• John Oyston

Family Days Out in Wakefield, Castleford and Pontefract

Wakefield and its neighbours Castleford and Pontefract have a long history. Visitors can see the sites of historic battles, go down a coal mine or try indoor skiing.

Wakefield is a cathedral city in West Yorkshire, within easy reach of most places by road or rail. The city centre is less than 5 miles from both the M1 and M62 motorways and regular train services link Wakefield Westgate with Leeds, York, London, Edinburgh and Birmingham.

There is an extremely varied choice of things to do in Wakefield and the surrounding area.

Here are just a few ideas:

Fairburn Ings

RSPB Fairburn Ings is a nature reserve with three trails through a variety of habitats. See birds such as willow tits and tree sparrows in the woodland, and lapwings, snipe and redshanks in the wet grassland. In winter there is an array of swans, ducks and geese on the main lake, so there is something to see whatever the season.

The visitor centre and two of the trails are accessible to wheelchairs and pushchairs

Junction 32 Outlet

Junction 32 Outlet Mall has over 90 high street name stores selling heavily discounted goods at up to 60% off high street prices. The stores include Gap, Marks & Spencer, Nike, Next, Clarks and Denby. The mall is next to the Xscape Leisure Centre at Castleford and only a couple of minutes’ drive from the M62, junction 32.

National Coal Mining Museum

The National Coal Mining Museum offers an underground tour of one of Britain’s oldest working mines , be fully fitted out with hat, belt and battery and experience the working life of a miner, 450ft below ground.

Back on the surface take a trip to the shop and cafe, make friends with the pit ponies or wander round the exhibitions of mining history. The museum is 5 miles out of Wakefield on the main A642 Huddersfield Road and admission is free. Children under 5 are not allowed underground and children under 14 must be accompanied.

Newmillerdam Country Park

Newmillerdam Country Park, on the A 61 just South of Wakefield, is an ideal venue for a family day out. Take a two mile stroll around the tree lined lake and see grey squirrels, rabbits and foxes in their natural surroundings or buy a license to fish on the lake.

Away from the lake, explore the wooded glades planted with trees, including oak and beech and home to a wide variety of plants.

Nostell Priory

Nostell Priory stands in 300 acres of grounds and was built in 1733. The house is open to the public and includes displays of Chippendale furniture designed for the priory and an 18th century dolls’ house. Out in the grounds there are lakeside walks, an orchard and a children’s playground.

Pontefract Castle

Pontefract Castle was once the major Royal Castle in the north of England. It was built in the 12th century and was used until it was destroyed by the Roundheads in the English Civil War.

In school holidays and summer weekend tour the cellars of the great hall which was used as a store for arms and see the underground cells where prisoners were held in the Civil War.

The castle is open daily, admission to the grounds is free, but there is a small charge for the underground tour.

Pugney Country Park

Pugneys Country Park stands in 250 acres of reclaimed mining land about 2 miles west of Wakefield.

There are two lakes, the larger one covers 100 acres and caters for water sports enthusiasts including canoeing, sailing and windsurfing. The smaller, 24 acre lake is a nature reserve with hides to enable visitors to view wildlife in their natural surroundings. A path of about 1.6 miles surrounds the large lake and is popular with joggers and walkers. Pugney Country Park is just a short walk from Sandal Castle.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park Photo Nigel Theasby under a Creative Commons License
Yorkshire Sculpture Park Photo Nigel Theasby under a Creative Commons License

Sandal Castle Photo Abcdef123456 under a Creative Commons License
Sandal Castle Photo Abcdef123456 under a Creative Commons License

Sandal Castle

Sandal Castle is the site of the Battle of Wakefield in 1460 and was a Royalist stronghold in the English Civil War. The castle was unused and neglected for over 300 years, but now visitors can explore the remains of the castle and enjoy the views of Pugney Country Park and the Calder Valley.

The Hepworth

Part of the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle,  The Hepworth is an award winning museum devoted to the works of contemporary  artists. Named after Wakefield born sculptor Barbara Hepworth the museum is about a mile from Wakefield City Centre.


Xscape offers plenty of opportunities for the adventurous and daring. There are a wide range of extreme sports and leisure activities under one roof. Ski down the UK’s largest real indoor snow slope, clamber up two rock climbing walls or battle an aerial assault course. If this is not enough, try Lazerzone and bowling or watch a film at the multi screen cinema. There are 17 bars and restaurants and 10 retail outlets. Xscape is just off the M62 , junction 32.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park at Bretton, 6 miles west of Wakefield, has four indoor galleries and is set in 500 acres of 18th century parkland with various sculptures on open air display. The emphasis is on modern, contemporary sculpture.

For more ideas Experience Wakefield or 100 Days Out in Yorkshire

#Castleford #Pontefract #wakefield


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