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Family-friendly things to do in Devon

PUBLISHED: 12:28 31 July 2014 | UPDATED: 17:20 21 May 2015

Penguins are one of the many animals children can see at Living Coasts Zoo

Penguins are one of the many animals children can see at Living Coasts Zoo


Looking for ways to keep the children entertained during the school holidays? Here are three family-friendly activities in Devon to occupy children of all ages.

The Red Squirrel Encounter is one of the highlights at Escot ParkThe Red Squirrel Encounter is one of the highlights at Escot Park

Escot Park | Ottery St Mary

Visitors to Escot Park, near Ottery St Mary, can’t fail to notice the Red Squirrel Encounter, which was opened to highlight the plight of this iconic British mammal. Since the North American grey squirrel was introduced to Britain in the late 19th century, its rapid spread has been accompanied by a corresponding decline in the red squirrel population,

With its larger-than-life interpretation boards and daily talks by Escot’s Nature Rangers, the walk through Red Squirrel Enounter is designed to bring to visitors’ attention the seriousness of the situation now facing the red squirrel. It also, of course, provides sanctuary from contact with greys.

The River Tale runs through Escot on its way to join the River Otter at Ottery St Mary, and the Estate works closely with the Tale Valley Trust (TVT) to conserve this beautiful part of East Devon.

Another species facing rapid population decline is the water vole, due to growing numbers of mink - a fierce predator. Research suggests that water vole and mink can co-exist where there is sufficient suitable habitat and it now appears that the Tale’s water voles are thriving, despite the occasional visits from the mink.

The Alpaca Park | Beaworthy

For a unique family-friendly visitor experience head to The Alpaca Park to see the animals graze on this stunning nature reserve which is open from April to September.

Visitors to The Alpaca Park can see the animals up close during the woodland walkVisitors to The Alpaca Park can see the animals up close during the woodland walk

Visitors can discover the two-mile riverside trail that showcases Devon at its most natural with wetlands, woodlands and a live badger sett along its path. There are also shorter walks, in particular the newly opened Lakeworthy Woods, a young broadleaved tree area which has a terrace for you to sit and relax in whilst watching the lakeside wildlife. No visit would be complete without a visit to Russell’s Tearoom, serving scones made fresh to order. Visitors return year after year just to experience a proper Devon Cream Tea or to choose from the small, carefully crafted menu.

Those looking for a more sedate experience can enjoy the Park Safari that takes in the home paddocks, the Lakeworthy Woods, the gardens and part of the woodland that shows the spectacular stained glass archway. The tour provides visitors with an experienced driver who will share their knowledge of The Park, its history and of course, the alpacas with you.

The Park also offers a rescue and re-homing sanctuary for alpacas in need whose fleeces go on to help make luxurious duvets and pillows. There is a small onsite shop for you to peruse the raw fleeces and variety of wools, some mixed with silk and cotton. Other goods such as the duvets and pillows, soft toys, and gifts can be found plus willing assistants to answer any questions you may have about The Park.

Living Coasts Zoo & Aquarium | Torquay

Torquay’s Coastal Zoo and Aquarium opened to the public in July 2003. The location - abandoned for many years - has gone from eyesore to landmark and in 11 years Living Coasts has developed into an award-winning small zoo and aquarium.

Penguins are one of the many animals children can see at Living Coasts ZooPenguins are one of the many animals children can see at Living Coasts Zoo

A lot has happened in its first 11 years. The key change has been the addition of the underground aquarium, so that the site can host a variety of creatures from geckos and guillemots to puffins and penguins.

The diving with penguins experience was introduced in 2011, the first in the UK and despite participants needing a diving qualification, interest has been high. In the wild it is hard to get this close up to penguins in the water.

Living Coasts is around 50% under cover, meaning the site is still a great place to visit on a wet day. In 2012 they opened two new exhibits, one for otters and one for native seahorses - resulting in over 100,000 visitors to the site throughout the year.

Living Coasts has a lot going for it: free-ranging penguins, a skilled and experienced staff, a strong education message, the unique penguin dive experience, a great view of the bay and a reputation as an urban, wet-weather animal attraction.


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