Ford & Etal is a great family day out where children are welcomed and there is plenty to see and do for all ages, from visitor attractions and activities to lots of fresh air and open spaces. There is a children’s play park in Ford village, a safe off-road path to walk or cycle between Heatherslaw and Etal, and room for pushchairs and wheelchairs in specially adapted carriages on Heatherslaw Railway.
High chairs and baby changing facilities are available at various locations. Whilst there is not room inside all venues for pushchairs there are safe places to leave them outside or under cover. Access to most places is at ground floor level (exception being Heatherslaw Cornmill, Shop and Tearoom).
Starting at Etal, the Castle offers a book box for children as well as a giant book on display about the castle, and there are tables outside for castle visitors to enjoy a family picnic.
Moving across to Heatherslaw the railway room at the Heatherslaw Light Railway displays model railways and paper and crayons for children to draw. At Heatherslaw Mill explore the mill, pick up a mouse trail and find the mice, take the Junior Miller’s Quiz and get hands-on in the Dough Zone (bread making/baking sessions on selected days in school holidays – check events listings for details.) Talk to the miller and learn how the massive machinery works – you may even be able to start up the mill! There’s a Victorian cottage too, with dressing up clothes for all the family and artefacts from that era. All this and more is included in the modest admission charge. Outside you’ll find a large grass paddock and a sandpit, with picnic benches outside the mill and tearoom.
From here take a walk (through fields, about 1.5 miles) – or drive – to the Heavy Horse Centre at Hay Farm where you can meet the magnificent Clydesdale Horses whose ancestors worked the land here, explore the exhibition area, discover other rare breed animals and browse the shop. Carriage rides and special event take place at different times throughout the year.
Over to Ford, in the Lady Waterford Hall there is a range of activities including quizzes, drawing and using slates just as the children in school would have done in Lady Waterford’s time.
Special family events take place across the villages at Easter, Hallowe’en and during school holidays. Or you can simply enjoy a day out by the river or following one of the footpaths to explore the countryside.