Ghost trails, Oxford
If you’re looking for “gently spooky” rather than “give the kids nightmares for weeks”, then this is the ghost tour for you. Follow “Victorian undertaker” Bill Spectre as he leads you through the back streets and courtyards of Oxford. This twilight tour is peppered with ghost stories, which are illustrated with props, pyrotechnics and illusions. Plenty of jokes and audience participation ensure it never goes to the dark side and is suitable for kids of all ages.
• Friday and Saturday evening at 6.30pm from the gift shop of Oxford Castle Unlocked, 1¾ hours, no need to book. Adults £9, children £5-£7. ghosttrail.org
Robin Hood, Nottingham
The legend of Nottinghamshire’s famous outlaw is brought to life on this entertaining tour. In feathered cap and leather jerkin, Ezekial Bone (aka Ade Andrews) looks the part, leading visitors around the key sights in Nottingham, including the castle, Lace Market and Old County Gaol. A foray into underground caves and St Mary’s churchyard add an enjoyable frisson for children. Bone also runs tours of Sherwood Forest with an emphasis on the natural environment.
• Tours run most Saturdays from March-October and on other dates throughout the year. Recommended for children over 10, 2½ hours. Adults £12, under-14s, £7. ezekialbone.com
Blackbeard to Banksy, Bristol
Discover old pirate haunts and contemporary street art on Duncan McKellar’s walking tour. An artist and historian, McKellar humorously weaves the different strands of Bristol’s history on a two-hour walk, taking in Long John Silver’s inn, Robinson Crusoe’s first port of call, Bristol Castle and some of the city’s street art, including pieces by Banksy and JPS.
• Tours run on Thurs-Sun, departing from the cathedral at 11.30am. Adults £7, children £3, family £18. blackbeard2banksy.blogspot.co.uk
Dressed as Mary Poppins, Amber Raney-Kincade takes families on walking tours of the City of London, inspired by the life and works of Poppins novelist PL Travers. Amber prefers to keep the exact details of the itinerary a surprise, but expect a jaunt to a London park, feeding the pigeons on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral, a view over the London rooftops and even the occasional burst of song. Film fans can learn about the making of Mary Poppins (which wasn’t actually shot in London) and there are lots of interesting facts sprinkled in about suffragettes, chimney sweeps and the City. The total distance walked is less than a mile, so it’s perfect for little legs and accessible for prams and wheelchairs.
• Runs most Saturdays, 2 hours. Adults £15, under-12s £10. americantourguideinlondon.com
Fossil hunting, Isle of Wight
Martin Simpson, known locally as “the Fossil Man”, runs the fossil and gem shop at Godshill on the Isle of Wight. He’s written several children’s books on fossils and shares his knowledge on fossil-hunting trips on beaches in the south-west of the island. They usually include the chance to spot dinosaur foot casts and, if the tide is far out enough, the remnants of a fossilised forest. Families are shown where to look for fossils and can keep any they find. The two-hour trips are suitable for all ages and no tools are required.
• Some trips are led by Martin and some by head guide Felicity, 2 hours. Adults £4, children £3, family £12/£14, private trips from £40, island-gems.co.uk
Seashore safaris, Gower peninsula
Marine biologist Judith Oakley is never happier than when poking around rock pools in south Wales. On summer weekends, families can join her on one of her free seashore safaris to learn about the area’s hidden shorefront and marine wildlife, and how to help look after it. Children learn how to identify different types of seaweed and anemones, and are shown the best places to look for sea urchins, starfish and crabs. Locations for the safaris vary, but include Mumbles, Rhossili Bay, Bracelet Bay and Port Eynon.
• Safaris open to all ages from three upwards, and are free. Booking essential – dates and details will be available on the Oakley Intertidal Facebook page
Roam with Romans, Northumberland
Nothing peps up a history lesson quite like a field trip – especially if it’s guided by your very own Roman auxiliary. Kev Robson started Wild Dog Outdoors four years ago and his two-hour Roam with the Romans walking tour of Hadrian’s Wall gives families an insight into life in Celtic/Roman Britain, the cultural beliefs of the time, battle tactics and the building of the wall itself. The tours start at Cawfields, near Haltwhistle, where there is a well-preserved stretch of wall, the remains of a Milecastle and stunning views across the moors. The interactive tours are led by a costumed guide – often Kevin, but sometimes another member of the team – and children can try on a Roman helmet and follow a self-guided story map. Kevin can also organise family bushcraft workshops and tailor-made tours of the area.
• Adults £20, 5- to 15-year-olds £3, under-5s free. wilddogoutdoors.co.uk
Wildlife safaris, Scottish Highlands
Spot red deer, Highland cattle, seals, otters, osprey and eagles on a wildlife safari with guide and photographer Ian MacLeod. Ranging from four hours to a full day, the Wild West minibus tours out of Fort William explore the wildlife of Lochaber and the Ardnamurchan peninsula. Ian’s Big Five safari includes a boat trip on Loch Shiel to look for otters and harbour seals, followed by a road tour in search of red deer, red squirrels and golden eagles. In October, Ian runs safaris to see red deer rutting, and he also offers searchlight trips to spot nocturnal animals such as bats, badgers and pine marten.
• Half-day safaris: adults £35, under-16s £21. Full day Big Five safari with boat trip: adults £80, under-16s £48. wildwest.scot
Viking walk, York
Learn about the deeds of Ivar the Boneless, Eirik Bloodaxe and Harald Hardrada on a stroll through York with Sigwulf (real name, Neil Tattersall). With flowing locks and dressed in full Viking garb, Neil immerses himself in the part and – with a background in performance, martial arts and stage combat – knows a thing or two about how to weave a tale and wield an axe, which should keep most children enthralled on this 75-minute tour around the ancient capital of the north.
• Tours run every Saturday and on demand; most are led by Neil but by other guides occasionally. Adults £6, under-16s £3. northernforge.co.uk
Thames archaeology, London
Dr Fiona Haughey is one of the world’s leading experts on the history of the river Thames. Her “Secret Thames – the Archaeology” tour is a walking history lesson, covering everything from the Roman occupation to London’s secret rivers. “Beachcombing” tours are no longer permitted on the foreshore without a licence, so most of the tour now takes place on the Thames Path. However, Fiona brings along plenty of her own fascinating finds for people to handle – everything from a flint axe to a medieval clay pipe – and at the end of the tour individuals are free to go down onto the foreshore to see what they can find.
• Scheduled dates from April-October from Mansion House tube station, 2 hours. Adults £10, under-15s go free in a family group; no minimum age but best suited to over-9s. Fiona is also available for private bookings. walks.com
Top 10 UK guided walks and tours for families – The Guardian