What?: Obscenely beautiful Georgian villa on the Northern edge of Hampstead Heath. Owned by English Heritage, this former stately home is an art-lover’s wonderland with its embarrassment of big-name works. It’s also, believe it or not, a fantastic place to take kids, and in amongst the Constables, Turners, Rembrandts, Van Dycks, Vermeers and Gainsboroughs you’ll find a wealth of activities geared towards tiny culture vultures – or just tiny vultures, in my case.
Where?: Where indeed. The best way to get to Kenwood would probably be to sprout wings and fly there. If, like me, you’re lacking that ability and have the directional sense of a blind yak, I suggest you approach the house via the main road – Highgate, Hampstead, Golders Green and East Finchley tube stations (Northern) are all a 25-30 minute road walk away. The alternative is mountaineering across Hampstead Heath with a buggy, inevitably getting very lost and contemplating life raising a baby in the wild.
Facilities: Kids’ activities; baby changing, albeit in a rather cold, smelly outbuilding; nice cafe offering child-sized portions and healthy lunch boxes, plus high chairs. You have to abandon your buggy in the buggy park (the moody old bastard manning the shop gave me and my friend the same lecture on carpet preservation – thanks for that) but buggy locks, baby slings and hip rests are all available on request.
Best Bits: Places like this can be a bit tutty about children, but Kenwood actively welcomes your little imps with its family craft days, under-5s drop-ins and storytelling sessions. If you prefer to do your own thing and just wander round the house you can pick up ‘explorer backpacks’ for your under-5s or set your 5-11-year-olds on one of ‘Mac’s Kenwood trails’. Bab, free spirit that she is, just crawled round doing laps at lightning speed. She doesn’t give two shits about Thomas Gainsborough. She did, however, love the Orangery, which is permanently set up for tiny terrors with boxes of toys, dress-up stuff and a big picture frame for them to pose in. There’s also a gargantuan dolls’ house in the adjoining room.
Worst Bits: I’ve lived in North London for five years and still have no bloody idea how to get to Kenwood. It might as well be in fecking Narnia.
Would We Come Back?: God only knows. I hope so.
Bab plays in the Orangery at Kenwood House