Located just 20 minutes outside York, Northwood Fairy Sanctuary has existed for generations but it has only recently opened its doors to the public to come in and escape from the real world for a while and delight in its tranquil and inspiring setting.
Northwood is the product of a labour of love by owners, the Van Outersterp family, who have been custodians of the woodland since 2008. Their aim was to create a natural experience that appealed to adults and children alike. Certainly as you explore the grounds you will see just how much time, energy and love has been put into creating this unique family attraction.
Last week my friend and I were delighted to be invited in for a evening explore of Northwood Fairy Sanctuary and the recent good weather made it the perfect time to visit. Stepping through the front door into the bar/restaurant area was like stepping through a portal into another world. I immediately fell in love with the setting, a large log cabin in well established woodland.
The bar/restaurant is cosy and the perfect blending of indoors and outdoors. My friend and I agreed it would make a lovely place to bring our partners or parents for a meal or a drink.
Through the back door and to the right you will find the much anticipated Fairy Museum. If your children are uncertain about whether fairies or mermaids exist, a trip to the fairy museum is bound to convince them they do! Inside glass cabinets you will find delicate fairy and elven outfits and furniture alongside pieces of text that explain about the items owner. The mermaid skeleton that hangs over the central table does remind me a little of a particular scene in the Harry Potter films and it certainly captures your attention. My favourite part of the Fairy Museum has to be the Narnia-looking cupboard doors that entice you into a dimly lit little room which displays intricately crafted fairy houses. This would make the perfect place for story telling with the children.
Outside the trail begins and you arrive first at the maze. Made out of bamboo it looks deceptively simple to navigate. Don’t be fooled, we spent a good half hour going round in circles! It was great fun and would be a real challenge for your pre-teens. Youngsters will need adult supervision as the ground is uneven and a little overgrown in places. You will also find the odd tree stump, or even a whole tree, blocking your path from time to time so leave buggies outside the maze!
Back out to the Fairy Trail and you will wend your way along around 1.5 km of stoned path through lots of different areas where the fairy folk live. You won’t see the fairies of course but their houses are hidden around the woodland for you to find and other lovely details such as carved mushroom circles. If you are bringing a wheel chair or push chair beware that after bad weather the path may be muddy and rutted.
Towards the end of the trail there is a children’s play area that includes den building and a natural play area called Titania’s Garden. I’m sure my children would love playing here and spotting the wicker dragon flies and the army of model ants climbing the trees!
Northwood Fairy Sanctuary is aimed at children age 2-12 and I think this is the right age range for the attraction. Beware that there are no barriers on the paths so if you have a little tearaway on your hands you will need to have enough adults in your group to ensure you can keep an eye on them at all times in case they do try to go off and do a bit of off-piste exploration. Signs do stay to stay on the path, but I know my kids would probably be too excited to pay that much attention!
Dogs, bikes and picnics are not allowed. I do wholeheartedly agree with the dogs and bikes bit as it would change the atmosphere of the woodland and safety-wise it makes perfect sense. It is a shame there isn’t an area for picnics but I understand that the owners wouldn’t want to attract unwanted animal guests or litter. This leaves the only option of buying food there if your little ones are hungry, which is an additional expense but they do guarantee excellent coffee and locally sourced food and snacks.
Overall we really enjoyed the experience of Northwood Fairy Sanctuary and I am keen to take the children to experience it. I think it would be lovely to let my little girl dress up in her favourite fairy costume for the day out too! Northwood is refreshingly natural, calm and positively encourages children to use their imaginations. I look forward to seeing how this attraction will continue to develop in the future too.
AD/#Gifted We were invited to experience Northwood Fairy Sanctuary in return for this review but all views and opinions are our own.