10 new UK attractions to visit in 2020
The coming year will see a bumper crop of openings and relaunches, including adventure parks, wellbeing centres, theatres and museums.
Rye Harbour Discovery Centre, East Sussex – March
The 450-hectare Rye Harbour nature reserve, with its coastal habitats of grassland, saltmarsh, and sand and shingle shoreline, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year with a new visitor centre opening in association with Sussex Wildlife Trust. It aims to help visitors better experience the area’s flora and fauna of more than 4,200 plants and animals, including 200 rare and endangered species. There’ll also be a new cafe and exhibition and education spaces, with a programme of activities, training and conservation projects.
City Pool and Turkish Baths, Newcastle upon Tyne – January
The redevelopment of Newcastle’s city pool into a health and wellbeing centre has included careful restoration of original features such as 19th-century arches and alcoves, 1920s pool hall tiles (revealed beneath layers of paint), wood-panelled changing rooms and terrazzo flooring. Alongside the 25-metre pool and Turkish baths, the Grade-II listed site will also include a new spa, cafe-bistro and fitness studios. Built in 1859, the site closed because of council cuts in 2013, but sport and leisure charity Fusion Lifestyle began to redevelop it in 2017 after campaigners secured the space’s status as an asset of community value.
Sea Lanes, East Sussex – spring
After a 2018 summer pop-up on Brighton seafront saw thousands of visitors taking part in guided sea swims, open water events and beachside yoga, a permanent National Open Water Swimming Centre is set to open on the same spot. Overwhelmingly positive feedback from the local community helped the Sea Lanes gain planning permission to transform the Madeira Drive site into a permanent outdoor heated pool with 39 units for small businesses. SwimTrek has already signed up to have its new headquarters here, alongside food kiosks, shops and fitness spaces.
The Box, Devon – spring
The former museum and library buildings between Plymouth’s university and its art college are being transformed into a new cultural hub. The Grade-II listed site will be refurbished with a contemporary extension housing an archive on the marine heritage of the city and the south-west, a museum of local stories, exhibition space for contemporary art and touring shows and a study centre, plus a cafe and a new piazza. Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy will be the first exhibition, recounting the vessel’s 1620 voyage from Plymouth to America.
Bewilderwood, Cheshire – spring
Aiming to inspire creativity and play amid nature, a second Bewilderwood adventure park is opening, this time in the grounds of Cholmondeley Castle in south Cheshire. The first park, in Norfolk, was founded by children’s author Tom Blofeld in 2007. At the woodland site, ziplines, rope bridges and slides, tree houses, mazes, aerial and ground walks and interactive storytelling stages will entertain under-16s and their families. The early-19th-century Cholmondeley estate also includes floral, water and ornamental gardens, a farm shop and tearoom.
Bodmin Jail, Cornwall – May
A new immersive attraction, the Dark Walk, opens in May at 18th-century Bodmin Jail, alongside renovation across the whole museum. The interactive route will take visitors on a journey through life in the 18th and 19th centuries, exploring the history of the region, the jail and its former inmates, and dark tales of highway robbers, smugglers and the Beast of Bodmin Moor. Later in the year, a hotel will open in the Grade-II listed building, with its 70 bedrooms in former cells. A bat sanctuary is also in development, to protect the nine species that have made their home locally.
Tornado Springs at Paultons Park, Hampshire – May
A new 1950s Americana-themed area is opening at Paultons Park on the Southampton side of the New Forest, reimagining a Midwest desert town. New rides include a spinning roller coaster, Storm Chaser; the Buffalo Falls water raft ride; the swinging, spinning pendulum Cyclonator; Windmill Towers drop rides; Al’s Auto Academy Driving School; Trekking Tractors; and a Rio Grande Train ride. The area, like the park, is aimed at ages 3 to 14, and will also include a diner-style restaurant, a sweet shop and two playgrounds, Parking Lot Tots and Junkyard Junction. It’s the fifth themed world at Paultons, alongside Peppa Pig World, Critter Creek, Little Africa and Jurassic-themed Lost Kingdom.
Gulliver’s Valley, South Yorkshire – June
A 250-acre site between Sheffield and Rotherham will soon be home to the fourth family-friendly Gulliver’s theme park, loosely based on the 1726 novel by Jonathan Swift. Its largest resort to date, and will be aimed at aged 2-13-year-olds, with more than 50 rides and attractions across multiple themed areas, including Western World, Toyland, Smuggler’s Wharf, Lost Jurassic World and, for the youngest visitors, Lilliput Land. Onsite short-break accommodation (from £199 a night for a family of four) includes self-catering lodges, treehouses and family rooms with bunk beds, all a few minutes’s drive from the nature reserves and watersports centre at Rother Valley Country Park.
Dorset County Museum – summer
From the Swanage Snapper (a 140 million-year-old crocodile skull from the cretaceous period) to Thomas Hardy’s handwritten notebooks – many more of the 4 million objects in the Dorset County Museum collection will be going on display in its new extended galleries this summer. The redeveloped site, co-owned by the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society, will also include a learning centre, research spaces, a shop, tearoom and improved archive.
Llys-y-Frân Lake, Pembrokeshire – summer
Country park and reservoir Llys-y-Frân, south of the Preseli hills in Wales, is undergoing extensive redevelopment to transform it into the “great Welsh water park”. There will be a new outdoor activity centre and waterside cabin, a bike pump skills area, 14km of cycle tracks, a refurbished visitor centre and cafe, and camping and caravan pitches. Llys-y-Frân is a significant site for fishing – hosting national and international competitions – as well as windsurfing, rowing, canoeing, sailing and the Welsh Dragon Boat Championships.