Play trails for a fun kids day out
Play trails add a lot of fun to days out and two new trails have opened this summer. Treat the kids to some fun with:
Imaginary Menagerie at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens
The grounds of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens have come alive with the sounds of tweeting, burrowing, buzzing and fluttering as Imaginary Menagerie uncovers the stories of the animals and birds that have lived at the Castle in centuries gone by alongside the wildlife that continues to make Hillsborough their home, all through the power of play.
Imaginary Menagerie is split into two trails, Kingfisher (around the lake) and Robin (around the gardens), each providing opportunities for adventure, hands-on play and a wonderful day out.
The Kingfisher Trail takes the visitors around the lake where they can enjoy a barefoot walk, get muddy, explore our sensory table and even take in some bird watching in the custom-built bird hide. Included in the bespoke pieces of art for the trails is local artist Kevin Killen’s Shoal of Fish, a sculpture which commemorates former Governor of Northern Ireland Lord Erskine’s passion for his pet tropical fish and can be seen leaping from the lake on the Kingfisher Trail.
The Robin Trail encourages our visitors to stray off the beaten track to find the giant birds nest, test their knowledge of the sounds of nature in our ‘talking tubes’ and explore the Crannog hideaway. Or check out a custom made, 17 ft. bird cage which has been created with local blacksmith, Ballinliss Forge in Newry. The birdcage is in honour of the menagerie of exotic birds Wills Hill dreamed of when he built the Castle in the mid-1700s, after which Imaginary Menagerie is named.
Booking is available via HRP.org.uk
Galgorm Castle Fairy Trail has been enchanting visitors of all ages since 2017, and families can now book to take their children around the magical experience from its base, the magical Toadstool Cottage.
When the children arrive, they are given a special trail map with a range of interactive clues and puzzles to solve through the spectacular woodland trail in the heart of the Galgorm Castle Estate.
From a Wizard School to a Troll Swamp, every addition has been painstakingly designed by local craftsmen.
The Galgorm Castle Fairy Trail is open to visitors all year, seven days a week from 10am to 7pm (peak season) and 10am to 4pm (off peak) and maps available to collect on arrival. The trail can cater for up to 60 people every 30 minutes.
Booking for the Galgorm Castle Fairy Trail, and for special events is via galgormcastlefairytrail.co.uk.
Carnfunnock Country Park’s Adventure Nature Trail.
This self-guided treasure hunt around the wonderful woodlands with stunning sea views, takes in trolls, rope swings, magical fairy gardens and your little explorer could even spot a red squirrel if they’re lucky.
Young, old or four legged friend, this nature trail offers everybody the chance to take in the sights of the beautiful country park and all its natural wonders.
The one mile trail takes around an hour to do and starts at the Visitor Centre where you collect your workbook and map. From here, simply follow the markers, read the information boards and solve the clues as you go.
The trail is open every day from 10.15am. Last entry onto the trail is 4.30pm to book go to: www.midandeastantrim.gov.uk/Carnfunnock
Sensory garden and trail at ECOS
The trail encompasses a 30 minute route around the south side of the site. The route is fully accessible and suitable for all abilities. The trail includes scavanager hunt elements, quiz questions, and highlights key spots to stop and take in the surroundings using sight, smell, touch, as well as highlighting natural features such as the River Braid, the impressive Slemish Mountain in the distance, and finishing at the Sensory Garden.
The garden includes a storytelling area, wooden fort, willow tunnel and hedge, raised beds for food growing, fruit trees, and a range of sensory planting.