Review: Where to have a spooktacular Halloween
IT’S Half Term and Halloween, which means lots of ghostly goings on in the Lakes.
Castles and country houses are perfect for spook spotting and most get into the spirit to provide a last blast of family fun before Christmas. From ghoulish ghost trains to spine-tingling stories, creepy caves to haunted houses, there’s something for everyone.
I’ve been out with my ten-year-old tester to check out the best – or should that be the worst – of the dastardly days out.
Allan Bank, Grasmere
Where? A former home of William Wordsworth and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, co-founder of the National Trust, which now owns the property, Allan Bank is a country house with amazing views over Grasmere. Park in the village and walk, there’s only blue badge parking at the house.
Why? Allan Bank is unashamedly aimed at families so comes into its own at Halloween. There’s the outdoor Halloween Trail with pumpkins hidden around the grounds incorporating visits to the spooky tunnel and sinister billiards room, where there are extra Halloween games and a word search to solve. In the house, there’s Halloween dress-up in the dedicated playroom and crafts.
What else? The Woodland Trail, which climbs through the woods behind the house, the outdoor natural play area, children’s garden shed and the house itself with a dedicated art and crafts room and games room. Charming, and perfect for a rainy day. But most of all, there are the red squirrels that live in the grounds.
Monster munchies? Visitors are welcome to take picnics but I love the informal help-yourself kitchen where there’s tea, coffee, hot chocolate and juice plus biscuits for a donation, which reflects the informal homeliness of Allan Bank.
How much? Free if you’re members of the National Trust plus £2 for the Halloween Trail. Otherwise, adults £6.50, child £3.25, family £16.25.
Best for: Children who love art and wildlife; family.
Until October 31 (Cumbrian Ghost Stories, Saturday October 27, 3pm for 30 mins), visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/allan-bank-and-grasmere
Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway Witches & Wizards Week
Where? Catch your train at Haverthwaite Station off the A590 near Newby Bridge (all day parking is £2) after a wander around the old railway yard and shed. Travel to Lakeside for photo opportunities and return, or visit the Lakes Aquarium, take a cruise on Windermere or catch the ferry across the lake to Fell Foot.
Why? A ride on this historic branch line pulled by a steam locomotive is a joy at any age and at all times of year but it comes into its own in the autumn when the woodland-lined track is bright with seasonal colour. The clouds of steam enveloping the trees only add to the eerie atmosphere.
What else? The 18-minute excursion can be as Halloweeny as you make it – get the kids to dress up (the bonus being they go free if in costume) and bring spooky snacks, then take your seat in one of the Halloween carriages, which come with decoration, puzzles and terrifying tunes, and look out for the ghost train stuck in the tunnel. Sit in a normal carriage and you’ll hardly know it’s Halloween.
Monster munchies? There are cafes at Haverthwaite and Lakeside Stations with takeaway food and drinks available.
How much?: Adult return £6.90, child return £3.45 (or free if dressed up), under-5s free. Combined tickets are available for local attractions and lake cruises.
Best for: Under-8s, family.
Until October 26, visit www.lakesiderailway.co.uk
Brockhole Pumpkin Passport
Where? Brockhole is the Lake District National Park centre between Windermere and Ambleside. It’s a great family venue with lots to do for all ages; at Halloween they pull out all the stops.
Why? This is a spooktacular celebration of Halloween with your Pumpkin Passport giving you access to an unlucky 13 activities from the Gruesome Gamekeeper’s Cottage to the Marquee of Macabre Monsters, Gruesome Graveyard Golf and the Haunted Forest. There’s a shortened squeeze through Brave the Cave and a chance to take out a few zombies at Archery and Laser Clay Shooting.
What else? With the excellent adventure playground, a stroll by the lake and around the gardens, and a spot of shopping, your only difficulty might be fitting everything in.
Monster munchies? For a civilised lunch or afternoon tea, head for the Arts & Crafts-style Gaddum restaurant, choose the eat-in or take-out café (there can be a long wait at busy times), or bring a picnic.
How much?: At £24 for a full passport, £12 for a mini passport of limited activities plus £8 for every accompanying adult (or hand holder!), it sounds expensive, plus there’s pay and display parking to include. However, this is a true full-day experience. You can pay for individual activities, but the passport also includes face-painting, story-telling, a mini show, crafting and witch’s brew and small piece of green goblin cake, so it’s good value.
Best for: Over-8s for the full experience.
Until October 31, visit www.brockhole.co.uk