Abbotsbury Children’s Farm – animal and play paradise for children!
Updated: Sep 3, 2019
Abbotsbury Children’s Farm has been on my radar as a place I’d wanted to visit for a long while now, so when I was gifted tickets to check it out in the name of the blog I was so excited – both of our girls love fluffy pets (but we don’t have any at home as Andy and I aren’t ready to be ‘pet parents’ anytime soon), so the idea of taking them to cuddle the Guinea pigs and bottle feed the lambs was appealing.
I’d seen the attraction advertised and I had a vague idea of what was there – plus a few of my friends have taken their kids recently and I’d heard good things – but I wasn’t prepared for how just how AMAZING this place is for a family day trip with children aged up to around 11 years old. (Animal-loving teens would enjoy it too, but the play areas are mostly targeted at the younger age groups.)
There is just so much to see and do, both in the way of the many different play areas and meeting all of the animals, but all in such beautiful natural surroundings and without the manic craziness of your average theme park type attraction – in our books this is a winning combination.
Abbotsbury Children’s Farm is situated just off the main drag of the pretty village of Abbotsbury in Dorset, about halfway along the spectacular coast road between Weymouth and Bridport, famed for its views over Chesil beach and beyond. I’ve driven through the village countless times but I’ve never actually stopped to take in all this little village has to offer, which is an awful lot. You’ve got the historic village centre itself, as well as Abbotsbury Swannery, Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, walks with incredible sea views, and the historic ruins of Abbotsbury Abbey which has now become home to the Children’s Farm.
This was real unexpected bonus for nerdy history fans Andy and I, as it was interesting for us to spot the remnants of the Abbey amongst the more modern buildings, and to read the info on the information plaques in the Great Tithe Barn (which, amusingly, is now home to the Children’s Farm’s soft play area) while the kids were at play.
Incidentally, I don’t think you’re going to find a soft play area in a more interesting building, if you are interested in English heritage.
On arrival we were given some information on the day’s timetable which included pony rides, lamb racing, and guinea pig handling – the activities change from time to time and I’ve seen falconry and a children’s entertainer advertised as extras to the standard schedule – check out the website to see what’s on offer and when. Most things are included in the overall ticket price, which I’ll cover later, with the exception of pony rides (a very reasonable £3 per ride) and remote-controlled boating on the lake (£1 a go.)
Once through the gates and into the attraction, the kids nearly exploded in a ‘what shall we do first’ frenzy so we started off with a pirate ship race on the lake before making our way into the play barn where there are soft play sections suitable for age 5 and under, and age 5 to approximately age 11. And as if the soft play wasn’t enough, there’s also table tennis, an area for ride-on racing (nearly got run over several times while supervising) AND a bouncy castle (all included in ticket price): children’s minds = BLOWN before we’d even seen a single furry animal.
In fact, we had to coax them out of the play barn on the promise of a snack so that we could usher them through into the animal side of the attraction, for fear that they would never leave – and I’d promised the girls a pony ride.
As a non-horsey family, the pony ride was a thing of the girls’ dreams. Staff helped them up onto the ponies, which had clearly been chosen for their steady-Eddie character and endless patience, and off they went on a little plod around the paddock. Worth every penny of the £6 additional cost (£3 each.)
Afterwards we tumbled into the guinea pig shed, where the children were seated and promptly given a very docile guinea pig each to hold along with a strip of carrot to feed them – cue absolute delight, as forty or so guinea pigs snuffled around their feet while they stroked the one in their laps.
Next was the lamb racing – a clever ploy to get visitors to help with bottle feeding the lambs – we each chose a lamb to cheer on (the names were hilarious, I supported Bouncy Baabara and Lamb-rini). The children were given a bottle of milk and they were able to feed the hungry lambs through the fence when they’d reached the end of the race along the path from their field. Man, those lambs drink milk from teats ferociously, all I can say is that I’m glad that I’m not a Ewe.
We had a picnic lunch and there were lots of picnic benches dotted all over the site, all with lovely views, though there is an on-site tearoom with indoor and outdoor seating should you want a light lunch, cake or hot drink.
Afterwards we went to meet the goats (one licked Livvie’s finger and she put it straight in her mouth – gross – but there are handwashing stations all around the site to ensure you can keep little hands clean throughout your visit), then the alpacas, ducklings, chickens, rabbits and even some tortoises. This place is an absolute gem for any young animal enthusiast hoping to get up, close and personal with the residents of the farm. You can buy feed from the shop on arrival and feed most of the animals by hand so it’s a real hands-on experience rather than just looking at them from afar.
The afternoon was spent working our way through the various play areas at the farm. There’s something to appeal to all tastes (if you’re under the age of 11!) with a tractor-riding area, straw bale fortress and maze, see saw swings, a play area specifically for younger kids, a trampoline, hoopla, a great little water play zone (take spare clothes!) and a sand pit with buckets on pulleys which kept our girls amused for ages, so Andy and I had to sit on the bench next to a rather fragrant goat for quite some time.
So, you can now agree that there is a LOT going on at Abbotsbury Children’s Farm – quite simply, it’s probably the best attraction we’ve visited as a family with young children so far.
Price-wise, it’s about on par with the other similar-sized attractions in the region – if not a little cheaper actually - at £41 for a family of 2 adults and up to three kids aged 5-15. Children under 5 go free – that’s a big bonus! Adults are £11.00 on the door, and children aged 5-15 are £9.50.
However, you can save 20% on ticket prices if you book online in advance which brings the cost down considerably, and for just a few pounds more you can upgrade your family entry ticket to an Abbotsbury Passport which includes tickets to Abbotsbury Swannery and Subtropical Gardens too, which can be used any time. In my opinion, that’s extremely good value.
*Edit - you can also use your Tesco Clubcard vouchers to pay for entry which makes for huge savings - good to know!*
If you’re likely to be returning, you can get a season ticket – a family only needs to visit two or three times in a year to make the spend worthwhile and the other benefits (including half price entry to other attractions like Wookey Hole) are really good.
You’ll also need to factor in the £3.50 all-day parking ticket at the central car park in the village (approx 5 min walk to the attraction), and a maybe a bit of extra cash for any pony rides, tea room spends and the well-stocked gift shop.
This an attraction very much aimed at families and the practicalities have been well thought through. The route from the car park and around the site is buggy friendly, there are baby-changing facilities in the accessible toilet by the entrance, and there are high chairs in the café along with handwash stations at child-height across the site. There’s even an enclosed area next to the tea room with those little rubber bouncy cows to keep children entertained while you attempt to drink your coffee while it’s still hot!
In terms of opening hours, Abbotsbury Children’s Farm is open from March – early November – check the website for opening times and dates in case these fluctuate according to season.
One other thing I wanted to mention was regarding weather, to answer the question ‘is this attraction suitable for a wet weather day’? I’d say so – if it’s looking showery then you could happily dodge the showers in the indoor play barn, café, water play area, goat pen and guinea pig hut. The pony rides are weather dependant so that’s worth bearing in mind. A lot of the attraction is open-air but as long as you have the right clothing, it can be enjoyed in all weathers.
To summarise, this is an outstanding family attraction and I will be recommending far and wide!