Mountain View Ranch is one of our favourite places to visit, with over 10 acres of open space and free-range activities for families. One of the things that keeps us going back is that they are always adding new activities and developing the existing ones. It’s changed quite a bit since we first wrote about it more than two years ago, so I thought it was time for an updated post.
I headed there last week with just my toddler while his big brother and sister were at school. Toddler Boy I, 3¼ starts daily pre-school nursery in September and I’ll be back to three school runs a day so I am making the most of being able to head out for the (school) day during term-time when everywhere is less busy and not having to rush back for nursery to start at 1pm.
Mountain View Ranch is just a 10 minute drive away from where we live in North Cardiff, on Caerphilly Mountain. We arrived at around 9.30am and left at 2.30pm, but we could have easily stayed longer if we hadn’t had to get back to pick up my other two children from school.
Here are some of our highlights. Have you been to Mountain View Ranch? Do let me know what you and your little ones enjoy there, either in the comments below, on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page or by tweeting me on @cardiffmummy You can see more from our visit on the Cardiff Mummy Says Instagram feed.
Mountain View Ranch is open during the summer from 9.30am-4pm on week days and 9.30am-5pm on weekends. During the winter, it’s open only at weekends from 10am-4pm.
Entry rates depend on whether it is peak (weekends, bank holidays and school holidays) and off peak (all other times adults £6/£4, children £6, £4, under 18 months free, OAP/disabled £3/£2, family 2+2 £23/£15, 2+3 £28/£18.
Visit the website here, or follow Mountain View Ranch on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
We paid for our entry ourselves and Mountain View Ranch did not know we would be writing this review. We love the place so much, we just wanted to share our experience with other families in the hope that they will too.
The adventure playground
You can’t miss this! It’s the first thing you see as you pull into the car park. The Wild West themed playground features wooden equipment and a sandy floor. My children can easily stay there for a couple of hours. Toddler likes the wooden house with a slide and sand play features, the wooden horse bouncers and the slide. The older two like the wooden obstacle course. All three love the zip wire swing. But not as much as me…. I always have to have a go myself.
Just up from the park are two big hutches with rabbits and guinea pigs, a field with a pony, and a pen with goats. Okay, so it’s hardly a farm park, but it’s lovely to see the animals. My children love that the hutches contain replicas of the Hobbit houses (see below) and they think that the troll under the bridge of the goat pen is brilliant.
We can’t walk past without saying “Who’s that trip trapping over my bridge?” Oh, and if the pony is not in his pen, he’s visiting his friends the goats.
The Gruffalo Trail
Wales’s only licensed Gruffalo trail features all the characters from the famous Julia Donaldson books in woven wicker-style, with quotes from the book dotted around the woodland trail. On peak visiting days, there are guided story tours a couple of times a day, with the Big Bad Wolf or Little Red Riding Hood reading the book as you journey around the trail. The story telling sessions can get busy so our advice if you want photos of your children with the much-loved characters is to do the trail first on your own to take the pictures and then go back to listen to the story.
Look out for different Julia Donaldson stories making an appearance at different times of the year too. At Halloween, we saw the Witch reading Room on the Broom and at Christmas it’s The Gruffalo’s Child.
My eldest two used to be petrified of this wooden carved wolf with his striking orange eyes, but thankfully they are over that and now just squabble over who gets to sit on his back.
The two wooden Hobbit houses were new last year and are a real favourite with my children. They love hiding inside the play houses and knocking on the doors… although be careful as I have seen kids get their fingers caught. Bigger kids seem to like climbing on the roof and sliding down. In front of the house are a collection of giant toadstools kids can climb on, some of which spin around.
The wooden dragon
My toddler adores this. It’s an absolutely beautiful wooden carved dragon, overlooking the hills and looking as if he’s about to take flight. There’s plenty of room for kids to climb up and sit between his wings.
When we first started visiting Badger Wood, there used to be a wicker-weaved actual badger in there. We’re not sure what happened to him, but my children like the den-making area. We were pleased to see this has been expanded on our last visit.
Three Bears Pods
These three little weaved houses for Daddy Bear, Mummy Bear and Baby Bear are great for younger children.
Roasting marshmallows at Bushcraft Creek
Just when they are starting to flag… go and fill them with a sugary marshmallow, toasted on the campfire, for some energy. (Peak times only.)
The climbing tree
This huge tree fell in a storm… but now makes the perfect natural climbing frame for kids. Bigger kids will love scaling the trunk and thick branches, but there are also lower ones for younger kids to climb with adult help.The warnings are clear: there’s an obvious risk of falling!
The tree houses
These were new last year and are amazing! There’s one for over-7s near the three bears pods, which is quite tricky to climb up, plus another for younger children (pictured) in the Fairy Forest. When this one was first built, the path up was so slippery when wet that one day I fell and slide right down it! I was mortified! I’m so glad to see they have added wooden slats to make them safer.
The tree swings
Oh, I do love an old-fashioned tree swing, with wooden seat and rope. Find them near both of the treehouses.
Roly Poly Hill
Something every child should do before they grow up…. roll themselves down a hill and get covered in grass.
A giant nest filled with giant dragon eggs… great fun to climb in. I’d love to see some baby dragons move in nearby.
Little wooden doors, pastel bunting, model flowers and fairy houses make this area of woodland a real delight.
I always have to take a stash of small change with me to Mountain View Ranch so my kids can throw them into the wishing well. It’s at the back of the Fairy Forest
The Indian Village
The teepees have been decorated ready for this summer… and they look fantastic! My children love playing Indians, running in and out of the tents, trying to scale the totem pole and jumping on the tree stumps around the campfire.
There are lots of picnics dotted around for picnics, but if you fancy treating yourself, the pizzas in the café are lovely!
When you pay you’ll be given a map. Not only does this serve its purpose of getting you around the park, but you can also use the special metal stamps at each activity to mark off what you have seen.
The clue is in the name of the place. The views across the green hills, trees and mountain are breath-taking, especially on a clear day…. although I’m not sure my children appreciate it as much as I do!
And for older children….
Children over five can use a real bow and arrow for some target practice, with help from staff to perfect their technique. My big two love this! We were lucky the last time we visited that the queues were so short they had about four goes in a row!
The treetop adventure course is great for older children. This comes at an additional cost of £10 for two goes and booking is not necessary. Participants must be a minimum of 1.15 metres and 7 years of age, with a maximum weight of 17 stone.
A Segway is a two-wheeled, motorised self-balancing vehicle. My children have never been on them as they’re not old enough, but they look like great fun. A 50-minuted trek costs £25, with a minimum age of 13 and a maximum weight of 17 stone.