Don’t want to be stuck in the house with the kids driving you up the wall this bank holiday weekend?
Here’s our guide to the best free days out on offer in Northamptonshire over Easter.
All the venues are free entry, but there may be a small charge for parking.
1) East Carlton Country Park, East Carlton, Corby, LE16 8YF.
A free Easter egg hunt, the official opening of the new children’s play area, a best-decorated egg contest and an Easter bonnet parade are all on offer for free on Sunday from 11am in the beautiful grounds of East Carlton Hall. The new play area is built on sand so remember your bucket and spade! There’s a lovely cafe with locally-baked cakes that’s open until 4pm and parking is free. There are acres of parkland and woodland to walk in, creatures from fairy stories carved into trees and a heritage centre with exhibitions focused on Corby’s steelworks history. The craft shops are open and on your way home, you can stop at the gate of the reindeer farm next door and see Santa’s reindeers spending their summer in Corby.
Open: daily from 9.30am to 4pm
2) Stanwick Lakes, off the A45, Stanwick, NN9 6GY.
An Easter egg trail and Easter crafts are on offer at the former gravel pits between Wellingborough and Thrapston. With a beautiful lake at its centre, the visitor attraction features one of the best play areas in the county. It’s one for wellies (or even swimming cossies if the sun stays out). Surrounded by a moat for paddling, there is a stream, water wheels, a large sand play area and a giant slide. There is also a heritage trail around the park and an assault course. There’s a cafe and a soft play area (with a small charge) if the weather turns.
Open: daily from 10am to 4pm
Parking: (bank holiday rate applies) £2.50 for two hours, £4.50 for three hours, £5.50 for more than three hours.
3) Barnwell Country Park, Barnwell Road, Oundle, PE8 5PB.
On Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday there are free Easter egg trails at Barnwell from 2pm to 3pm. Start at the visitor centre and hop, skip and jump your way to the golden egg. Based just a mile from Oundle, there are also 15 hectares of parks, waterways and woodland to explore. There is a huge children’s play area suitable for youngsters of all ages and a smaller one for toddlers. There are wildlife hides and a host of beautiful birds to spot. A cafe, built last year, provides refreshments and there is also a visitor centre selling souvenirs.
Open: daily from 8.30am to 6pm
4) Silverstone Race Track, Towcester, Northamptonshire, NN12 8TN.
A free action-packed Easter Sunday extravaganza takes place at the Great British racetrack. There are dozens of events for the whole family including a giant Scalextric, electric karting, a climbing wall, inflatibles, a hovercraft and a free-fall wall. You can download a ticket for two adults in advance by using this link. Children do not need a ticket.
Open: 9am to 6pm
5) Fineshade Wood, off the A43, Fineshade, NN17 3BB.
Take a relaxing amble through the woods or hire a bike and get the blood pumping at the woodland north of Corby. The latest in the Julia Donaldson woodland trails, The Stick Man, is open throughout the whole of Easter. There is a playground next to the Top Lodge visitor centre, which has a cafe and ice cream parlour and a courtyard dining area. There is also a treetop play area hidden in the wood, a host of trails of differing lengths and a bike hire centre with bikes and buggies for explorers of all ages.
Open: 10am to 5pm
Parking: £1 for one hour, £3 for all day
6) Sywell Country Park, Washbrook Ln, Ecton, NN6 0QX.
Watch hundreds of ducks bobbing along the spillway at Sywell in the annual Easter Sunday Friends of Sywell Country Park duck race from 2.30pm. You can watch for free, or pay £1 for a duck. Afterwards, there’s a cracking sand and water kids play area to burn off some of those Easter eggs, and a woodland-themed play area as well as a space for toddlers. There’s a cafe if you fancy a snack and an indoor play area if the weather’s not great. An amphibian pond offers the chance to spot dragonflies, frogs and newts and pond dipping is permitted. An exotic tree area offers the chance to spot rare trees including Monterey Pine, Japanese Larch and Wellingtonia.
Open: 7am to 7pm
7) Brixworth Country Park, Brixworth,NN6 9DG.
Free spring quiz sheets are on offer at Brixworth for children who want to follow the Skylark Trail to solve a seasonal puzzle. Brixworth also has a sensory garden, an open space for ball games and kite flying, and bikes for hire for those who want to expend a bit more energy. There are also unusual sculptures and the chance to find out about the last gnomes in England on BB’s Little Grey Men Trail.
Open: 7am to 7pm
8) Irchester Country Park, Gipsy Lane, Little Irchester, NN29 7DL.
You can visit the Irchester Narrow Gauge Railway museum to see its collection of steam and diesel locomotives and 250 metre long demonstration line in the country park for free on Sunday. Also taking place in the park is chicken chukin’ (11am to 3pm on Sunday costing 50p) alongside the year-round features which include playgrounds and woodland walks. There is also a cafe to rest weary legs.
Open: 7am to 7pm
9) Wicksteed Park, 226 Barton Rd, Kettering, NN15 6NJ.
Alongside the historic amusement park in Kettering, opened in 1921, are a host of free fixtures for the whole family. There is a huge free children’s play area with a zip line and climbing and slide tower. There’s a huge sandpit and a separate play area overlooking the lake. And there’s a new water play area built just last year. There are also plenty of walks through the parkland and around the lake and a chance to spot the park’s resident peacocks. There are sunken gardens and a range of refreshment booths for hungry little-ones. This weekend marks the beginning of peak season so the park may be busy!
Open: 10.30am until teatime
Parking: two hours £3, three hours £4, all day £6.
10) Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, Guildhall Road, Northampton, NN1 1DP.
For older children, there’s a free chance to find out about the county’s rich history. There’s a permanent shoe-making exhibition with a huge footwear collection as well as fine art and heritage displays. The history of the Wellington boot exhibition runs throughout Easter and the Bees - Pollinators of the World exhibition began just last week. There is also a gift shop to pick up a souvenir.
Open: 10am to 5pm
Parking: Throughout the town centre. Various prices.