The Look Out Discovery Centre, Swinley Forest

by Jan
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The Look Out Discovery Centre in Swinley Forest, Bracknell is an amazing natural space, and it’s not just for kids.  We have been taking the children here since they were toddlers but as they get older, we’re finding even more we can do as a family.  In fact, it’s now one of our favourite local family attractions.

Not only does The Look Out Discovery Centre have a hands-on science museum, there are plenty of outside activities to entertain people of all ages. Read on to discover the many fun things to do at the Look Out and Swinley Forest and discover why it’s one of the best things to do in Bracknell.

How to get to Swinley Forest

The Look Out Discovery Centre is in Swinley Forest on the Nine Mile Road, just outside Bracknell, in Berkshire.  It’s easily accessible from the M3 and M4, making it one of the best things to do with kids in Bracknell and the surrounding area.  The sat nav postcode for the Look Out is RG12 7QW.

There are also 3 buses which go to The Look Out, lines 171, 172 and 194.

Swinley Forest

Swinley Forest is a large expanse of Crown Estate, found not far from Windsor Great Park.  It covers over 2,600 acres of woodland, which has been made accessible for all to enjoy.  Swinley Forest has spectacular scenery and is a superb place to go for time in the great outdoors.

If you think some of it looks familiar, it’s because it is a popular filming destination and was used for scenes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, parts 1 & 2.

Swinley Forest Walks

With thousands of acres of natural scenery, Swinley Forest is a wonderful place for walkers of all abilities.  The area surrounding the entrance at the Discovery Centre is flat and wide, so is suitable for buggies and novice cyclists.  Swinley Forest is also a popular venue for dog walking.

More experienced walkers would probably enjoy leaving this busy central area and heading deeper into Swinley Forest.  The Chimptrip boys love going off piste to find their own trails and adventures in the woods.

As you explore, keep an eye out for wildlife.   Swinley Forest has been designated a Special Protection Area because of its rare ground nesting birds.  It is also a Site for Special Scientific Interest.

Hiking in the woods with Kids

Hike further into the forest, where you can enjoy a rest at Rapley Lake and watch the amazing water birds.

Alternatively, you could head towards Caesar’s Camp, an Iron Age hill fort from around 2400 years ago.  Obviously, there’s not a lot left to see today, but it’s worth a visit, as it’s one of the largest of its type in the South.

The Look Out Discovery Centre

Entrance to the Discovery centre, Swinley Forest

One of the best things for toddlers and infants to do at the Look Out is visit the interactive science centre.  The Look Out Discovery Centre is the perfect place for little ones to learn about science and technology.  It has over 90 activities, split into 5 different learning zones: –

  • Woodland & Water
  • Build It
  • Forces & Movement
  • Body & Perception
  • Light & Sound

Each zone has a different STEM focus and all provide a great hands-on learning experience.

Children can also enjoy the daily educational shows at the Discovery Centre.  Plus, keep an eye on their website for special events and toddler days at the Look out, which are held regularly throughout the year.

Opening times at The Look Out Discovery Centre

The Discovery Centre Is open every day from 10am-5pm.

 

Adventure playgrounds at the Look Out

Another of the best things for children to do at the Look Out is the adventure playgrounds.  There are 3 playgrounds, with sections for toddlers, older children and an accessible play area for children with special needs.

The playgrounds are in a very natural woodland setting in front of the Discovery Centre.  There’s plenty of space for kids to run around and let off steam and the ground has a natural wood bark lining.  One end has wooden play trains, boats and ships and at the other there is a wooden fort.  It really is one of the best play parks in Bracknell.

Play Castle at the Look Out

The Look Out tower

Whilst you are here, take some time to climb up the Look Out tower, which is behind the Discovery Centre.  The tower is 22 metres high and does have a lot of steps, so be ready for a tough climb.  However, you will be rewarded with stunning bird’s eye views over Swinley Forest.

Den-building at the Look Out

A Den made from wood in Swinley Forest

If you are visiting with kids, they are bound to want some time in den-building area, just behind the playgrounds.  Children can spend hours beavering away making their own den or reconstructing one that has been left.

Go Ape

If it’s a tree top experience you are looking for, the Go Ape Centre at the Look Out is one of the fun things all the family can try.

The easier option is the Treetop Adventure, which is available to anyone over 1 metre tall.  This obstacle course is ideal for younger children, 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.  You can even race against each other on the Double Tarzan swing.

But one of the best bits is the 160-metre zip wire descent at the end.  After completing each of the 5 courses, take a leap of faith from 13 metres and fly by zip wire to the ground.  It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted!

Large wooden carving of Ape at Go Ape, Swinley Forest

Forest Segway

A Forest Segway trip is an ideal option if you prefer your adventures closer to the ground.  After an initial training session, you can follow enjoy the stunning forest scenery from the comfort of two wheels.

The Segway experience is suitable for any ages, but you must weigh at least 7 stone.

Cycling at the Look out and in Swinley Forest

Entrance to the Discovery centre, Swinley Forest

Swinley Forest is an amazing place to go cycling and it’s perfect for cyclists of all abilities.  The cycle trails stretch for miles, leading you through diverse natural surroundings.

Closer to the Discovery Centre, it is flat and ideal for infants to learn.  As you progress further away it becomes more hilly and it can be quite a test for your legs.  We are lucky to be able to cycle from home across Barossa Common.

In addition to the wide pathways through the forest, there are 24 km of purpose-built trails.  These cycle trails wind their way through the forest and are colour-coded by ability:-

  • Green – beginners (1 mile)
  • Blue – intermediate, with basic off-road skills (6.25 miles)
  • Red – advanced (proficient mountain bikers (8 miles)

Swinley Forest Bike Hub

Don’t worry if you don’t have your bike with you, as there is a cycle-hire on site.   Swinley Forest Bike Hub  has all sorts of bicycles from kids bikes to premium mountain bikes.  You can even hire an electric bike, if you want help with some of the hills.

Cycle shop at Swinley forest

Eating at the Look Out Discovery Centre

The café at the Look Out is adjacent to the Discovery Centre.  It is a self-service café , which sells sandwiches and hot snacks.  There is also an outside serving-hatch by the playgrounds for ice creams and drinks.

Alternatively, the Look Out has plenty of picnic benches overlooking the play area.  There are also green spaces to the side, which are perfect for picnics.

Special Events at the Look Out

Hundreds of joggers dressed as Santa

The Look Out has several special events, which take part throughout the year in Swinley Forest.  One of the most spectacular sights is the Thames Hospice charity Santa Dash.  There’s nothing more surprising on a Sunday walk, than seeing a few thousand Santas jogging by.

Parking at the Look Out

There is a car park for visitors to the Look Out and Swinley Forest.  Admission to the outside spaces at the Look Out is free, but you do have to pay for parking .  It is definitely worth remembering your change to pay for this, as there are regular checks and fines.

As the Look Out is one of the best free family attractions in Berkshire, the car park does get terribly busy, so it’s wise to avoid peak times.

Places to visit near the Look Out

Coral Reef Waterworld

Directly opposite the entrance to the Look Out is Coral Reef Waterworld.  Since its recent refurbishment, this waterpark is one of the best leisure pools in the South East.  It now has 5 water slides, with flashing lights, a pirate ship and rapids.  Even better, it has its own erupting volcano.

Coral Reef is a superb attraction for a rainy day in Bracknell.  It is a perfect family attraction, for babies to teenagers.  There is also an adult-only spa zone.

Windsor Great Park

Now, another of the most famous attractions in Berkshire is Windsor Great Park, just 20 minutes from the Look Out.  Windsor Great Park is the former private hunting ground of the royals and has over 4,800 acres of stunning parkland.

Don’t forget to look out for the deer, who are roaming freely.  You might also want to walk up the Long Walk, as far as Windsor Castle, the weekend home of the Queen.

View through stone circle of Windsor Long Walk

Thanks for reading about all the great things to do at the Look Out and Swinley Forest.  Please feel free to comment below.

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1 comment

Laureen Dixon 9th June 2020 - 10:52 pm

Very interesting.

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