Fancy travelling a bit further afield on your next family trip? Try the best family destinations in Europe.

And if the bairns are feeling bookish, why not visit the Porto bookshop that inspired Harry Potter

1. Dance in the moonlight in Durham

Museum of the Moon - The best UK half-term Getaways
This monumental lunar artwork is far from cheesy / Image: Durham Cathedral

This autumn, Durham Cathedral becomes even more of a transcendent spectacle – illuminated with the soft glow of moonlight from Luke Jerram’s famous seven-metre-diameter touring lunar model, taking a temporary home in the gothic nave. The pockmarked model moon is accompanied by a series of talks on pioneering female astronomers and the naming of stars. Or, if you can’t imagine your kids going for that, rock up to the cathedral’s silent disco on 28 October and imagine it’s the ultimate disco ball.

North Bailey, Durham, DH1 3EH
+44 1913 387178

✈ Fly to Manchester – book flights

2. Watch their faces light up at Polesden Lacey

Ignite Fire and Light - The best UK half-term Getaways
Some bright spark came up with this event / Image: @SonyMusic

The old gaff of flamboyant Edwardian party girl Margaret Greville is now in the hands of the National Trust. Her go-getting spirit – she entertained kings and sat on the board of McEwans brewery – is kept alive thanks to bright ideas like this autumn’s ‘Ignite: Fire and Fantasy’ festival (22 October – 7 November). Look out for lurid lanterns, psychedelic fungus, flaming dragons, blazing rivers and sparkling woodland sprites amid the immaculate walled gardens. It takes about an hour to get around.

Great Bookham, Dorking, RH5 6BD
+44 1372 452048

✈ Fly to Birmingham – book flights

3. Hit the art trail in Bruton, Somerset

Oudolf Field, Hauser & Wirth Somerset - The best UK half-term Getaways
The Piet Oudolf-designed meadow at Hauser & Wirth Somerset / Image: Jason Ingram, Courtesy Hauser & Wirth

If your kids are starting to fancy themselves budding artists, check out the buzzy Somerset outpost of London’s Hauser & Wirth gallery. Comprising a regular gallery space with a slick collection of contemporary pieces, it’s also a working institution with artists in residence, and a farm supplying produce to the on-site Roth Bar & Grill. The village itself has become rather desirable of late, with at least one former cabinet minister, Stella McCartney and the drummer from the Corrs moving in. So mum and dad can have a good old gawp too. Booking advised.

Durslade Farm, Dropping Lane, Bruton, BA10 0NL
+44 1749 814060

✈ Fly to Bristol – book flights  

4. Visit the Med on the cheap at Portmeirion

Portmeirion dome and piazza - The best UK half-term Getaways
Who needs Cinque Terre when you've got north Wales, eh? / Image: Arwyn Jones

The era of forced staycations may have ended, but it’s still well worth checking out this eccentric UK gem. Sir Clough Williams-Ellis bought a neglected wilderness on the coast of north Wales a century ago and set out to remake a fantasy Italian village. Portmeirion’s happy jumble of multicoloured shops – a mixture of baroque, Renaissance and Arts & Crafts styles – make for a bright and splashy day out. The Beatles, no less, were very taken with the place and cult ‘60s TV show The Prisoner was filmed here. All the fun of going away, without having to remember your passenger locator form.

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5. Sneak around Dracula’s old haunts in Whitby

Whitby Abbey - The best UK half-term Getaways
Missing Whitby's astounding gothic abbey would be a real pain in the neck / Image: Adobe Stock

It’s spooky season, of course, so why not freak out your little ones in the homeland of Bram Stoker’s infamous bloodsucker. Stoker was initially going to name his baddie the profoundly lame ‘Count Wampyr’, before reading about Vlad the Impaler during his pre-writing research at Whitby library, now a chip shop (7 Pier Road). St Mary’s Church (Abbey Plain) has the actual grave of one Mr Swales, who inspired a murder victim in the book, and the neighbouring 13th-century ruin of Whitby Abbey is properly gothic, as are the steps leading up to it – all 199. Your kids will love to count them. 

✈ Fly to Leeds Bradford – book flights

6. Hop to it in the Lake District

The Beatrix Potter Attraction in Bowness-on-Windermere - The best UK half-term Getaways
Foxy business at the World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness-on-Windermere / Image: World of Beatrix Potter Attraction

Hewn out of the raw landscape by passing glaciers way back in the last Ice Age, the Lakes are a heart-stopping natural spectacle dotted with dainty houses and welcoming tea shops. The tall fells and glassy lakes may or may not inspire your kids, but as luck would have it, this area is also where beloved children’s writer Beatrix Potter lived. There’s a dedicated gallery to her art (Main Street, Hawkshead) a cool interactive modern museum (Crag Brow, Bowness-on-Windermere) and you can even explore the house she once lived in (near Sawrey, Hawkshead). 

✈ Fly to Manchester – book flights

7. Build memories together at Legoland Windsor

Lord Vampyre's Brick or Treat at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort - The best UK half-term Getaways
Having a horrifically good time at Lord Vampyre's 'Brick or Treat'

Looking for the perfect excuse to whisk your little engineer on a magical jaunt to Legoland? This half term, the Windsor attraction is combining every kid’s love of colourful blocks with Halloween jollies called ‘Brick or Treat’. Sinister plastic geezer Lord Vampyre (him again) is overseeing proceedings with a Creepy Crypt Trail, a ‘fang-tastic’ pumpkin tour and a positively disquieting Haunted House Party Ride. Whatever your offspring’s age, we guarantee they’ll be bricking it.

Winkfield Road, Windsor
+44 1753 626416

✈ Fly to London Gatwick – book flights and holidays

8. Push the boat out in Edinburgh

Royal Yacht Britainnia - The best UK half-term Getaways
A royally good day out for kids / Image: © Marc Millar

You love The Crown, right? Immerse yourself in the last word in 20th-century British glamour aboard the world-famous Royal Yacht Britannia, featured heavily in series two. And, of course, in real life. Now decommissioned and moored up in Edinburgh, she’s packed to the gunwales with fascinating period details. Kids get their own dedicated audio commentary, plus the chance to spot cuddly corgis and win a prize at the end, then tuck into a thoroughly regal chocolate milkshake in the galley. Yass queen.

Ocean Drive, Leith
+44 1315 555566

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9. Make faces at Attingham Park, Shropshire

Attingham Park - The best UK half-term Getaways
Watching the days draw out at Attingham Park / Image: Adobe Stock

From 2 October ‘til 21 November, the ancient woodlands at the National Trust’s Attingham Park property will be festooned in adorable crochet animals and foliage. If this rustic take on the popular ‘yarnbombing’ craze inspires you to get creative, then great news: for just £3 at reception you can buy a package containing biodegradable, nylon free clay for making eerie forest faces to stick up on specially selected trees. Guaranteed to delight – or terrify, if that’s your thing – your fellow daytrippers.

Atcham, Shrewsbury
+44 1743 708170

✈ Fly to Birmingham – book flights

10. Make your own scarecrow at Hillsborough Castle, Belfast

Frida Kahlo scarecrow in the Walled Garden at Hillsborough Castle - The best UK half-term Getaways
Frida Kahlo in scarecrow form, at Hillsborough Castle's Walled Garden / Image: © Historic Royal Palaces

Throughout October, the walled garden at ravishing Hillsborough Castle, just outside Belfast, will be perked up with a parade of scarecrows created by local schools, community groups and Northern Irish artists. Half the fun is spotting which famous folk or historical figures the scarecrows are intended to mimic. If you rock up on 30 October you can even make your own scarecrow to join the party. The ideal Halloween activity for kids, in that it’s autumnal but not overly frightening. Unless you’re a crow, of course.

The Square, Hillsborough
+44 3333 206000

✈ Fly to Belfast – book flights and holidays