Soak up some history in Sheffield, home of steelmaking
Product: Sheffield Metropolitan Hotel and Magna Science Adventure Centre Price: £108.00 Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)
Having been born and bred just south of Sheffield, I was very keen to return to the city with my family as I've often noticed road signs for Magna Science Park from the M1, and was curious to find out what it had to offer.
Sheffield is located close to the eastern edge of the Peak District, which we love, so we started our weekend there with a Saturday morning bike ride. We hired cycles for a 12-mile route around Howden and Derwent reservoirs and their two mighty dams, famous for being the training ground for the Dambuster Raids in the Second World War.
After only a short drive from there to the city centre, we arrived weary from our hilly bike ride, at the Sheffield Metropolitan Hotel, to a very friendly reception. The hotel offers modestly-priced rooms within minutes of the city centre and its decor perfectly reflects the local area, with a cool urban theme. Our room was on the top floor, affordingwonderful city views along the River Don, past The Wicker Arches towards the pale green domes of Meadowhall shopping centre (built in the late 1980s on disused steelworks land). Our family package comprised two double rooms with an interconnecting door, and my daughters loved having their own stylish bedroom and bathroom.
Once refreshed, we strolled into Sheffield city centre, just a few minutes' walk away, to soak up the atmosphere and find a bite to eat. The hotel is also close to Sheffield's Kelham Island area, with numerous modern bars and cafés mixed alongside traditional pubs and architecture.
Sunday breakfast was in the hotel's Picasso Restaurant, offering a choice of cooked or continental breakfast, after which we drove north-east towards the mighty Magna Science Adventure Centre.
Set in the heart of the Steel City (recently voted the UK's best value citybreak destination), Magna is a coats-on experience (its chilly in the mill), showcasing British history and heritage via original industrial machinery and a historical trip through the UK steelmaking industry. Housed in a former steel mill, the attraction offers a mix of the gritty industrial history of Sheffield's world-famous steel industry, and four learning zones themed on the steel-making process, which provide fun for children – I would say they’re most suited to primary school age.
The place is vast; the hall that housed the furnaces is bigger than a cathedral. It is dark and cold, some may say eerie, but it is staggeringly atmospheric.
We met our tour guide, Kevin, an ex-steelworker who was in the industry from the mid-1970s. He talked us through the history of the site and how its eventual closure led to the birth of the current Magna (Latin for 'great'), which was a millennium project.
Kevin showed us around the foundry, the highlight of which was The Big Melt, an audiovisual pyrotechnic display which roars into action on the hour, giving the audience an impression of the power of the furnace when in production.
He also mentioned that on Saturdays (and some school holidays) activities such as bungee jumping, abseiling and zip wire rides are available inside the hall, hosted by a partner company. This gives an idea of the huge scale of the indoor space occupied by the building.
After a quick lunch from the café, which offers a simple selection of sandwiches, pasta and noodles, we investigated the learning zones. My children explored the four pavillions based on Air, Water, Fire and Earth. They made smoke rings, experienced a hurricane, learned about the weather cycle, witnessed a mesmerising fire plume and took control of diggers. There is also a large adventure playground and water-play park outside, included in the entry price.
Sheffield Metropolitan Hotel
Double rooms start at £60. Interconnected family rooms start at £108.
- Call 0114 220 4000
- Visit www.bespokehotels.com/sheffieldmet
Magna Science Adventure Centre
Pre-booked online ticket prices:
Adults: £10.95, Concessions: £9.95, 4-16: £8.95, Children: under 4 years: free,
Family tickets from £28.95.
Tickets purchased online include 12 months' entry to Magna.
- Call 01709 720002
- Visit www.visitmagna.co.uk
For more information and prices for bungee jumping at Magna, visit www.ukbungee.co.uk and select The Abyss at Magna