If you are looking for a day out with kids in Surrey, Alice Holt Forest is the perfect destination. Woodland walks, cycle trails and an adventure playground all make Alice Holt a great venue for a day outside with friends or family. Plus, there is a Gruffalo trail, so little children will just love it.
Read our guide to discover all the fun things to do on a day out at Alice Holt.
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Where is Alice Holt Forest?
Alice Holt Forest is in Bucks Horn Oak in the South East England. It is about 4 miles south of Farnham, a historic market town in Surrey.
If you’re coming by car, it’s just off the A31 and can be accessed easily from the A3 or M3. The sat nav postcode is: GU10 4LS
Alternatively, there are buses to Alice Holt that run hourly from Farnham, Bordon, and Aldershot. (no 18). Or, the nearest train stations are Bentley or Farnham.
Alice Holt Forest
Alice Holt Forest was once the royal hunting ground of William the Conqueror. Unfortunately, the King had strict rules about who could visit, which didn’t always include the locals!
Previously, Alice Holt was an important site for the production of pottery in Roman Britain. Its natural resources meant it was ideal for making pots, which were then sent to London.
Today, Alice Holt is one of the best days out in Surrey with kids. It is a beautiful outdoor space, with fun activities to entertain the little ones all day.
It is a wonderful place to enjoy nature and is considered an important habitat for wildlife. Keep your eyes out for some of the rare species which inhabit the forest, lesser spotted woodpecker, dormice and the purple emperor butterfly.
Opening times at Alice Holt Forest
Alice Holt Forest is open every day from 08:00 to 21.00 in the summer months (from May to September). It shuts earlier in the months.
Alice Holt Café is usually open from 08:30 until 17:00.
Walking in Alice Holt Forest
We always start our visit to Alice Holt with a woodland walk. The children love walking here as the trails are all easy, and there’s lots to entertain them. In total, there are 4 way-marked walking trails. They are all different lengths and colour-coded, so are easy to navigate.
Our favourite trail has always been the yellow Habitat trail, as it has wooden play sculptures along the way. Although it is only 0.9 km, it takes a while to complete, as the children want to stop every 5 minutes to play. It has a wooden owl, a woodpecker in a tree, and a network of tunnels to climb through.
However, on our last visit we started on an alternative route, the purple Lodge Pond Trail. This took us through the forest, away from the crowds and led us to a tranquil lake. This lake was used for centuries as a fishery and is still available to anglers. The trail is 4 km, but rejoins the habitat trail, so the children could still enjoy the play structures.
Eventually, our trail linked up to the grey Timberline Play Area, which has a new trim trail in a clearing in the woods. This is only 0.5 km and is not far from the main car park. However, it provided yet another opportunity to play.
The Gruffalo Trail at Alice Holt Forest
One of the best things to do at Alice Holt Forest if you have little children is go on a quest for the Gruffalo and his friends. Toddlers and infants will love the Gruffalo trail at Alice Holt, as it has carved wooden sculptures of Julia Donaldson’s grizzly character, the Gruffalo along the way. This Gruffalo trail is an easy walk of 1.1 km and is accessible to buggies and wheelchairs.
The Gruffalo trail is free, but you can pick up an orienteering leaflet with a map for £1.50 if you want to practise your navigational skills.
Adventure playground at the Alice Holt Forest
After our forest walk, we always head for the large playground. With its large wooden ship, tractors, playhouses, and roundabouts, this is one of the best playgrounds in Farnham. It’s really great for imaginative play and for running around to let off a bit of steam.
The playground has a natural look, with a wood bark floor, which all fits in with the natural surroundings of the forest.
Cycling in Alice Holt Forest
Another of the fun things to do at Alice Holt is cycling in the forest. Although little children can take their bikes on some of the walking trails, there are also 2 bike trails.
The most family-friendly cycle trail is 4.8 km. The trails are wide and have a gravel surface, so it’s easy for children, who have some experience of cycling.
The Shipwright’s Trail is part of a 50-mile cycle route that runs across Hampshire. The section in Alice Holt is also 4.8 km and heads out toward Lodge Pond. Both bike trails are suitable for intermediate cyclists.
Previously, I’ve hired a bike from the Cycle Hire Centre on site. They have a range of bikes to suit all sizes and abilities and a bike maintenance service. Unfortunately, cycle hire is currently unavailable and the Activity Centre remains closed.
If it’s a tree top adventure you are looking for, the Go Ape Centre at the Alice Holt is one of the fun things all the family can try. Views from the top will give you spectacular views over the forest and the South Downs.
Younger children should opt for the Treetop Adventure, which is available to anyone over 1 metre tall. This obstacle course is ideal for little ones, as they remain safely clipped to the safety wire throughout the course.
The Tree Top Challenge is a more demanding course for anyone over 10 years and 1.4 metres tall. The idea is to navigate around the tree top obstacle course, by climbing through rope bridges and across pendulum swings.
Eating at the Alice Holt Forest
The Café at Alice Holt has been redesigned in recent years and is now much bigger and more accommodating than the original. It serves a choice of hot and cold meals, scrumptious cakes, and drinks.
We always prefer to take a picnic. There are plenty of picnic benches outside the café or many scenic spots around the forest.
Special Events at Alice Holt Forest
Throughout the school holidays there is usually a programme of wild learning events at Alice Holt. They have their own forest classrooms, where children learn different things about woodcraft and nature.
Park Run at Alice Holt Forest
There is a Park Run every Saturday morning at Alice Holt. It’s free to participate and anyone can join in, though you should register online before you go.
It’s 5 km and you can go at any pace you like. The Park Run is not a race and you will find runners of all abilities taking part. The race is timed, but you are only trying to beat yourself!
Parking at Alice Holt Forest
Admission to Alice Holt Forest is free. However, you do have to pay for parking if you are coming by car.
Parking fees are charged by the hour. We usually spend about 4 hours here, which currently costs £9.00 at peak times. As this money goes towards the forest’s upkeep, it seems very reasonable for a fun day out with kids.
Moreover, the car park at Alice Holt has been extended, so there is always ample parking.
Other places to visit near Farnham
Directly opposite the entrance to Alice Holt is the UK’s largest bird park, Birdworld.
As well as over 600 birds, Birdworld has a small animal farm and an Underwater aquarium. The park has a daily programme of activities, including flying displays and feeding sessions with the keepers.
Just 5 miles from Farnham is Frensham Ponds. These 2 manmade ponds provide a great venue for a scenic walk. In hot weather, the Great Pond makes a great alternative to the beach and you can even take a dip in the water.
The Sculpture Park, Farnham
Just west of Alice Holt, in the small village of Churt, is the Sculpture Park, Farnham. This is a unique place to visit in Surrey, where you’ll find over 650 sculptures in 10 acres of arboretum.
The Sculpture Park has a wide range of quirky sculptures, which will appeal to children and adults alike.
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