I’ve lived in Hertfordshire for about eight years now. Over the years I have enjoyed getting to know my new home and exploring all the interesting places to visit in Hertfordshire. Despite its proximity to London, there’s plenty of outdoor space to enjoy in Hertfordshire – not just parks but proper rural areas which stretch for miles.
As we’re likely to be tied to our local areas for a while longer, I decided to compile this list of places to visit in Hertfordshire which takes in museums, parks, places to eat and Hertfordshire places to visit with kids. We’ve visited a great deal of these destinations, but I’ve discovered we have quite a few still to explore. No doubt by the end of 2021 most of them will be ticked off the list.
If I’ve missed any great places to go in Hertfordshire, please drop me a line in the comments below so I can add them to this collection. Happy reading!
Family days out in Hertfordshire
Most of the ideas listed in this article are suitable for families but the places to visit in Hertfordshire detailed here will be particularly popular with children.
If you’re looking for cheap days out in Hertfordshire for kids, fear not – I’ve written a separate post all about free and good value things to do in Hertfordshire for families.
Willows Activity Farm near London Colney
This is one of the best places to visit in Hertfordshire with kids. Despite visiting on a rainy day in December, our boys spent the entire day running around and had a fantastic time. There are lots of different areas to explore – an assault course with wooden climbing frames, a Peter Rabbit play space which is perfect for would-be Mr MacGregors to chase little rabbits through and lots more. There’s also a huge soft play area indoors and regular seasonal events.
The farm part just about got a look in during our visit – there was a bit of rabbit and guinea pig cuddling and a bumpy trip on the tractor-trailer through the fields but otherwise it was all about running wild from the moment we arrived until the moment we left.
If you fancy a free family day out in Hertfordshire, the market town of Berkhamstead is a great little destination to explore.
The town’s motte and bailey Norman castle is a highlight. Although it is now a ruin, Berkhamsted Castle has a long and fascinating history which is likely to capture the imagination of young and old alike. Most notably, following the Battle of Hastings, the Saxons relinquished the crown to William the Conqueror at Berkhamsted Castle.
Over the centuries, the castle was home to various monarchs and noblemen and it was the site of numerous battles. Close to Berkhamsted Castle is the Grand Union Canal, perfect for a waterside walk (there’s also a play area) and a spot of industrial history – the canal runs all the way from London to Birmingham.
Westmill Farm near Ware
Not so much a farm as an outdoor activity centre, Westmill Farm is an ideal destination if you have a family with a wide range of ages and interests. There’s high ropes, Segways, archery and climbing available, plus fishing and golf. In summertime, one of the three lakes has an inflatable assault course and there’s a decent campsite (perfect if, like us, you fancy a staycation or a birthday camping trip for kids close to home) and there’s a glamping area too.
As well as outdoor pursuits, there’s also an indoor soft play area (Woody’s Play Barn) and an excellent art centre called the Art Shed which offers a wide range of brilliant arty activities for everyone. You’ll also find a restaurant near the art centre – with seating indoors and outside.
Paradise Wildlife Park near Broxbourne
Although I’m not a big fan of animals in captivity, this zoo near Broxbourne does a lot to raise vital conservation funds for both UK animals and creatures across the world which are represented at the zoo. Paradise Wildlife Park is definitely one of the most popular places to visit in Hertfordshire for local residents.
Aside from a traditional zoo visit, there are lots of experiences at Paradise Wildlife Park should you wish to make your trip there particularly unique – feeding the lemurs, zoo keeping experiences and even the chance to stay overnight. These all attract an additional charge obviously!
On our visits, we’ve particularly enjoyed the reptile house, and the big cats are a highlight of any trip to the park. There’s also an excellent play area (which my children actually prefer over the animals). And if you fancy a Jurassic Park experience, there’s an impressive animatronic dinosaur section where you can pretend giant pre-historic beasts are gobbling up your children.
Warner Bros Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter, Leavesden
Recommended by Cathy from Mummy Travels
If you’re looking for the most magical day out in Hertfordshire with kids, you simply cannot beat the Warner Bros Studio Tour – or the Harry Potter Studio tour as it’s often known. Transporting you into the wizarding world, it’s the only place where you can find Hogwarts (even if it’s a bit smaller than you expect), as well as dragons, the whomping willow, fantastic beasts galore and countless wonderful props from the films.
Kids can do everything from jumping on a broomstick against a greenscreen to boarding the Hogwarts Express and trying butterbeer, as well as walking through the Forbidden Forest and having a basic wand lesson. For fans, it’s heaven: there’s so much detail in all the items on display that you wouldn’t notice just from watching the movies, and new sections or themed events constantly added.
While it’s unlikely to appeal to toddlers, even younger Harry Potter fans will have a great time, plus it’s cleverly designed so that you can whisk them past some of the scarier bits, including the Dark Arts section and Aragog.
Booking in advance is essential as tickets sell out very quickly, especially during school holidays or at popular times like Halloween and Christmas. And do allow plenty of time: although you could dash around in a couple of hours, you could very easily spend all day – or at least until everyone’s energy runs out. There’s a café on the site as well as space to eat your own picnic. Not far from Watford, with a shuttle bus which runs from the station, it’s only a 20-minute train journey from Euston if you’re combining your visit with a few Harry Potter days out in London too.
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay near the Warner Bros Studios, check out my post about glamping in Hertfordshire which includes a Harry Potter themed glampsite!
The Snow Centre at Hemel Hempstead
If you’re feeling cheated by the lack of snow in the UK, the Snow Centre will provide a proper winter experience with real snow. And it’s not just for skiers looking to polish their skills pre-Alps, there’s sledging for little ones and a special area called the Ringo Slide where you can jump on a rubber ring and zip down the slope. Booking is essential.
Houses and gardens to visit in Hertfordshire
Although known to many for its music events – Queen, Rod Stewart and Oasis have all played here – Knebworth House is also a great day out in Hertfordshire for families.
There’s an excellent dinosaur trail through the woodlands with huge models of the ferocious beasts dotted around for little people to discover. Further away from the main house (families tend to drive between the two areas) is an impressive adventure playground with a big wooden fort and lots of space for picnics. The slides are particularly good fun. This area is surrounded by vast open fields – it’s a lovely setting for an afternoon of play.
The house itself – a Gothic revival mansion – can be visited too. There are guided tours during the week and at weekends the house can be explored independently. There are attractive formal gardens around the house as well as a steep hill which is perfect for kids to roll down.
You can easily spend a whole day at Knebworth, there’s a café near the house and a snack kiosk by the adventure playground. Just bear in mind that Knebworth doesn’t open until 11am so don’t make the mistake I once made of arriving there at 10am. Knebworth shuts for an extended winter break.
Henry Moore Studios and Gardens
The Henry Moore Studios and Gardens has a huge body of this 20th century sculptor’s artwork set across 60 acres of grounds. Some of the pieces are positioned in the gardens, others are located in the surrounding fields. There’s a particularly brilliant sculpture set on a hill quite a distance from the gardens, it’s a great piece to discover.
The Henry Moore Studios and Gardens is one of my favourite places to visit in Hertfordshire and it’s a brilliant destination for families – children can actually touch the bronze sculptures and run around the grounds – very different to a traditional gallery setting. One of my boys has always found it very difficult to resist touching things in museums so the tactile nature of the artwork here is perfect for him.
There are tours around the artist’s former home – Hoglands, and temporary exhibitions are held each year in the indoor gallery spaces which focus on a particular area of Moore’s work.
There’s a café on site and arty events are organised during the school holidays, there’s also a fun trail for kids to follow. The gardens are shut over the wintertime.
Recommended by Kat from Wandering Bird
If you’re enjoying a day out in Hertfordshire, be sure to make time to visit beautiful Hatfield House.
This Jacobean Country house was built around the 17th century by Robert Cecil (Minister to King James I) and has been the family home of the Cecil family ever since.
Before that, the palace which stood on this site was the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth I and King Edward VI and was used as a prison for Queen Mary I. The history you’ll find (and feel) here is incredible.
Inside the house, as well as the opulent rooms and furnishings, you can see items that belonged to Queen Elizabeth I, plus a huge (nearly seven metres) ancestral family tree showing the lineage of the family.
As well as exploring inside the house, be sure to allow time to explore the gardens and ‘Great Park’- covering 42 acres. There are fountains, lakes, orchards, herb gardens and a maze, as well as thousands of trees, plants and flowers. There are several signed walks through the grounds and they allow picnics.
The house is not part of the National Trust or English Heritage, so you will need to pay to visit, but it’s worth every penny to wander through this incredible site. There is plenty of parking, even if you’re on a motorhoming holiday and have a larger vehicle. There’s also a restaurant on site.
The house is only open on specific days and only during the summer, although the woodlands and park open for visitors around Easter.
Benington Lordship is an intriguing place – not least because it’s only open a couple of times a year. The main manor house is of 18th century origins but the estate dates back to Saxon times. In the grounds are the earthworks of a a medieval motte and bailey castle and the ruins of a Norman keep.
Each February visitors are welcomed to the grounds of the house for the annual snowdrop display and then at the end of August there is a chilli festival where locals descend en masse to enjoy everything chilli-related. There are chilli plants for sale (lots of varieties), chilli food and of course a chilli eating contest. The contest is a bit grim with contestants quite literally dropping out – when we were there one year several people ended up in the bushes feeling rather unwell.
During the snowdrop season, refreshments can be purchased and there’s plenty of spicy delights during the chilli festival.
Cheslyn House and Gardens
Hidden away in the north of Watford is this delightful house with surprisingly exotic gardens – perfect for anyone daydreaming about travels further afield. The 3.5 acre property was designed by architect Henry Colbeck and his wife Daisy who filled the gardens with plants they had collected from their extensive travels across the world.
There are plenty of pathways to explore – perfect for children who like to get lost in the outdoors. The gardens also feature a woodland area and a pond – there is plenty of inspiration for any budding gardeners!
When I told my boys we were going to a flower farm last summer they weren’t overly enthusiastic. However, when they discovered they could run up and down the rows up lavender and clamber onto hay bails they soon agreed it was actually a pretty good day out. They even admitted that lavender ice cream is surprisingly tasty.
I was impressed by how tolerant the busy bees were of all this activity but I suppose when you’re surrounded by so much of your favourite food you can ignore all the humans wading through the fields. The lavender farm is rather popular with Instagrammers – it’s a very scenic spot for a photoshoot.
When is the best time to visit Hitchin Lavender Fields? We visited in early July – that vivid purple should look good all through July and into August, but check the website for up to date information.
Shaw’s Corner, near Welwyn
Located in the village of Ayot St Lawrence near Welwyn, this was the home for more than 40 years of playwright George Bernard Shaw. The house was built at the beginning of the 20th century in the arts and crafts style with stained glass windows and hearts cut into the banisters. Shaw was a good friend of William Morris – this is reflected in the choice of furnishings in the house.
Shaw’s Corner is packed with artefacts from the playwright’s life – an Oscar trophy for his screenplay of Pygmalion, a sculpture of Shaw carved by Rodin, and an extensive library. There are of course plenty of everyday objects – everything from toothbrushes to clothing and electric heaters. A visit to Shaw’s Corner offers a fascinating insight into one of the UK’s most significant writers.
Parks in Hertfordshire
Recommended by Anuradha from Country Hopping Couple
Rickmansworth Aquadrome is a public park and an award winning local nature reserve five miles west of Watford.
Spread over 100 acres of land, Rickmansworth Aquadrome consists of three stunning lakes, plenty of walking paths, the Grand Union Canal, wildlife watching, ample car parking space and children’s play areas. One can also indulge in water sports like windsurfing, jet-skiing, sailing or canoeing.
Batchworth Lake is used by a water skiing club that hosts various water skiing events. Adjacent to this is Bury Lake, that hosts Bury Lake Young Mariners dedicated for sailing and canoeing.
Stockers Lake is the largest of the three lakes in Rickmansworth Aquadrome, and is a popular place for bird and wildlife watching. There are designated hides to watch the birds. Herons, coots, terns, geese, grebes, not to forget the ducks and swans, this is a paradise for bird watchers. Spread over 40 hectares, there are as many as 60 species of birds.
The aquadrome is a popular attraction in the area for families and couples. Not only for locals, but visitors from other neighbourhoods visit here to enjoy the open space, canal walks and water sports. Whatever the weather is, a walk along the serene outdoors does lift one’s mood immensely.
The park is open all year long, with free car parking, toilet, café, disabled access and a dog free picnic area. If you are driving, the car park is off Frogmoor Lane in Rickmansworth.
Fairlands Valley Park in Stevenage
This 120 acre park in Stevenage offers a wide range of facilities. There’s a large lake for water sports – kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and sailing. Younger children love the splash park and playground while older kids can enjoy the climbing wall and high ropes course.
Fairlands Valley has plenty of open space for walks and bike rides (there are a few hills) and there are woodlands to explore as well.
Cassiobury Park in Watford
This is a large park right in the centre of Watford. There are two good playgrounds with facilities for children of all areas and also two cafés – each conveniently situated close to one of the play areas. There’s also a children’s splash park and plenty of fields for a game of football or to fly a kite.
A river runs through the park and there’s extensive woodlands (great for bluebells in spring, and conkers in autumn) plus a network of pathways running through it.
Cedars Park in Cheshunt
This is a great day out in Hertfordshire for little children. Cedars Park has lots of flat paved tracks which are perfect for young kids who have just learnt to ride a bike. There’s an excellent café and a really lovely little nature centre where children can stroke a skunk (among other activities) – a particular highlight for my two boys.
The park has royal origins – the Palace of Theobalds, owned by King James I, was once sited here and a few ruins remain today. Cedars Park has been really well maintained and has plenty of keep visitors engaged – including formal gardens and an arboretum.
Aldenham Country Park near Elstree
This country park close to the M25 is a really brilliant destination for families. There’s camping and glamping, a farm to explore and nature trails. The adventure playground has a special time slot for visitors with SEND.
You’ll also find 100 Acre Wood at the country park – children will enjoy hunting for Pooh, Piglet and Tigger.
Aldenham Country Park is a not-for-profit organisation run by the same team as Church Farm in Ardeley.
Lee Valley Regional Park
Stretching across parts of Essex and London as well as Hertfordshire, Lee Valley Regional Park is a vast open space of 10,000 acres. It has been developed over the last 50 or so years to offer local people a green area to enjoy various pursuits.
There’s an extensive range of activities from water-based sports to glamping and camping. It’s an excellent destination for cycling with a dedicated network of trails of varying lengths and plenty of walking routes too.
If you’re visiting the park with children, the sculpture trail is a good place to start – there’s a variety of sculptures dotted along a three mile trail which should keep little ones engaged.
Museums in Hertfordshire
We are lucky to have a really great selection of museums in Hertfordshire. Most towns have their own museum, so I have just included a selection here. For a complete list of local museums, check out the Hertfordshire Museums website.
Tring Natural History Museum
This is a great alternative to London’s Natural History Museum. There’s some excellent exhibits but far fewer visitors. Originally owned by a member of the Rothschild family, it is now run by the main London museum.
There are six galleries displaying everything from dogs to crocs to monkeys. It’s a brilliant destination for families looking for school holiday rainy day activities – the museum organises events for children.
De Havilland Aircraft Museum near London Colney
This independent museum showcases the contribution the De Havilland company made to British aviation. There’s an interesting collection of aircrafts ranging from the 1930s wooden Dragon Rapide passenger aircraft to the World War II Mosquito bomber, and the world’s first jet airliner, the Comet.
The museum is located in the grounds of Salisbury Hall – where the prototype Mosquito was originally developed.
Verulamium Park and Museum in St Albans
St Albans sits on the edge of what was once the third largest Roman city in Britain, Verulamium. Visitors can see the remains of the city walls, the hypocaust (underground heating), mosaic floor and the Roman amphitheatre.
The museum features recreated Roman rooms and interactive zones plus a collection of Roman gold coins which were discovered as recently as 2012 by a metal detectorist. It’s encouraging to know there might still be hidden treasure buried out there somewhere!
The park has a lake and play area as well as sports facilities and a café.
As an aside, if you’re visiting St Albans with Lego fans, there’s a great little Lego shop in the town called Brick Traders where you can make your own mini figures and buy new or second hand sets – or simply gaze at huge completed sets in the window. We have to visit this shop every time we go to St Albans.
If you’re visiting Stevenage for some shopping, it’s worth popping into the town’s museum – it has a particularly good collection of local artefacts and exhibits.
We’ve visited Stevenage Museum a couple of times with our kids and they’ve really enjoyed it. One of the highlights is a section on highwaymen – the main road from London to Cambridge passed close by – there’s a highwayman’s hat and a big carriage wheel. Elsewhere, you can put a would-be criminal in the dock and interrogate them or frighten the kids with a “man trap” – a nasty metal contraption which would have caught poachers on the surrounding estates.
Stevenage Museum also features a 1950s kitchen where younger children can recreate The Tiger Who Came to Tea – the book, the tiger and a tea set are all supplied.
The museum is definitely one of the best places to visit in Hertfordshire for a free rainy day outing.
Unusual places to visit in Hertfordshire
If you’ve already ticked off the main places to visit in Hertfordshire, here are a few off the beaten ideas – including some which I’ve yet to check out.
Located just south of Hertford, this Hertfordshire University observatory is predominantly for teaching students but it does offer open evenings to groups during the winter months. Several years ago, we arranged for a group of families from our village to spend an evening of stargazing at the observatory. The evenings can be tailored to specific age groups and interests.
Puddingstone Gin Distillery
If you’re stuck for gift ideas for your significant other, you could do far worse than buy them a tour of the Puddingstone Gin Distillery – home of Campfire Gin.
Tours of the distillery include a history of gin and how it is produced. There’s a tasting experience with the chance to sample five different gins. I just wish Puddingstone wasn’t located at the other end of Hertfordshire to where I live.
Scotts Grotto in Ware
Scott’s Grotto is such an intriguing place – perfect for anyone, young or old, with a vivid imagination. Built by 18th century poet John Scott, the grotto consists of a series of chambers decorated with stones, shells and coloured glass. Although there is a certain amount of lighting, it’s recommended that you bring a torch to explore the grotto properly.
This little place is definitely one of the most unusual things to do in Hertfordshire. Located on an unassuming residential street in the town of Ware, the house it was built for has since been demolished and it’s now in a little plot of land surrounded by trees and modern houses. It’s only open on Saturday afternoons in summertime so you need to plan ahead if you fancy a visit.
Keeping with the subterranean theme, Royston Cave is another man-made cavern – but a much older one. Said to possibly date back to the Knights Templar in the 12th century, Royston Cave is a beehive-shaped chamber covered in carvings.
Celtic Harmony near Hertford
I have really fond memories of visiting Celtic Harmony with my children – it’s one of the best days out in Hertfordshire for young children who like to be outdoors. This living museum recreates Iron Age life with a collection of round houses and there are lots of crafts and activities for children to get involved in.
Halloween – or Samhain, the Celtic new year – is particularly good fun. There’s broomstick making, archery, a spooky trail through the woodlands and lots more.
There’s even the chance to spend the night at Celtic Harmony – sleeping in a roundhouse – glamping as it was 2,000 years ago!
Amaravati Buddhist Monastery near Hemel Hempstead
Now, here’s one of the places in Hertfordshire which is likely to see a surge in visitors when it re-opens post-lockdown. Meditation and silence are the key practices here – something any home-schooling parent will be longing for.
Home to monks and nuns practicing the Therada form of Buddhism, the monastery welcomes visitors. Amaravati is open from early morning until late evening – although if it’s your first visit the best time to come is at meal time (you’re encouraged to bring a food donation) – around 11am. This will give you the opportunity to chat with some of the residents.
There are meditation workshops every Saturday afternoon and it’s also possible to stay overnight as part of a retreat.
There are family events and events for specific age groups – who’s tempted to send their teenager…?
Whitewebbs Museum of Transport, near Enfield
We love this little museum hidden away near Enfield. I’m sure we’d visit more frequently if it wasn’t for the rather limited opening hours – ensure you check before heading there.
The museum has a surprisingly extensive collection of transport modes – a great range of bicycles, fire engines and even a model railway housed inside an old railway carriage.
There’s a café at Whitewebbs but it’s rather old fashioned – it’s a mug of coffee type of place rather than cappuccino territory. However, there’s plenty of space outside for a picnic.
Whitewebbs is one of those hidden gems which is a delight to discover – particularly with young children.
River swimming in Hertford
If you fancy a swim in the open air, head to Hertford where the rivers Beane and Lea meet in Hartham Common. There’s a lovely wide stretch of the combined rivers which is perfect for wild swimming. It’s wonderfully scenic and on a warm sunny day it feels pretty amazing to be swimming there.
I’ve written a whole article about where to swim outdoors in Hertfordshire: click here to find the best places for an open water swim.
Cromer Windmill near Stevenage
If you like your cultural experiences on the slightly old-fashioned side, you’ll enjoy exploring this 17th century windmill. It’s located in a really picturesque setting, close to the tiny villages of Cromer and Ardeley and surrounded by fields.
There are steep steps leading to the upper floor of the mill, while the ground floor has a short video explaining the history of the windmill. Friendly volunteer guides are on hand with further information.
If you’re looking for good value places to visit in Hertfordshire with little kids, I’ve put together a collection of ideas which don’t cost the earth: free and cheap things to do in Hertfordshire with kids.
Best places to eat in Hertfordshire
We have some fantastic pubs and restaurants in Hertfordshire. I’m lucky to live close to quite a few of them. This is a rather incomplete list, I’m working my way through updating it. By the way, this isn’t so much a list of the most exclusive places to dine at – it’s simply a selection of places which I think deserve a special mention for one reason or another!
The Lussmanns chain of restaurants: St Albans, Hitchin, Hertford and Harpenden
Until lockdown hit, we really enjoyed eating at our local branch of Lussmanns in Hertford. It’s one of those places where the waiters really know the food and the wine and you can trust their judgement. Everything I’ve eaten at Lussmanns has been delicious.
Enjoy a pub lunch in Braughing
As is often the way in English villages, the tiny settlement of Braughing (pronounced Braffing) has a particularly good ratio of pubs to residents. There’s three to choose from in Braughing: the Axe and Compasses, the Brown Bear and the Golden Fleece. They all serve very good food.
The village and surrounding countryside is lovely for walking if you need to work up an appetite (or work off a pudding). And there’s a funny tradition in this village: on 2nd October the locals celebrate Old Man’s Day commemorating the funeral of a local chap who turned out not to be dead on the way to his service. He was woken from his deep slumber by one of the pallbearers who slipped on some leaves on the pathway, dropping the coffin. Each year, local children sweep the roads of leaves in his memory.
Pizzas and football at the Cricketers in Weston, near Stevenage
This is such an idyllic place to enjoy a summer’s afternoon in Hertfordshire. The Cricketers has a huge garden – there’s a great climbing frame and a football pitch – yes you read that correctly – plus lots of tables spread out across the spacious lawns. The pizzas are very good but it’s the setting which we really love.
The Tilbury, Datchworth
This is one of our local pubs and it has been pulling out all the stops during lockdown to bring posh pub nosh to people’s homes – you can even order cocktails to take away.
Seafood often features on the menu at the Tilbury as well as plenty of pub classics and it has a kids’ menu too.
If you’re looking for a pub in Hertfordshire to visit with your kids, you’re in luck – I’ve compiled a list of family friendly pubs in Hertfordshire for you to work your way through.
And if you fancy afternoon tea in Hertfordshire, I’ve got that covered too – I’ve compiled a list of 49 places (at the last count!) ranging from vintage tea rooms to luxury hotels.
Places to walk in Hertfordshire
As well as the various places in Hertfordshire to visit which I’ve recommended above, there are plenty of other wild and rural places to walk in Hertfordshire. I’ve written about autumn walk in Hertfordshire and where to find bluebells in Hertfordshire on the blog, but here’s a few of my favourite places for a stroll.
Panshanger Park, near Hertford
Panshanger is a place we regularly return to for walks, although we have had to give it a wide birth during lockdown as it’s been so busy. It is a huge space – one thousand acres – brilliant for cycling, walking and picnicking. Previously a quarry, it is now being maintained as a nature reserve by the Wildlife Trust and plans are afoot to provide a café and toilet facilities in the future.
Highlights of Panshanger include bluebell woods in spring and blackberries galore at the end of summer. The woods are great for den building and the fields are perfect for cycling and long walks. There are several lakes which attract a multitude of dragonflies and birdlife in the summer.
Towards the far end of the park is an ancient oak tree. Apparently it is the oldest maiden oak in the country. If, like me, you have no idea what that means, I’ll explain. Many of the old trees in our country were pollarded (and still are) – the upper trunk and branches are removed for timber and the tree regrows from what remains – pollarded trees can be identified by their short trunks and low branches. A maiden tree is one which has not been pollarded so its trunk grows much higher before its boughs appear. It is said that the Panshanger oak was planted by Queen Elizabeth I, making it over 400 years old.
Heartwood Forest near St Albans
A more recent planting exercise has been undertaken at Heartwood Forest near St Albans. Although there are sections of ancient woodland here, the majority of Heartwood is newly planted, creating the largest new native woodland in the country.
There are lots of walking, cycling and horse riding trails of varying distances, some designed specifically for children. In spring, one of the established woodland areas is carpeted with bluebells while summertime brings wildflowers to the meadows.
Heartwood is a massive and impressive undertaking, definitely worth exploring. There are no facilities so bring a picnic.
Broxbourne Woods Sculpture Trail
We love this woodland – the Broxbourne Woods Sculpture Trail is perfect for young children who need something to encourage them to walk that little bit further. Older kids enjoy the area for den building and it’s also perfect for longer walks and cycling. Broxbourne Woods is a National Nature Reserve and there are trails of up to 17 kilometres.
There’s around nine sculptures to find along the trail – including a Roman soldier, foraging wild boars and a brilliant metal sculpture of a stag. They all relate to the local area either environmentally or historically (or both) – the Roman road from London to York passed close by Broxbourne and wild boar used to inhabit the woodlands.
Although there are no facilities at Broxbourne Woods, there are plenty of good pubs close by. Take a look at my blog post about the best family friendly pubs in Hertfordshire for a full list.
Ashridge Estate, near Tring
The National Trust Ashridge Estate is a huge area of woodland and meadows in the Chiltern Hills with that essential café in which to grab a bite to eat and a coffee. Bikes are welcome – Ashridge stretches over 5,000 acres so there’s plenty of space for walkers, cyclists, dogs and horses.
Our favourite time to visit the Ashridge Estate is in spring when the woods are filled with bluebells.
Looking for other places for a springtime walk? Read my post about where to find bluebells in Hertfordshire.
Across the border….
We only have two National Trust places to visit in Hertfordshire but there’s a few really great places close by. Just over the border into Essex is the brilliant Hatfield Forest – a huge area of woodland, fields and lakes along with a great little café.
Just north of Herts in Cambridgeshire is the impressive Wimpole Estate which is great for long walks across the fields – there’s a ruined folly hidden away on a hill which is worth seeking out. Our kids loved the play area outside the café.
And my other National Trust recommendation close by is Dunstable Downs in the Bedfordshire Chilterns– it has to be one of the best kite flying destinations in the country.
Additional outdoor places to visit in Hertfordshire
As well as the places detailed above, there are of course an almost endless list of beautiful outdoor places to visit in Hertfordshire. Instead of listing all of them here, below are some links which you should find helpful.
Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust – this details all of the nature reserves in Hertfordshire. We have lots of favourite spots near us which are perfect for walks of varying lengths. There’s a useful map function on the site to give you an overview of where all the various reserves are.
Woodland Trust – similar to the Wildlife Trust, you can search for woods to walk in near where you live – there are lots of little pockets of woodland which you can find on the map. Some are established with a dedicated car park while others require more creative ways of accessing them. If you’ve exhausted all the well known spots in your area, this is a great resource for finding new places to explore.
RSPB nature reserves – there’s only one RSPB nature reserve in Hertfordshire – Rye Meads. But there are other reserves worth visiting not far over the border into the neighbouring counties. Again, there’s a map search function to help you choose.
Herts Garden Trust – this charity researches and protects historical parks in Hertfordshire. Some of the destinations I’ve mentioned above feature on the website but there’s quite a few others too. The website also has a section on Hertfordshire walks.
Parks Herts – this is a really useful website detailing all of the parks in Hertfordshire. You can search by various themes – family, cycle, picnic and so forth. It’s a brilliant resource for anyone looking for a green space in Hertfordshire.
Prompted by the need to find places to meet my family and friends outdoors during the pandemic, I’ve also written an article about places to visit outdoors which covers sculpture parks, open air museums, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Nature Reserves. This is a countrywide article.
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Hertfordshire, I’ve compiled a list of glamping sites – some rustic, some rather luxurious – all in beautiful parts of the county.
I’ve written a similar article to this one about things to do in Hertfordshire, so if you can’t find what you’re looking for here, do check that out for more ideas.
Do you live in Hertfordshire? Where are your favourite places to visit in Hertfordshire? Let me know in the comments below.