baby and toddler activities, festivals and events

Arnprior Pumpkins

An autumn event which I’ve been eager to attend for a few years now is the Arnprior Pumpkins event on Arnprior farm, just outside Stirling. I’d passed the farm many times when travelling to uni (longer ago than I’d like it to be), so it’s great to see the farm offer something for the community and wider public, and even better to watch this event bloom and grow over the last few years.

Welcome-to-arnprior-pumpkins

What’s on offer?
As the title suggests, there are a lot of pumpkins. Essentially a pumpkin picking trip, Arnprior Pumpkins has evolved over the years, to a full scale event with food, beverage and more family friendly activities. Plus it’s a super insta experience for those who have an eye for the ‘gram.

This year, in addition to the pumpkin picking and selfie hotspots (there are hay sofas, selfie frames, giant letters and pumpkins with face holes specifically for snapping, never mind anything else) there was a kale maze, encouraging kids to explore and find the hidden pumpkins within it. Unfortunately it was far too muddy when we went (on the first day too!) And if it had been sticky mud we would have been fine but it was soooooo slippy and dad only had trainers on!

Arnprior-pumpkins-selfies

Plus the veg picking has expanded from pumpkins of all shapes and sizes to potato picking, and the chance to pull your own turnip too!

There are hot food and beverage stalls catering for hot drinks, gin drinks, burgers, pizza and churros. On the subject of food, there’s also a bakers stall in the tent and a table selling fresh farm produce.

Inside the tent is where you pay for your pumpkin, and on the way to the till there are various craft tables, with the opportunity to colour in pumpkins, create puppets and make your own badges to take home. Around the crafty areas there are stalls of handmade items such as halloween decorations, candles and more autumnal goodies. Handily, there are also pumpkin carving sets on offer for a couple of pounds too.

How much does it cost?
Entry is £5 per car, so great value if you want to go as a family. The fiver also gives you a token towards the cost of a pumpkin, meaning if you choose a small pumpkin its essentially free. Pumpkins range in price from a tiny munchkin at £1.50 to a big daddy xl at £12. We opted for a medium (still pretty big!) and a carving set, costing us a further £5.

Arnprior-pumpkins-price-list

Prices for food and drink stalls vary, starting at a couple of pounds for a hot chocolate. Other picking veg ranges from £1.50 to £4, whilst the quad pod rides are just £1 per child.

When can I go?
The tickets are selling out fast, but there are three sessions per day on the weekends throughout the month, plus weekday sessions throughout half term. For those without kids (how did you end up here?) or of a more romantic persuasion, there’s also a date night session, but you might be lucky to get a space. Check out the Arnprior Pumpkins ticket site for more information and to book your car ticket.

arnprior-pumpkins-with-toddlers-pin

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baby and toddler activities, Free things to do with toddlers

Briarlands Farm

Another in my series of free things to do for toddlers, Briarlands Farm is the ideal all-round winner for amusing, educating and burning off some energy in your toddler. Located off the A84 near Stirling, it’s a countryside adventure a world away from the city.

Briarlandsfarm isn’t your average working farm of sheep, cows etc in a field. Yes, there’s that, but there’s also so much more to see and do. The farmland has clearly been set up as a family and tourist attraction, and has been invested in over the years. The most notable of the kids attractions is the massive bouncing pillows, which tend to pop up on any newsfeed or photo collection of anyone who’s ever visited. These giant pillows are like a cross between bouncy castles and trampolines and cause no end of amusement for kids.

The basics

In comparison to Blairdrummond Safari Park right next door, Briarlands Farm is an absolute steal to visit. Kids under 3 are free, and for adults the cost is just £5.75 to enter. Children aged 2 to 16 are £7.75 to enter, which struck me as odd at first as it’s more expensive than adults, but actually, the farm is set up for children to partake and enjoy more than adults so I guess it makes sense? If you prefer just to visit the tearoom, it’s free to visit, and if you’re within season, you can go strawberry picking for £6.75 a kilo.

We were advised of the times of the tractor rides, which cost an additional £1 per person, and the times of the animal handling sessions, which are free, however you can purchase bags of feed for 50p to feed all of the animals if you wish. We were also given a paper wristband (to separate us from the tearoom-only guests) and a map outlining the different animal fields and attractions, and where to find them.

It’s worth noting that we took Travis without a pushchair, and he was 21 months old at the time if that gives you any sort of comparison for your child. We also only stayed just over 3 hours, though you could easily spend all day there so a buggy might be advisable for nap times

What to expect

It’s fair to say that the map leads you to believe the area of Briarlands Farm is going to be much larger than it is. It definitely covers a decent amount of space, but you can see most of the site from pretty much any of the locations, as everything is designed in quite an open way. Plus there’s a path right around the farm, which makes it easy to navigate with a pushchair or pram.

Don’t expect a stereotypical farm day out with a barn, field and pen of animals and token playpark on the side, as this just isn’t what Briarlands is about. The focus here is fun in the fresh air, and whilst that involves seeing the animals, feeding them and learning about them, it’s also as much about play.

Some of the play is farm related – for instance a big bales of hay to climb (or it might be a hay fort?) and there’s a real tractor that kids can sit in and pretend to drive. However there’s loads of great other outdoor play such as plenty of climbing frames and slides, along with go karts, sandpits, mazes, football golf, archery and mini diggers to keep the kids amused all day. Plus this year the farm added some new springer toys and swings to keep things fresh and give kids of all ages something to do.

In terms of the farm aspect, visitors are encouraged to feed the animals (bags of feed cost 50p each) as they make their way around the field viewing the animals and finding out their names. There’s also an animal handling barn, in which you are allowed to pick up and pet the soft furries such as gerbils and bunny rabbits, thought the lambs are usually up for a bit of a pet too. The handling sessions are held at set times, outlined to visitors on the day, and the staff give a talk about the animals too. For a more in-depth understanding of the farm, there are tractor rides which run at several times throughout the day. It costs £1 extra per person to go on the trailer (petrol doesn’t pay for itself!) which takes you on a guided tour round the outer edge of the farm.

Expect to prepare for a typical outdoor day – we seen some kids with wellies on despite it being a warm July day when we visited! And remember your child will likely be climbing on frames, and possibly treading through muckier ground depending on the time of year.

Unlikely mum verdict

I honestly can’t fault this as a top place to take your toddler, and think it’s great value for money for adults too. Travis had so much fun all day and loved being able to go between the animals and play areas. The farm is definitely kitted up for kids of all ages, with toddlers like Travis able to enjoy the under 7s inflatable pillow, small cars, sandpits, smaller climbing frames and slides, and of course a shot in the big tractor! I have genuinely never seen a happier child in a tractor than Travis!

We were quite lucky to visit on a dry summers day, so were able to wander around freely in shorts, t-shirts and trainers, but obviously waterproofs and wellies are advisable for the unpredictable Scottish weather! The tearoom was bustling as we visited in the height of summer, but the food was good and the service was fast too. The tearoom uses local and homemade produce – Travis absolutely devoured his jam sandwich made from Briarlands Farm’s very own strawberries.

It’s worth noting that the tractor ride was particularly busy as we visited during the Scottish school holidays, but there is a notice that says the tractor will come round again until everyone that was waiting gets a shot. As we have an impatient toddler, we opted out of the tractor ride on this occasion. We also didn’t manage to go strawberry picking as unfortunately they were in between crops to pick, which just means we will have to revisit before the summer is out!

We spent just over 3 hours there and there were still things (like the tractor and strawberries) we didn’t manage to do – we didn’t even get any feed for the animals! – and yet we still explored so much and Travis had so much enjoyment from the place. We will definitely need to go back, either for a longer day, or for another afternoon to complete the whole Briarlands experience.

Main points

  • Children under 3 free. Kids 3-16 £7.75 which is more expensive than adults at £5.75
  • Numerous additional extras, such as animal feed (50p), tractor ride tour (£1) and selected amusements (£1)
  • Strawberry picking available throughout summer for £6.75/kilo
  • Family-friendly with a pushchair-friendly path around the farm
  • Lots of play frames and entertainment for toddlers

Briarlands-farm-toddler-activities

loch-lomond-faerie-trail-free-toddler-activity
baby and toddler activities, Parenting

Loch Lomond Faerie Trail

Loch Lomond Faerie Trail is one of the first in my series of free activities for toddlers. For more information on the series, and why I’m doing it, see this post.

As the title suggests, Loch Lomond Faerie Trail is situated on the bonny banks of Loch Lomond – just outside of Luss, Scotland. It’s a wonderful wee place in its own right, with claims to fame (if you’re old enough to remember TV soap Take the High Road), breathtaking views, and plenty of places to eat and drink. In a past life I worked in the village so have all the tourist info to spout, if you want to know any more!

The Faerie Trail is a relatively new attraction to these parts – it opened in mid-2018. I felt Travis was too young to go then, as he was barely walking at this point. Although the guide advises the trail isn’t a pushchair-friendly walk, there weren’t many parts that seemed a challenge for a buggy – as long as you’re comfortable bumping up a few steps at the beginning of the trail. So if you have babies and toddlers, it could be an ideal way to get fresh air and keep a toddler amused. It’s worth noting that when walking the trail with a pram, you might want an all-terrain pushchair or to avoid it in the winter/wetter days as it’s still very much natural woodland you explore for a chunk of the walk.

The basics

Loch Lomond Faerie Trail cost us just £6 to take part in. I’m assuming this is broken down into £3 for adults as we were told Travis didn’t need to pay. However, this also meant that he didn’t get the accompanying activity book for the trail. This was fine with us, because at only 20 months old, he was still a bit young to pay that much attention or take in any of the activities. Both parents were given the booklets (and pencils!) though, which contains the trail map at the back, directions to each stop on the trail, and a series of activities to take part in as you go. These range from interacting with the stop points to fill-the-blanks, drawing and some information and rhymes about faeries! For us, this was definitely worth the entry fee – as adults we might not have made much of it ourselves but it was a good way to ensure you take in each stop on the trail and get little imaginations going. For a child to make the most of the booklet, I’d probably recommend waiting until they are 3+ (so unfortunately will be subject to paying!)

We also each got wristbands for the trail, and at the purchase point (a food van at the moment as their premises had recently been burnt down, though they are working to get this back up and running) there was the opportunity to buy faerie memorabilia, like a faerie door, faerie dust etc. I’m sure there will be more of a gift shop again once the premises is reopened.

We were advised that the trail was about 2 miles long, which again was the perfect length for us to take Travis without a buggy. He is a confident walker but obviously 2 miles is quite a distance to go on little legs! We were actually surprised at how much of the walk he managed to do himself without wanting to be carried – a testament to the attraction itself.  It took us about an hour and a half to complete, though we didn’t stop too long at each point as we didn’t complete all of the activities within the booklet. To make the most of the day, and with bigger toddlers or older children, I’d say give yourself 2 hours to enjoy the trail.

What to expect

The trail takes you over and under a main road, through a glen and back down again, so be prepared in terms of footwear and travel system (buggy etc). There aren’t any particularly steep points, aside from the steps you climb to go up to the overpass to get started on the trail. However there is a section which takes you down into an old quarry, which is probably the steepest any climbs/declines get, but the main thing to note is there is still a lot of loose slate from the quarry here so be careful with your footing.

Expect a lot of magic and wonder, as the organisers of this trail really have thought of it all! From little faerie doors that act as markers along the way, to incorporating the tooth fairy, fairy godmother etc, you’ll have loads to see and plenty of picture opps. Your child can enjoy posing as a faerie, exploring the faerie library and more. I don’t want to ruin the magic of all of the stops but it’s certainly not a boring trail, and even just from a nature point of view, there’s loads of beautiful scenery from babbling brooks to fresh flowers and views of the lush, green glen. This is of course if you visit on a sunnier day, which can’t be guaranteed!

One thing I would suggest is bringing along some pennies, as there are a lot of pennies at the faerie doors and your little one might want to place their own and make a wish.

Unlikely Mum verdict

I would definitely recommend this activity for toddler mums. It’s not too expensive for adults and it fills up most of your morning or afternoon. In the summer, it’s definitely feasible to do the trail with a pushchair too, so can still be a good activity for kids who can’t yet walk or aren’t yet confident walkers, or for parents who have a toddler and baby. With 20 stops along the way, it’s certainly enough to keep little brains (and adult ones!) engaged without getting distracted, and I have to say the organisers have thought of everything. For me, another main draw is that once you have done the trail once, with your map and guide, you are free to return to the trail any time and do it all again at no cost, as everything is within a public walking space. I know Travis will be just as enchanted if we visit again in 6 months, and maybe even more so as he grows and develops, so we will just need to keep those guide books in a safe place!

Main points:

  • Price – £3 adults, £4 for 3+ and infants/toddlers free*
  • Pushchair friendly – yes, but one stairway at the start of the trail
  • Length – 2 miles walk or about 2 hours to complete with a little legs
  • Additions/extras – includes a map and activity book, there’s a gift shop to buy faerie memorabilia at the end

*Although there’s a charge for adults and older kids, you could revisit the walk again at any point without paying (as long as you remember your map and the route!)

Loch-lomond-faerie-trail-toddler-activities