Alpacas, racing cars and bat walks will keep everyone entertained on this active short break for families. It’s close to London and can be done over two or three days.
Young petrol heads, future Attenboroughs and mini eco warriors – every member of the family will be thrilled with this adventurous weekend break. There’s plenty to keep everyone busy, well-fed and falling into bed tired and happy at the end of the day.
Some of the activities suggested here are more suited to pre-teens and teenagers, but the itinerary is easily adapted for younger members of the family. You’ll most likely need a car, too.
Day 1: Follow your racing idols around the track and walk with alpacas or huskies
Morning: Get your family weekend getaway off to an adrenaline-fuelled start with a Junior Driving Experience at Brands Hatch, Britain’s best-loved motor racing circuit. Petrol heads from age 11 can race around the track with the aid of highly trained instructors armed with dual controls and nerves of steel!
Spectators can watch from the sides of the iconic circuit as young drivers get an unforgettable first experience behind the wheel. They’ll drive at speeds of up to 40mph, steer through cone configurations and learn the basics of clutch control. Bookings open for the various daylight hour time slots two months in advance, so plan ahead.
Lunch: There are plenty of child-friendly options on the menu at Riverside Tea Room, Eynsford, from crustless sandwiches to American pancakes with streaky bacon and maple syrup. The coffee’s good, too.
Afternoon: Treat the wildlife lovers in the family to an Alpaca Walk at Eagle Heights Wildlife Foundation. Wannabe-Attenboroughs aged 12 years and up can take a hike through the pretty countryside of the Darent Valley with an alpaca by their side. These super-cute critters enjoy the walk as much as you will. They’re incredibly photogenic too, so don’t forget your selfie stick to keep social media feeds buzzing. Younger kids from aged 8 can join the blue-eyed huskies for a 3km (2mile) walk instead. Entrance to Eagle Heights Wildlife Foundation is included in the cost of the experience, so spend the rest of the afternoon watching flights by owls and other raptors and seeing the sanctuary’s meerkats and reindeer. You might even meet Kayla the bald eagle, Crystal Palace FC’s Official Live Mascot.
Dinner: Dine at your Brands Hatch accommodation or tuck into a rack of lamb, king prawn, crab and chorizo linguine or a wagyu burger at The Plough Inn, Eynsford. There are extensive children’s and vegan menus too. If you stay the night further away, near Bore Place, The Greyhound, Charcott is both cosy and fresh with a wood-burning stove, great food and a lively atmosphere.
Stay: Mercure Dartford Brands Hatch Hotel & Spa has family double rooms and a motorsport-themed bar overlooking the Brands Hatch racing circuit. Set in an historic country house, Brandshatch Place Hotel & Spa has a spa and 5 hectares (12 acres) of gardens to explore.
Day 2: Learn about sustainable living and play in a family-focused hillside garden
Breakfast: Fill up for the busy day ahead at your accommodation. If you’re staying at Bore Place you can stock up on fresh local breakfast produce at Falconhurst Farm Shop, Mark Beech, or drive to The Tulip Tree Tea Rooms, Chiddingstone for soft, chewy breakfast sandwiches served in a converted coach house and flower-filled courtyard.
Morning: Reconnect with nature and with each other at Bore Place, a working organic farm with a commitment to sustainability. The packed events, courses and activities calendar has something for all ages and abilities, from bat walks, basketry and spoon whittling to astronomy, hiking trails and Countrybike hire. Take advantage of the chance to see working renewable energy installations and learn about low-carbon living while you’re here, too.
Lunch: The 8km (5 mile) return walk from Bore Place to family-friendly pub The Little Brown Jug, Chiddingstone Causeway should take you around two and a half hours. A superfood salad, homemade steak burger or local sausages and mash helps to break up the hike.
Afternoon: There’s a wealth of National Trust properties to choose from around here but don’t miss Emmetts Garden. The views from this hillside garden are enrapturing – it is one of the highest spots in Kent, after all. The garden itself is filled with exotic and rare plants from around the world, and while these probably deserve your family’s full attention, it’s difficult not to be distracted by the field games, wild play area, themed trails, geocaching and tepee filled with dressing up. Who’s up for a game of giant dominoes?
Dinner: Round off the day with dinner back at your accommodation, or in one of the many local country pubs.
Day 3: Break up your journey home at an adventure-packed country park
After breakfast, drive back to London via Swanley Park, 24 hectares (60 acres) of outdoor space filled with all sorts of different ways for kids to let off steam. On warm days, head to the boating lake or paddling pool and brand new watersplash area, or take in the view from your seat on the miniature railway. The play area has a zip wire, and there’s a bouncy castle zone, dino karts, mini golf and tree trek, too.
Opening times of the various attractions mentioned in this family weekend break near London vary throughout the year. Please check individual attractions’ websites before you visit. Always check availability and book ahead for tours.