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Castle Howard: Skelf Island

By Dan Phillips | 9th August 2019

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There are many adventure playgrounds that claim to have a theme. But Castle Howard’s Skelf Island is one of the few that truly transport you into a new world.

Tentatively crossing into this world via the lagoon spanning rope-bridge, my three year-old Edie found a universe inhabited by the ‘Skelves’, elfin creatures named after the long disappeared Medieval Henderskelfe Castle which Castle Howard replaced. And if you look closely, you can see their evidence with small tree houses nestling in branches.

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But this is not a grotesque theme park, but a sensitively constructed adventure island with a labyrinthine wooden pathway set on stilts combined with a slide, hideaways, rope tunnels and a zip wire that actually works, instead of the anaemic drift you find with some. The diversity of ‘things to do’ meant that both my older children (seven and eight) had to be bribed out with ice-cream and promises of boat rides, instead of the ‘bored within two minutes’ syndrome that can accompany more obvious play areas. I have paid more, far more, at other places to find less there.

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For adults, the island setting has the bonus of being completed sheltered by the shade of trees, together with ample picnic tables, and being separated from the rest of Castle Howard contains the kids. That I can also physically fit through the rope tunnel and climb round the entire play area is a novel bonus when the three year old wants to hunt skelves. A ground level foot bridge with no stairs ensures accessibility for buggies, wheelchairs or anyone wishing to avoid a crossing at height.

In any school holidays there are far more things to entertain the kids with than time or money allow. In adding Skelf Island, which is better than some stand-alone adventure parks, Castle Howard have made their offer an essential trip for whole-family days out with a depth, variety and quality that few can match.

Click below for more information.

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