“We saw a giant octopus!” Aurora, aged 3
Our trip to Yorkshire Sculpture Park was kind of accidental. I have a friend who lives in North Yorkshire. We have been trying to get together for a couple of years now, but not succeeding. If you do not have multiple small children, you may not understand the singular frustration of trying to arrange visits with friends who also have multiple small children. There should be an app for that, I would definitely buy it.
Anyway, we finally found a date during the summer holidays that we were both free. We decided to meet sort-of in the middle at Yorkshire Sculpture Park just outside Wakefield. With three children between us, I think going anywhere was extremely brave! We chose the park so the kids could safely roam about together and we had a small chance of holding a conversation.
What we did at Yorkshire Sculpture Park
I haven’t been to the park since I was at university in Leeds, and it was almost unrecognisable. We met our friends in the visitors’ centre, where there is a small children’s area. It kept our brood entertained for a good while: there are drawing materials, books, a cosy sofa, and wooden blocks. It was a great start to the visit and showed that families are welcome at YSP.
The estate housing YSP is huge, so we collected some maps in the visitors’ centre. Of course, every child had to have his or her own map – apologies to the comms team for the printing costs! We let the older children (7 and 6) navigate the route, and they enjoyed consulting the maps as well as taking the odd detour to check out an interesting sculpture they’d spotted.
We explored for around 30 minutes before finding a shady tree under which to have our picnic. There are picnic benches dotted around, as well as a cafe in the visitors’ centre (more on that later). Once refuelled, we continued our walk, led by the children. We found numerous sculptures, a digital exhibit, mosaics, bridges, secret tree tunnels, and much more.
Our walk took us down towards the river, where (while trying to stop one of our party from falling in) we crossed over two bridges and tried to find pooh sticks. At this point we had a split in the ranks: my eldest wanted to wander around the lake and find some of the temples he saw on the map, but the younger children were tired and hungry, and it had started raining. I would have liked to take Lucas around the lake and I think he could have managed the walk, but we had to go with the consensus! We decided to head to the cafe for a drink and treat, which would hopefully appease everyone.
Heading to the cafe
Unfortunately, the direct (and shorter) route back to the visitors’ centre is under construction, so we had to trek through the field…uphill. With four tired children aged 3 and under, this was a real challenge! The older kids did really well and entertained themselves by spotting sheep droppings and warning the rest of us not to stand in them.
We finally and bravely reached the cafe, which is a large space with hot and cold food and drinks. It’s not cheap, which was unsurprising given our experience with this type of venue, but it has a good range. I was impressed that there were colouring sheets and pencils for the children. This meant that the adults could enjoy a hot cup of tea and a chat – win!
What we thought of Yorkshire Sculpture Park
We had a fantastic day at YSP. I was initially a bit unsure how the children would fare: it would be different to the galleries and museums they have grown used to. I needn’t have worried. The park has been designed with families in mind, and there is plenty to entertain children of all ages.
It was really fun to spot the artworks set around the estate. Lucas (6) really enjoyed checking the map for the names of the sculptures. The art sparked lots of conversations about what we liked or didn’t like. The group favourite was a huge octopus covered in mosaic tiles. A digital screen of walking silhouettes was popular too, and the children liked getting up close to look at the ‘pixels’ (LEDs).
The visitors’ centre is really impressive. It’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into providing areas for children as well as adults. It’s lovely that there is a special small indoor play area, and the space is designed beautifully. The cafe has children’s seating, food and drink choices, and is spacious enough that people (hopefully) aren’t too bothered by their noise.
We had a great day at YSP and to top it off, found a painted rock on the way back to the car park! It’s an unusual and interesting place to take children, and we are already planning a return trip for all five of us.
- Take a picnic – the cafe is pricey if you’re feeding a family.
- Don’t forget to pay for parking either before you return to your car or on the Yorkshire Sculpture Park website up to seven days after your visit.
- Take time to explore without following the map too closely – you may be surprised at what you discover!
Parking? Yes, £15 per day. This seems steep but the entrance to YSP is free.
Refreshments? Yes, a cafe at the visitors’ centre serving hot and cold food and drinks.
Loos? At the visitors’ centre – or anywhere if you’re a 3-year-old who can’t wait…