After my first three years living in the U.K., and after showing a lot of visiting friends and family around, I thought I was a pro at showing the Americans (and a few other nationalities) around. But then we moved out of London, close to the Welsh border, and I discovered The National Trust (www.nationaltrust.org.uk).
I would definitely recommend looking at their website if planning a trip to the U.K., as it is full of great ideas. If you do a search in the area of England or Wales that you are planning to visit, it will give you a detailed list (and photos) of historic properties in that area that you can visit–castles, manor houses, grand country homes, whatever.
Not only can you usually tour the homes, full of period furniture and decor, but the grounds of these properties are also fantastic for kids to explore–some with manicured garden mazes, others with forested areas for hiking, etc. National Trust properties are fantastic at running children’s activities, particularly on the weekends in summer, as most members are families (like mine)…so you can see what kids’ activities are coming up at the places you’d like to visit.
Many properties have a children’s trail that kids can follow, with a “trailfinders backpack” included in the admission price. Separately, the National Trust also rents out many smaller properties that it owns, mostly lovely holiday cottages with lots of period character, and you can also look at these online as well.
I intend to have a look at these soon so we can book a few days at a cottage in Devon or Cornwall during the next school break. Lastly, there is a new area of the site that I haven’t tried yet, but it looks promising–themed tours for visitors. So if you are a Jane Austen fan, for example, you can find information on National Trust properties that were used in the filming of Pride and Prejudice, and visit them. That’s all for now from me…by the way, if anyone is planning a visit to the UK and needs ideas, please feel free to contact me via TravelingMom.