Nanny Pat’s days out: Heligan with a toddler

Plants and rocks that have been shaped to look like the top half of a giant's face with blue eyes at the Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall

Although I have frequently visited the Lost Gardens of Heligan and love its coastal location, history and fascinating array of planting, I have never been tempted to take my grandchildren there as a treat for them – until now. I’d heard rumbles from the jungle that things are changing and now there are many more child-focused activities and trails to follow, with an emphasis on wildlife and outdoor play.


Sam and I visited on a cold day in early March and had a wonderful time. Our main focus of attention was the Hibernation Trail and we set off with a map and guide to learn all about the creatures who live here in the woods but hide away for the winter. First up was the giant’s trail with its wonderful sculptures, the Giant’s Head and sleeping Mud Maid, plus some natural climbing and balancing logs to challenge a three year old – right up my street!

We then came to the hedgehog’s den, a little woven willow shelter covered in leaves that children (and flexible adults!) could crawl into and imagine themselves curled up warm for a long winter sleep.


A hop, skip and a jump brought us to the jungle trail and we had great fun following the path through the jungle down to a swinging rope bridge across a pool. Sam insisted on doing it himself and although it took some time, he managed to get to the other side without falling through the holes in the net. The climb back up was not so smiley but there were seats and snacks for encouragement and the promise of more creatures to find.

Our next find was a grass snake hollow. Sam slithered through on his tummy imagining life in the reptile world.

A quick rope swing and on to the butterfly exhibit. There were tubes of canvas here you could clamber into and pretend to be a chrysalis waiting for the winter to end and to metamorphose into a beautiful butterfly.


We then wandered through the flower and kitchen garden past the bee boles to the vegetable garden where we found giant flowerpots to hide in and imagined life as a snail. We didn’t find the ladybird exhibit because little legs were tired by then, but we had a lovely time learning about hibernation in a hands-on way.

We followed the path back to the cafe which was serving home made soup and hot chocolate. Much needed and quite delicious. A lovely day.

Useful information

The Hibernation Trail runs Saturday 14th February- Sunday 22nd March.

There are variety of events and activities which change through the season – take a look at the website to find out more.

Admission is free for under 5s and dogs are welcome all year round at Heligan.


Opening times

From 10am all year round (except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).

Getting there

The Lost Gardens of Heligan are approximately 15 minutes’ drive from Bosinver (postcode for SatNavs PL26 6EN)

If you prefer to use public transport, you can take a bus from Polgooth to the Lost Gardens of Heligan – see the First bus website for current timetables and information, or pop into the office and ask.

Child friendly days out in Cornwall

For more inspiration for great days out with the kids in Cornwall, take a look at our new ebook – Nanny Pat’s Adventures.

If you’ve got any ideas for where you think Nanny Pat should visit next, why not leave a comment below, tweet @Bosinver or post on our Facebook page?

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