Innovative, educational and joyfully interactive: could sculpture parks be the best way to enjoy art with kids?
Open air art displays have been around globally for hundreds of years and are something we can easily take for granted in creative cities like London. Whether you're in the capital or beyond, the UK is home to some of the world's most renowned sculpture gardens. They're a delight to explore with kids, where even the most reluctant gallery-goers will be mesmerised by the monumental works of art.
Outdoor adventure with a healthy dash of culture -- not to mention being largely free and natural socially-distanced - sculpture parks might just be your perfect summer break solution.
Sculpture In The City - London
Every summer London's Square Mile is transformed into a free public art trail, featuring artists from around the world and the most innovative sculptures that mirror the capital's diverse and pioneering art scene. This summer sees Sculpture in the City's ninth exhibition, featuring 21 pieces from the likes of Nina Saunders, Nathan Coley, Nancy Rubins and more. An explosive celebration of the natural world, 'Crocodylius Philodendrus' on Lime Street is a must-see for animal lovers, and we love the futuristic neon signage in Leadenhall Market by Shaun C. Badham and Patrick Tuttofuoco.
If you are planning to visit any of the pieces in their ninth edition this summer, Sculpture in the City ask that you follow COVID-19 social distancing measures and ensure public transport is safe to use. They are also inviting people to view the open air exhibition via their website or social media channels @sculptureinthecity.
Where is it: Dotted around the Square Mile radius of the City of London -- find a map on their website.
Grizedale Sculpture - Lake District
Nestled in the heart of the Lake District, Grizedale Forest has featured international sculpture artists since 1977. This 4,000 hectares of National Trust woodland offers an enchanting sculpture trail waiting to be discovered by foot or bicycle, against breathtaking views of the Lake District Fells.
The sculptures regularly change, but we have particularly loved RUUP by Birgit Õigus (think fallen Star Wars spaceship vibes). The venue is part of Forestry England, and those with a membership can park for free. Grizedale has an easy access trail and dogs are welcome, but note that there are limited toilet facilities.
Where is it: Grizedale Forest, Lake District.
The Sculpture Park - Farnham
One of the most renowned sculpture parks in the UK sits in Farnham, Surrey. Amongst an eclectic arboretum and water garden, The Sculpture Park features 600 works of art over 10 acres, from the humorous to the curiously abstract. Kids will love the witty skeleton sculptures and mass of animal art in this Surrey hidden gem. You'll spend hours meandering through forest footpaths, discovering a wealth of wildlife and posing for photos with the charming array of sculptures.
The Sculpture Park is now open but you must pre-book your entrance tickets online; adult tickets are £10, concessions are £5 and under 4s go free. The standard route is not suitable for wheelchair users, but there is an alternative step-free option with 300+ sculptures. Toilets are on-site but there's no cafe, so you are encouraged to bring a picnic. You can also take a virtual tour of the sculpture garden on their website.
Where is it: Jumps Rd, Churt, Farnham GU10 2LH.
Chatsworth House Sculpture Garden - Devon
Home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, the elegant Chatsworth House is surrounded by 105 acres of exquisite garden including water features, an arboretum, a rock garden and a hand-picked sculpture garden. The open-air exhibition has been designed to take visitors through the Duke and Duchess' favourite 'viewpoints' amongst the expansive gardens, featuring some of the biggest names in sculpture along the way including Anthony Gormley, Allen Jones and Elisabeth Frink.
From 27 July, Chatsworth is reopening with a pre-booked ticketed system to the house and gardens, as well as the farm shop, gift shop and car park. They also offer family tours of the sculpture gardens during some school holidays, so keep an eye out if you want to explore further come Autumn.
Where is it: Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1PP.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park - West Bretton
This Northern gem is one of the best sculpture parks for kids, with quirky, larger-than-life pieces and an ethos that encourages imagination and play around their 500 acres of parkland. Yorkshire Sculpture Park features some of the biggest names in 3D art from around the world, including Damien Hirst, Huma Bhabha and Barbara Hepworth, with sculptures that will certainly make the little ones re-think their expectations of art. Think anatomical unicorns, floating animal heads and nostalgic cartoon characters towering overhead.
The YSP offers tons of free resources for families to make the most of their visit, including play guides and activity ideas via the #YSPFamily hashtag on social media. The open air gallery is proudly reopening on 29 July with pre-booked tickets (free for under 16s and £6 for adults) and allocated arrival slots. Toilets, disabled toilets and baby changing facilities are all open with reduced capacity.
Where is it: West Bretton, Wakeﬁeld WF4 4LG.
Henry Moore Studios & Gardens - Hertfordshire
A celebration of one of Britain's most acclaimed sculpture artists, the Henry Moore Studios & Gardens lets you explore his iconic works of art in gorgeous Hertfordshire gardens as well as his former home and studios. Wander around Henry Moore's world-famous pieces carved from impressive bronze and stone, all curated by the Henry Moore Foundation, which is dedicated to leading sculpture research.
The Henry Moore Studios & Gardens have now reopened and have put in place certain regulations to make your visit as safe as possible. All visitors must pre-book tickets with a one-hour arrival slot to maintain social distancing measures. Under 5s go free, child tickets are £5.25 and family tickets are available from £25.50. There are accessible toilets and baby changing facilities on-site. Mobility scooters and wheelchairs can be borrowed free of charge, but if bringing your own they should be suitable for uneven grassland.
Where is it: Dane Tree House, Perry Green, Hertfordshire, SG10 6EE.
New Art Centre - Roche Court Sculpture Park
Originally founded in 1958 and located on London's affluent Sloane Street, the New Art Centre was relocated to Wiltshire's Roche Court in 1994 for an open air sculptural experience. Now a hub of art education and ever-changing exhibitions, the Roche Court Sculpture Park features some of the biggest names in installation from Barbara Hepworth to Kenneth Armitage. Visit the 19th-century house, sculpture gardens and surrounding parkland for a peaceful Salisbury day out that the whole family will love.
The New Art Centre has reopened by appointment only; admission is free but you must pre-book. There are toilets on-site but no refreshments services are available. Disabled access is limited, so please contact the NAC ahead of visiting, and note that dogs are not permitted inside the park.
Where is it: Roche Court New Art Centre, Salisbury SP5 1BG.
Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden - St Ives
Visit the preserved studio and garden of celebrated 20th-century sculptor Barbara Hepworth at this gorgeous Cornwall sculpture park. Now under the care of the Tate Gallery St Ives, the garden's careful curation of works is largely how Hepworth herself positioned them; her characteristic circular sculptures with their smooth cutout holes offer a changing 360 degree view and perspective of their natural surroundings.
The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden reopens on 27 July with timed tickets to adhere to social distancing measures. At the moment only combined tickets with the Tate St Ives are on offer, and under 18s go free. Due to some uneven surfaces in the park, wheelchair access must be arranged via prior appointment.
Where is it: Barnoon Hill, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 1AD.
River Lee Country Park - Cheshunt
For a more playful experience, head to River Lee Country Park's delightful sculpture park. This 2.5 mile interactive trail lets you hop aboard its kid-friendly works of art for a day of sensory exploration the little ones won't forget. Including huge bug battles, a climbable wooden xylophone, a giant's chair and even an intriguing sculpture from the perspective of a mini beast, there's no end of fun for budding young artists at Lee Valley.
All Lee Valley car parks and parklands have reopened, ensuring that visitors maintain social distancing and refrain from large gatherings. Some toilets remain closed -- please check their website for further details. You can also download a sculpture trail guide on their site - just search 'Artworks Route One'.
Where is it: Windmill Ln, Cheshunt, Waltham Cross EN8 9AJ.
Hero image: Pexels, Mike
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