Part farm, part petting zoo and part wildlife theme park for kids, Matlock Farm Park is a perfect day out for outdoorsy families visiting the Peak District National Park.
We took our crazy little son to Matlock Farm Park on a sunny day at the end of March, which was sadly too early in the year to bottle-feed newborn lambs (they actually let you do this) but late enough for some cool spring weather to make it a really enjoyable family trip. Entry is cheap (£7.50 adults, £6.50 for kids over two), there are loads of activities to keep your kids entertained and, of course, the animals are the stars of the show.
Matlock Farm Park is an absolute paradise for kids – especially if they’re animal lovers like Sonny. You’ll meet all of the animals you’d expect to find on a farm (sheep, pigs, cows, horses, donkeys, goats, rabbits etc) plus loads of unexpected bonus species like wallabies, deer, llamas, alpacas, Harris hawks, Shelley and Terry the tortoises, and a cheeky family of meerkats. That’s right, meerkats!
Meet the meerkats
Arthur and Martha the meerkats have been busy making a big pile of babies recently, and they’re all housed in their own little enclosure right by Matlock Farm Park’s two cafes. There are daily meerkat talks where you can find out all about them, and you can even get involved with feeding them too. Like everyone, I’ve seen a hell of a lot of meerkats on TV over the past few years but never this close in the flesh before. And I can confirm they’re even cuter and weirder than I expected!
Feed the animals
We bought a bag of animal food for £1 on the way into Matlock Farm Park, then wandered round the lovely little circuit designed to let you meet each species. The sheep and pigs were Sonny’s favourites because they waited patiently by the fence while he launched pellets of food at them, but the little scaredy cat panicked and ran off when the alpacas started spitting at each other and scrapping over food. The goats and horses came close enough for us to stroke and feed them by hand, and although every animal on the tour got Sonny’s attention, they were nothing compared to what he found at the end of the farm trail…
Mini tractor racing!
After a brief stop at the outdoor adventure playground for a bit of “higher, higher!” action on the swings, we arrived at what we decided was Matlock Farm Park’s coolest feature – the mini tractor racing track! For a two-year-old boy whose every waking moment involves obsessing over motorised vehicles, this was one hell of an exciting discovery. Make sure you have a pound coin so you can fire up a mini tractor and take it for a spin round the oval track. They’re very slow and safe so don’t worry – we even managed to negotiate an icy track! Although he likes to think he’s the next World Tractor Racing Champion, Sonny’s not yet big enough to ride one of these bad boys on his own, but fortunately there’s a handily placed adult seat where you can sit behind your kid and operate the steering wheel and pedals.
Soft play centre
On the way back to the cafe we stopped at a barn full of cuddly rabbits and guinea pigs that young children can pet, then headed to the huge indoor Rainforest Cafe for a coffee, slice of cake and an hour of action on one of the best indoor soft play centres we’ve ever been to. There are mini teepees, slides and rope bridges for older kids in the upstairs section, a big bouncy soft play area for babies and toddlers downstairs, plus one massive twisty tunnel slide and even a mini death slide that’s safe enough for brave toddlers to tackle on their own. It all feels brand new, sturdy, safe and incredibly adventurous. We had the time of our lives in there.
Outdoor Dad Verdict – Matlock Farm Park
A massive thumbs up from us. We went to Matlock Farm Park expecting to meet a few animals and leave after half an hour, but we stayed all morning and would have hung around even longer if Sonny hadn’t exhausted himself having so much fun. And if you arrive between 10am-11.30am on a weekday, you get entrance for one adult and two toddlers for £6 – plus a free cup of coffee!!! Absolute bargain.