The Audley End Fairy Walk is just one attraction at the Audley End Miniature Railway (not to be confused with the English Heritage owned, Audley End House). Audley End is in Essex, near the town of Saffron Walden. It’s an easy day trip from Cambridge. It’s an excellent day out for kids of all ages and our two under 5s had an enjoyable time. Here’s what to expect:
Audley End Fairy Walk – Things to Do
1. Fairy walk
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Audley End Fairy Walk, but we were pleasantly surprised. A lot of effort has been put into creating something that children will enjoy and which looks magical. We were impressed by the attention to detail and by how well maintained the walk was.
The walk starts to the left after you cross the railway track. You are met by a fairy who offers you the chance to make a wand before you embark on your woodland journey. At the entrance, you will be given a free pencil and booklet to fill in throughout the day, and it is the pencil that the fairy helps the children turn into a wand with feathers and glitter.
Passing into the woods, you will find and seek out the homes of 32 fairies and other woodland creatures. Each one you find you can tick off in your book. The fairy houses themselves are spectacular creations. Each one is designed around the character’s story with plenty of little details added to each one. For the first 15 or so, the kids were excited to find and read about each one. Number 32 was a little less exciting, but they were persistent, we saw each one and ticked them all off.
There are a few other little things to do in the fairy walk part of Audley End. They have a small playground, letters to find and a Wish Chair. Ted (age 4) wished to go to the moon, his standard wish. May (age 2) asked to go on a train, which was lucky.
The Fairy Walk took us an hour to complete. We didn’t spend time in the playground, but we did stop and look at every fairy house.
The miniature railway is Audley End’s signature attraction. It’s easy to understand why. The kids absolutely loved every second. The route is a figure of 8 and takes 15 minutes, taking you through multiple tunnels, over bridges and over hills.
The most exciting thing for the children were the bears. Around every corner were teddy bears doing various activities. A friend recalls taking her teddy bears to Audley End as a child and donating them to be used around the train ride. Nowadays, the teddy’s are all brand new, and like the fairy walk, the displays are all well maintained.
If you book in advance, you can pick what time you want to have your train ride, which means you don’t have to queue and guarantees you a place on the steam train. If you or the kids love it so much that you just have to go around again then.
The craft area at Audley End was very well run. Two members of staff handed out materials and made sure everything was kept neat and tidy. The kids had the choice of making a unicorn or dragon headband with ears, horns, stickers and colouring pens. It was straightforward and fun for the kids.
4. Face painting
Face painting is one of the activities included in the price. The face paint on offer is a simple decoration in a choice of colours and glitter. The face painting staff are experts in this design, which means they can paint them in less than a minute. Perfect for cutting down waiting times with impatient little ones.
The playground was perfect for young kids. There were lots of things to do, but they were not too high or too challenging.
6. Bouncy castle
The bouncy castle is the only attraction that cost extra. It’s also the thing that nearly broke us on our day out. The bouncy castle was big and looked fun, but we were not keen to pay extra when there were plenty of free activities available. Another day we might have done, but on the day we were at Audley end there were a lot of kids older than Ted and May running riot in a confined space. I know they would not have wanted to stay on there long.
Storytime occurred at set times throughout the day at the stage area. The story they tell is heartwarming nonsense involving a unicorn, a dragon and some fairies. The kids always love a story and so happily sat through it. After the story, they went into singalong time which the kids were less into.
8. Chill out zone
Next to the face painting tent is the chill-out tent. I love this idea, a tent full of cushions that you can simply go and chill in, away from the hubbub.
9. Garden games
In between the more significant things I have mentioned, there were smaller garden-type games to make sure the kids were amused at all times. These were cleverly created to be comfortable enough for anyone to join in and robust in a crowd.
They had set up several massive slingshots with brightly coloured balls to throw and buckets to aim at. The kids were rubbish at it, but it entertained them for some time.
– Dragons and ladybirds
Bean bag throwing games are easy for kids to understand. They had two, one where you throw the bean bag through the dragon’s mouth and another where you throw them through a ladybird’s spots.
– Noughts and crosses
We are working on Ted’s noughts and crosses skills, he’s not quite there yet. These were large boards made from trees with painted stones. Instead of noughts and crosses, it was bees and ladybirds.
Another simple garden game. Throw the hope onto the giant hedgehog’s prickles.
There was a simple archery range set up with safe children’s bows and arrows. David was an archer in his youth, and I know he would love to share it with Ted one day. Ted has a little way to go before he has grasped the basics.
May loves drawing snakes, so a chalkboard is an excellent way to keep her occupied.
Parking at Audley End Fairy Walk
Parking is minimal at the site itself. Instead, attendants direct you to a much larger overflow carpark, and you can walk down from there. The walk only takes three minutes, but it is alongside a busy road. All parking is free.
Prices at Audley End Fairy Walk
There is an entrance cost for all children and adults over 2 years old. You can find up to date prices on their website. Prices vary depending on special events and which ticket type you opt for.
You can book tickets in advance which gives you the option to pick what time you would like to go on the miniature railway. However, with the additional booking fee, this makes pre-booking in advance more expensive, so I would suggest you only need to do this on busy days.
Audley End Amenities
There are several places to spend your money at Audley End. There is a larger cafe with space to sit down next to the train station and a kiosk-style area selling ice creams and other goodies in the centre of the site. As you would expect from somewhere that puts so much effort into its branding, there is a suitably overpriced gift shop. As well as all things train-related, there was a vast selection of fairy items on sale. Fairy costumes were a big hit as well as all the figures of all the fairies you could spot on the walk.