Gibside family highlights trail
Discover the fun side of Gibside with an action-packed walk tracking the park’s top family highlights including Strawberry Castle Adventure Play Area, the Low Ropes Challenge, Nature Playscape and Mini-Gibside Hall.
Visitor reception, grid ref: NZ172583
Join our pushchair-friendly footpath from visitor reception, around the side of the Sun Dial Garden to the back of Gibside Chapel. Here you can pick up the new trail to Strawberry Castle Adventure Play Area. With Park Fields on your left and woodland on your right, keep a look out for sheep, cows or wild birds.
Our adventure play area is inspired by a mystery from Gibside's past. We know that 200 years ago there was a place called Strawberry Castle at Gibside but we don't know what it was or where it was. Families helped us design this adventure play area, so if we can't find the original one, you can at least enjoy our new version.
When you've had your fill of swings, slides and zip wires, find the new footpath on the far side of the Strawberry Castle Adventure Play Area. It continues to skirt around Park Fields before winding downhill into West Wood. At a crossroads of paths, cross over the main track and take the narrow footpath directly in front of you. After 100m fork off to the right for the Low Ropes Challenge. The West Woods are a great place to hunt for bugs. Try lifting a fallen log or pile of leaves to see what's hidden beneath.
Low Ropes Challenge
More adventurous kids will love Gibside's low ropes course. Do you have the skills to swing, balance, climb and scramble your way from one end to the other without touching the ground? Located in an old quarry near a little stream, this is the perfect spot for a picnic off the beaten track.
Leave the Low Ropes Challenge by following the little stream-side trail back to the narrow footpath you turned off from. Turn right and continue uphill deeper into West Woods. When you reach the main track, turn left and continue until you reach the West Wood activity area - in among the trees on your left hand side. It's the perfect spot to build a den from fallen twigs, branches and leaves.
You will be amazed by what you can construct from branches, twigs and leaves just lying about in the woods around you. Make sure mum and dad help too and proudly shelter under cover in your natural palace when it's complete.
After you've completed your den - continue along the main track and after 10 or 15 minutes you'll find the Nature Playscape on your left hand side. It's well-hidden in the undergrowth so listen out carefully for noisy children and rustling leaves. Challenge your parents or siblings to balance on fallen logs or squeeze between the trees.
Venture into the Nature Playscape for log bridges and a wooden climbing wall, squeeze through our tree-trunk forest and much more natural woodland fun. It's a brilliant place for plodging in puddles and streams with wellies after wet weather too.
After all this exploring, you and your parents might be in need of a breather. So continue downhill from the Nature Playscape to the Stables. This large stone building with huge doors is hard to miss. Inside you'll find toilets, baby-changing facilities, a café for refreshments and ice creams, and,if you're lucky, real horses. Don't forget to have a go at milking Daisy the Cow too.
When it's chilly outside, or you're dodging rain showers, warm up or dry off in our new wildlife room which has interactive cameras and displays to help children get to know nature. The mini-Gibside Hall in our discovery room is a two-floor wendy house with a difference, where little ones can imagine life centuries ago.
Leave the Stables courtyard the same way you came in through the archway and great double doors. Turn left and continue straight ahead on the main track. Don't take the track which heads downhill to your left. Ignore the second track downhill to your left, but turn off on the third footpath to your left (signposted to the Column to Liberty). After a short walk, the wildlife hide appears on your left. Pop in, but try to keep quiet so you don't scare away any birds or animals.
Gibside's woodlands, meadows and ponds are a haven for wildlife, from red kites to roe deer, bats to grass snakes. You might not see all these creatures when you visit as some are brilliant at camouflaging themselves, or only come out after dark, but if you are patient, try not to move or make a noise, the wildlife hide is the place to be for woodland birds at our feeding station, or red kites circling above the meadow.
When you have finished trying to spot woodland birds, red kites, deer, or maybe just sheep, leave the hide and turn right, returning the way you came and on to the main track. Ignore the first track downhill to your right, but take the second track downhill instead of walking back towards the Stables. At the bottom of the hill you'll see a big dip called the Hollow Walk on your right. This is the best place at Gibside for rolling down a hill.
Your walk back along the avenue needn't be a trudge. Why not race your mum or dad from tree to tree or count how many oaks are planted here? Hint: there are more than 200.
After a good roll down the hill, clamber up to the path again and up the slope on to Gibside's beautiful tree-lined avenue. If you have come prepared, Green Close Field on your right (a large open space with a lump in the middle, just passed the ruined hall), is an ideal spot to fly a kite. If not, follow the avenue back towards the chapel and visitor reception.
Time for ice cream and a cuppa in the Potting Shed Café. If you've enjoyed your visit, why not return after school one day for a quick trip to Strawberry Castle?
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