We take our children to review the all-inclusive Clubhotel Riu Oliva Beach in Corralejo, Fuerteventura
“Everybody is naked,” said my brother in a mock whisper.
The glorious beach at our hotel in Fuerteventura is full of surprises.
Not only is Corralejo bigger and sandier than any beach I can remember. With gently crashing turquoise waves, perfect for the children to try out their new bodyboards. And camel rides along sands which stretch for miles from the front of our hotel, the Clubhotel Riu Oliva Beach Resort.
Bodyboarding in the sea on Corralejo beach
But one day as we turn right out of the hotel and venture further along in search of rock pools, we unwittingly gatecrash a naturist section.
This eye-opening experience was not part of the plan for a family trip away to celebrate my mum’s 70th.
My embarrassed mum picked up her pace, I tried not to snigger like a child while the actual children with us didn’t bat an eyelid, except my eight-year-old nephew who asked if it was legal.
While I had carefully dressed my son and daughter in their UV swimsuits, the youngsters in this area were in their birthday suits, while relaxed adults strolled in and out of the sea.
And the giggle we had about it later (apologies to naturist readers) confirmed this as a holiday to remember.
The Riu Oliva Beach is a huge, all-inclusive resort set back from the sands.
We are Riu regulars and love the good food, child-friendly pools and fun feel of their hotels.
We knew this one was soon to be refurbished but the location more than made up for the slightly tired surroundings.
One of the pools at the Riu Oliva Beach hotel, next to the beach
The hotel is divided into a main tower and a lower rise annexe area better suited to families, where we stayed.
Our family room had a lovely large balcony, double bedroom and two single sofa beds for our children.
There are two swimming pools – the fish-shaped one was where we spent most of our time. It is well designed for children with varying depths and an island to swim around.
The fish-shaped swimming pool at Clubhotel Riu Oliva Beach Resort
On one side is a handy shop, filled with temping inflatables for the children and buckets and spades.
On the other side of the pool is the smaller of the two main buffet restaurants.
There is also a restaurant specialising in Asian cuisine and another boasting Canarian favourites.
Our party of 11 – aged from three to 70 – all found something to their taste.
There is children’s entertainment daily with a party at 5pm, plus an adults’ show every night at 9.30pm.
A children’s disco would also have been welcome in the early evening which we have had at other Riu hotels.
All-inclusive here means just that, all we paid for all week was a camel ride along the beach. And our inflatable dolphin for the pool!
Having all your food and drink included certainly makes it easier when you are in a big group as we were.
The nearby town of Corralejo has a pretty square, markets, a water park plus a ferry to nearby Lanzarote.
But we found plenty to entertain us at the hotel.
A camel ride along Corralejo beach
Mornings in the pool, afternoons at the beach and evenings enjoying the food, drink and entertainment.
One magic show for children was especially good.
You might find plusher venues in the Canaries but I doubt you will find one in a better spot to enjoy the landscape.
Just remember to watch where you walk if you want to explore the sands.
Or pack extra sun cream.
*For a more detailed review of the hotel, see here.
Accommodation: We stayed as guests at Clubhotel Riu Oliva Beach Resort, an all-inclusive hotel in Corralejo, Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands, Spain, for the purposes of this review. All opinions are our own.
We review The Quiet Site at Ullswater in Cumbria.
I have a real soft spot for the Lake District. We lived here for two blissful years and it was on the shores of one of its more remote and beautiful lakes where my husband proposed.
It is the quieter spots which fill me most with joy. Like Ullswater, which despite being the area’s second biggest lake, attracts nowhere near the hordes which flock to its largest, Windermere.
As well as being more peaceful, it’s arguably more breathtaking – framed by peaks which include Helvellyn.
And at only 10 minutes from the M6, it couldn’t be easier to reach.
The Quiet Site
Our accommodation in this part of Cumbria reflects our tranquil surroundings – The Quiet Site is a campsite half way up the western side of Ullswater.
Various levels of luxury are catered for from bring-your-own tent to a luxury cottage.
Their latest option are intriguing hobbit holes – underground spaces four times bigger than their insulated wooden camping pods – built into the side of a hill.
A hobbit hole
Camping pods at The Quiet Site
But we are firmly above ground – our home for three nights is a spacious three-bedroom cottage.
This former smithy is full of character, with high ceilings, exposed beams and equipped with everything we could need. Plus extras like a playhouse, toys, books and shelves groaning with children’s DVDs.
And I don’t know who was happiest about the giant trampoline in the garden – but it started the holiday on a high for us all.
Enjoying the trampoline in the garden of our cottage
The site also has a playground and an indoor soft play area, conveniently adjoined to the bar in a cosy barn.
I can see why The Quiet Site was recently the top-rated holiday and glamping park on Tripadviser out of 190 listed in the Lake District.
We crammed lots into this summer break – around the lake and on it.
Ullswater Steamers, which sail between Glenridding in the south and Pooley Bridge in the north, are the popular mode of transport in these parts.
We caught one to Howtown, in the middle, where we climbed part of Hallin Fell and enjoyed a memorable picnic with the lake glistening in the sunshine below.
Ullswater Steamers are a familiar site on the lake
You don’t need to be an expert map reader to find a rewarding spot by the lake but tackling the directions on the nature trail at Askham Hall Gardens, east of Pooley Bridge, tested and thrilled our son and daughter.
The trail winds through gorgeous gardens, with farm animals at the end. Completion brings you to a play area, plus a cafe with a pizza oven and delicious cakes. All the ingredients for a perfect few hours for us.
Other family-friendly trips include the wonderful waterfall Aira Force.
I kept a firm hold of our children by some steep drops on the woodland walk up but they were both suitably impressed by the spectacular sights and sounds.
We were lucky with the weather but if you need undercover fun, head to Rheged. Sadly, the fabulous Lego exhibition we enjoyed was only temporary but there is plenty of permanent entertainment here for little ones. Choose from pottery painting, soft play and an outdoor playground.
Throughout our stay at Ullswater, we found plenty of quiet coves with flat water ready to be disturbed by children’s stones. They were also the perfect settings for picnics, making up adventures and taking in the glorious views.
William Wordsworth was inspired to write the poem Daffodils after seeing the flowers growing on the shores of Ullswater.
“It is the happiest combination of beauty and grandeur, which any of the lakes affords,” he said.
And I may just agree.
For a more detailed review on The Quiet Site, see here.
*For more ideas, see Cumbria’s official tourist board website.
Accommodation: We stayed as guests of The Quiet Site, Ullswater, for the purposes of this review. All opinions are our own.
We take our children to Florence, Pisa, San Gimignano and Volterra in August and try out Airbnb for the first time, read our review of our Italian adventure here.
Famous landmarks around the world are a remarkably hot topic of conversation between our children.
This is thanks as much to the Cbeebies programme Go Jetters as educational efforts on our part.
So when the Leaning Tower of Pisa comes into view, even the sweltering August Italian heat doesn’t cool their excitement.
Children under eight aren’t allowed up the tower and the streets are heaving so we stop just long enough to take it all in.
Posing in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Alongside thousands doing the same, we get the all-important pictures next to the extraordinarily slanting building, before we grab some pizza and hot-foot it back to our hire car.
We’ve already managed a day in Florence, taking our two on a whistle-stop tour of the city before their legs got tired.
The Duomo cathedral, Ponte Vecchio bridge and glorious Boboli Gardens were ticked off in a morning, before another rewarding pizza and gelato.
The Duomo cathedral in Florence
We’d bagged a cheap deal in an airport hotel for our first two nights to tackle the cities but now it was time to leave these bustling hotspots in search of the tranquillity of the countryside and the Dolce Vita.
Off to the country and the Dolce Vita
Our home for the next five nights is atop a hill, very much off the beaten track. Literally. A 10-minute dusty, bumpy, beaten track.
We wondered where our first foray into the world of Airbnb had taken us.
This global phenomenon lets people rent out their properties or spare rooms to guests, from small rooms, to shared houses, villas and even entire castles, across more than 65,000 cities. Don’t miss out full guide to Airbnb here.
There were hundreds of appealing options at decent prices, even at peak season and we narrowed down our search using the list of criteria, map view, photos and reviews.
La Farneta with Airbnb
We finally chose an intriguing property on a large private estate in the hidden hamlet of La Farneta in central Tuscany.
Here there are a dozen or so apartments in a classic Tuscan setting, surrounded by olive trees, scorched fields and forests as far as the eye could see.
Exploring the grounds of our accommodation in La Farneta.
The only sound – apart from our children in the shared swimming pool – was that of crickets in the towering trees of this 230 hectare estate.
The pool was the big draw here. The weather can get so hot in summer I would say you have to have one if you have children in tow.
The outdoor swimming pool at the apartments on the private estate in La Farneta
The owner Gianfausto gave us the authentic experience Airbnb has built its success on – welcoming us to his home, giving us a guided tour and even playing his piano to provide some pleasant poolside accompaniment.
The accommodation wasn’t luxurious but it was authentic and I can’t remember staying anywhere as peaceful.
It may have been 15 minutes from the nearest shop or restaurant but two Tuscan treasures aren’t far away.
The walled towns of San Gimignano and Volterra provided entertaining excursions. Our children loved the narrow alleys and the nooks and crannies of these picturesque places while the adults could enjoy the sights and sounds of Tuscany.
We visited San Gimignano, an Italian hill town in Tuscany, south-west of Florence
Pizza and pasta time!
With every second shop seemingly selling pasta, olive oil or wild boar, food is a big part of any Tuscan trip.
We found several places for a plate of pasta including Osteria Del Borgo in the pretty village of Mensano.
Staying in a remote location meant it was easier to have lunch out and dinner on our terrace with views over the rolling hills as the sun dipped below the trees.
The perfect evening temperature was ideal for a family walk around the estate, roaming the land and spotting the occasional wall lizard or deer.
We knew Tuscany in August was a gamble.
But we discovered it is possible to beat the heat and the crowds and enjoy complete tranquility.
And we ticked a landmark off that rather demanding wishlist.
For more details of how Airbnb works, read our guide here.
Accommodation: Via Airbnb. We received a discount from Airbnb for the purposes of this review. All opinions are our own.
Travel: Flew with British Airways to Florence Airport.