18 ideas for summer vacations in Hertfordshire
Whether it’s family ideas for school holidays or a memorable getaway for two, here’s a selection of ideas for outings to make the most of summer in Hertfordshire.
Among the 70 acres of gardens and fields surrounding Henry Moore’s former home in the village of Perry Green are more than 20 of his monumental bronze sculptures. Take in the show before cooling off in the studios, gallery, and cafe. For more British artwork outdoors, take a guided tour of the University of Hertfordshire Sculpture Walk.
Thousands of people come to Therfield Health to see the colorful skies at the Royston Kite Festival. There are demonstrations of professional kites and you can participate by bringing your own or the kids can build a kit. On dry land there is children’s entertainment and a classic vehicle show. Bring a picnic or take advantage of the food stalls. Takes place on Sunday, August 7.
Summer wouldn’t be the same without strawberries and cream. Pick your own at Graveley Fruit Farm before afternoon tea in the cafe while the little ones enjoy the play area. Cammas Hall Farm near Bishop’s Stortford grows a range of PYOs. There’s a farm shop, nature trail, multiple food options, and you can (temporarily) lose the kids in the corn maze.
day at the mill
The picturesque 18th century watermill on the River Lea in Hatfield offers exhibitions and events throughout the summer. Its Live @ the Mill program includes folk music, a male chorus and a female barber chorus. For the little ones there is a fun Teddy Bear day on August 25th. See Mill Green Mill in action and bring home freshly ground flour to make your own bread.
Take a boat
Experience life at a more leisurely pace aboard a boat. Lee Valley Boat Center in Broxbourne hires a wide range, while at Cow Roast in Tring you can hire a narrow boat for the day, and Waterways Experiences offer day trips on the Grand Union Canal from Nash Mills, Hemel. Be more active at Stanborough Park in Welywn where you can kayak, pedalo, paddleboard or sail.
leevalleyboats.co.uk, houseboat daily/house rental, wexp.org.uk/boat-trips, better.org.uk
Sink into a sun lounger and spend a lazy Sunday afternoon listening to music played on the beautiful Bandstand in Watford’s Cassiobury Park. The summer program of free shows includes swing, brass and gospel. There are also music, mantra and meditation sessions. The restored park includes paddling pools, natural areas and cafes.
Immerse yourself in the county’s rich history in a stately home. The splendid Jacobean Hatfield House displays the famous rainbow portrait of Elizabeth I among its many treasures – she grew up in the old palace next door. Or walk through 500 years of history at Knebworth House. It has hosted Dickens, Churchill and some of rock’s greatest bands. Hatfield and Knebworth have lovely gardens and grounds to explore.
If the family is up for a challenge, race the rapids at the Lee Valley White Water Centre. As well as rafting on the 2012 Olympic course, there’s hydrospeed and the more sedate canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding. Those who don’t want to get wet can watch the action at the Terrace Bar and Café.
go on tv
An immersive outdoor experience brings kids TV to life as kids enter the world of Nickelodeon TV. They can find their superpowers at superhero school The Thundermans or get into an episode of Henry Danger, race against time to solve the Hunter Street Escape Room or meet Chase and Marshall from PAW Patrol. The Nickelodeon Experience August 14-27 at Knebworth House.
Entrance to paradise
Broxbourne’s Paradise Wildlife Park is home to big cats, meerkats and…dinosaurs. With mammals, primates, reptiles, birds and cats, Broxbourne Zoo offers a world tour of wildlife. There are talks, experiments, adventure playgrounds and the impressive animatronic world of dinosaurs. The PWP also plays an important role in global conservation.
Looks like it was just released, the home of George Bernard Shaw is a fascinating time capsule. The great playwright lived at Shaw’s Corner in Ayot St Lawrence for over 40 years. See his revolving writing shack, Rodin’s bust, and the Oscar for My Fair Lady. The rooms are welcoming but reflect his many interests and famous friends. The National Trust offers guided tours, there are often readings and you can have tea in the orchard.
Climb the winding steps of St Albans Clock Tower for the best views in town. Its 600-year-old bell first rang during the Wars of the Roses and today it is the last remaining medieval belfry in England. Open on weekends until September. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, have lunch at one of St Albans’ many restaurants or picnic in the Cathedral’s Vintry Garden or lakeside in Verulamium Park.
Fancy something a little different from a countryside stroll? The Grove Hotel in Chandler’s Cross offers instructor-led Segway experiences through the trails of Asher’s Wood. No license is required for the battery-powered self-balancing two-wheeler. Archery and laser clay pigeon shooting sessions are also available.
On your bike
Get on your bike and explore our beautiful country. If yours rusts in the shed, Lee Valley Canoe Cycle in Broxbourne offers rentals. Pedal along the Léa towpath and enjoy all that nature has to offer along the canal. Alternatively, take a trip to Lee Valley Regional Park. Tandems, companions, children’s bikes and seats can also be hired.
time for tea
A quintessential British summer activity that should take up the whole afternoon is afternoon tea. Dine al fresco on The Manor’s terrace, Elstree overlooking the gardens and with stunning views of the capital, or in the exotically refurbished restaurant, Omboo, at St Albans’ Sopwell House, or in the fabulous former Wernhers’ house, Luton Hoo near Harpenden.
themanorelstree.co.uk, sopwellhouse.co.uk, lutonhoo.co.uk
To the lakes
Rickmansworth Aquadrome covers over 100 acres made up of three large lakes – created by quarrying gravel for the original Wembley Stadium – meadows and woodland. As well as waterskiing, canoeing and sailing, there are walks along the Grand Union Canal and the River Colne. The beauty spot is also a local nature reserve.
See these magnificent men in their flying machines – well, just the machines, although the volunteers are great – at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. The London Colney site features historic aircraft from the former de Havilland de Hatfield factory, including fighters, jet airliners and trainers. A celebration of Herts’ major contribution to aviation history.
Ashridge Estate Walk
With 80 miles of designated trails through woodland, meadows and lowlands, the National Trust’s Ashridge estate near Berkhamsted offers walkers and cyclists the chance to truly get away from it all. There are also marked trails – the old treetop walk and woodland walk start and end at the Bridgewater Monument with views for miles. There are activities for children every day until August 31.
An expanded version of this list appears in the current edition of Hertfordshire Life Magazine, now available.