Danby Lodge National Park Centre

This is an advert for August 2023 and based on a visit in July 2023 - any edits/shares beyond this date have not been asked or paid for. Please check with the venues direct for the most up-to-date information when making plans as info can change. 

This post shares an idea for a fantastic low-cost family day out in the beautiful location of the North York Moors National Park.

When many of us think of the National Park, we may think of woodland and forests but there is so much more to explore including 700 Scheduled Monuments, 26 miles of coastline and lots of local businesses including cafes, restaurants, galleries and visitor centres. 

In this post, we will share how you can enjoy a family day out at Danby Lodge National Park Centre and the surrounding areas. 

We have visited this location a few times now and created lots of shared memories together from making up potions together in the mud kitchen and finding the best 'Indiana Jones' sticks to cloud gazing and watching butterflies.

Creating memories at Danby Lodge National Park Centre and the wider North York Moors National Park is a source of positive mental health for us and we always enjoy looking back at our time spent here and look forward to future visits too. 

How to Get There 

Danby Lodge National Park Centre is located on the bank of the River Esk, in the heart of the North York Moors National Park near the village of Danby. It's around a 1hr 20 minute drive from Newcastle or a 40 minute drive from Middlesbrough. 

Use postcode YO21 2NB for parking - there is a large on site car park. Parking is £3.50 for up to 2 hours or £5.50 for over 2 hours. You can pay by card, Apple Pay and Android Pay or use the PayByPhone app. 

It is also possible to visit via public transport - Danby Train Station is a 20 minute stroll away (along a minor road). 

The M3 Bus (operated by Arriva and Moorsbus) also stops outside the centre (with links to Guisborough, Middlesbrough, Stockton on Tees and Darlington). Do check for up to date timetables when planning a trip. 

An Idyllic Picnic Spot & Playground

We started our day with a trip to Danby Bakery to pick up some picnic supplies. Danby Bakery is just a mile from Danby Lodge National Park Centre and a lovely local business focussing on local produce.

We loved the quaint stable door opening, smell of fresh bread as soon as you stepped inside and the friendly Yorkshire welcome (and that all the staff were wearing traditional flat caps - cute!).

You can pick from a range of baked goods, homemade cakes, freshly squeezed orange juice, local ice cream and freshly prepared sandwiches.

We picked a few bits from the counter and were pleasantly surprised at the low cost (£17 in total). Definitely worth a stop off en-route to the National Park Centre. 

Once we'd picked up our supplies, we parked up at Danby Lodge National Park Centre, popped to the toilets and then picked the perfect spot for our picnic.

There are some picnic tables which offer picturesque views of the rolling hills and National Park as well as tables in more secluded spots. On this occasion we decided to enjoy our lunch at the tables by the playground. 

Our pastries and cakes from Danby bakery were delicious and we had fun playing some of the traditional games (and limbo - not pictured) in front of the centre afterwards. 

Nature Walks at Danby Lodge National Park Centre 

It's free to walk around the grounds of Danby Lodge National Park Centre but if it's your first visit or you fancy adding an extra element to your visit, I'd recommend purchasing one of their seasonal trails from the shop inside the centre (£3 per trail). 

The Magic of Nature Trail runs until the 10 August and this is followed by The Slithery Snake Trail which runs until 28 September (check the North York Moors National Park website for future trails). 

We purchased a Magic of Nature Trail and really enjoyed using the map and prompts to get closer to nature. The trails also take you to areas which you may usually overlook and there's a little prize at the end. I'd certainly recommend.

It was nice to get out in nature and enjoy this walk - it was good for both our physical and mental health as well as aiding our children's understanding of the world around us.

It's not a long walk (around 5K steps) but there's lots of variation and it's really interesting with lots to look at and interact with en-route. If it's been raining, I'd recommend wellies/walking boots as some areas can get a little muddy. 

The trail will take you through Crow Wood where you'll stumble upon lots of wildlife, sculptures (some of them talk) and bird hides. 

The prompts along the trail encourage you to use all of your senses. Below myself and Jack are listening for 30 seconds in four different directions and noting down what we can hear. 

Then back in the area next to the playground, there are lots of surprises to find including sculptures which are real talking points, a cloud/stargazing area, a mud kitchen, welly walk and more. 

There's lots of nature to immerse yourself in too and we enjoyed spotting wild flowers, identifying different types of trees, listening to the crickets and watching lots of butterflies fly past. 

It's a lovely walk to enjoy for all ages from tots up to teens and grown ups too. I would say it's accessible and pushchair / wheelchair friendly too but as mentioned above, may be a little muddy in parts after rain. 

We really appreciated some time to practice mindfulness during this walk and it was a nice way to spend quality time together whilst focussing positively on our mental health. 

This particular trail is linked to the current 'Lost Spells' exhibition and there were some opportunities for us to make up some poems along the walk. This isn't something we'd usually do on a walk at all but we actually really enjoyed the chance to just get creative. It was a nice change.

Here is Steve's nature haiku which I'm sure he won't mind me sharing with you: 

Oak Tree Standing Tall 
Big River Flowing Onward
Animals Watching

Once you've completed the trail, return to the shop and you'll be rewarded with a little prize. Ours was a mindfulness activity pack for children alongside coloured pencils which I thought was really in-keeping with the theme of the trail / day. 

The Lost Spells: Listening to a Landscape of Voices Exhibition 

The North York Moors National Park is obviously largely based outdoors but there are a surprising number of indoor activities to enjoy too. Danby Lodge National Park Centre is a fab place to visit on those days where the weather can't make up it's mind as there are things to do inside and out. 

Inside the centre, there is a temporary exhibition space and from now until 10 September, you can visit 'The Lost Spells: Listening to a Landscape of Voices'.

Following it's debut at The Sill, this exhibition features beautiful artwork and words from Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane. It's free to visit and you don't need to book. 

Photography is not permitted inside the gallery so I can't share any photos but hopefully I can do a good job of describing it to you. 

As you walk around the exhibition you can admire beautiful artwork featuring native British wildlife including owls, foxes, curlews and jackdaw. As you listen to music and spoken word and read the associated text, the artwork is brought to life and it's as if you can picture the animals right there in front of you and become fully immersed in their world. 

It's a beautiful exhibition and I have to say, one of my favourite exhibitions I've ever visited. In fact I had to buy the associated book straight away when I first visited as I loved it so much. 

There are some art and craft activities on a table for all to enjoy as part of the exhibition and there is a range of bookable events and  workshops which compliment the exhibition too. 

Indoor Climbing Wall & Permanent Interactive Exhibitions

As well as temporary exhibitions, there is a permanent interactive exhibition at Danby Lodge National Park Centre. It focuses on the history and heritage of the National Park as well as some of the wildlife you can expect to spot during your visit. 

It was busy with a group visit on the day of our visit so I couldn't take too many photos but there are lots of fun interactive elements including: 
  • A wildlife camera 
  • Fishing game 
  • Indoor climbing wall 
  • Wall building challenge 
  • Salmon leap game 
  • Sensory/touch activities 
  • Various ball challenges 
  • 'Who am I? games 
  • Pull out quizzes 
  • History of mining 4D exhibition and moving film 
  • + loads more!

All of the above are all completely free to enjoy and you don't need to book - just pop into the centre to enjoy. It's a fantastic space with lots of interactive elements and fun challenges for all ages. We really have fun during our visits here. 

Of course, a visit isn't complete without a trip to the gift shop and inside Danby Lodge National Park Centre you'll find a good one with pocket money toys, books, local jewellery and jams/chutneys for sale. We could not resist some locally made curd and Jack picked up this little critter. 

You could spend a full day at Danby Lodge National Park Centre enjoying the wealth of activities they have on offer. There's also a cafe if you fancy stopping for a hot drink or ice cream. 

However one thing to note is that The North York Moors National Park is unique in that it offers multiple activities in close proximity to each other, the majority of which are run by local people using local resources (and therefore cutting down on carbon footprint). 

One of our favourite places to stop off when driving around the National Park / en-route to Whitby is the Jack & Jill Coaching Inn at Scaling Dam. This place is only a few miles from Danby Lodge National Park Centre so we decided to pop in before heading home. 

The Jack & Jill Coaching Inn 

It's a beautiful short drive from Danby Lodge National Park Centre to The Jack & Jill Coaching Inn. The kind of drive where you'll see sheep potter across the road without a care in the world (do be careful) and can spot the sea in the distance as you drive through moorland covered in heather and amongst rolling hills which seem to go on forever.  

Use postcode TS13 4TP. There is a free car park on-site. You can book ahead or just walk in. The views over Scaling Dam are spectacular. 

We did have plans to play table tennis and adventure golf (small charge applies or they are often FREE to play at the Jack & Jill in the school holidays).

However it sadly started to rain just after we arrived and the call of a warm drink and a slice of cake indoors was just too appealing. There is also a fab adventure playground and outdoor seating / a takeaway kiosk open when the sun is shining.

It really is a brill spot to stop off as part of a day out in the North York Moors National Park. 

The great British weather really is so random. I don't think I've ever ordered a hot chocolate in July but this one was epic and sitting by the fire watching the rain outside the window with a view of Scaling Dam in the background was super relaxing and a peaceful way to end our day. 

We didn't dine here on this occasion but our mouth was watering as other visitors ordered traditional Yorkshire hot pot and homemade pies. Below are some of the dishes we've enjoyed on previous visits. 

A Budget Friendly Day Out 

It is perfectly possible to enjoy at day out at Danby Lodge National Park Centre or the North York Moors National Park without spending a penny however on this occasion we set ourselves a budget of £50 including lunch and managed to stick to it: 

Picnic from Danby Bakery £17 
The Magic of Nature Trail £3 
Parking at Danby Lodge National Park Centre £5.50 
Gift Shop Purchases £10 
Hot Chocolates at The Jack & Jill £12 

Not bad for a full day out including lunch. 

Need to Know 

Danby Lodge National Park Centre is a fantastic place to enjoy a family day out in the North York Moors National Park. It is located just a 40 minute drive from Middlesbrough and accessible by car, train or bus. 

I'd recommend as a place to spend a half day / full day for all ages from tots to teens. It's also a good option for families with children of mixed ages and a nice spot to meet up with friends for a day out. 

Indoor Activities at Danby Lodge National Park Centre include:
  • FREE Climbing Wall 
  • FREE Interactive Exhibition including fishing games, quizzes, wildlife cameras, salmon jumping game & wall building 
  • FREE Lost Spells Exhibition 
  • Cafe & FREE Visitor Toilets 

Outdoor Activities at Danby Lodge National Park Centre include: 
  • FREE Mud Kitchen 
  • FREE Nature Walks (suitable for wheelchairs, pushchairs and little legs) 
  • Seasonal Trails with Prize (£3) 
  • Bookable events and activities including den building
  • FREE Star / Cloud Gazing Area 
  • FREE Sculptures including a Dragon 
  • FREE Bird and Wildlife Hides 
  • FREE Playground & Picnic Area 
  • FREE Water Refill Station & Boot Cleaner 

Pet Dogs are not permitted inside the centre buildings or Crow Woods. They are permitted elsewhere in the grounds (on leads) and inside the cafe (or there is outdoor seating too). 

Visitor Toilets (including accessible toilets) are available. 

Danby Lodge National Park Centre is accessible - read their full access policy here.

For Local Picnic Supplies we recommend Danby Bakery which is just one mile away. 

For Crazy Golf / Adventure Playground / Table Tennis and the best hot chocolates and cakes, we recommend the nearby Jack & Jill Coach House at Scaling Dam as somewhere as a stop off on the way home. Pet dogs are not permitted inside but there is outdoor seating where they are welcome. 

Find out more and start planning your visit here: Danby Lodge National Park Centre 


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