wetsuit - spring water temperatures hover around 13 degrees. If taking a dip in the lake is a step too far, you can also hire rowing boats and pedalos on Saturdays and Sundays. Other water-based activities will open up when permitted. 

Or try: Swimming outdoors at Ware Priory, and, from the end of May, at the Letchworth and Hitchin lidos,

A Roman play?
The fascinating history of St Albans is reflected in the new free playground for children at Verulamium Park, a short walk from the wildfowl lake. Young imaginations flourish in play zones such as a Roman-style theatre, basilica, and market street, while themed features include a multi see-saw, a ‘battering ram’ rope swing, and two carousels. Even the hopscotch grid has Roman numerals! Take time out in the picnic area or pick up takeaway snacks from the nearby café and relax in acres of green space.  

Or try: The high and low ropes at Vertigo Adventures in Stanborough Park North, Welwyn Garden City,

Boy in a suspended tunnel at Vertigo, Stanborough Lakes

Vertigo Adventures at Stanborough Lakes - Credit: Visit Herts

Unleash your speed demon
Herts' own Lewis Hamilton took his first steps on the way to Formula 1 greatness at Rye House Kart Raceway in Hoddesdon. The UK’s foremost karting centre has hosted many national and international meetings and offers karting experiences for children as young as three with all equipment included in the price. Various outdoor racing events are planned over the coming weeks and gift vouchers are available online for that special present. Who knows, you might just launch a new champion!

Or try: An off-road Segway tour in the Rib valley at Ware, 

Kart racing on Rye House Karting circuit, Hoddesdon

Follow in Lewis Hamilton's tyre tracks at Rye House Karting - Credit: Rye House Karting

Walk like a Norwegian
If you love walking but fancy a bit more of a work-out, try Nordic walking, twice as effective as ordinary walking thanks to the use of two poles. After some initial instruction, Nordic walking can be done by anybody anywhere, exercising the upper body muscles as well as legs. And while walkers work harder than usual, the support given by poles makes it feel easier. WALX Very Valley runs group walks in Harpenden, St Albans, Bricket Wood, Wheathampstead and Redbourn.  

Or try: Nordic walking in East Herts with Hazel Smith, 

To avoid disappointment, check attraction websites as far ahead of your visit as possible as most activities must be booked and can only accept limited numbers until restrictions ease.

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