Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Forbidden Corner: Britain's quirkiest family day out?

I’m not a huge fan of Family Attractions. So often they're too commercial, too crowded, too expensive, too disappointing. I usually leave with a sort of empty feeling. But the reviews of The Forbidden Corner had given me a smidgen of excitement that this place might really be different.

And oh my giddy aunt, it was. It blew my mind into a million dancing pieces which I’m not sure I’ll be able to put back together in the correct order ever again.

I think the key to this place is that it was never designed to be a Family Attraction in the first place. It was simply a private Victorian garden in a quiet spot in the North Yorkshire Dales, owned by a Mr. Colin Armstrong. He had the the idea to turn part of it into a sort of folly for his family and friends. Just as a bit of fun. He didn’t even ask for planning permission. (Got into a spot of bother for that later on.)
Thing is, this Mr. Armstrong had a wild and incredible imagination. So what began as a spot of digging in 1990, with plans for a sort of small cave, became a 25-foot deep, 4-acre wide labyrinth of secrets and surprises. People were so intrigued that in 1994 he finally gave in and opened it to the public.

We visited as a group of eight, ranging in age from 6 to 46, with a couple of eye-rolling, grunty, ‘we-are-so-past-family-days-out’ teenagers thrown in who’d really put the place to the test.

It was deceptively tame at first: pretty tree-lined paths, riddles on stones, a baffling gate, a squirting statue, a little maze through the lavender bushes, a peek of miniature men playing cricket through a hole in the hedge. Plus great views over the dales.
We pottered about happily, with the odd ripple of giggles here and there. Until we entered a tunnel, which got smaller, and smaller, and when we finally squeezed ourselves out the other end we had entered ‘another world’ entirely ...
An enchanting, bewildering, ingenious, underground-overground world of passages, pathways and wooden doors (that led somewhere, or nowhere), spiral staircases and stepping stones, revolving floors and pop-up fountains, with oddities and tricks around every corner, endless choices and possibilities and enticing glimpses of places you want to get to but don’t know how. 

We simply could not take the smiles off our faces. Even the teenagers had forgotten to act cool and were leaping around like crazed leprechauns, squealing things like, “You have to go and see the bit down there.” 
And just when we thought we’d explored every nook and cranny, we’d discover another door, another passage …   

I left full to bursting.

If you live or go to stay within a 60-mile radius of The Forbidden Corner, it’s a must-visit. I’d personally travel a lot further. In fact, I’d be tempted to plan a whole holiday to North Yorkshire around it. With or without the kids.

Visit The Forbidden Corner's website here.


  1. This sounds incredible! With an 11 year age gap between our two we're always on the look out for alternative family days out we can all enjoy & this has just gone straight to the top of my list! #FamilyTested

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    1. I can't recommend it enough, Toni! I have a 7 year gap between my two and this ticked both their boxes - and all the adults!

  2. We went to the Forbidden Corner last September and love it! Well my husband and I did, our 3 year old wasn't sure about the tunnels and was scared for lots of it, so I wouldn't recommend it for smaller children. Hope to go back another time when he's older though as we thought it was amazing! :) x

    1. Brings out the big kid in you, right?!

      Yes, I guess some very young children may get scared in bits of it.

  3. Oh I wish this was near us. Love the magic of it! Thanks for sharing with #FamilyTested

  4. As a Yorkshire lass (who lives in Essex) I would happily visit here next time I'm staying with family! This looks AMAZING! #FamilyTested

    1. Lucky you - lots of opportunity to go to Yorkshire!