What’s it like to run the London marathon?

Last weekend I ran the 2016 London marathon. When the ‘You’re in’ magazine landed on my doormat last October telling me I’d got a ballot place I was excited, nervous and frankly amazed (around 1 in 15 ballot entrants secured a place this way). Fast forward six months and I was even more excited and nervous.

I wasn’t the only one. My train to Blackheath was packed with runners discussing finish times, training plans and previous races. Chatting to each other helped settle the nerves but there was no getting away from the challenge of what we were about to do. As we disembarked a helicopter overhead was transmitting pictures of us streaming up to the start area. We were famous!

On the way to the blue start, Blackheath
On the way to the blue start, Blackheath

It’s hard to envisage how much organisation must go into getting 39,000 runners ready for the start of the marathon but from my perspective it was seamless. Runners are split between three different starts; red, green and blue, which all join up by the third mile. Each colour has its own start area, with luggage lorries, changing areas, information point and toilets.

Ah the toilets. I’m really not convinced that female urinals will catch on. I have never seen so many perplexed women holding up bits of cardboard and wondering how to use them. And what to do with them when finished! (Note to organisers, next year put the rubbish container inside the urinal area).

Decisions, decisions!
Decisions, decisions!

Fortunately there were alternatives to the ladies urinals, as long as you didn’t mind queuing. The portaloos certainly seemed the more popular option.

The baggage drop took seconds, as did the pick up afterwards. With time to spare I decided on one last cup of coffee before the run. This wasn’t my wisest decision of the day but I never say no to coffee.

The baggage lorries
The baggage lorries

Although I’d arrived early the minutes flew by and it was soon time to find my starting pen. I was in pen nine, the final pen on the blue start, so there was a delay of around ten minutes between the start of the race and the time I actually crossed the start line. This doesn’t matter though as your final chip time takes this into account. The five hour pacemaker was also in this pen but I tried to stay clear of the pacers as they were usually surrounded by crowds of runners.

So how did the race go?

London marathon miles 1-6

These were my novelty miles. Running past houses whose residents had come out to cheer us on. Hearing the race marshals shouting “Hump!” every few hundred metres to warn us of road humps. Spotting the Guinness World Record contenders and feeling relieved that I didn’t have to run as a dinosaur or carry a boat. High-fiving the children beside the road and trying not to miss any of them out. I learnt very quickly to avoid the plastic bottles in the road after the water stations and not to stand on sticky gel sachets.

The weather was perfect for running; cool, mostly cloudy with a slight breeze. I’d been wavering at the start about whether to wear my jacket or start in a T-shirt and was glad that I’d chosen the warmer option. Although if it had warmed up much more I’d have been faffing around re-pinning my number onto my T- shirt whilst running.

Six miles in and the crowds were out in Greenwich town, drinking beer at 11am and making lots of noise around the Cutty Sark. I couldn’t see that many people had heeded the information in the Spectator’s Guide about staying away from this area!

Waiting in the start pen
Waiting in the start pen

London marathon miles 6-13

These miles were great. I was still fresh enough to enjoy the experience and towards the end it included my race highlight, Tower Bridge.

However I was regretting my last minute cup of coffee. The toilets were stationed every two miles or so but the queues were quite long at the first few stops. This didn’t appear to affect the men who were relieving themselves wherever there was a gap in spectators. I eventually took a break and queued for a few minutes but the relief was worth it.

As I ran on one of my favourite diversion tactics was reading the spectator’s signs: “If Donald Trump can run for President you can run 26.2 miles” and “Smile if you’re not wearing underwear” (I was, but couldn’t help smiling anyway).

On to the best part of my race. Everything I’d read about Tower Bridge at mile 12 was true. It really is a fantastic experience to run across the bridge, cheered on by the crowds. I couldn’t resist another quick break, this time to take some photos.

Heading over Tower Bridge, London
Heading over Tower Bridge, London

London marathon miles 13-18

After Tower Bridge the route turns right along The Highway and you’re passed, on the opposite side of the road, by the fast runners approaching their 23rd mile. I looked over enviously. When it was my turn to run back I looked at those just passing their 13 mile mark and wondered if they had similar feelings. Particularly given they were being overtaken by the road sweepers and followed by coaches to pick up retiring runners.

Everyone who runs the London marathon talks about the support from the spectators and volunteer marshals. Some parts of the road are lined with charity supporters, others with family and friends. There’s music for all tastes too; brass bands, drummers, pipers and a street rave. Even a group of portable church bell ringers. But I actually relished the quieter parts of the route, sometimes the noise was just too overwhelming.

Ben, the man running 401 marathons in 401 consecutive days, and attempting to raise £250,000 for anti-bullying charities was running near me for some of the way. Wow, I could hardly walk the following day let alone run another marathon. I also ran beside a man with ‘Sexy’ printed on his top. The spectators loved supporting him!

Towards the end of this section I’d eaten most of the food I’d bought along. Most runners used energy gels, and spectators were handing out jelly babies and Haribos, but I relied on my stash of Nakd bars. I quite liked them before the marathon but am not sure I can ever face eating them again.

London marathon miles 19-26

These miles were hard, very hard. I always knew I was going to finish but my running reduced to a shuffle, interspersed with bouts of walking. At around 19 miles I got stitch. I never get stitch, and surely it should have happened sooner in the race. Added to this, my knees and shins were screaming with every step. Did I hit the dreaded wall? I don’t know, but my body had decided it was time to stop.

Almost finished
Almost finished

Fortunately my mind decided otherwise; I was determined to pick up my medal. I just let the last few miles pass in a blur, head down and focussing on putting one foot in front of the other. I almost missed Mo Farah heading towards us at one point high-fiving the runners.

I counted down the miles, then the 100 metre markings and finally the last 385 yards (interesting mix of measurements). I was so relieved to reach the finish line and recieve my medal, I really didn’t enjoy those final few miles.

Finished!
Finished!

After the medal came the goody bag queue. I received a huge T-shirt, a bag full of snacks (mostly distributed to the family later) and a welcome bottle of water. I thought about getting changed but couldn’t bear to bend down to do so. And there was no way I was going to take my medal off!

I still had no idea of my chip time until about 15 minutes later when I received a congratulatory text from a friend who’d been tracking me. I was very happy to learn I’d run the London marathon in 4 hours 28 minutes and 2 seconds. I’d also raised almost £600 for Style Acre, an Oxfordshire based charity that supports adults with learning disabilities.

So how do I sum up my London marathon experience? If I had to define it in just three words, they’d be noisy, inspirational and painful. The spectators and marshals were fabulous, the weather perfect and organisation second to none.  But my knees have decided they’ll only run shorter distances from now on. And it’s only fair to let someone else take a chance with the ballot.

If you fancy running the marathon next year then pop over to the Virgin London marathon website for more information on the ballot and other ways to enter.

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A family road trip exploring County Antrim

Often voted amongst the greatest road trips the Causeway Coastal Route in County Antrim combines spectacular coastal scenery with world class attractions. On a recent trip to Northern Ireland we hired a car from Belfast and spent a couple of days travelling the coastal road and its hinterland.

Glenariff Forest Park

Our first stop and opportunity to stretch our legs was Glenariff Forest Park. We parked in the large car park and had a brief wander around the visitor centre, not the most picturesque of buildings.

Glenariff Waterfall Trail
Glenariff Waterfall Trail

Fortunately the scenery outside more than made up for it. After checking the trail map we chose the 3km waterfall walk; a wooden walkway which descends the Glenariff River gorge passing several spectacular waterfalls.

Glenariff Forest Park
Glenariff Forest Park

My favourite waterfall (below) was Ess-Na-Grub, next to Laragh Lodge, at the end of the main trail. The mossy branches and ferns made it feel like something out of Jurassic Park. Whilst you’d never catch me bathing in a waterfall pool in temperatures of less than 30C it did look tempting!

Glenariff waterfall trail
Glenariff waterfall trail

As we’d spent the first part of the walk heading downhill it was time to walk back up again. With the exception of the final stretch back up to the visitor centre it wasn’t overly steep. The waterfall trail lives up to its name and I’d highly recommend a visit; my only slight disappointment was not seeing one of the red squirrels that frequent the park.

Drive to Torr Head

At Cushenden we left the main Causeway Coastal Route and drove out to Torr Head, on a road designated as an additional scenic route. I didn’t get much chance to look at the scenery as the single track road took most of my attention. I did manage to glance out at the Scottish islands which are easily visible on a clear day but most of the time I was just thankful it was a quiet road and there wasn’t much traffic to squeeze by.

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, Ballintoy

The rope bridge was the one place my daughter wanted to visit. Traditionally used by salmon fishermen, nowadays the rope bridge transports tourists over to Carrick-a-Rede island. Spectacularly located, the bridge spans a 30 metre deep and 20 metre wide chasm. Don’t look down!

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge
Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge

Only 8 people are allowed on the bridge at any one time so we queued for a few minutes before being allowed to cross. The bridge reminded me of Go Ape in that it feels a little scary but is perfectly safe. Although I’m not sure I’d have wanted to cross in high winds.

On the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge
On the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge

The island itself is pretty small so we only spent 20 minutes or so on it. The views along the coast and out to Rathlin island are fabulous but there are no barriers so keep an eye on the cliff edges if you’re trying to take the perfect photo!

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge
Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge

Portrush

Portrush has beautiful sandy beaches and is a popular resort on the north coast – but it wasn’t for us. My partner compared it to Newquay; amusement arcades, lots of restaurants and bars and cars screeching along the roads at 3am. Plenty of people love the town but we only stayed because of the availability of overnight accommodation.

Dunluce Castle, Bushmills

The next morning we set off early, back towards The Giant’s Causeway. We pulled into the Magheracross viewpoint to view the ruins of Dunluce Castle which are spectacularly sited on the edge of the cliffs. In fact, a little too close to the edge as back in the 1600s the kitchen fell into the sea after a severe storm!

Looking towards Dunluce Castle
Looking towards Dunluce Castle

We had a closer look at the castle from its car park but we were there before opening time so didn’t actually step inside. One to go back to.

Dunluce Castle
Dunluce Castle

Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills

The Giant’s Causeway has been on my bucket list for years so it was great to finally visit. It’s Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage site and consists of more than 40,000 basalt stone columns.

Giant's Causeway
Giant’s Causeway

I’d read beforehand that the Giant’sCauseway is free to visit but if you wish to park at the visitor centre, use the toilets or eat in the cafe then you’ll be subject to the visitor fee (which was £22 for us, National Trust members are free). Hence we parked at Bushmills, walked the 2 mile path alongside the railway and then entered the Causeway site through a tunnel to the right of the visitor centre.

Giant's Causeway
Giant’s Causeway

It’s a 15 minute downhill walk fom the entrance to the stone columns. I enjoyed the anticipation of the walk, but the National Trust does run a shuttle bus service (extra cost) down to the beach for those that require it.

The Giant’s Causeway is an understandably popular destination and even though we visited early in the day there were already plenty of coach parties on site. That said, although it was the busiest place we visited in Antrim it didn’t feel particularly crowded. There are more than enough rocks to go round (or hexagonal).

Giant's Causeway
Giant’s Causeway

It’s hard to imagine the geological processes that resulted in the Causeway, but suffice to say that the basalts were formed as part of a large volcanic plateau. Obviously it’s tempting to believe that it’s really a result of a fight between Scottish and Irish giants! Regardless of its origin I’m glad to say the Giant’s Causeway lived up to my expectations.

Giant's Causeway
Giant’s Causeway

The downside of the 2 mile walk back to our car can be guessed if you look at the clouds in our photos. Despite a forecast of sun all day we got rather wet.

Ballintoy harbour

Ballintoy was another of my trip highlights. I’d never even heard of it until I saw a picture of the harbour in one of the tourist leaflets. The drive down is rather steep but there’s a large free car park at the bottom. Before heading down we stopped for lunch at the Red Door Tea Room, it’s easily identifiable from the main road and the food was excellent.

Ballintoy
Ballintoy

Many tourists visit Ballintoy Harbour as it’s a Game of Thrones filming location but the coastline, with its arches, caves and rockpools were the star attraction for me.

Ballintoy
Ballintoy

I could easily have spent the whole afternoon exploring but we were booked on a late afternoon flight so all too soon it was time to head back to Belfast, via our final destination, The Dark Hedges.

The Dark Hedges, Stranocum

I’ve never seen Game of Thrones but my other half was keen to see the Dark Hedges which feature in the series. It’s a popular pilgrimage stop on the Game of Thrones tourist trail although it would be better if visitors parked in the allocated car park rather than on the edges of the road itself (grumble, grumble).

The Dark Hedges comprise of rows of beech trees which frame either side of the road. A couple of the trees blew down in Storm Gertrude so there are some gaps. It’s a nice enough place to stop for 15 minutes and meant that we got to visit the countryside of Antrim rather than just the coast but it is probably more significant to fans of the series.

The Dark Hedges
The Dark Hedges

What did we miss?

We only had time for a whistlestop tour of Antrim. If we’d had longer I’ve have added in Whiterocks Coastal Path (looked beautiful when we drove past), a day trip to Rathlin Island and a walk along the cliff path at The Gobbins (closed during our visit due to storm damage).

Have you visited Antrim? If so, what else would you recommend?

More info

  • We flew with Easyjet from Luton to Belfast International. An interesting experience, particularly on the return journey when we sat on the tarmac for 1.5 hours whilst the staff tried to identify a potential extra passenger. And eject (one of the) drunken passengers. But of course the flights were cheap!
  • Our car hire was through Budget. Cheap headline price but lots of extras for the unwary (£9 per day for additional drivers).
  • It’s free to enter Glenariff Forest Park but car parking costs £5. Coins only, which we didn’t have. Logging operations can affect which trails are open so check before you make a special visit.
  • Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and Giant’s Causeway are run by the National Trust so if you have membership you’ll be laughing. If not, a family ticket for the rope bridge costs £14.80 and access to the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre and parking is £22 (although the Causeway itself is free if you do not use these facilities).

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A walk from Winchcombe to Belas Knap, Gloucestershire

With a sunny spring day forecast what better way to experience it than with a walk in the Cotswolds. We decided on a 5 mile circular route from Winchcombe via Belas Knap, one of the best preserved long barrows in the area.

I hadn’t realised that Winchcombe is the unofficial walking capital of the Cotswolds. It lays claim to more long distance walking routes than any other town, holds its own walking festival and has ‘Walkers are Welcome’ status. Hence there was an abundance of booted middle-aged walkers (er, us) wandering through the town.

Spring lambs, Winchcombe
Spring lambs, Winchcombe

Winchcombe isn’t the Himalayas though, or even the Lake District. Think leisurely afternoon rambles through Cotswold scenery followed by a cream tea instead.

After lunch and a visit to the bakery for mid-walk cake supplies we headed out of town. Our route took us gradually uphill through a field of lambs, probably one of the springiest spring sights. Fortunately they weren’t too bothered by four humans traipsing through their field.

Walk from Winchcombe
Walk from Winchcombe

As we gained height we had a great view back over Sudeley Castle, a private residence which is open to the public. The castle is supposedly haunted by Catherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII, who is buried in the chapel. Of course, with my cycnical head on this may just be a rumour for the tourists.

Winchcombe walk
Winchcombe walk

Onwards and upwards we walked. Our jumpers were off by now, partly due to the sun’s warmth and not just the exertion. Spring really had arrived! A skylark was singing somewhere above us and gorgeously tactile pussy willow adorned several branches. Ominous small patches of stinging nettles were just starting to grow again too, ready to ambush walkers in the months ahead.

Spring, Winchcombe
Spring, Winchcombe

We passed a small copse with an intriguing building in amongst the trees. Someone’s house? A woodland retreat? A sauna? The Keep Out sign made it clear we wouldn’t be able to investigate.

As we neared Belas Knap we joined up with the car walkers. The long barrow is sufficiently away from the road that you’ll still face a 15 minute uphill walk even if you do choose to visit by car.

Belas Knap long barrow
Belas Knap long barrow

Belas Knap is a hilltop long barrow estimated to have been built around 3000 BC. The ancient tomb has several burial chambers, including a false entrance. During the 19th Century several excavations uncovered the remains of 31 people, some of whom are thought to originate from the early Bronze Age. You can crawl into and explore a couple of the chambers if you’re brave enough!

The barrow is a popular picnic spot for visitors; slightly surreal given it’s history but I can understand the appeal. There are great views in all directions and the surrounding stone wall offers protection from the wind. It certainly proved a good cake stop.

Heading downhill back to Winchcombe
Heading downhill back to Winchcombe

Our return to Winchcombe was all downhill. We dropped down quite steeply, past a ménage where a rider was practising dressage, to walk beside a cricket pitch. We were intrigued by the number of stiles punctuating two fences but I can only imagine it was to allow easy access to wayward cricket balls. The last stretch followed the Cotswold Way into town where I was happy to find the tea rooms still open.

We’ll definitely head back to Winchcombe for more walks. In addition to several long distance paths which pass through the town there’s also the remains of a Roman villa, an abbey and a castle to explore locally.

More info

  • We followed the route in our AA Walks in the Cotswolds walks book. Whilst I cannot find the exact route online it’s near enough the one here – but in reverse.
  • I thought parking in Winchcombe was going to be a nightmare as cars were parked on either side of the main road when we first drove through. However we followed signs to the long stay car park which was only a 5 minute walk to the town centre. There were plenty of spaces and it only cost £1!

Ultimate Easter holiday 2016 guide: 50 ideas for UK family days out


The Easter holidays provide plenty of opportunity to get out and about with the family. Near enough every garden centre, stately home, garden and castle is running a spring trail or egg hunt so I’ve made sure to include plenty of non-chocolate events too. Have a scan through the list below and see what takes your fancy!

Nationwide

1. Cadbury Easter egg hunts at National Trust and National Trust for Scotland properties, multiple locations

If there’s a National Trust property near you it’s probably running an Easter egg hunt. There are over 250 egg hunts across the UK; check out event details on the respective National Trust websites.

2. Giant duck hunts, WWT centres, multiple locations

Search for giant yellow ducks at 8 WWT Wetland Centres across the UK. The duck hunts are available from Friday 25 March to Sunday 10 April, further details here.

England

3. Destination Space Easter, National Space Centre, Leicester

Blast off between Friday 25 March and Sunday 10 March at the National Space Centre. Find out about Tim Peake’s space experiments and discover what life is like on board the International Space Station.

4. Spring studio, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester

Create works inspired by art and nature at the Whitworth Spring Studio which runs from Monday 2 to Saturday 16 April. Make tree sculptures at this free drop in event which is suitable for all ages.

5. Opening of the Seaton Jurassic experience , Seaton, Devon

This new visitor centre tells the story of the Jurassic Coast and opens on Saturday 26 March. A family ticket costs £18, further details here.

6. Sci-Fi weekend, Churnet Valley railway, Froghall, Staffs

Taking place on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 April this special weekend on the Churnet Valley railway is dedicated to all things sci-fi. Come dressed as your favourite superhero, visit a Dr Who exhibition and ensure you follow Darth Vaders’ commands. An advance purchase family ticket for the event, including the railway, costs £30.

7. The Boat race, River Thames, London

This year’s boat race between Oxford and Cambridge starts at 3.10pm on Sunday 27 March. With over 300,000 spectators expected to line the Thames families can head to Bishop’s Park which will have a large viewing screen, food stalls, children’s rides and sporting activities.

8. Doc. Yard’s secret lab, Chatham Historic Dockyard, Kent

Intrepid techsplorers are required to help out with sub-zero scientific experiments. If you fancy trying the Ice Cube Challenge or Antarctic Ice Creams head to the Chatham Historic Dockyard between 10.30am-3pm every day during the Easter school holidays. Get there early as places are booked on a first come, first served basis.

9. Easter tournament, Royal Armouries, Leeds, Yorkshire

From Friday 25 March to Monday 28 March the Royal Armouries’ arena hosts knights in battle, jousting, sword skills, pomp and pageantry. An advance family ticket costs between £25-£39.

10. Moscow State Circus, Hills Meadow car park, Reading, Berks

The circus is in town from Wednesday 6 to Sunday 10 April. Based on a Russian folklore story the show features wire walking, roller skating performers and juggling. A variety of tickets are available via the Ticketmaster website.

11. Imber village Easter egg hunt, Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire

The villagers of Imber were evacuated to help the war effort but never got to return to their homes after the war. The village has been empty ever since and is still used by the the army for training. It’s usually closed to the public but over Easter is accessible between Friday 25 March and Monday 28 March. On Sunday 27 March there’s even an Easter egg hunt!

12. BIG sheep Grand National, Bideford, Devon

Held on Saturday 9 April, Red Ram and Wooly Jumper are a few of the competitors in this highlight of the sheep racing calendar. Earlier on in the Easter holidays the BIG Sheep is also running Easter egg hunts, face painting and an opportunity to meet newborn lambs.

13. Shakespeare acting workshop, Oxford

Part of the Oxford Literary Festival, accompanied children aged 9+ can join an action packed workshop session exploring the themes of Macbeth. Tickets cost £6 for the event on Sunday 10 April.

14. Met Office Activity Zone, Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter

If your children enjoy learning about the weather pop along to this Met Office drop in event at RAMM where they can take part in some hands-on weather and climate experiments. Takes place on Thursday 7 April between 10.30am-12.30pm and 1.30-3.30pm.

15. The planets science show, Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, Cheshire

Head along to Jodrell Bank between Monday 4 and Friday 8 April to find out more about the planets in our solar system. The show lasts 30 minutes and is suitable for children aged 5+. The show is included in the cost of admission to Jodrell Bank (£22 for a family).

16. Wirework animals, Stowe House, Buckinghamshire

Make a wiry animal in this free drop in workshop at Stowe House between 1.30-4.30pm on Tuesday 29 March. There’s no charge for the activity although adult admission charges apply.

17. Easter Yarn bomb trail, American museum in Britain, Bath

This looks very cute! Between Friday 25 and Monday 28 March follow a trail of hand knitted film characters around the American museum. Entrance to the trail is included with gardens only admission.

18. Easter dragon trail at Savill Garden, Windsor, Berks

From Friday 25 March to Monday 11 April experience a trip through the Far East whilst you search for clues amongst exotic plants at Savill Garden. Trails cost £2.50 each, adult entry to the gardens is £9.75, children under 16 visit for free.

19. Scarecrow making day, Knowle Park, Solihull

Design and make a scarecrow at this family event from 10.30am-12 noon on Thursday 7 April. There are prizes for the best scarecrows. Booking is essential, further details here.

20. Tyrolean Zip Wire experience, Bolehill Quarry, Longshaw, Derbys

Children aged 6+ can fly across Bolehill Quarry on a Tyrolean zip wire. Booking is essential for this event on Sunday 10 April. A ticket to ride costs £20, further details on the National Trust website.

21. Urban, Southbank Centre, London

Music, dance, skateboarding workshops, guerilla gardening and parkour training form part of Urban, which runs from Friday 25 March to Sunday 10 April.There are events suitable for all ages, mostly in the free to £6 price range.

22. Easter activities, Arlington Court, Barnstaple, Devon

There’s lots happening at Arlington Court. From 3-3.30pm daily between Friday 25 March to Friday 8 April you can meet a flock of lambs and listen to a talk by a local farmer. There’s also a daffodil trail from Tuesday 29 March to Sunday 10 April and family ranger days on Mondays and Wednesdays during the holidays. Plus of course the standard National Trust easter egg hunt.

23. Tractor Factory Family Day, Coventry transport museum, West Midlands

Celebrate the opening of the new tractor exhibition at Coventry transport museum on Saturday 26 March. Become a tractor designer and use recycled card to make your own model tractor. Costs £2 per child.

24. York Easter Family Festival, Yorkshire

The York Easter festival runs over the Easter weekend Friday 25 to Monday 28 March and encompasses a chocolate market, street food stalls, a vintage fair and children’s activity tent.

25. The great Eden egg hunt, St Austell, Cornwall

Held at the Eden Project from Friday 25 March to Sunday 10 April visitors can hunt for 20 golden eggs hidden across the site. There’s also an Easter themed fairground and a giant obstacle course.

26. Redoubt Fortress and military museum, Eastbourne

The Redoubt Fortress is one of three surviving Napoleonic Redoubts in the UK. It is celebrating its 2016 opening by offering free museum admission on Saturday 27 and Sunday 27 March.

27. Go Sketch, fine art and sculpture workshops, Bristol

Go Sketch are running Colourful Cities and Crazy Clay Animal workshops on Tuesday 5 and Wednesday 6 April. Suitable for children aged 7+ years, the workshops cost £15 each.

28. Duck race, Sywell Country Park, Northamptonshire

Sponsor a duck for £1 and watch it race along the spillway. The races start at 2.15pm on Sunday 27 March; prizes for the first 10 ducks.

29. The great eggcase hunt, Rye Harbour nature reserve, East Sussex

A different type of egg hunt as you’ll be searching for mermaids’ purses, the egg cases of sharks and rays. Takes place 10am Wednesday 30 March, suitable for accompanied children of all ages.

 30. Easter boat trip, Norfolk Broads, Norfolk

Running over the Easter weekend Broads Tours are offering 1.5 hour boat trips at 11.30am and 4pm. Children can take part in a nature quiz and Easter egg hunt. An adult  ticket costs £8.50, child ticket £5.50

31. Newbiggin-by-the-sea kite festival, Northumberland 

Held on Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 March this festival offers the opportunity to watch national and international kite flyers for free. Children can take part in a kite making workshop (£2) and craft activities.

32. Easter adventure quest, English Heritage properties, nationwide

From Friday 25 to Monday 28 March youngsters will be able to take part in an Easter adventure quest at many English Heritage properties. Adventurers will be rewarded with chocolate once they’ve cracked the clues and solved the quest. Participating properties include Tintagel Castle, Birdoswald Roman Fort and Old Sarum, check the website for full details of all sites.

33. The great chicken challenge, Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park, Nr Cheltenham, Gloucs

Thanks to Countryfile, Adam Henson must be the most famous farmer in the UK. Head to his farm between Friday 25 March and Sunday 10 April to have a go on the new obstacle course; you’ll need to transport giant eggs to win a prize. There’s also an Easter egg hunt from Good Friday to Easter Monday.

34. The Truro festival, Devon

An art, culture and music festival running from Saturday 2 April to Saturday 9 April. There’s plenty of family friendly events including a junk monsters workshop, superhero drop-in and a chess challenge.

35. Thame country show, Oxfordshire

Running on Sunday 27 and Monday 28 March this country show features motorcycle stunts, shire horses and horse boarding (!) in the main arena. There’s also a separate dog arena with doggy displays, a fun dog show and gun dog scurries. Tickets cost £13 for adults, £4 for children.

Northern Ireland

36. Spring into Easter festival, Belfast City Hall

The Spring into Easter festival runs from Saturday 26 to Tuesday 29 March from 12 noon-5 pm daily. Most events are ticketed so book in advance if you want to join a walking tour, meet meerkats or take part in chocolate making workshops.

37. Easter sea safari, Strangford Loch, County Down

Suitable for ages 3+ you can take a boat trip on Strangford Loch on Sunday 27 and Monday 28 March. Charges apply but you’ll get to see seals and perhaps a pod of porpoise.

38.  Easter Monday pirate invasion, Bangor, County Down

The annual pirate invasion and Easter parade takes place on Bangor seafront on Monday 28 March. Pirate 24 is a treasure island filled with pirate themed crafts, activities and music, whilst the Pirate Parade starts at 3pm from the town hall.

39. Festival of colours, Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast

This is an Indian spring time tradition which takes place at the Titanic Exhibition Centre on Sunday 3 April. Suitable for all the family but wear old clothes as you’ll get splashed with multi coloured dyes!

40. Belfast photo festival youth edition, Belfast

A photography festival for children aged 12-17 years which runs from Sunday 3 April to Monday 30 May. Teens get the opportunity to photograph an Ulster rugby game, learn how to take action shots at a skatepark and visit a variety of exhibitions and talks.

Scotland

41. Easter explorers, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

Decorate a botanical Easter egg and follow a nature trail at the Royal Botanic Garden from 1-4pm on Sunday 27 March. Suitable for all ages, this is a free drop in event.

42. Puppet animation festival, nationwide

The puppet animation festival takes place from Saturday 19 March to Friday 15 April and is Britain’s biggest performing arts event for children. It features over 150 activities in 40 locations across the country with plenty of choice for all ages.

43.  International science festival, Edinburgh

Running from Saturday 26 March to Sunday 10 April the UK’s largest science festival has over 270 events with many aimed at families. Attend a dino day, make a monster or learn about bug busting trees; full details here.

44. Inflatable fun city, Glasgow Green, Glasgow

With lots of inflatables to bounce around on this looks great fun for 2-12 year olds! Open from Friday 25 to Monday 28 March and Saturday 2 to Sunday 17 April. A wristband costs £7.99 for unlimited play all day.

45. Rock school, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow

Budding rock musicians aged 8-12 years can attend rock school from Monday 4 to Friday 8 April. At £240 it’s not cheap but I’m sure they’ll pay you back once they’re rich and famous.

Wales

46. Easter egg hunts at various Cadw sites, nationwide

Thirteen Cadw sites are running Easter egg hunts on Sunday 27 March. These include Beaumaris Castle, Castell Coch, Blaenavon Ironworks, Denbigh Castle and Conwy Castle. Easter prizes will be awarded to the first children taking part at each site so get there early!

47. Medieval Easter weekend at Raglan Castle, Monmouthshire

There are plenty of activities to enjoy at Raglan Castle from 10am-5pm Saturday 26 March to Monday 28 March. From knightly combat displays to have-a-go archery and Easter egg hunts there should be something for all ages. A family ticket costs £16.20, more details here.

48. RSPB Lake Vyrnwy reserve, Nr Welshpool, Powys

Head along to Lake Vyrnwy reserve on Sunday 27 March for an Easter Sunday scavenger hunt. Drop in between 11am and 4pm and follow the clues around the sculpture park. Alternatively visit on Saturday 2 April 10am to 12 noon for a spot of pond dipping, or book a slot during the Easter holidays to visit the lambing sheds.

49. National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire

There’s a focus on animal magic at the National Botanic Garden over the Easter holidays. You can meet spring lambs and chicks throughout the holidays, whilst on Easter Saturday and Sunday the ‘Meet a meerkat’ show returns. The show also features snakes, spiders and a porcupine.

50. Easter egg scramble, Elan Valley Visitor Centre, Powys

An Easter treasure hunt around the Visitor Centre and Cnwch Wood. Drop in any time between 10am-4pm from Friday 25 March to Monday 28 March. Free event.

I hope you’ve found the list helpful. Please do check opening dates and times direct with the event provider before making a special journey.