Take the High Road – 10 things to do by the M1

Take the High Road – 10 things to do by the M1

OK – so not exactly by the M1, but all these fantastic activities are all close to the M1 and what better way to amble up (or down) the country by taking in some hidden gems along the way.

Starting in the South at Junction 5 we come to Aldenham Country Park – just 3 miles from the junction and still inside the M25. With a farm and and parkland to explore, as well as play areas, harnessed tree climbing and its very own 100 Aker wood, Aldenham Country Park rewards both families and couples alike. With plenty of snack options on offer and free entrance to much of the park, the £4.50 parking fee looks good value. There is a charge for the farm however but at only £3 per adults and children over 3, as well as a family ticket for £10, it’s an affordable afternoon out.

Moving just south of Milton Keynes and we arrive at Junction 12, and are following the signs to Woburn village. Woburn Abbey and the home of the Duke & Duchess of Bedford – Woburn Abbey. The family still live at the abbey but with 3000 acres of deer park it’s unlikely that you’ll bump into them. Whilst it’s OK for kids, beyond the perfectly delightful sensory area and Folly, there’s little else specifically aimed at the kids. Therefore more of a couple’s retreat for strolling around the beautiful surrounds or an afternoon with the senior members of the family. Great teas and scones on hand entry for adults £14.50, children £7.25, under 3s free, family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) £35.50; gardens and deer park, adults £6.50, children £3.75.

Into what is officially the Midlands now and the Manor Farm Shop & Tearoom in Catthorpe, Junction 19. Putting the sight of the roadworks out of your mind as you slip into the countryside, you’ll find a family run farm shop selling a range of very local, and some less so local but equally high quality produce. Out back there’s a delightful terrace should the weather be kind as well as some sheep, horses and pigs to visit. Pick your own fruit is on hand as well as serving as a starting point for some of the UK’s best kept scenic walks.

Just up the motorway and passing Leicester at Junction 21a is Kirby Muxloe Castle. An unfinished masterpiece after the owner was beheaded for treason in 1483, the kids will love tearing around the grounds. However, no food or amenities are on hand and so it’s a good excuse to visit the local pub, the Royal Oak Inn with great food and a children’s menu. Adults £3.70, children (5-15) £2.20

On the edge of the Derbyshire Dales at Junction 29 we find Hardwick Hall, the former home of Bess of Hardwick, an Elizabethan woman who was rumoured to be richer than Elizabeth I during her various marriages. 400 years after her death and this home is still a standout location. There’s plenty to do for the families and other travellers and to be honest it’s tricky to spend just the day here. Plenty of quality food options to boot and good value entry for what you get in return. Parking £3 (access to parkland, restaurant and shop); house and gardens, adults £14, children £7, family (2 adults and 2 children) £35; closed Mondays and Tuesdays

Into the North now and at Junction 31 we arrive at Rother Valley Country Park. There’s bike rides, jet skis & windsurfing as well as more sedate activities to enjoy such as a pedal boat, rowing boat or canoe. An adventure playground and miniature railway are the icing on the cake for families, and if you aren’t tempted by the food options personal BBQ’s are also permitted. Free entrance all year round, car parking just £3.50

At Junction 37 there’s more on offer than just Barnsley. Wentworth Castle is just 2 miles away, boasting 26 listed buildings and monuments on the estate. The main house is now privately operated but the grounds are open for kids to explore various ruins as well as the play area. Good food and local beers on offer as well. Adults £6.50, children (3-16) £3.25

Now just a short hop up one junction to Yorkshire Sculpture Park at Junction 38. With 500 acres of parkland this is a far cry from many art galleries, with various pieces scattered around begging to be explored. An accompanying app feeds imaginations further and there’s various food a drink options all over the park. Great value as entrance is free, although parking can range from £2.50-£8.00

Our final destination is technically at the end of the M1 before it turns into the A1(M). At Junction 47 you’ll find Lotherton Hall just 2 miles from the turn-off. Children can enjoy the unique activity of dressing up in the many costumes on offer and there are beautifully presented gardens, nature trails & woodlands for the adults to take in on a stroll. Food options are limited but there are snacks available. Adults £5, children £2.50, family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) £15


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