My boys LOVE trains. I don’t just mean they like them a lot, I mean they can’t get enough of them. It may be thanks to Thomas the Tank Engine but mostly they are just fascinated by them.
And they particularly love a miniature railway. There’s something about tiny trains which makes them giddy. We visited Thomas Land at Drayton Manor Theme Park a while back and the eldest’s favourite bit was; not the rides, or the characters, but the miniature railway.
I always thought we were a bit stuck for a good miniature railway, living in Leicester. But then I discovered Soar Valley Garden Railway in Sutton Bonnington, about half an hour drive from our house.
The garden railway really is in a garden! It runs through the garden of a tea room which serves teas, coffees and fab lunches and snacks. We visited on a sunny day which helped as it meant we could spend the whole time outside.
There has been SO much thought put into the railway. There are a couple of tracks – one which goes through the garden (you enter over a little bridge and through a gate!) and one around a castle. They were also developing more track when we visited. The garden part has so many little things for the children to notice – mine loved following the trains round, putting the lights on through the tunnel and watching their toys whizz past.
The castle part can be crawled into – it was big enough for my eldest (a tall five year old) to stand up in – and then the children can watch the trains from inside the castle as well as out. It’s little touches like this, and the play café, which make Soar Valley Garden Railway such a gem.
But the best part is that it’s free to drive the trains! You wait your turn but, even though it was busy when we visited, both children got lots of turns driving both the train in the garden and those at the castle.
The other fab thing is that you can take your own toys to ride in the trains! My boys took some Thomas trains (!) and cars as we weren’t sure how big the carriages would be. However, you can see from the pictures that there’s loads of room – there were lots of children there with teddies and superhero action figures which sat from a ride around the garden!
We had a fantastic afternoon here and the children can’t wait to go back again; they do ‘Trains in the Night’ where the railway is lit up with colourful lights – we really want to try this! We spent nearly three hours at the railway and can highly recommend the tea rooms for lunch and the gift hut for some souvenirs for the little ones.
Facebook is the best place to get really up-to-date information as to whether trains are running etc.
Soar Valley Garden Railway is free to visit but they do ask for donations in order to help keep it running. I was more than happy enough to donate as it kept the boys entertained for hours – which is priceless in itself!
I haven’t been asked to write this review or received anything in exchange for it, I simply think it is a hidden gem in the East Midlands and wanted to spread the word!