Thwaite Mills Watermill – Leeds

Thwaite Mills Watermill has been on the things to do list for years.

Even before Little M appeared, I have been intrigued by what exactly it is. I don’t know anyone who has been and have only been interested due to it being so close to home.

So finally, I have cured my curiosity and may well have found a museum to keep the whole family interested for many years to come!

We arrived early on a Bank Holiday Monday in May, expecting it to be a little busy, but were surprised to be the only visitors for almost the whole morning, until shortly before we left when another couple and their children arrived. This wouldn’t have been a big surprise for a boring, silent, art gallery, but this is no wall plaque gallery!

Authentic Experience

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What is so impressive about Thwaite Mills Watermill is how it still feels authentic, avoiding the usual bright yellow and black danger signs and padded walls you get at most attractions.  Whilst obviously remaining safe, you are transported back into the early 1900’s and able fully experience the impressive engineering through the moving mill and connected buildings.

Step back in time inside Thwaite House, a fine Georgian Grade II listed building. Learn how workers from the cottages at ‘Dandy Row’ lived self-sufficiently on the island.

Activities & Learning

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Whilst there was enough to keep me entertained and learning, i was really impressed, by how the museum catered for all ages groups, particularly after our recent trip to the ‘Light Lab’ at Leeds City Museum. A sand pit with ‘water wheels’, an engineered cup version of the whole process (although not working) and an activity room provided the perfect mix of props and activities for Little M who has just reached his second birthday.

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Outside Wildlife Area

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Beyond the industrial buildings and ‘museum’ (which include a small air raid shelter) there is a lovely nature area, which will no doubt keep Little M interested for a few more years, with bee hives, a creepy crawly creatures hotel, wigwam and short walk alongside the river, where there are several barge boats moored.

Its this mix which really makes Thwaite Mill Watermill work, i have been once and want to go back to find out more, to learn more, which is unusual for a museum where you walk round, read stuff and forget it in a week.

Industrial Experience

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The only downside, is that there isn’t a food cafe on site. You can grab a coffee and an ice cream, but you are best of bringing a picnic and taking full advantage of the waterways, which beyond Thwaite Mill offer interesting walks… even to a substation or up the river to the locks and training grounds for Leeds University Rowing Team.

Last but not least, it is also important to credit the staff who were helpful, friendly and welcoming, which added to the overall experience.

Whilst our trip was only a couple of hours (determined by nap time and the need to find food), it was well worth the money and with a bit of planning and an outdoors kind of day, it could keep family and children nicely entertained for much longer.

Much more than i expected
  • Adventure Rating
  • Value for Money
  • Child Friendly
  • Adult Experience


Wildlife, River, Cast Iron Industrial Workmanship and a flash back in time, the Thwaite Mill Watermill is a great morning out… if you bring your own picnic, perhaps a whole day. Things to see and do for kids of all ages (who doesn’t love a sandpit) plus an opportunity to learn.

I don’t think Thwaite Mill Watermill gets the credit it deserves!


  1. Wow! I’m impressed; this place seems to really cater for the whole family. I wonder why it wasn’t busier? Although of course, places are better when they’re not too crowded.
    The little science experiments are going to grow with Little M, aren’t they, and it’s so great to have somewhere nearby like this to pop to when you need to fill a couple of hours.
    The outdoor area sounds brilliant, too. Can you go inside the caravan?

    Thanks for linking to #daysoutwithatoddler – can’t believe M is 2 already! See you next month 🙂

  2. This looks lovely. I hadn’t even heard of it until I read your post. It looks a little like Beamish which is just round the corner from us.

    Cat x

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