Now that spring is truly upon us, it’s the perfect time to make the most of sunny days and go day tripping around the UK.
We love to take advantage of this gorgeous time of year and hop on a train to discover something new, different and exciting?
I’m sure it’s not the first time I’ve espoused the virtues of UK family day trips – you don’t have to leave the country, or even spend a night away from your own bed, to have brilliant fun on our fair shores.
Considering how much we enjoy living in the UK and how often we go adventuring, it’s amazing how much of it we have yet to see! The train networks across the UK are brilliant, and we’re working through a long list of places we want to experience. Day trips work especially well as they keep costs down, and mean that the kids have a great day out and can still be home for bedtime.
On a clear day, we checked out the weather forecast and settled on a day out in Cambridge. We knew it had a long and rich history and a quick Google confirmed there were plenty of things for the kids to do.
I’ve also wanted to go punting along the river for ages (I didn’t get to go in a gondola while in Venice), so I was probably as excited as the kids.
The train journey
Train journeys work for us because we’re not behind the wheel and can give the kids our full attention. We just arrive, find our seats, get settled and start having fun in our carriage, beginning our adventure before the train wheels even start turning.
The time on the train flew by, with the kids spending most of their time chatting with us, snacking, playing spotting games through the window, or playing on the iPad! Before long, we were in a new city, well rested and ready for an adventure.
Punting on the river Cam
The city is well laid out and getting around via walking or bus is very easy. Setting off towards the city centre, we went on the hunt for our chance to go punting on the river Cam, which is – unsurprisingly – where Cambridge gets its name.
We were tempted to just rent a small boat and have Mark handle the punting, but as we wanted to find out about the history of Cambridge, so we decided to buy a tour. This turned out have been a very wise decision, as the Cam has a lot of quite low bridges, and at 6’5 Mark would have had to do an awful lot of ducking!
The kids were extremely excited to climb aboard, and the guide was very informative, telling us about the beautiful university buildings that line the river, most of which are the colleges that make up Cambridge and their halls of residence.
The sun shone down on us gently, Miss J cuddled into my lap, and we drifted along, soaking up the day. It was gorgeous.
I loved the whole experience, and would have difficultly choosing a favourite building with the amount of stunning architecture on display. JD on the other hand was most delighted to see one of the halls of residence was inspired by Brutalist architecture, and in his words ‘looked like a Minecraft build’.
Tea and cake at Fitzbillies
Cambridge certainly has a lot of restaurants to choose from, but plumped for Fitzbillies as a friend of mine said it was a good option for families. She also told me I must try their Chelsea buns.
Fitzbillies started out as a cake shop in 1921, with the bakery behind it. They sold a lot of fancy cakes, but are still most famous to this day for their Chelsea Buns, which they still bake onsite by hand using the original recipe.
With that kind of history and the recommendation of friends, it’s no surprise what I ordered along with my tea. and it did not disappoint. Sweet, fluffy, sticky – just divine!
The kids were more temped by the rather shiny, sparkly cupcakes with swiss meringue buttercream – who can blame them?
The Fitzwilliam Museum
After our tea and cake, we were recharged and ready to visit the Fitzwilliam Museum, which was founded in 1816 and now has five departments covering antiquities, applied arts, coins and medals, manuscripts and printed books, as well as paintings, drawings and prints.
Below is ‘The Spectre of Brave Alonzo’ by artist Stuart Pearson Wright. It’s hard not to look at this piece! I thought the kids might be a little freaked out by it, but they both regarded it with a interest and a quick declaration of, ‘gross’.
JD is studying ancient Egypt at the moment so he was delighted to find a section devoted it and spent quite some time peering into the glass cases in wonderment.
True to form, Miss J entered the museum thinking it would be boring and then got completely engrossed to the point where she didn’t want to leave!
Of course, it’d be impossible to get around all the way round a museum of this size in one day, but what we did see definitely left us wanting to come back.
The Fitzwilliam Museum is well laid out, well lit and full of unique experiences. Do visit next time you’re in Cambridge.
Sandwiches at Cambridge University Botanic Garden
Cambridge is so full of well kept green spaces that we had to do a little research to decide where would be the best place for a picnic, but then we came across Cambridge University Botanic Garden, which is just stunning and located conveniently close to the train station.
It’s hard not to go on about the history of almost everything we saw, but that’s Cambridge for you, it’s built on the stuff. The garden was made in 1831 by Professor John Stevens Henslow, who was Charles Darwin’s mentor. It was then opened to the public in 1846.
The kids had a fantastic time playing tag, running around the grass maze and learning about the local flora and fauna from the garden signs, while nibbling on their sandwiches.
After the museum, we decided to exploring the city for a little while. We gave the kids a map and let them choose where we went, which they loved. There are lots of beautiful things to see.
After a quick snack break at Cambridge station we were ready for the journey home. Again, it was great being able to relax on the train for after a long day. I didn’t think I was that tired, but I ended up being the only one out of the four of us to take a half hour nap!
I love how easy it is in the UK to plan a whole trip on the train in almost no time, and at almost a moment’s notice. It’s a fantastic was of exploring Britain with a family without breaking the bank or having to stay over. I certainly can’t wait to plan our next day out.
If all this is giving you and your family the travel bug, you’ll be pleased to learn that Thameslink & Great Northern have a great offer on, which means kids can travel for just £2 as part of a family. And if you’re travelling at the weekend like we did it also means you can look out for super off-peak weekend tickets for even cheaper rides.
Why not follow @GNRailUK and @TLRailUK on Twitter and Facebook for more great tips and ideas for how to get you and your family to #StepIntoSpring.
Do let me know if decide to take a day break of your own this spring and how you found it!
This is a commissioned post for Govia Thameslink Railway.